Monday, October 18, 2010

"Please don't squeeze the Shaman."

It's raining.  So with the light, gothic sounds of rain on the roof, I recall the moments of one of my favourite Space Pirate Radio shows.  Occasionally, when I had a guest on the program, the show would veer away from its usual mix of madcap and music, and focus more on the artist who was in studio.  As mentioned in past entries, there were many special moments with very special friends who had extra special talents.  Many of those guests appeared on my '70s to mid-'80s KTYD shows.  But others evolved as the show progressed on its Y-97 era during the late '80s to mid-'90s.

One of those later shows that proved as much a pleasure to the audience as it did to yours truly was when American synthesizer artist Steve Roach did an all-nighter with me in 1988.  Steve was one of the select few American artists who appeared on my predominantly import oriented show due to his love of European electronic music.  Steve had made a reputation as being the most internationally experimental artist in the US at the time.  His influences had been Klaus Schulze, Tangerine Dream and Vangelis, but he was incorporating a highly original amount of Native American and Aboriginal sounds to the mix, creating a truly original twist in the world of ambient music.  In each work you could feel the spirit of Castaneda, Borges and Peter Weir's The Last Wave.  You felt the magic of the desert in Roach's soundscapes.  His work Quiet Music was one of my all-time favourites.

He was on my program to play and discuss his epic work, Dreamtime Return, the double cd of sounds inspired by his travels in Australia.  My friendship with Steve had been instigated by my long-term friendship with record producer, Eckart Rahn.  His record company, Celestial Harmonies, had picked up Roach's Fortuna label and was now releasing Steve's current works. 

Slight detour...only because I have to say here and now that I could go on and on about Eckart Rahn.  This delightful German music lover I met in the mid-'70s because of my playing German bands like Amon Duul II, Can and Embryo.  He represented the German artists musical rights to Americans and I met him through my mad passion for eclectic German sound experimentation.  I discovered he had his own labels, Kuckuck and ERP, which released unusual titles.  He introduced me to Deuter and Peter Michael Hamel.  And he released the works of my already favourite artist, Florian Fricke, aka Popol Vuh.  He also released non-Japanese versions of Kitaro and non-French releases of Jean-Michel Jarre.  He was a jazz man.  Sonny Rollins and Ornette Coleman.  He was a bass player.  Was involved with ECM Records.  A big part of the German jazz scene.  Got sucked into the psychedelic bit.  That's how he gets stuck with me.  He visits me in Santa Barbara from his home in Connecticut.  I visit him at his office in Munich in 1982 (I will always remember being in the restarurant by myself in the Munich Hilton, scooping up the beef stroganoff in the smorgasbord-like atmosphere, wondering what the hell am I doing alone in this city of Hitler, when I see a far door open up and a tall, good-looking, slightly rain-drenced blond Siegfried-type of a man comes in and says "Hello Guy").

So thanks to Eckart, he brings Steve Roach up to Santa Barbara.  Eckart is now living in Tucson, but Steve is still headquartered in Los Angeles.  Steve will relocate to Tucson and start his Timeroom Studios in the not too distant future.  Eckart's visits to Santa Barbara are always a pleasure, now doubly so with Steve in tow.  We do the town.  With Eckart, that means plenty of coffee and sushi too.  We go to my favourite Japanese restaurant, Kyoto, where much tuna and yellow tail is consumed.  Down to lower State St. for cappuccinos.  I suggest to Eckart that he should start the world's first sushi-coffee bar, thus cutting down travel time.  Another good idea lost. 

But on Sunday night/Monday morning, the three of us are in the sub-ghetto studios of Y-97.  Eckart is very shy, low-key and wishes not to take attention away from his artist's work.  Pity, in a way, because it would be so easy to do six hours just talking about his experiences in the German avant-garde scene.  His life in Munich alone is a wealth of information: the commune of Amon Duul, his friendship with Can, Fassbinder, Herzog and Wenders, the jazz and classical artists.  So many stories.  But not to be told on this show.  The focus is on Steve Roach.  In fact, Eckart will bow out after the first hour and head back to the hotel, leaving me and Steve to delve into the hypnotic realms of his music. 

It was very transcending.  We felt extremely other-worldly and yet were quite sober.  The power of Steve's music.  We played all of his album, as well as some of his favourite artists.  Much discussion on his Australian experiences.  During one part of the show, while listening to the music, I turned to Steve and said "I know this is cliche, but I felt an intense deja vu."  And he said "so did I."  Perhaps we had spent too much time in candlelit rooms listening to Klaus Schulze.  Or maybe it was the bunker-like decor of Y-97's studios.  I mean, really, folks.  Sometimes these radio stations at night really make you feel like you should have the cyanide capsules ready for any moment.  I should get out more.


I wanted Space Pirate Radio to put on a concert with Steve at the Lobero Theatre in Santa Barbara and plans were set.  But then the city slapped the Lobero with an earthquake retrofit and the date had to be scrapped.  Fortunately, it was never announced, so fans and listeners were not disappointed.  But myself and Steve were.  That would have been a show I would have liked to have attended.  Anyway, that Space Pirate Radio broadcast of 1988 was a special show and I was pleased that it was a favourite among listeners.