- a chance interview with an ex-Stahlwerk member

After painstaking research, music journalist Half Rutter finally managed to track down the Synthprofessor several years ago, and was granted a short but intense interview:

- "What was the driving force behind Stahlwerk?"

- "I think it was different things for different people. For all of us it was definitely the nostalgia side of it, but there were personal aspects as well. For me, the opportunity to, fully live, perform a synth concert was very important, whereas for others the attraction of the limelight in conjunction with the anonymity was appealing".

- "What about the 'fully live' bit?"

- "Well, I think a lot of people thought we were using backing tapes, but actually all of the stuff was performed on stage either live by one of us, or by a sequencer. For me, playing live is very important and I get a kick out of the human vs. machine contrast in the type of music we played."

- "Was the sequencer the cause of problem at the start of the concert at Blekingska?"

- "Yes. For some reason the internal ram disk of the sequencer had become toally messed up just before the concert, so we had to reload the whole concert from the floppy. We did our best to improvise some music in the meantime. Some poeple actually thought we were reprogramming all the sequences, which of course wasn't the case."

- "Wouldn't a simple reload just take a few minutes? The concert was delayed by twenty minutes or so?"

- "Well, not with the sequencer we were using..."

- "Tell me about it!"

- "It was actually a homebrew sequencer, that I wrote during an intense period during a Christmas vacation, on a 6809-based microcomputer. You must understand that Stahlwerk was run on a shoestring budget. A lot of people worked with us, it looked big, but like us, they did it for the fun of it, and nothing else."

- "Did you use any other homebrew equipment?"

- "Oh yes, definetely. The polysynth I played on, the MiMi-a, I'd built a few years earlier from scratch, and there were quite a few modified instruments as well. Most of the bass parts were played on a Pro-One synth that had been heavily rebuilt beoynd recognition."

- "Tell me about the rest of your line-up?"

- "We had about two synths each plus a couple of rack modules. Apart from the MiMi-a and Pro-One, I had an LCD terminal (based upon an SV-318 microcomputer but heavily rebuilt) for controlling the sequencer. Blippgren had a DX-7 and a Juno-60. While Mats was with us he was the 'Korg man', in charge of a Polysix (with add-on MIDI) and a DW-8000. When he quit, we transferred his parts to Fitz-Patrik and me, and the parts we couldn't play were handled by a Cheetah MS-6 rackmount and played by the sequencer. Finally we used an RX-11 for drums, in conjunction with a U-220 rackmount which was also used for sampled sounds. We could use the sequencer to control any instrument (mostly via MIDI), or control anything we wanted from our keyboards."

- "It sounds like a heavy emphasis on analogue equipment?"

- "Yes, definitely. Most of the instruments of the era we were covering were analog, and we wanted to be as 'true to life' as possible."

- "But at the first concert you used a lot more stuff didn't you?"

- "The first concert was nearly a disaster...our original idea was to set up shelves of reel-to-reel tape recorders as a backdrop, but that didn't happen. We did have a lot of stuff though; including a CS-80, Odyssey, Casio VL-1, TR-808, RX-5 and a few other bits and pieces. We used a different sequencer; it was only used on four songs and controlled only one synth via CV/gate. It actually fell on the floor a few hours before the start of the concert, the machine survived miracously, but the backup batteries got disconnected, and I had to reload the sequencer on stage manually while the rest of the band went off for a last-minute practice session. The whole thing had been put together in less than two weeks, with precious little rehearsal time. But we managed to pull the concert off finally though."

- "The VL-1 was used for Trio's Da Da Da, wasn't it?"

- "Yes, but we found it's sound could be accurately mimicked by the MiMi-a, so we decided to drop the Casio. The first concert took a long time to set up; in order to make it possible to take the show on the road we had to drop a lot of the original equipment, as well as making the show more reliable."

- "What about the blue bottle used during Axel F?"

- "Mats had gotten hold of it somehow. It's called the 'KK bottle', I think he once said that the 'KK' stood for KlingKlang, i.e. the name of Kraftwerk's studio, but I'm not really sure about that. Anyway, it's basically an after-shave bottle with coloured water and a microphone mounted in the lid. You play it with a drum stick while shaking it."

- "You toured quite a bit with Stahlwerk, didn't you?"

- "Well, far, but not a lot...we played at a festival of student bands up in the north of Sweden, in Luleå, in 1992. We must have made a good impression because they asked us back as the sole attraction a year later. A great gig - especially the second time around - the audience almost tore the place down."

- "What was the reason for your success do you think?"

- "Well, I think we were unusual. Most of the bands at the festival were very good, but they all played a similar type of music - Blues Brothers style. We were, dare I say, refreshingly different."

- "What about the band splitting up?"

- "Well, after a concert on Friday the 13th, what would you expect... :-). No, honestly, the concert was one of our better ones. I think to a certain extent our time was up. Some of us were moving on, and it would have been difficult to continue without the original members."

- "What about other projects?"

- "I was involved in a one-off project where we held the original Stahlwerk concert in '95, called Stahlzug-'95, together with Mats and another friend of mine. Using a similar set-up, it was a more of a techno affair, great fun. We practised round the clock for three weeks and then 'discharged' it all in one go."

- "Finally, what about the band name? It sounds like a take-off on Kraftwerk."

- "I think the name just came up very early on, although even within the band we're not sure exactly who made the name up. There was a major steelworks industrial project in the north of Sweden in the seventies, called Stålverk-80 - 'Steelworks-80'. We made the connection of synth music - robotic - Kraftwerk - German - industry - steel, and ended up with the German name Stahlwerk, and adding on the inauguration year, 91, or einundneunzig in German."

- "What about the future?"

- "Nothing planned, but you never know. We might turn up where you least expect it."

At this point the interview was concluded. It still remains to be seen if there's any truth in the final statement.


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