Monday, October 02, 2023

New Samsara Blues Experiment - Livealbum

One of the last live pics, from Mannheim 2019 actually, by picsfromthepit

We've been working on this new live album for quite a while and I'm really happy that there's finally a proper document of our shows. After the long sold out "Rockpalast" CD from 2013, this new album will be released on 2 LP and CD via World In Sound in November 2023 and is already available on Bandcamp and all other popular streaming and download services. It was recorded in Germany in November 2018 on our last tour, recorded and mixed by Holger Stratmann from Rock Hard Magazine, and mastered by Eroc from Grobschnitt.

Pedalboard detail for my guitar friends :)

Friday, July 28, 2023

New album: Surya Kris Peters "Strange New World"

Much to my own surprise: Here's new music from my other solo project, which shall remain the one true EXPERIMENT ;) I have been working on these tunes pretty much at the same time as on Fuzz Sagrado's recent album "Luz e Sombra", so some similarities shall be quite evident, most of all: MY BIG GUITAR COMEBACK! This is the first Surya-album with guitar on every track, and at times I think that perhaps this is the sound that I would try to elaborate with this project, although I honestly like the idea of remaining rather unpredictable. Well, it's on bandcamp now and there for you to discover ...

Sunday, May 21, 2023

Luz e Sombra - the lyrics

Minas Gerais/Brasil, May 2023

There's No Escape

It's such an indistinct feeling
bright flames are burning deep underneath
and as they crawl up to the ceiling
I feel them pouring right into me

We are human, so fragile and clueless

And maybe none of us chose this life 
or then gets stranded in no man's land

Watch that steady stream,
it's such a curious scene
Yet some day you may see it through

We are human, obsess with useless things, get deluded

And if you wanted to escape,
you will see that there's no way out 
You gotta stick to the plan
or you'll get overrun
So hard to stand your ground
No chance to turn our eyes away
You can not just sit this one out

But if you dig deep through this ragged surface, 
you soon will find nothing's just as it seems

We are human, insatiable and cruel

And you're just one more time around
No chance to turn your eyes away
You better stick to their dirty plan
or you'll get overrun
So hard to stand your ground now
and then there's no one out there 
who would just stop all this madness

Wake Them Up

Think they're safe and sound
by the way they drag themselves around
Seems that all gods children just can't relate
It's such a pity to me
how much they'll miss in this life
if they won't start to listen to what they really feel

Hey don't wake them up,
when they prefer to sleep all their life's away
and it's all they got,
make sure the doors are shut

Who sleeps cannot be no sinner
I know y'all won't do no wrong
but then it's time to arise

Hey don't wake them up,
when they prefer to sleep all their life's away
and it's all they got,
please never give them up

And when you roam through these filthy streets,
look at every odd face that you meet
with all the scars that they wear on their minds
and all the hopes that they'd scrapped
While getting stuck on some part of their odyssey,
it just occured to me that all this suffering could end

Hey don't wake them up
when they prefer to sleep all their life's away
and it's all fucked up,
yet so hard to break out

Hey, go wake them up!

Luz e Sombra

Deep inside of you,
there's a void you can't break through
Before the world comes falling in, 
gotta find another way
and if you really want to know,
you'll find the truth

One Endless Summer

I've wasted away so many precious days
while looking at parts of my old life,
then it all just turns into a blur
All the reasoning done with myself
and the feelings I'd trapped on my inside
have lead to this endless summer,
here by your side

Fading away,
in these hungry flames of our youth
The spirit will always remain,
so don't you cry

Like after every hard rain, shines the sun,
yes even after death, life goes on
You'll see that some of these startling things 
seem to depend on what you have learned

And don't you chase 'em away,
both demons and angels are a part of truth,
as you will see that golden age arise
 
We're only trapped in sweet forever babe

Leaving Samsara

Though we weren't born to touch the sky, well we did
and all the trails that we've left behind still tell our tale
Just by following a call from inside,
we climbed a mountain, stood against the rain
with our raging hearts

These wounds must heal and all the pain I feel
The fussing and useless discussing will come to an end
We fell victim for our own foolish pride,
got lost in delusion and fear
After all you'll see that I am still here

By myself, I'm here in these strange new world,
but I still cling to this voice,
that tells me now it's not what I thought,
tells me how I'm not made of gold
Was looking for peace, or finally some freedom,
the same as you,
hoping for something to enlighten me 
or just sets me free

Alone, I'm staring at the face of the world
in all its beauty and all its disgust,
with all the anger, that is still inside of me
And then the rain, is getting stronger every day,
while none of all this is real
The sooner I come to realize,
will drive my demons away

Sometimes I linger in all the memories,
that seem like a fever dream
At times I rather push them away, much farther away
But they've become such an undeniable part of me
and I know that it wasn't all just in vain
And no, I can not deny,
insight and guilt transcend me
when we'll meet, just one more time

Did you enjoy the silence?
Since the nerve-wrecking fights and the tensions are gone
You still don't know if it was for glory, or self-deceit
I feel you staring at me with a frown,
while that old relentless clock is marching on

You already knew I gotta keep pushing further 
and follow my calling, and maybe break through

Love In Progress

In the beginning it's all sorcery,
our names written in cloudless skies,
a love so untouched, and so pure,
but that's just half the truth -
cause when you'll awake,
with every nervous breath you take,
dark memories come crashing in

Oh babe it ain't over,
we both just came a little further,
cause out back home there is no one,
to teach about our own truth

But anyway,
I didn't come here just to make you sad
I know the rain
will wash all your sorrows away

So let him cleanse your soul now,
come let us float away

No babe it ain't over,
we both are just a little older
and out back there is really no one,
to understand me like you do

You didn't pick the wrong one
Let's wait until we both are sober
Inflamed like this we'll never see
of what we've stumbled into

Oh babe it ain't over,
we both just came a little further now,
cause out back home there is no one,
to teach about our own truth

Learning To Live, And Live Again

Oh, it's just another lazy afternoon,
but i'm ready to hear - the next lesson

And while everything's been shut down, 
I've been learning to live, and live again
with all these people so insincere
Oh well I guess they're still slumbering,
mending their pain

This whole wide world is still in such a mess
I'm so glad for the voices of reason, 
rising above all the same old nothing
We gotta search for the truth in our hearts, 
to find the key for love and trust,
as it's time for these to reign

Yeah sometimes it may drag you down,
but then it's just such a waste of time,
waiting for everyone else to change their minds
There's many ways to go through this short life

To find a way out of all this distress,
we'll better listen again - to our own inner voices

Monday, May 01, 2023

Surya Kris Peters: me and my strange stuff

I even did the impossible: Cut my hair ... Berlin-Weissensee, 2016

There are two previous SBE albums, but today I feel like writing about another topic: the influences on my Surya Kris Peters project. It was November 2013, when SBE were on a long tour through most of Western and Northern Europe. We'd been on the road for a whole month, from Berlin to Scandinavia to the Benelux countries, France, Spain and Portugal and back again - a hell of a ride. In between I got really sick, food poisoning in the middle of Spain where nobody spoke English, you couldn't even talk to the sound engineers or bands on site. 

In addition, I was quite annoyed by a strange problem that was to haunt me even until the end of the band: SBE was always super loud! In the quartet lineup though it became increasingly difficult to make out my own guitar's sound on stage. Everything was crazy loud, and that's not always cool. You also have to remember that some of the clubs we played weren't that big back then, and there was a lot of noise coming out of the amps every night. I tried using a booster pedal to get my solos through, but in the end it seemed all a bit over the top. 

When we got back home after the tour, months of time-out and discussions followed. Our bassist Richard also wanted to try other things in his life, following his profession as a sound engineer, and eventually decided to leave the band. We didn't rehearse for months, and in one of our conversations I vaguely let slip through that I was longing for something else in music. That idea was very indistinct. What I actually wanted, I didn't really know myself yet. But at some point during that time, I also started getting more involved with synthesizers. 

I bought my Moog Little Phatty shortly after recording the Long Distance Trip-album in 2010, but for the first few years I played just with the presets and had little idea of anything. After I got into it a bit more, modular Eurorack synthesizers became of bigger interest in 2015. All that stuff was incredibly fascinating for me, a different world! I had zero idea about it and always wondered where exactly the sounds came out and how it worked with all the cables. In the beginning, everything seemed very complicated, which I can only smile about today. 

But also the music I listened to in private changed a lot. While until then classic and obscure heavy rock of the 1970s was on my agenda, that somehow wore out more and more when I had discovered almost all underground bands of that era and also suddenly felt as if every other long-haired musician outed himself as a big Black Sabbath or Pentagram-fan. Oh okay, ... I was a bit tired of the always same sound of distorted blues-influenced guitar, bass and drums, so I slowly started to explore other sounds. 

I put a lot of effort in these special screen-printed versions of "The Hermit" and "Holy Holy Holy".

In 2014 and '15 I became a little obsessed with the soul divas of the late 60s and early 70s, Margie Joseph, Ann Peebles, Inez Foxx, etc. Of course, that had very little to do with my own music, let alone me wanting to play that music at all, but something about it fascinated me and held a certain appeal for a long time. Well, I like female voices, and probably can't help it ;) It probably made for a kind of balance to all the heavy stoner and hard rock bands I was exposed to all the time.

I had also tried Krautrock from time to time, but it didn't really work until today. There were a lot of good ideas, but a lot of it seemed at the same time kinda "immature" and sometimes almost a bit amateurish. Well, it's a wide and almost unoverseeable field, but if you look closely for a while, you can of course find some outstanding gems like Manuel Goettsching/Ashra, early Popol Vuh, and for me also the jazzy groups like Missus Beastly in particular.

I also got into more and more "Space Age" film music of the 60s and 70s, and the already mentioned KPM Library Recordings from an earlier post here. What wonderful music once had been made! In a way, that vibe has been with me for a long time, not that I ever tried to imitate it, but I think my Surya project has taken a lot of it as an influence, although it has appealed to rather few people among my fans so far - very different from "Guitar Chris".

However, many of of my Surya tracks and albums have brought me a great, maybe greater satisfaction than the studio albums with SBE, some of which I can't even listen to, out of dissatisfaction, or it is also simply overheard, while in my solo project I can implement so much more spontaneous ideas, while also not having to impress anyone with it, it's all a real fun project - which will also soon find its continuation with a new album!

I almost forgot to mention that from my childhood I was fascinated by the music and image of Mike Oldfield (there's this one picture of him sitting in this old mansion with all his instruments that has been burned into my memory since I was a boy), and Isao Tomita's "Pictures At An Exhibition" from my father's LP-collection. The very early Surya stuff was also influenced by Asian sounds, like Osamu Kitajima, some of Flower Travellin' Band and sounds like that.




Sunday, April 23, 2023

The long way to the Long Distance Trip (Pt. 3)

I wanted to finish my little treatise on the background of the LDT album with some possible influences in the years before, and of course I can only talk mostly about my personal faves, well, as the main songwriter that might make sense. Although I would also like to mention that SBE drummer Thomas Vedder in particular has a very eclectic taste in music and in his own way has perhaps always been the coolest guy in the band, even if he doesn't talk much to strangers. He has this encyclopedic wisdom in him and a huge music collection. He loves English prog (Soft Machine, Gong, Steve Hillage, etc.), 70's rock and Krautrock more than the newer groups and in some ways was a little ahead of many of us.

Whereas I was also heavily influenced by the seven years with Terraplane. We had long jam tracks there too, but didn't really know what we were doing. It just kind of came together. "Singata" was actually an unrecorded Terraplane song as well! I had been a big fan of the Doors for a long time, and Oelke and I were equally big fans of Led Zeppelin. Especially the long (live) versions of "Dazed and Confused" had impressed us a lot. But also Hendrix, Black Sabbath and others played a role, for me especially the very early UFO, or Canned Heat and 70s underground groups like Josefus. In the early 2000s however we didn't know any other band in Germany that had such "crazy" long pieces (15-20 min) in their live set, except Colour Haze of course. And later I was also to discover Earthless from California, who were a step above all that in their own way, even back then! But for me it was always also important to have at least a bit of song structure and vocals.

So without rambling on too much further, here's a selection of other main influences for the "Long Distance Trip" album in particular, Mammatus again, but also Om and early Toner Low by the way, or Ancestor's "Neptune With Fire", and my all time Stonerrock-favorite Nebula. And there are also a few highlights from old groups that everyone should know, even almost 50 years after they were active. By the way, I always found it funny how from ca. 2014 on suddenly "everyone" claimed to have always been a Black Sabbath fan, etc. But maybe that was due to increased networking and social media. I can still remember very well how in the 90s and early 2000s old groups like Black Sabbath etc. weren't popular at all and many people considered 70s rock as sort of "old-fart music". Anyway, starting in 2015 I also became more and more interested in electronic music, but more on that elsewhere. Have fun with these groundbreaking tracks, on the long way to the Long Distance Trip!






Wednesday, April 19, 2023

New album available for preorder!

My new album with Fuzz Sagrado "Luz e Sombra" is now available for pre-order and a first track can be previewed. I tried a slightly different approach with the promotion this time. I'm not an expert at it but it's kind of fun to create some excitement in myself as well after working on this album for most of the last year.

The first track is now presented by the famous THE OBELISK blog. JJ Koczan is one of the few people who have documented my entire career with SBE, and he's at the forefront of this new project as well. Next week another long track will be featured by Psychedelic Baby webzine and the final album will be released on May 19! 

I hope you enjoy it, I think there are some real highlights on the album this time. Many thanks to Wolf from World in Sound for taking care of the physical release!

Monday, April 17, 2023

The long way to the Long Distance Trip (Pt. 2)

Samsara rock boys in early Big Snuff Studio. Berlin-Weissensee, December 2009 by Martin Albrecht

First of all, perhaps an all-clear to those who expect a somewhat crazy (drug-) story behind this milestone of my career, maybe it's better if you don't read any further ;) because most of the making of this album has nothing to do with drugs or such in any way. Even with all the efforts to make waves with SBE, the success of this album is hard to explain logically. Okay, the cover may have been very well chosen in a scene that was 95% just boys then ;) but hey, I really loved Art Nouveau at the time. I couldn't pass by any Klimt or Mucha book, and was a poster artist myself for quite a while, more or less successfully. Then the iconic title, Long Distance Trip, while the working title was already "Mystic Trip", which seemed too bland for the others in the band, and with the ambiguity in the final name, perhaps really something like a conceptual work of art had emerged from all its naive origins.

We went to a professional studio ... and I hated the result! SAE Studios Berlin, February 2009

After our previous two-track demo got really good feedback, I was anxious to receive a bit more than just formal applause with my music, and we didn't let too much time pass to record the debut album. Some of us later thought that we should have waited a little longer, but now it is what it is. Already during the demo recordings of "Double Freedom" I had a hunch that "something big" could happen with this new band. And even while I thought that more often later, it should come true at least with the first album ;) But a good amount of time had to pass before, and I still think that the cover and the initially favorable Youtube algorithms contributed a significant part to the popularity of the album, and the band. Maybe I'm just telling that to myself, because these days I find the realization of these certainly somewhat special songs rather mediocre, but I won't bother much more with my opinion.

Up and away: Heading off for our first tour, perhaps the biggest trip of our lives! Amsterdam airport, March 2009 

Back then, our demo was followed by the much-discussed USA tour, which was a small miracle not just for us. If you've read some of my earlier writings here, you know where I'm coming from and that even a gig in nearby Dresden (150 km from Berlin) seemed difficult to arrange back then, and now two freaks from sunny California offered us to arrange a couple of concerts in their land of endless promises. What a trip, just to think about it! A period of discussions followed: Should we do this, or wasn't this all just crazy, with only the demo in hand and honestly, not even a full set of songs to present live! Half of the songs we played back then were actually pretty immature. "Center Of The Sun" for example was a completely loose jam, with hardly any structure, and I really couldn't sing at the time. The fact that "Double Freedom" grew up to more than twenty minutes was no accident either, but rather due to the fact that our set was otherwise too short. Of course, later we didn't know about the limitations of a vinyl record, which explains why the album was released in such different versions.

Beware of the East Germans: SBE & crew on our way to the gig in friggin' LOS ANGELES, Highway No.1, March 2009

So while we decided to hit the road for that first USA tour - the band's very first real tour, by the way - some of those tracks formed a little more into a usable song structure. The tour in America was one of the most impressive experiences of our lives for all of us, forever. Most of us had hardly left Germany before and knew some little bits only from movies or series. The Internet was also still in its infancy at that time, and somehow there is a veil of youthful nostalgia over all of this today. A special musical influence of that time was the band Mammatus, but also other Californian groups (Earthless, OM, Ancestors) had taken a grip on me and also bassist and sound engineer Richard. So shortly after our return from America, we were to begin recording the album. And with those influences and memories of "our trip", I don't think drugs were even necessary because we just came back so naturally euphoric and excited for all the things to come.

Everything was kind of magical over there. I had no clue why we had to stop at Pismo Beach though ...

Richard still had his little 15" Macbook, but for the album he decided to rent at least a bigger interface and microphones to give the drums enough space, and also all the other instruments should be recorded more properly this time. We played all the basic tracks live again, but this time with four people in the room. At this point I also have to make a correction, which on the one hand is kind of important for me, but on the other hand is perhaps a little embarrassing, because you hear very little of Hans' guitar on this whole album. In later reviews, the "guitar duels" were often highlighted, but at the time it was more my oversized ego or that kind of euphoria, depending on how you take it. I'm not even sure anymore why I felt like there had to be multiple lead guitars, and all had to be played by myself. As I said, the songs were only half finished and Hans was very shy at that time. I didn't take enough time to work things out better with him back then. 

Headliner at our first US-show at The Echo, Sunset Blvd LA (Seriously wtf!!) Pic by Alric Kaczor

So this album was more of a chaotic continuation of the demo, and also a very short visit to the SAE studio in Berlin, where we had a brief chance to record "For The Lost Souls" in just one afternoon, but held it back out of some embarrassment. The long period of overdubs for LDT cannot be described with any other adjective than CHAOTIC! Despite the fact that Richard had studied sound engineering, this was his first major production and I'm sure that he frequently despaired over my ideas, and first conflicts arose. Thomas and Hans were completely left out of the overdubs. A drummer's job always ends after the basic takes, more or less. But the whole band was really my vision back then, and three younger guys kind of trying to follow it. I don't want that to sound as egotistical as it probably was. Well, at the time I really loved stoner rock and 60's psychedelic and drew everyone around into this great passion for the genre. At the time I was also running a fanzine with Generated X and was deeply rooted in the still very underground scene.

Our first real tour and we're about to enter friggin' SEATTLE, where we even played twice on that trip!

The work on overdubs then stretched over several months! At that time we had just moved into a new rehearsal room, where Richard still runs his Big Snuff Studio today, with some spatial differences. For example, our direct neighbors at that time were the motorcycle club Bandidos, a bunch of rather unpleasant dudes, and many seemed to run on crooked tracks. There were actually two police interventions in our rehearsal room, which was mistaken for the Bandidos' room! Armed to the teeth policemen stood once in the room, while Richard's Flanger Hoax-pedal oscillated merrily. And also during the mixing of "Army Of Ignorance" there was a big operation of the Berlin police, right next door, not even ten meters away from Richard and me and that little Macbook with the "big album" on it. Gun shots were fired and I nearly peed my pants, but as you see we managed to get away without damage. I will never forget the sight of about twenty grown men in handcuffs sitting on the floor when we finished our work that day.

Back in our backyards in Weissensee, back to normal, but ... how?! Pic by Martin Albrecht, Dec 2009

Somehow funny was also how we went through the overdub sessions. As I said, it was all rather sporadic and spontaneous, depending on when we had time and desire to work - I still was in a regular full-time job back then. So some of the vocals for example were done in Richard's then still youthful room with open windows and me with my sketchy "Jim Morrison memorial renditions". Most of the keyboards I had done in my own apartment, without any plan, with free synthesizer, organ & mellotron plugins. Just briefly before I had discovered this whole world of plugin instruments, thanks to Richard. Oh that was all such a funny naive time ... but we actually had little problems finding a label. The demo and the first gigs, plus the "Rock 'n' Roll-fairytale-like" American tour had already gained us quite some attention. In fact we already had three offers from labels, but I really wanted to be on one of the well-known scene labels, Elektrohasch or Tee Pee to be precise. The latter never got back to us, while I had a rather embarrassing run-in with Stefan Koglek of Elektrohasch.

The sky is the limit? Berlin-Weissensee, Long Distance Trip-promo session by Martin Albrecht

He had justified doubts about the album. Yes, not everything was really that well played, although I saw it differently back then. Elektrohasch was pretty much king of the stoner labels at that time, even if not everything there was ultimately so outstanding in my opinion. But Koglek didn't want Samsara, and had explained this in great detail, even with minute marks of playing mistakes, whereupon I wrote a somewhat teasing answer and that was that. But he still invited us to play at his Swamp Room Mania festival, so there weren't any hard feelings. In the end we went with the "smaller" World In Sound-label, which turned out the much better choice financially and remains an important part of my life. Without this I would hardly be able to now live as a free artist, far away from my home country and under palm trees, so thank you Wolfgang!

Long Distance Trip release concert, Arcanoa Berlin on April 4 2010 by Martin Albrecht

Thanks also to the many fans of SBE - I and the others in our band put a lot of effort into this whole project, dedicated time and all our passion, spent most of our vacations from work for touring etc yet few of what we experienced in the final years can be taken for granted! Thank you very much!

Tuesday, April 04, 2023

The long way to the Long Distance Trip (Pt.1)

Shortly before our first gig: the first stable SBE line-up after a long search for suitable musicians

Terraplane broke up in the spring of 2007. I see that band as mostly a vehicle for my friendship with singer/bassist Christian Oelke, which was special for us in many ways back then, but like all relationships, this one had its difficulties. However, at that time our friendship had to pass through a difficult test because after getting together with a girl from Italy I decided to leave that safe haven of "good old" Wernigerode and venture into new experiences in Berlin. Terraplane still had a bunch of promising gigs ahead and even while I moved some 250 km away, I didn't want to break up the band, but Oelke saw it differently and decided for himself that this was the end. I still don't understand why he reacted like that after everything we had been through before, with all the line-up changes etc. but eventually had to accept his decision, and also watch another drummer leave with him.

Me and Thomas, first SBE-rehearsal room in Berlin-Weissensee, Summer 2008 by Ringo

Shortly after I started jamming with Terraplane-bassist Florian Furtner and 16 year old Robin Niehoff on drums (video here). Robin was a dedicated fan and basically started his own musical path after seeing Terraplane, and our side-project Ians Experience, play at some of our "rehearsal room shows". These jams were already the foundation for Samsara Blues Experiment. I remember telling Oelke about my idea earlier and he replied it was a weird name. However, these early jams were very euphoric, not much structured at all, just fifteen minutes of guitar noodling and very intense. In a way, we were blown away by our own sound. But the line up didn't last although I tried to convince them to come to Berlin with me. So I moved there, alone but confident that whatever happened had to happen. I had no idea what to expect, the only person I knew close to there was Terraplane drummer Andreas in Potsdam, with whom I continued "the experiment". Finding a capable bass player was the more difficult part though. It took a lot of candidates (among them the bassist of Stonehenge/Kaskadeur) and weeks to get a first line up together. Soon we added a second guitarist as well, because I couldn't play guitar and sing at once. In fact I couldn't even sing and I was very shy, but felt like it would be my path.

I found Richard in the forum of stonerrock.com but there were actually two other bassists before him.

Sort of coincidentally, a first concert had been arranged at Archiv Potsdam, together with Dzjenghis Khan, a band from San Francisco, with whom I must have been in contact through my music zine activities. They came all the way from The Hague in Holland by train for this one lonely gig in Germany! Back then you couldn't expect much anyway, most bands (even the more popular ones) played clubshows to a maximum of around 100 people. Also the festivals were very small, around 500 people at Stoned From The Underground until the 2010s! Back to our gig, where something extremely strange happened while the other three of us started setting up our backline at the nearby Archiv club: Andreas didn't show up and didn't respond to messages or attempts to call him! Funny enough, he was the one who had organized most of the gig. We got worried and waited for hours for a message from him, but nothing! So we had to give up and just went to see the other two groups, Dzjenghis Khan and Marogreen (Rob Niehoff's own group) play with our equipment. Andreas didn't show up only until two weeks later! He had serious problems in his relationship and eventually left the group because he had put too much on his shoulders at the time, with three bands, a full time job and a girlfriend waiting for him at home.

Promo with Michele, shortly before the demo was recorded. Berlin, July 2008 by Ringo

Soon after bass player Bj√∂rn also decided it wasn't for him anymore. I was a little perplexed, our rehearsals seemed pretty cool and everyone happy, but maybe I couldn't visualize my ideas very well, because it was clear to me that I wanted to "conquer the world", or at least the local scene. I was pretty cocky back then to be honest. I was convinced I was one of the best guitarists around, although I hardly knew anything. So the search for band members started again, and the second guitarist Michele (an Italian metalhead friend) and I found our new bass player Richard Behrens in the online forums of stonerrock.com while Thomas Vedder was recommended by an online friend. I will never forget the first day we all met. Thomas looked a bit like a character from Gillegan's Island with a sketchy kind of fisherman hat and Richard as always the smiling "sunny boy". We started jamming and already everything was there, the energy and the vibe that made SBE famous for all the years to come. In a way "a kind of magic" and a different intensity than in Terraplane, thanks to Thomas' powerful drumming and Richard's simple but effective bass. This young guy already owned one of those impressive "Ampeg fridges", so there's not much more to add.

Cool pic with Michele. The photographer Ringo asked us to wake up at 4AM for these pics!

By the way especially for Richard, the name Samsara Blues Experiment didn't cause too much euphoria in the beginning. There were questions if we should really stick with that name, but I wouldn't compromise on that. I was the oldest and most experienced in this new group and yes, SBE was "my band" although I always gave the others more than enough freedom and never just imposed my own ideas. But I had my vision. Perhaps a bit naive, but confident, and I didn't want to wait too long with a first demo recording. After the long search for band members, a year in total, I couldn't wait to finally get back on stage. Luckily Richard had studied sound engineering at one of those fancy media colleges (SAE Institute) and owned the necessities to record a band: stereo condenser microphones and a simple interface that he plugged into his macbook and mixed in Logic 9. And that was already all the recording equipment we used for our first demo in 2008! We only had a few songs, but especially "Double Freedom" could stretch for almost 20 minutes, which seemed enough for a demo and also for live shows. Like I said, I was very impatient to get back on stage. But at that time it also became clear that Michele wasn't a very good fit for this whole idea of SBE, and we asked him to leave. I had never done anything like that in a band before, but it went pretty well, and we all remained friends ...

Rehearsal in our 2nd room: Thomas in trance & "big boy" Hans with his dreaded hollow body guitar

So we recorded the demo as a three piece, live in the room, with few overdubs, mostly just the sitar and tanpura parts and vocals at the end. Sitar recordings never sounded as good as on that demo, not sure why? Also I already had a lot of contacts in the scene through Terraplane, my webzine Generated X and through my efforts to become a visual artist with gigposters and artworks for bands and festivals. When first reviews came in, they were all very positive and fueled my fire. I was convinced that SBE was going to be "big". I wonder how much that actually contributed to our success, while none of those early recordings (including the first album) weren't professionally done. But does that even matter? At that time I realized again that I wasn't ready for the double duty on guitar and vocals, so Richard suggested his buddy Hans Eiselt for rhythm guitar. Hans was barely 18 years old then (nine years younger than I), but already an experienced bass player with his band Rodeo Drive. He was rather shy then and barely spoke, but after an initial rehearsal with him, he seemed to fit. He liked the "right groups", which seemed to be even more important than his skills, but to be honest, I never took much time to work out things better with him, everything (more or less) happened in a certain group dynamic: We all liked similar music, similar sounds, and so things came together.

Saturday, April 01, 2023

Making of: Terraplane "Psychedelic Wonderland"

Terraplane: Chris O, Andreas, and I, Wernigerode in early 2005 by Koma K

I'm taking a little detour here, back in time, because I thought it might be interesting to write a few words about the "Into The Unknown" predecessor which had the promising name "Psychedelic Wonderland". As already mentioned, this was already our second attempt to record an album. By then we had released a bunch of demos and EPs, all in a more or less chaotic manner. I just have the feeling that my whole life a kind of impatience, but also uncertainty, haunts me. Terraplane was a very creative band with high song output, and under different circumstances we could have had three full albums. At that time it was easy to write songs. I remember rehearsals where we made two new tracks in a few hours, just like that, without discussion and difficulties, which in later band constellations should make me almost despair. Now you can argue that these songs surely had simpler structures, but in the end everything is music and should be fun in the first place, right?

Mr. Oelke even smoking at vocal recordings? And me with my 200EU Stagg guitar and Marshall JCM900.

After recording two EPs, respectively a discarded album ("Orange Sunshine", March 2004) and an EP ("War", May 2003) in a small studio in the sleepy Harz village Ruebeland, the new album was to be recorded in Alex Grothe's Radio Moon Studio. Grothe was an old buddy of Chris O., but like Jens Martinek from Ruebeland more familiar with hardcore and metal sounds. Whether this was all such a good idea? Grothe was also at the very beginning of his studio activity, but I think it was the usual money problems and lack of alternatives that made us start recording there in December 2004. And I'll say it in advance, it turned out to be pure chaos. The studio was located in one of those old GDR buildings, abandoned and quite run down, near the edge of the small town of Wernigerode. To get there, you had to fight your way through all kinds of pile-up and some of the technology, including the heating, worked only imperfectly. We actually played partly at temperatures around zero, without heating! On some of the photos you can see me with a red glove, which I wore the whole time because my hands were always so cold.

Andreas a.k.a. The Butterfly in our rehearsal room where we recorded the rest of the album

While we were almost despairing of the otherwise quite fluent songs, Grothe finally moved with the studio to a new location, a commercial building, where after a short time most of his equipment was stolen! Oh, how lucky we were ... We concluded with a short harmonica recording in his "Plattenbau"-apartment, but after that decided to work on the raw material ourselves. And of course none of us had a clue. I fiddled around in Cubase, but I didn't really know anything about mixing a band. We were also missing the basic tracks of three essential songs, which we recorded in our rehearsal room with only room microphone on a Tascam 4 track tape machine. It was all kind of sketchy, but I wanted to learn and worked on the album quite eagerly, taking Grothe's raw tracks and trying to make the best of it without knowing what I was doing. I had zero knowledge of a drum kit. At that point I couldn't even name its parts. And the bass recording was riddled with constant stuttering noises. All rather poor conditions, and yet with the help of my Boss GT-3 guitar effect I built quite a sound collage of psychedelic guitars around it, but the overall sound remained modest.

Recording in zee days of olde: Alex Grothe in his original Radio Moon Studio

Nobody knew what mastering meant and if it was needed, so when the recordings sounded halfway okay, they were burned to CDr and only about 100 copies were spread among fans. But nobody was really happy, although I still think that some of the best Terraplane songs are on this album in articular. I tried for years to make a re-release of at least some of the songs, but always failed. Maybe it's still a task for the future, but probably we will never again capture the special mood of that time. Well, I tend to a certain nostalgia, but every album is a witness of its time. I find it a bit difficult to offer the album to the public today, but you can listen to it on Youtube. That was a very different time, virtually without the internet, isolated in rural central Germany with the heads full of fluff and vague ideas what you could achieve with this music. There was no big scene, everything was actually still in the making.

Recording is a hard task: Chris O, Koma K and Andreas exhausted from the job

We were a funny bunch really, Chris O. the dreamer and blues fan, chain-smoking Andreas with his impressive record collection and the most peculiar drum-style I know, our pseudo-manager Koma K who was more like a kind of roadie after all, and me this very insecure boy who put far too many notes into his solos, far too quickly ... Once on the way to a Queens Of The Stone Age-concert in Hamburg, while they were really taking off with "Songs For The Deaf", Koma K said something to me that I will never forget for the rest of my life: "Man, you've got so much talent! What are you doing with your life?" and I still ask that myself sometimes, after all the crazy and crazy good things I experienced later with SBE. Professional album recordings, worldwide tours and concerts etc. Life is crazy really! You have to take the opportunities as they appear ...

Terraplane, on our way into the unknown ... by Koma K