German composer and musician Klaus Schulze, a pioneer in the field of electronic music and leading figure in what came to be known as “Kraut-rock,” died Tuesday. He was 74 and the death was described in an announcement from his record label as coming “after a long disease, but all of a sudden.”
Schulze was an early member of the groups Tangerine Dream, the Cosmic Joker and Ash Ra Tempel, in the beginnings of a career that grew to include more than 60 albums.
Despite his illness, Schulze had new music in the pipeline. A new song, “Osiris Pt#1,” was released earlier this month in advance of an album, “Deus Arrakis,” that is set to come out June 10.
“We were shocked and saddened to hear the news of Klaus Schulze’s sudden death,” said SPV managing director Frank Uhle. “We lose and will miss a good personal friend – one of the most influential and important composers of electronic music – a man of conviction and an exceptional artist. Our thoughts in this hour are with his wife, sons and family. His always cheerful nature, his innovative spirit and his impressive body of work remain indelibly rooted in our memories.”
Schulze’s impact was recently heard in the film “Dune,” interpolated into the score by an admirer, Hans Zimmer. “When I was writing the end titles, I realized there was a bass line that I’d heard before,” Zimmer told Den of Geek when the film was coming out. “And I suddenly remembered that Klaus Schulze wrote a song called ‘Frank Herbert.’ I basically lifted the bass line from that. So I phoned Klaus and asked him, could we make this a co-composition? But he was quite thrilled that something he wrote so many years ago still echoed into this century.” (Schulze released an entire album named “Dune” in 1975.)
Schulze was a drummer for Tangerine Dream in 1969-70. “Drumming was because of my (older) brother,” he said in a 2015 interview. “He arouse my interest in Art Blakey and Buddy Rich (and some others). But after some years of hitting the skins and cymbals with a few groups, the last of them Tangerine Dream and Ash Ra Tempel, I wanted a change. I wanted to play with harmonies and sounds. As a drummer you are the backbone of a rock group, but not the soloist who performs his own musical ideas. And I had ideas. … When I tried to make some of my experiments inside Tangerine Dream (e.g.: recording organ sounds and playing them backwards in a concert), Edgar – still on electric guitar and a Hendrix fan – told me: you either play drums or you leave. I accepted the second offer: I left.”
His first solo album, “Irrlicht,” came out in 1972, and was characterized as an example of ambient music. At that point, the composer did not yet own a synthesizer and was using a modified electric organ. “Synthesizers were still very rare and expensive” when he was working on his debut, he said.
His eventual mastery of synthesizers and samples led some to call him “the godfather of techno music,” but his music was appreciated in the prog-rock and new age realms as well.
The new album that is coming in June contains three compositions, “Osiris,” “Seth” and “Der Hauch des Lebens,” ranging in length from 18 to 32 minutes.
Schulze described having a renal disease in a 2018 interview with Brain Voyager. “
“I had to realize it’s better for me not going out on the road anymore. My health needs constant supervision, as I have a renal disease, which fortunately is very treatable with dialysis. I do okay staying home, and going here and there is fine, but nothing as stressful as a tour or big live concerts far abroad that require a great deal of traveling. I figure that’s okay when you’ve celebrated your 70th birthday recovering from a longer hospital stay. The Japan concerts I played in 2010 were the last official public concerts I did. Yet this new studio album (Silhouettes) was done in a concert-type live situation within the studio, most of it played through in one streak, not too bad an alternative after a long, silent break.”
Schulze is survived by his wife, two adult sons and four grandchildren.