From Aural Innovations #14 (January 2001)
Eurock: The Golden Age
(Eurock 2000, ECD 3001, Multi-media CD-Rom)
Publishing Aural Innovations these past three years has provided me the opportunity to hear a great deal of wonderful music, and it does my heart good to know that the creative spirit is alive and well throughout the world. But as exciting as much of the music I hear is, being truly new and original is a difficult, perhaps impossible, thing to accomplish anymore in music. And I often wonder how exciting it must have been to have been publishing Aural Innovations when the recordings of the great space pioneers were first seeing the light of day.
Archie Patterson can tell you exactly how exciting that was. An early zine publisher, Patterson's first issue of Eurock was published in March 1973 and featured what he refers to as the "holy trinity of Krautrock": Amon Düül, Can, and Tangerine Dream (he specifies ADII actually as the holy one). The idea from the beginning was to cover the burgeoning European Rock scene.... hence Eurock. And while the first issues focused on the Kosmiche bands, and electronic music was, and is to this day, a particular interest of his, Eurock went on to cover the gamut of progressive rock bands coming out of Europe. And from 1973 through 1992 Patterson published 45 issues of Eurock plus a couple anniversary and special issues. You name it... they were ALL covered in Eurock... right when it was happening.
So what does this CD-Rom include? The heart and soul of the disc is the inclusion of EVERY issue of Eurock that was published, plus a new special Eurock 2000 issue. What a resource! I got lost in this treasure for hours reading about all the great bands I already knew, even finding interesting details I was unaware of, reading about bands whose music I knew but had never had the chance to read profiles of, and numerous others that I was reading about for the first time. As a publisher myself I enjoyed following Patterson's editorials over the years, reading about his excitement over the music, developments as time went on, and the occasional political tirade. I can relate.
The CD is nicely layed out and organized making for a comfortable online read that is easy to navigate. Just choose Issue Archives from the menu and the left column lists each numbered issue. Click on a number and the table of contents and cover art for that issue appear making browsing quick and easy. Every article pops up instantly when you click on its title so readers can make their way through as simply as turning pages in your recliner chair. And for those who know exactly what they're looking for the CD is meticulously indexed. Select Index from the menu and three columns are displayed, the left column being an alpa-numeric listing. So I click, for example, on Amon Düül II and the second column displays a listing of every article written about Amon Düül II and the issue that it appeared in. I click on the article that I'm interested in and the third column displays that article. A true multi-media experience that provides me with multi-options for reading and searching for information. There's also a sizable, and searchable, discography that is inclusive beyond Eurock's years of publication.
As I said, the heart and soul of this CD-Rom is the complete Eurock library. And if that was all there was it would be plenty. But there's more. Select Media Gallery from the menu and you get two options: Covers and Videos. The Covers option allows you to browse all the covers, and most of the back covers, of each issue of Eurock. Many of these featured beautiful artwork. Click Videos and you can watch live performances by Amon Düül II, Popol Vuh, and Urban Sax. Once you've made your way through all that, pop the CD in a regular CD player and hear an album's worth of material from Japanese electronic musician Hiro Kawahara.
In summary, if you find Aural Innovations to be a good read and a valuable resource then you'll find Eurock: The Golden Age to be indispensible... and a STEAL at $30! 45 issues! You want this. In fact, I was so impressed I threw some questions at Archie via email so he could tell us himself about his experiences publishing Eurock in progressive rock's "Golden Age" (see below).
AI: You started out covering the more Kosmische oriented bands, and then moved on to include a wider scope of progressive rock, but typically the more avant-rock bands. Does this simply reflect the development of progressive rock in the 1970's, your own personal musical discoveries, or something more?
Archie Patterson: To some extent it reflects all of these. In the beginning there were few bands doing this new form of "weird" rock music. If not for Rolf-Ulrich Kaiser in Germany who started the OHR label, who knows what would have happened? There is always a catalyst, and he was it! The normal record companies (as always) had no interest until something happened, then they stepped in to capitalize. Of course the artists had no problem leaving Kaiser behind for more money at first opportunity. I've heard he ended up with a broken heart, being sued in court and spending some time in a mental hospital in the end. As the Euro scene developed more indie labels came along and new experimental/progressive bands entered the scene in many countries. It was a rather miraculous flowering of music and culture that flowed naturally from pop music and the psychedelic revolution.
AI: A common thread throughout Eurock's history, and certainly seems to be the focus of your current catalog, is electronic music. Do you think electronic music has been the most consistently exciting over the years?
AP: I'd have to say that the very first issue of EUROCK portrays pretty well my initial musical fascination as it features the holy trinity of Krautrock - Amon Duul 2, Can and Tangerine Dream. In the beginning there were more rock oriented bands and fewer pure electronic artists. Over the years that ratio changed. I think that is mostly due to the fact that electronic music lends itself incredibly well to film soundtracks. For that reason it has withstood the test of time better than progressive rock on a creative level. In the beginning, it certainly conjured up imaginary movies for the mind. Now when used as a score for actual films it results in multi-media magic in the best of cases. It was also more unique stylistically in that it was a new development in terms of pop music and stood apart from the other rock hybrids from the outset. EUROCK as you say has continued to focus on that a bit more than prog rock. Part of that is simply taking what is submitted to me and picking out what I think is most interesting musically and then making arrangements to distribute it. I hear a lot, but hardly all that there is. Today everything sounds pretty derivative, but I find that electronic music, especially when cross pollinated with other musical forms (rock, acoustic, classical) can sometimes create quite an amazing new sound. The reality is that the entire spectrum of music has been changed by synthesizer technology - for better and worse. Electronic music in the pop idiom was a complete revolution in sound and style.
AI: Without the benefit of the Internet or other publications like your own, how did you find out about all these bands when Eurock started?
AP: In the beginning this music was not in the record stores. I began subscribing to the UK pop magazines Melody Maker and New Musical Express in the late 1960's (actually my grandfather bought me Xmas gift subscriptions in my teens.). I then started buying Move and Zombie records and other singles/albums from the UK, spending my pittance of disposable income (while in college) on mail order from UK record stores. I think it was Ian McDonald (of King Crimson fame) who wrote some of the original small articles on Euro rock that I saw in those mags. Then one day I ran across an advert by the very first Virgin Records store in London's Notting Hill area (a small hippie record store that marked the beginnings of the Branson empire, before the record label and airlines, etc.). They had a long list of strange new band names advertised under the label of "Krautrock". I immediately made a long distance call late one night (it was quite a different experience as I'd never called overseas before, and it cost a fortune in those days)! I ask them to reserve 1 copy of each LP for me and emptied my bank account (a couple hundred $$$). Some weeks later a series of small packets arrived with 20 some albums by Can, Amon Duul, Guru Guru, Kraftwerk, a/o. My mind was blown.
Later, a small record store/mail order called Moby Disc started up in LA and I struck up a friendship with this cat named Dana Madore who worked there. They imported direct from England and he kept me up on all the new arrivals and took lots of my money - it was wonderful. Later one of the Moby owners went on to open JEM West.
JEM East had started some time earlier, at first selling UK imports out of their car trunks, up and down the East coast. They were heavy anglophiles and not hip to the non-Kraut or other Euro stuff for some time. In fact, one of their earliest efforts promoting it came when they asked permission to reprint something from EUROCK that detailed the latest Cosmic Couriers releases. They then got into the groove and worked with Nektar, plus started distributing some other Euro bands.
AI: There was no Internet then... how did you get the word out that Eurock was available? I suppose you did this through the Intergalactic Trading Company in 1975?
AP: I did one initial classified advert in Rolling Stone in 1973 that attracted a bit of attention and then it just started to spread via the rock underground word of mouth. It took a long time, not like today where technology bombards us with new information every minute.
The founding of ITC certainly helped EUROCK and the Euro record scene here expand. We specialized in all the Euro experimental stuff and were the first ones to import Swedish, Finnish, French, Italian and many other obscure imports. There was also a company on the East coast, Peter's International, which started bringing in some continental Euro imports at that time as well.
Around 1977 I moved to LA and ran Paradox Music Mailorder, a branch of Greenworld (a company that went on to be one of the better and larger importers during that time before the bottom fell out of the marketplace in the 1980's). It was a conscious effort to expanded the ITC market further into the wholesale sphere and at its peak sold thousands of these strange albums to unsuspecting collectors across the country. As you say, the covers looked great, people experimented musically, and became converted to the cause. That was when the import scene exploded. Those years were totally amazing.I got some incredibly supportive feedback from customers and storeowners. They were astounded by what we were constantly discovering musically from all these far off countries by musicians who had never even registered on the music map in their own countries. Over the years I've gradually met many of the musicians I wrote about and they still talk fondly about how incredible it was when they read in a new issue of EUROCK that their next album was due for release in a couple months - and in fact they were still in the studio recording it. I had very good sources in Europe at that time that helped me with music and information, but it took some time to communicate, as it was mostly all done via the post (long distance telephone calls cost a fortune back before the breakup of ATT). It really was like a crusade for them, and me as well, because the music was so unique back then. It's very different now because music along with everything else has become basically just another commodity.
AI: As you got into the 1980's, the table of contents lists more and more bands I'm unfamiliar with and many more formats in the reviews are listed as being cassettes. It seems like Eurock was experiencing the emergence of the DIY underground and global cassette networking?
AP: To some extent that shift reflected the changing times in the music industry. The initial bloom was off the rose in terms of commercial record companies releasing and supporting that sort of music. The import scene in general went through a recession of sorts with JEM, Greenworld, Peters International and ITC all being swept into the dustbin of history by the mid 1980's. In 1981 I left Paradox/Greenworld and decided to make EUROCK itself an outlet for selling indie music. Due to the changing economic situation, the initial way musicians could self-produce their releases shifted to cassette. It was cheaper and easier. LPs were still being made of course, but they were more expensive to produce, they had to be made in larger quantities, and large-scale distribution was a problem. So the focus of the scene shifted to some extent and cassettes became an important part of it. The EUROCK cassette releases were among some of the first DIY productions. There were new labels springing up all around the world: DD Records in Japan, Marquee in Japan, Bain Total in France, Illusion Productions in France, Mirage in the UK, YHR in the UK, Transmitter in Germany and many others. Later as interest grew production moved more to the LP format. It was so different then as there was no precedent for doing such a thing, thus it was very hard. Then came the computer.
AI: Reading your editorials it sounds like you were/are involved in promoting progressive music well beyond the Eurock publication. You make references to being in charge of some record distribution companies, getting the chance to do a radio show, and you even mention giving a nine-week course on progressive music.
AP: I've done many activities over the years related to music. The first was in 1971 when I lived in Fresno, CA. It was right before the start of EUROCK when I did a weekly radio show for 3 years on the biggest commercial FM station in town (KFIG FM). It was called EUROCK and on WED night 9-11 PM. We played all the cosmic, German stuff at the beginning. A funny story - Manfred Mann's Earthband was playing a concert in Fresno one time and Manfred was listening to the radio. He asked my friend, who was the station program manager, what the great music he was hearing was? My friend told him it was a show called EUROCK, and the music being played was in fact Embryo's ROCKSESSION LP. I still have a couple reel-to-reel tapes of shows (in my garage so who knows what condition they are in)?
When I moved to Portland, OR I programmed a show for 2 years on the largest FM station there (KINK FM). It was 3 hours of Euro and Anglo electronic and progressive music on prime time SUN nights, called OTHER WORLDS. It was incredible as we would play all this far out Euro music and the next week would sell hundreds of those albums in our local store Music Millennium (which was the father company for ITC).
When I moved to LA I did a series of special shows on the local Pacifica public radio station there (KPFK) that were quite popular with their audience. Also while in LA I got a call out of the blue from Michael Mann. He was looking for music to use as the score for his film THIEF. I made several sample tapes for him and went to Hollywood for a couple meetings that resulted in Tangerine Dream doing the film's music for him.
After I moved back to Portland, later in the 1990's, I taught classes at a local public high school. They were called "Roots of Rock". One dealt with the "rock revolution" of the 1950's and 1960's, the other was the 9-week series you mention that focused on "Euro Rock". It was an amazing experience talking to and sharing music and ideas with a new generation - the classes were for grades 7-12. At one point the school decided they wouldn't offer the course any longer (it was an elective), so some 400+ of the schools students signed a petition asking that I be allowed to come back. The school reversed their decision and I taught it for 2 more years. I'd prepare sample music tapes and lectures that would illustrate a particular class topic. Later, I released the Euro series as special EUROCK cassettes. People still today ask about them. Someday maybe I'll listen to the tapes again and see how they sound.
I also today do a reviews column for a local monthly community newspaper; it's called INTO THE MUSIC. I do Euro stuff sometimes, as well as and more "normal" music- folk, rock, etc. It's fun and allows me to be involved with good music from all genres. I think that's important.
AI: In your editorial for issue #20, you introduce the Klaus Schulze interview and mention that it raises the question as to whether computers and art are compatible. How do you respond to that question now that computers are so much a part of our lives?
AP: Computers and the development of CD technology have completely changed the music, the marketplace, and the entire way people function today. I'd definitely say that they have greatly enlarged the musical palate. On the other hand, today I'd pose the question somewhat differently: how come the music being made now that we have this incredible technology is not so creative? Personally I'm not sure what the answer is. I will say however that there is very little music being released today that comes close to the creativity or emotional/cultural impact of say Elvis, the Beatles and Dylan to name just the most obvious (in terms of the mainstream). As far as the "second culture" is concerned, there is nothing nearly as innovative as Zappa, the original Magma, or the early Krautrock electronic experimentalists in Germany. Has the collective gene pool been drained, or has corporate control simply sapped us of our desire to do anything but replicate the past and become just another commodity in today's marketplace (the medium has become the message). I think computer technology makes things in some instances perhaps too easy to do, unfortunately. It becomes a struggle to escape the limitless possibilities of technology and focus on pure creativity. Maybe that's the Catch 22 for artists/humans today: computers - can't live with them, can't live without them.
AI: Affordable CDR's, web sites, Mp3.com... do you view the ease of virtually anyone making their music available as being a positive force? Do you think it's a true kick in the pants to the music- industrial complex?
AP: Theoretically it makes the means of production more democratic and open to everyone as long as you follow the rules imposed on you by the software or provider. In a way the recent US election is an appropriate metaphor for this dichotomy. It illustrated the fallacy of "democracy" and "freedom" and what happens when rules and/or machinery breaks down. An arbitrary authority beyond reason and reproach dictates the outcome. Here then may be the ultimate question: is music really about simply having access to better means of production, or is it more importantly about the search by creative minds for that elusive ultimate chord, tone or musical note?
I remember going to the first progressive music festival held in the USA in 1978. It was organized by Giorgio Gomelsky in NYC and called the ZU MANIFESTIVAL. Some amazing Euro artists performed as well as early NY experimentalists. Also of prime importance was that the artists, journalists and fans from around the world all interacted in panel discussions and conversation. I remember one particular discussion with Chris Cutler. He said something to the effect that the problem of gaining exposure and promotion for good music was not that there was too much of it, but instead that there was too much music period, and most of it was bad; therefore it was incredibly hard to promote anything. That early invocation of the law of diminishing returns was prophetic and has become even truer now in light of the state of the music, and advanced economic systems of today. Your term "music-industrial complex" is absolutely appropriate now that control of the music business and much of the major media and consumer outlets are in the hands of a few multi-national corps. They will end up basically controlling the major technological innovations you mention as well - the Net and its delivery systems. Soon 20 corporations (or less?) will own everything worth owning on the entire planet. Meanwhile the barbarians outside the gates (artists, musicians and those who've been left out of the post Reagan new world order) will be left cannibalizing each other trying to get in on the action.
AI: Having been immersed in this music for so long, where do you see progressive music going in the new Millennium? Do you still hear music that is fresh and exciting, is it retro, or somewhere in the middle?
AP: For the most part it is retro. Some of the original groundbreaking artists continue playing good music, but are hardly pioneers any longer. Being a creative genius at 30 years old is a rarity, being one at 50, highly improbable. Younger musicians today filter their musical and life influences through a very different cultural prism than was present during the "The Golden Age". Therefore the results are not the same. Some musicians have done this very well, but for most the level of creativity is not very high in my opinion. Others may disagree. Just because you create something (music), and make it available, does not mean that it's good. To some extent quality is a subjective question, but I always remember what one of my college philosophy professors told me - be wary of people who say "that's only your opinion" - that is the ultimate act of denying reality.
AI: What does Eurock currently consist of? Of course you have the mail order catalog. Do you still do recordings released on the Eurock label? Is Eurock a full time endeavor?
AP: The current incarnation of EUROCK consists of a printed catalog of recommended recordings consisting of the best music I've come across in the last 45-60 days. Over the span of a year there may be 4-6 of these, which form a cumulative catalog. I try to keep these items in stock as long as demand warrants it and/or I can get them, often they are Ltd. Editions. Once a year I print a complete stock catalog. To coincide with this http://www.eurock.com contains the same catalog, but with more things offered than in the print version due to the limitations of that medium. There are also many other features on the WWW site as it allows for much more freedom and creativity (that's a great advantage of technology and the Net). I'm going to begin posting on the site new interviews with artists/music people I like, and who I think carry on the original creative spirit. There also exists the possibility (as my technological abilities increase) of adding graphics and sound clips of each title offered and perhaps a "radio show" of the music reviewed as well. I might even do excerpts from the class cassettes perhaps. This is all contingent on technological improvements being made that are beyond me. Fortunately my 20-year-old son Aaron is a genius at this. The only problem is that he attends college in LA during the year and works for Microsoft in the summer so his time is limited. I'm always looking out for someone to become part of EUROCK in this regard.
The EUROCK RECORDS label remains active, but only releases things that I believe in musically. I have national US distribution via DNA, but the sales-payment-returns equation is always problematic for a small label. EUROCK is my full time occupation and over the years I've developed a name for being a bit different from the rest of the pack. My main focus is on attempting to maintain a high level quality wise. I'm quite proud of the fact that I started something from nothing, when few would even listen, and now almost 30 years later I've turned countless number of people on to great music made by some of the most creative musicians all around the world. My latest release is a multi-media project that I hope people can appreciate called "The Golden Age". It is a CD-ROM that when taken as a whole is a rather remarkable musical and cultural history of those times. It has just been picked up for domestic release in Japan. I'd like to think that it allows those who were not around at the outset to experience that original vibe all over again; long after it has passed into history.
You can visit EUROCK at their web site.
Contact via snail mail at EUROCK; PO Box 13718; Portland, OR 97213.