From Aural Innovations #19 (April 2002)
Though it wasn't until 2000 that we heard his recorded music, German musician Ludwig Kramer is a notable piece of German rock history having been the original guitarist in Agitation Free and did a stint with Walpurgis. Being Content is his debut solo release, which we reviewed in Aural Innovations #17. Full of beautiful songs that cover song-oriented progressive rock and folk-psychedelia, Ludwig also gives us the lengthy instrumental "2000 Year...?", a far more cosmic entry on this melodic collection of songs. Having kept contacts with Ludwig since the review and always being interested in hearing from musicians who were a part of the early Krautrock scene, we conducted the following interview via email.
AI: Is Being Content your first album? Have there been any earlier albums, either your own or with bands you played with?
Ludwig Kramer (LK): Unbelievable, but I never had an album out before. In the early days I was strictly against any kind of recording. Music was only for the moment, but Kessler did some recording at the Beatstudio (Kessler was a pupil of Karlheinz Stockhausen and the brain behind the Beatstudio). No idea where those tapes are. Also I did not really want to be famous or something. I had my guitar and was content with it. Family and my work was more important then to perform.
AI: Are you handling all distribution of Being Content yourself or have you been trying to get a label to release it as well?
LK: I have a label called NRW, but times are bad for CDs, so I'm still in the waiting line. Anybody can order over my website.
AI: I really like the balance between solid song-oriented material and more adventurous progressive rock music. Was this intentional? Perhaps the fire from the freeform early days still burns within you?
LK: The early days are still living within my soul. Song writing is my second leg. Both sides are just as important to me.
AI: It sounds like there were many years during which you only played music for yourself. Do you have many songs you recorded throughout the years? And what prompted your return to performance and recording a solo CD?
LK: My diary is full of songs I did not record yet, all song writing material.
In late 1997 Lüül had a big birthday party at Tränenpalast ( Palace of tears) in Berlin. Agitation Free was one of the bands that evening. Old friends came to me and asked about my music, why they never heard a thing and so on. That was hurting, and the old music flame was anyway still very much alive. Lüül came three months later to my place and he had to listen to old recordings of mine. So he gave me the idea for a homestudio. Being Content was meant only as a Demo. Manuel Göttsching heard it and gave a journalist a hint. So he rang me up and wrote a really nice article about this piece of music, about how the long lost Ludwig came back and so on. Others also wrote nice things. Radio stations played songs of Being Content, Manikin records introduced my music to NRW and so I signed a record contract.
AI: Your web site says that a trip to England years ago is what inspired you to play freer forms of music. What did you find there that provided this inspiration?
LK: First of all I played free sessions along the Thames with guys form all over the world. People always liked the way I handled my guitar. Strong rhythm. Then there were Pink Floyd who in the early days were not that strong commercially.
AI: Having grown up in a family with a strong classical music influence, was it the typical rebellion of the time that lead you to the type of freeform music that Agitation Free was playing?
LK: For sure it was also an act of freedom against my parents and their well situated scene, but classical music was an inspiration to me like it was for Chris Franke. His parents came from the same roots.
AI: Did you do any recording with Agitation Free or just live performances?
LK: No recording with Agitation Free. Many live gigs.
AI: Why did you leave Agitation Free when you did, and what did you do after that?
LK: We had different opinions about the directions of our music. I was against synthesizers as well. Also my political activities were more important to me than rehearsals.
AI: Walpurgis was a band you played with that released an excellent album. As with Agitation Free, did you do any recording with that band? Live performances?
LK: Live gigs yes, no recordings. Queen Of Saba was not bad, indeed.
AI: You had lived in a commune for a while with members of Amon Düül. Was this in the days before the split between ADI and ADII. Tell me about these times and playing music with these people.
LK: The split of AD happened in those days. They came along so we had sessions together. Thomas Keyserling (Flute) became a good friend of mine. We played music all day long. With Karl Heinz Hausmann (keyboard) I shared a flat in the same house of commune 1.
AI: Any other bands we should know about from those early times or since?
LK: We played several times with Tangerine Dream, Cony Schnitzler. With Walpurgis I had gigs together with Can and Guru Guru. I also had sessions with Rio Reiser from Ton, Steine, Scherben. I know that we inspired others to try out something new.
AI: Tell me about the acting work you did. It looks like you did some TV and/or movie work? Was this only when you were younger or have you done any acting since?
LK: No acting in my later days. I did some directing the last few years. Now, I don't have the time because all my concentration is settled for my music.
AI: You mention radical political activities that resulted in harassment from the government. Was this in the form of raids on your commune or something else? Were the members of the commune and musicians you played with also politically motivated or were you more so than the rest?
LK: Agitation Free did some very political gigs, but I was the only member who took the uprising serious. Our music was an outcry against society. Yes there were raids and other ugly things.
AI: What year was it that you went to Thailand? What was life like there for as long as eight years? Were there many Europeans living there at the time? Has Buddhism followed you to the present day?
LK: In 1973 I went to Siam (21 years old). Life was thrilling there, money was easy. We sold handicrafts to Germany, met all kinds of peoples, US enterprise on their way to Vietnam, US soldiers smoking their last pot, castaways from Europe, who, like myself, were fed up with the Occident way of life. Buddhism is my guide till today.
AI: Tell me what the future has in store for you. Your web site mentions working once again with members of Agitation Free.
LK: I'm in contact with all of the first crew. Nearly all of them will appear on my next album. So will Olaf Kübler, one of Germanys best saxophonists and the brain behind AD 2.
The next CD will be for sure more professional then Being Content. No compromise for any commercial junkies, but more clear and less groove box.
For more information you can visit the Ludwig Kramer web site at: http://www.lutzludwig.de.
For information on obtaining Being Content you can email Ludwig directly at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you're in the US it's also available through Aural Innovations. Check out our mail order catalog.