Colour Haze (Interview)

by Scott Heller

From Aural Innovations #35 (January 2007)

Scott Heller (SH): How did Colour Haze get started?

Stefan: Colour Haze was founded in August 1994 with bass player Christian Wiesner, with whom I played in Organised Noise back then, and my old friend Tim Höfer on drums who was with me in Surface Tension before where we started making music in a band.

SH: What were the bands that Philip, yourself and Mani played in before Colour Haze, all the way back? Any cover bands??

Philipp: I played a few school hall gigs with a band called Rolling Bones. 60's stuff... Stones/Cream/Hendrix. Was fun. I listened to a lot of Cream and Hendrix at the time. Then I played in some local bands. I didn't have a band when I met Stefan, just played sessions.

Stefan: Munich local bands from Artrock to Grunge to Wave - my first band, Surface Tension, was a strange mix between Krautrock and Wave which developed to Jazzcore later on. Pretty ambitious and quite bad ;-) Organised Noise was the first bigger band I was in. Otherwise I played in so many bands, often only shortly as session musician, that I can't remember them all now.

SH: Back in 1990, who would you say your favourite bands were?

Philipp: Favourite bands? There's been many many I liked, but over the years I always got back to listening to Hendrix and The Beatles on a Sunday afternoon. 1990? Soundgarden

Stefan: Monster Magnet, Mudhoney, Victims Family, NoMeansNo, Jethro Tull, Jimi Hendrix

SH: 2006, which are your favourite bands? New and old.

Philipp: New bands: I like Causa Sui from Copenhagen. Hypnos 69 are the best band I know. Lovely records and such a great live band. The best concerts I've seen (one level with one very impressive Motorspycho concert I've seen in the 90's). I love double gigging with them, they kick so much.

Stefan: Too many to count. Current or new bands from the scene: Hypnos 69, Rotor, Causa Sui, On Trial, Josiah, Hainloose, Los Natas, Ugh!, Truckfighters - latest big discovery was the music of Moondog though.

SH: You have a special attraction to recording in Hannover with Willi. Do you see this as the place where Colour Haze will continue to record in the future?

Philipp: Willi is moving to a new place, building a new studio. He's got some ideas for his new recording room. The old studio was built old school. Very dry, which was good for our recordings. The new studio might have a little more sound of its own. I'm curious what it'll be like. Anyway I guess we'll record the next one at Willi's again. It's not only the studio, it's his ears and perfect skills as a recording engineer.

SH: How does Colour Haze go about making a new record? You have just have released a new record, but in 6 months you will think about the next one. How does it work for you? Do new songs come up from jams? Do you work on precise arrangements?

Philipp: Stefan does the most actual working on new songs, in a classical sense of song writing. At rehearsals we basically just play. We occasionally discuss the things we play, but in the first place it's just playing. Sometimes songs or parts of songs just happen while we're jamming but then again it might be a lot of trial and error until we know how to play a song. Like "Peace, Brothers and Sisters!". I think we jammed and rearranged it for more than a year. It's like the songs were there all the time and we have to find out how to play them.

SH: How often does a band like Colour Haze actually rehearse, if ever?? What is a rehearsal like? Show up, put new strings on, have a beer or joint, tune... do you have a specific plan for each session??

Philipp: We rehearse two times every week, except when we're on the road. There's no specific plan most of the time. We meet, maybe talk about some every day stuff and then we play. When we play we don't stop a song unless maybe Stefan breaks a string. If we play bad we try again. We don't drink or smoke much recently. We're quite sober at rehearsals.

SH: Colour Haze has never had a set list. Most bands have a set list on the stage but not Colour Haze. How did this develop? Most bands that do this don't have a set list because they more or less play the same set every night and all the members know the set, so why bother writing anything down.

Philipp: Well actually we sometimes have kind of a set list if we play short gigs at festivals. We calculate how much we can play, two three four songs :-) Usually we don't have a set list. We agree about with which song we start. There's some kind of a basic set we play, the songs we like to play most of the time. What we actually play depends on how long we can play and on the place and audience.

SH: What are your thoughts on improvisation in the live setting? When you go see bands, do you like to see them improvise or just play the songs like you heard them on their record but with a bit more volume? Do you think Colour Haze improvise more now than in the past or vice versa?

Philipp: I like to see bands improvising on stage. It should just make some sense, not just another solo. We don't improvise more or less than five years ago. There's always some possibility of improvisation, especially in the long songs and of course there's improvisation in guitar solos. But there's songs we basically play the way we recorded them, because that's the way they should be played. We don't play louder on stage than in studio. We play the volume our amps need to work right.

Stefan: Improvisation on stage is a difficult thing. So many things need to be in the right shape if it should turn out good - monitor, sound, mood, audience, and as you are often occupied with so many things that don't work on stage and the way we tour you also hardly have the chance to work under perfect circumstances. We rather have improvisations in fixed parts than doing on stage what we actually can do in the rehearsal where we're taking off in creating free music. Live we want to give a good show to the people and not want to bore them with some risky attempts that maybe fail. I think we will take more risks about that in the future though and will show more of what we can do when we are inspired and play free. About other bands: I love it to see bands like Motorpsycho lifting off in improvised music but I`m completely bored by spacerock bands which lay endless solos on a simple and constant rhythm pattern. I guess I`m too much into music to enjoy a thoughtless show-off of finger-moving-abilities ;-)

SH: Colour Haze used to be a band that was very influenced by Kyuss. If one were to listen to Tempel, the newest CD, I don't think many would think of Kyuss. The sound has evolved a bit but more with the complexity of the songs and the musical vibe. Comments?

Philipp: We always try to do something new when we make a new record. We try not to make another copy of the last record. For the last record we had some more soul vibes influencing us. We tried to get every song grooving in studio this time. Kyuss: I've got a friend who recently got into heavy psychedelic music. The other week I thought I should make a compilation of music that's somehow related to Colour Haze. But I found out I had no good inspiration for the compilation that day so I figured I'd just copy her and the circus leaves town for a start… I listened to Kyuss a lot for some time. But if I'm living in the past it's more the 60's and early 70's.

Stefan: I listened to Kyuss every day from 1995 to 1998 or so, admitted - I guess I'm through that now :-)

SH: Tempel is the most laid back CD/LP you have ever made. Did you have it in mind to make a more laid back groovy vibe so you can more easily expand your use of the voice? I can see how this vibe the LP has is more suited to the way you sing now.

Stefan: It all came together and in one. I was discovering more possibilities in singing and with that developed different music but actually I don't sit down and say let's make a more relaxed record this time - it just comes as it comes.

SH: I was surprised when I heard the song Fire on the new LP. This live was a very uptempo rocker with a killer guitar hook and that was gone. Did it go to another song? Describe the riffs journey.

Stefan: Well, it's two different songs. The song we initially called "Fire", which you heard live, is called "Silent" now as that title fits better to the lyrics. This is the song we recorded that didn't make it on the album as we think the song is pretty good but we didn't feel too well with the version we recorded. So it maybe it will be rerecorded for the next album. The song now called "Fire" on the album is an entirely different thing.

SH: No long tracks over 10 minutes on this record. Every record for the past many has had what I would call an epic. No time to develop such a track??? Just curious.

Stefan: Maybe it's because I listened a lot to some classic greats of the past, such like Beatles, Byrds, Motown soul and stuff like that, and I wanted to create something that is more dense in the arrangement, more to the point. I think we never worked as hard on new songs as for this album. Also, therefore, they became somewhat compressed in the structure. Another thing is that we felt we couldn't top "Peace, Brothers & Sisters" in an epic track at the moment - but this doesn't mean we wouldn't develop a new 20 minute piece in the future.

SH: Were any other tracks recorded at the Tempel sessions that did not appear on the CD or vinyl that we might hear at some point?

Stefan: "Silent" (the original "Fire" s.a.) will appear on an Italian compilation this year in the version we recorded it this time.

SH: How much of the Tempel record was recorded live in the studio?

Stefan: The basic tracks - drums, guitar & bass - are always recorded live all together in one room, as we rely much on a floating tempo and dynamics it wouldn't be possible in another way. We kind off play like a jazz group. Overdubs were some additional guitars, vocals and the Hammond.

SH: Do you have any favourite tracks? If so, why? My favourite track is Gold and Silver.

Philipp: Playing: Aquamaria, Tempel. Listening: Not decided. Depends on my daily mood. I've had each of the new songs looping in my mind for at least three days.

Stefan: I guess I agree with Philipp, though I'd add Earth to "playing".

SH: The German music scene really seems to have died the last few years and touring seems to be harder and harder for bands, as the fees are too low now to support touring. You are really in the middle running the amazing Elektrohasch label, as well as booking bands in your area and making contacts and working hard for the bands on your label. What is happening? Are the prices the clubs charging too high so the people don't come out or are the young people simply out of money and can't afford to go to a 5€ show anyway? What do you think the solution is, if there is one? Germany must create more jobs for the young people or what??

Stefan: I think Germany has been totally overbooked the last years, as most US bands e.g. don't have a chance to make a living by playing at home. So everybody wanted to earn his bread here. And Scandinavian bands also don't seem to have chances to play a lot at home. We still have a vivid scene with a lot of idealists who want to feature the music they love and this way organise concerts, run fanzines or are active otherwise, it's not all that bad. This is the same for the BeNeLux countries and a culture that's elsewhere not so vivid - e.g. in the USA from what I hear - but otherwise developing now again for example in the UK and Italy. I don't see today's situation bad in all aspects as we have the hardest completion in music at the moment in Europe - which is reflecting in the outstanding quality of European bands compared to what I've seen from US bands live lately.

That people have less money than 10 years ago is a fact we see reflected in the record sales, though we sell much more than before now due to our higher popularity. This also comes with a change in the culture around music with the Internet, Mp3s and stuff. Music also isn't the central point of youth culture anymore as it has been the decades ago. Of course the big shows are too expensive here, which has several reasons from bands claiming too high fees, governmental requirements about safety and raised production costs in general I guess - that's why less people come to the big shows. For the underground shows the money issue isn't that important, there's maybe just too much offered, which on the other hand is a good sign for a still vivid scene. Most of that underground scene is happening in certain regions though as the community that developed in the East of Germany isn't existing in the West e.g. You also shouldn't forget that there is no support from the state for Rock music in Germany as you have it in many countries in Scandinavia. So the organisers have to calculate the real costs and therefore the fees are lower. At least bands are still paid here, get food and sleep - that's completely different in the USA e.g. (I don't think that's right of course).

SH: What is Colour Haze's opinion on live audio and video recording and trading? Good or bad for the scene?

Philipp: It's good.

SH: What does Colour Haze think about the whole MP3 culture that has evolved? It seems the young people don't buy music anymore but download it for free or buy it online at places like iTUNes? Are LPs and CDs strictly for the collector these days?

Stefan: I`m pretty relaxed about it as I'm sure all those people only downloading music now will pay a high price to get their music back in 10 years as the digital memory is pretty short. For instance, when I was 16 popular computers have been the Atari Amiga, Commodore 128 and then came the first 256-PCs - I don't know anybody who still has one of those things, despite one running - if I had my music all on hard disc or whatever back then I guess that most would have been lost after the second system change already. I'm glad I still have my records from that time! Otherwise this is also just a change in culture and I don't think it's all bad. The kids are pretty awake and are doing right in checking out a lot of stuff through the net and developing their taste and knowledge in using all that wealth of information the internet offers. About Mp3 downloads, I didn't want people to pay for them for a long time as I don't see a real product-worth in them you should charge something for. The limited lifetime (CDRs for sure won't last as long as a CD and even not to speak of Hard Disc) and bad sound quality (yes: Mp3s are much worse than CDs and CDs don't have the audio possibilities of analogue recordings, it's a fact but you need trained ears to hear and enjoy that) - the whole quality is missing there for me - only think about the cover. Some people buy a complete album for the price of a real album as download, burn it on CDR, print the cover with an ink-printer, cut and paste and have additionally all the work? Actually I don't want to offer that. It makes me feel like I`m cheating people. Go to your local dealer and you'll find used records for real cheap prices often enough. Otherwise I see that people like the convenience of downloading stuff and also want to pay for it. So I also feel the need to make that offer and give them what they want. I'm still a little undecided but in the end I think I should offer what they want to have and not judge their taste or way of life by refusing to offer this possibility.

SH: Has Elektrohasch worked out any deals with iTUNEs to make the Colour Haze tracks available this way?

Stefan: Though I have mixed feelings about it as explained above, selling MP3s also for me is on the agenda now.

SH: The life of the musician in the underground seems like it is going through a very tough transition now. You have been in it for a long time now. What do you think the future holds for making a living off music?

Stefan: I'm living this life now basically since I went off from school. I would lie if I'd say I`m not sometimes bored or affected by the poorness and unclearness of the future that comes along with it, but otherwise this is what I am and I'm doing what I always felt the urge to do so I'm grateful, and as I'm used to the risky sides of that way of life I'm not too worried about my future. Of course sometimes I'm in sorrow. But in the end through all the centuries artists had a hard life and I guess for musicians it's always been the hardest. Think of all the great blues and jazz musicians - what a fantastic heritage for the mankind! Their work means much more worth to me than all the Picassos and Dalis of that time, and anyway those men mostly had to live and work under the worst circumstances, really down and out. I don't think you create your best art when you are unhappy. I'd rather say those artists did it despite that. Compared to them I'm already really wealthy and well off and I wouldn't say my art reaches their relevance. So already here is some injustice again. Nevertheless I try to add something good to the world. I can't say what the future holds for living as a musician and I don't worry too much about where my way will lead me to, as I'm already a lucky man to go my own way. A possibility most people in the world don't have at all.

SH: Back to Colour Haze. How much of the back catalog of Colour Haze is out of print? Seems CO2 is quite hard to find.

Stefan: CO2 has been reprinted on CD recently. The vinyls of CO2 and Ewige Blumenkraft are already quite expensive collectors items now but the CDs are all available again at the moment, apart from "Seven" and "Chopping machine", which I actually don't want to give to a greater public as what we've been doing after that is much better.

SH: The lightshow has been a great addition to your live show? How did you meet??? who does the cool lights?

Philipp: Very trippy indeed. They used to make lights for Liquid Visions. I think we first saw them with Liquid Visions.

SH: Who came up with the brilliant idea of the pop up in the Colour Haze record and the wonderful tribute to all your friends on the back? Fantastic and very original!

Philipp: I think the pop up was Stefan's idea. And the tribute on the back was my idea I think. The idea was: one side shows what the audience see, the other what we see. Friends on either side.

Stefan: I can't remember. But yes, we wanted tribute to all the people that stand behind us and keep us going and if only in that symbolic way - we wanted to show that we keep you back in mind!

SH: When Colour Haze hits the road in 2006 to support the new record, are there any plans to have a completely new setlist of songs? You have a great catalog of songs now. You could play 2-3 nights without repeating a song, like Gov't Mule for instance.

Philipp: The set list isn't completely new. We've added some of the new songs. We've always played Aquamaria, Tempel and Earth recently.

Stefan: There are always some songs that are standards in the live set for a period of time and some we will only play occasionally. As the audience still often is new to us we want to show our best at each show to introduce us properly at new places. There are also a lot of songs which are out of rehearsal now and therefore shouldn't be played live at the moment. About Gov`t Mule - I always thought they only have this one blues rock number so it doesn't matter which version of it they play live - we already play different songs every night! No, just kidding ;-) We definitely want to offer a different show to the people every time they see us but as touring is fucking hard we maybe too often tend to stay on the safe side yet. We will consider your hidden proposal.

SH: What does the future hold for Colour Haze? In five years from now, what do you hope Colour Haze will have achieved?

Philipp: We've achieved so much by now. We recorded wonderful records and played wonderful concerts and made friends in many countries. For us as a band things could hardly be better. I hope five years from now we'll still be playing and recording. And I hope we'll still be completely independent like we are today.

SH: Any last words for the fans? And thanks for the long interview!

Stefan: Dankeschön!

For more information you can visit the Colour Haze web site at:

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