Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Q&A 2000ce — Krautrock

The Krautrock book was a whole year ahead of all the others and started a real big revival. Now that Krautrocksampler is going out of publication, will you update the new version and include more album reviews? (Mosh)

When I wrote the book, the main reason for doing so was to stop it getting mixed up with all that prog-rock crap that experimental fans love, and to introduce the word 'Krautrock' in a positive, pouting glamrock way. So many journalists pussyfooted around the term and called others xenophobic for using it, which was the main stumbling block in the way of its advancement. And Alan and Steve Freeman at Ultima Thule told me they'd been working on their tome [The Crack in the Cosmic Egg] for years but were spurred on to complete it purely because they knew I was getting mine out first. I don't feel like really updating the book much - it's a period piece written at a time when no fucker was interested and now all these neo-Krautheads are at me saying it's out of date. Fuck them! I never was a completist or a purist, but I define things that others are too frightened to attempt. Of course the book is out of date now - but that only shows how successful it has been, because wussies like Q hacks now deign to interview Amon Duul 2, etc. when they wouldn't have previously stuck their necks out an inch. And remember that the 10,000 sales doesn't include the German language edition which has been really well received. If it hadn't been, then the German publisher wouldn't have been a full-on head like Werner Pieper, who was Guru Guru's first manager and one of the greatest be-dreadlocked and forward-thinking Motherfuckers I ever did meet. Krautrock is about enlightenment not complete-ism for some bourgeois record-collector to get purist about.

I read your Krautrocksampler and got well into it. But having now spent all my money on the Top 50, I bought another book called The Crack in the Cosmic Egg, and don't know what stuff to buy. They see it all as the same (Can gets the same space as a group called Spermull!) and I've wasted money on some right duds. What do you suggest? (Paul)

Krautrocksampler was written for the very reason that books like The Crack in the Cosmic Egg won't dare to define anything. They just lay it out and let you know it exists. But I like the Freeman brothers because they love it all with equal gusto and talk about it like it's all groundbreaking stuff. I'm sorry though, as I can't help advise you wade through the next Top 50 that would make a Top 100. Maybe you should look outside Krautrock. If you wanna good equivalent to Amon Duul's Yeti, try 666 by Aphrodite's Child. If you want another Klaus Schulz, try Michail Checkalin from Russia. If you want another Amon Duul 1 drum freakout, try the Hapshash & the Coloured Coat album from London 1967, or Mahogany Brain from France 1972, or the Canadian Nihilst Spasm Band, whom I bought in 1978 and who have finally been reissued on CD. What a fucking racket! If you want clanging Krautrock guitars and drums, try Glenn Branca's first two recordings. If you want more Krauty Mother/Velvets, try the first album by The Plastic People of Prague, or France's Red Noise from 1970, who have a chaotic Mothers/Syd Barrett/Fugs vibe. Come to think of it, there's shit loads of this stuff around, even though the scope of Krautrock was never so righteously created elsewhere, there are still loads of equivalents all over the place.

PS. Spermull's album opens with a Syd Barrettian classic called "Me & My Girlfriend", but the rest of the record is a sack of standard hard rock kack.

Loads of people loved the Ash Ra Tempel show, but I was very disappointed. Did you enjoy it? (Mosh)

For me, they could have beaten baked bean cans together and it would have been justified. Seeing them still alive was enough for me. And hanging with them afterwards amazed me how much more vital they were than most of my own shrivelled contemporaries. Klaus told Anal that he was one of the few people who knew how to use a VCS3 properly, I mean he was really praising him. And Dorian loves Manuel so much that seeing them together was really touching.

I loved the Krautrocksampler book even though I'm not really familiar with a lot of the music you wrote about. But from what I've heard about Brain Donor, and what you've been writing about on your website, I'm guessing that you are into "heavier" music at the moment. Is this correct? And if so, why? (Susan)

When I wrote Krautrocksampler, no straight press would give such bands more than a jokey note in the 'Where are they now' columns. Or they'd refer to them as 'German leadbooters with synths'. So I wrote the book to wring the stasis-infested necks of those quack/hacks and they rose to the occasion. Now, gormless things that Creep, who write for Q, the Wire, and other such worthy, short-haired, culturally-barren tomes have picked up on the phenomenon and claimed it for themselves. Wonderful. But if I hear anymore studenty-looking Neu-soundalikes, I'll do a doo-doo in me diapers. So now, I listen to other off-limits stuff such as anything sub-sub-sub-metal (not heavy metal, note) but still shamanically out there and wait for the baccy-stained goaty-beards from Hell to pick up on it. It doesn't mean I don't still love the Krauts - they're all my dads and, metaphorically, I kiss their spotty bollocks everytime I put on one of the albums. But why should I push something which has become almost mainstream? That's hardly my role. I'm a forwards/backwards/sideways-thinking Motherfucker in an Over-Under-Sideways-Down stylee!

Someone published Brian Barritt's book The Road to Excess, and advertised it on a website as a book on Krautrock. I skimmed through it but it seemed a bit of a cash-in job. Did you know it had been published? (Taff)

Oh, the Brian book? We were going to publish it originally but only if he agreed to turn it into a proper book. There's too many of those "I was in the '60s so I can't remember" things out there. In the end, it needed so much work to make it into the real thing that we passed on it. When I finally saw it, it was the same old sketchy memories with no changes or corrections, no photos and no Kraut content at all. Poor Brian is so fried that he probably thinks he invented it all. I know he wanted to be involved in Cornucopea, but Manuel Gottsching and Klaus Schulze were totally paranoid about the guy. They have very negative memories of that whole period and feel ripped off by the whole thing. Manuel told me he hadn't spoken to Brian for over 20 years and suddenly he was ringing him up trying to organise a gig like it was yesterday. Personally, I like Brian Barritt a lot, but the last conversation we had was him telling me how he was Leary's best friend and how the name Barritt proved that he was one of the original chieftains of the first tribes. Then he backed it up with Syd Barritt and Barritt homes and Barritt's sweets and how every ancient site in the world was known originally as a Barritt, but nobody knew yet. I can't wait for the book. But it must be weird to have been the close friend of a visionary and then get left behind.