August 2003 - COLOUR HAZE
COLOUR HAZE are one of the most exciting German heavy psych-rock bands of today, and with their latest album "Los Sounds De Krauts", they've released an amazing and trippy album, which seems like the missing link between old spaced-out 70's sounds and 90's heavy rock in the vein of Kyuss or Clutch f.e. But no matter, how one would like to describe their sonic lava, one thing is sure, COLOUR HAZE are playing timeless heavy psych rock and I think, that the best chapters of their nearly ten years long band-history are laying right in front of them. I contacted Stefan Koglek, guitarist and vocalist of COLOUR HAZE, for this interview, who's also the owner of the small label Elektrohasch Schallplatten, and we didn't only talked about the new album...
Hey Stefan, what's going on the COLOUR HAZE camp right now? I've noticed, that you're playing some gigs here in Germany, including the Swamp Room happening in Hannover . How was the show?
We had a really great time at the Swamp Room Happening, though I got very exhausted and only slept for 3 hours in 3 days : ) We played the last show on saturday, therefore we could play almost 2 hours, but to start at 4:45 am was a new experience. Strange to start a concert in the night and afterwards stumble out in the sunlight. We were stunned and astonished to see, that a lot of people came to the Happening for us, they waited all the time and the place stayed full until we finished at 6:30. The audience-response was overwhealming.
We did another concert at the White Pig in Bad Frankenhausen together with Ojo Rojo the next weekend, also a lot of people came from everywhere. One guy even went for that show some 100kms with his bike, went off home already one day earlier, got injured at his knee...Well it's really a thrill to see that people are that much into us, I'm very grateful for that - I think there is really something on the move, not only for Colour Haze but the whole scene....In July we just played one Open Air concert at an art-festival of the area we have our rehearsal place in Munich, but we'll go into studio to have some sessions recorded, with no specific purpose yet, lets see what will happen...in August we'll play a few Open Airs in Germany and Austria. On the 2nd of August we'll even have two shows on the same day, on 11 am in Aschaffenburg and on 11 pm in Kassel and at the moment I'm busy booking dates for tours with Hypnos 69 and with Los Natas in October...
How much shows have you played during the last five years and have you ever toured in the USA?
We just started to get out of MÃ¼nchen for concerts with the CO2-album in 2000. So that's not too many concerts yet. We play about 25 shows per year, maybe 30 this year... No, we've never toured in the USA. I have to admit to me a US-tour is not the holy grail that it seems to be for so many German musicians. There are a lot of great people in the US who still hold the freak-flag high, but I think for Heavy and Psychedelic Rock we have now the best and most interesting scene in Europe. We have some real fans in the USA, we would really like to play for them!
But I'm afraid this will stay out of reach for us for still a long time, just too exspensive and we need those special amps.... This has to work out the right way, we don't want to invest alot of money to end up in some dump... I don't think it's the best place to tour for a rock-group at the time and I see all the US-bands are eager to tour Europe - because it's just better here, it's paid better, driving distances are shorter and you don't get shot or in jail for a joint that fast, haha : )....
You've been around with COLOUR HAZE since 1994 and released some full-lengths and other stuff. During the last years you've build a strong following in the underground, and with your new album "Los Sounds De Krauts" you've released a beautiful and majestic heavy-psych double-album. How would you describe the band's way in the last years, not only musically. I guess, it was a rocky path. Have you ever thought about giving up or something like this?
No, I've never thought about giving up. What I do and live is my music, I can't imagine anything else I could do. And to play in a band like Colour Haze is now, is really a privilege, reward and benefit already enough so I don't care about rocky paths... : ) I'm very grateful that we got in contact with so many good people over the last years and have the chance to get around and tour. This is a very great and special thing about the stonerrock-scene, it's so open and friendly. It's not in touch with the big media and record industry, it all depends to idealistic people who care much for the music they like, organize concerts, run zines or small labels... Everybody is invited to make a contribution.
The internet is a great benefit too. It's the best alternative scene since years I'd say and we are very proud we came to be a part of it over the last years. I'm not keen to get into the bigger music-business. I've seen enough of that already. I think it's very much better to run your very own thing, to have a direct contact with organizers, fans and "customers". I want to get together. All the freaks out there often have been that disconnected - well that's what I felt myself some years ago - like there is a fence between everybody, so we'd better cut that... We want to encourage everybody to grow an underground scene which isn't filled with all that shit you get served at the big shows, big festivals, big media, big business... just take care yourself, it's easy! : ) So our "rocky-underground-path" is also on purpose. I want to show that there's an alternative way, you don't have to get into the machinery.
Let's talk about "Los Sounds De Krauts". It's not easy to describe this trippy masterpiece. For me, it's the missing link between the early heavy-prog-psych bands and modern heavy fuzz rock bands. But there's more, of course. What do you think about it? Do you think, it's the best COLOUR HAZE album in the band's history?
I'm still quite confident with it and therefore I'd say it's the best Colour Haze record so far : ) We just try to make good music, that's all. It's just us. Of course there are lot of influences from all sides and directions and of course we have a long practise about playing, theory and composing but we don't think of that anymore. We just try to play music we like and I'm very happy to like what we play : ) How do you create long-winding tracks as "Weltraummantra" or "Overriding" and how important are drugs for your music? I always have the feeling those tracks create themselves. But we are also very open about a song-structure and just try to put everything in the right place and take the time to let it sound. When tracks get as long as those it's just because we have the feeling they need that time to be played. Drugs are not important for the music, we enjoy hashish and marihuana, at the moment less then the last years, and that's it....
Nearly every album has been released on a different label. This time it's the fine German label Nasoni Records, which are specialized on limited deluxe vinyl editions. How did you get together with them? Those labels are all very small and the one who had the money to release a record just made it. We made only limited contracts for each record. I don't want to give things out of hands when I'm not sure somebody can take better care of them than me.... As we made some experiences with Vinyl, I had some fixed ideas about a Los Sounds DLP, a certain German pressing-factory, thick carton, 180gr. Vinyl... a DLP like this is very expensive so I had a look around who was capable to pay that. I was glad Nasoni was willing to relase it as I couldn't have afford it to start my own label with this... but with Elektrohasch, our "release-policy" will get more constant in the future...
You are running your own label Elektrohasch Schallplatten. Please, tell us something about the label. When have you started it, which bands have you signed and so on? What was your intention?
As I did the most promotion for us on my own over all the years and made some contacts to shops, mailorders and distributors that way, and always tried to help other bands I like to get their records to the people and connect things, founding a label was just the logical step. Last year I lost my make-a-living-job and with a new governmental project for selfemployed, this is also a possibility for my life-situation. Elektrohasch is a label for Colour Haze and other bands I can help and want to get heard, like Ugh! and Hainloose (ex Kinch) from MÃ¼nchen and Gas Giant from Denmark, or as a next project Hypnos 69 from Belgium. All of them are dear friends. I don't really "sign" bands. It's more like the bands create records which I get together in a catalog, promote and sell. It's an underground-thing and everybody should stay as free as possibel. We have to make a very economic use of very limited sources, though I'm sure there is a chance for me to make my living with the band and the label on that special way in the future. I don't have invested that much so I can't loose much. It's pretty free and pretty solid that way I think : )
How important is the DIY-attitude behind all your work? I ask for it, because you've mixed and produced a few COLOUR HAZE albums.
Well I didn't mix them by myself, just produced them, which means I manage the recording process and sit behind the engineer and tell him what I'd like to have done. There was never another possibility to get my thing going for me than to do it myself. I don't think about that too much, I just try to get things on. I can't understand musicians sitting in their rehearsal-room and moaning why any fucking A&R wouldn't make them a star, that's not what I think has to happen anyway. The music has to happen! So I like to take care of things on my own and avoid anything annoying. I want to get together with people and create something which isn't only of benefit to myself, so ok, that's an attitude:
Is it important for COLOUR HAZE to use old vintage equipment? What kind of gear do you use?
My favorite theme, be prepared for a lot of words : ) Well the vintage-thing about our equipment is that we do it the "old way" and use a typical late 60s set-up, two full stacks for guitar, two big 215 cabinets for bass and powerful tube-amps, loud drums with big cymbals.... so our backline already sets the sound on it's own. We do it that way in every place to get our sound and spread it good and to avoid to need anything else on the monitor but vocals. It's pretty honest I'd say... I also have two vintage vocal PAs with all-tube amps (Fender 160 PS + 4x 310 Sound Column and Sunn Coliseum PA + 2x 408 Fender Sound Column Speakers). We use them in the rehearsal-room and on small concerts. Basicly I just wanted to have my amplification for vocals work like that for my guitar. Of course the vocals get a "sound" that way, but why shouldn't they? This turned out to work pretty good, much better for me than the big modern 3KW PA-Crap I used before. I don't need any mixing desks, crossovers and monitors for just one vocal-channel anyway. If I have to mike the bass-drum at a small gig I just put up an additional tube-amp for this... : )
But for most club concerts we use the clubs PA. We have a very good soundman, Berthold Kröker, who tours with us the most times. If Poldi doesn't have time and we have a soundman which is new to us, I sometimes see a face falling down when confronted with our backline... but this settels mostly when I play the first chords.. : ) if the soundman accepts our sound and doesn't try to set the drums louder than the guitars in a small club it works out good, well we urge him to accept in a way... : ) An old hippie friend of us says, what we use is a very reasonable, small 70s hard-rock set-up, most people else think we are completely mad... We are not necessarily louder than other bands. We just spread the sound better with more speakers. People often tell me, we are quite loud, but it's also very pleasant sounding and good to take for the ears.... For the instruments itself vintage is not important, it just has to be the best possibel, therefore only tube-amps, transistor amps don't give us the same dynamic-possibilities, ...we tried some and it was awful as we can't play without the dynamic range we are used to...The benefit of tube-amps to my eyes isn't that much the sound of the pre-amp but the dynamic possibilities of the power-amp for the whole band. That's the mistake of most Hybrid-Amps....
Most of our stuff is quite new. Philipp just recently bought a new Fender Jazz Bass and I mostly play a Guild Starfire IV which I got new 4 years ago, sometimes I play also a '78 or '89 Stratocaster (of the last one I'm also the first owner). I'd prefer to buy new guitars, so I can put my own vibes in the thing. I don't play any effect or distortion pedals (despite of occasional Wah-Wah) and just change the sound with the use of a volume-pedal so I'm very dependend on Amps which have a good distorted sound on their own and also get a beautiful clean tone when played at low volumes - old amps are mostly built to stay clean up to ear-splitting levels, so my amps are modern types too.... Live I mostly use a Soldano SL 60 and Sunn Model T reissue, each with two Fender GE 412 speaker-cabinets and in case the set-up mentioned before for vocals. I recently bought a very rare and complicated Fender 400 PS of the early 70s, maybe the most powerful instrument tube-amp of all time : ) and an old Sunn "Studio P.A." head from the late 60s. Both amps are in restauration now, which will cost me a fortune, but the amps themselves were really cheap : )
The "Coliseum P.A." is also a great sounding amp for guitar but is to loud for club-concerts. As it was built for vocals it distorts good at high volumes - this was already Jimi Hendrix favorite Sunn-amp. I used it in studio, you can hear it on some songs on Los Sounds De Krauts. The "Studio P.A." is quite the same amp with just half the wattage. So I hope I can use the sound of old Sunn-Amps live too in the future. Philipp plays mostly a Sunn 300 T (sometimes also an old Hiwatt 200 or a Fender Studio Bass amphead, when any Amp is in service - which happens all the time as we really use our stuff... : ) with two Sunn cabinets. Mani plays a small D&W-kit, 24'' bass-drum with closed skin and tuned to have an open, jazzy sound but he deliberates to change to an old Ludwig. Then he wouldn't have to be anxious about the exspensive drums anymore everytime we carry things around or our van stands in the hot sun...so maybe more vintage in the future... We are very concerned about our sound as a band, so we have to be concerned about our gear. Often bands don't care which Amps or Drums they play and therefore often sound crappy live and in studio - it's a question what quality of tone you deliver, a mixing-desk can't do magic.
You live in the south of Germany, in Munich. How is the local situation for heavy bands? Do you play a lot of gigs and is there any kind of scene? Please, tell us something about it.
We tend not to play to many concerts in MÃ¼nchen, because local-heroes don't get out of the local... : ) Well the scene for our sound is quite small here and we are not involved in any "official local-band-scene". I try to avoid most clubs as I don't like the management of the place or whatever so there isn't too much audience and possibilities for us here.
We have our own little underground thing going on, organizing concerts on our own in alternative places or in our rehearsal room (bands like Dozer or Circle already were our guests there), which are often magic little Happenings and great partys. There are a lot of great musicians and bands, great heavy bands like Ugh!, Hainloose or Mass and we are good friends with all of them, so from the musical side it's a good vivid scene going on here. Unfortunately rehearsal-places are hard to find and the rents we pay seem breathtaking to musicians from other cities...
Do you like to live in Bavaria and if you can agree, what's the reason for it?
Well besides the police is really keen to find some dope in our pockets all the time, (...but therefore it's so very safe here, haha... ) it's ok to live here. I think every place has it's good and bad sides. To those here I'm used. MÃ¼nchen is quite beautiful and relaxed for a big city like that, especially in the summer, I made some use of that the last days.....of course I'm often annoyed by superficiality and lameness here and it's exspensive also, but it's my home-town and as long as I get along I'll stay. I don't think I would do any better anywhere else and this town desperately needs some freaks! : )
I think, that you can't make a livin from the band and the label. Have you a regular job and do you like it?
Well as I got jobless, I started with my label, let's see where this will lead me too, I already lived some time on teaching and playing guitar, so I'm not afraid of being bankrupt all the time : ) Philipp was jobless too. We worked in the same company and really liked it. Quality control and copying of professional TV-broadcast video-tapes and films and stuff...Philipp is into that again now, but selfemployed...Mani has a limited job at a TV-station at the moment. It's often quite exhausting for him to work every day and drive long distances at the weekends to play 2h shows late at night...he'll get jobless soon too...lets see how we end up : )
Thanks a lot for your answers.