Interview with Joachim ‘Eroc’ Ehrig
by Menno von Brucken Fock
The first incarnation of what should become Grobschnitt was formed in 1970 by several members of a band called The Crew, including Stefan ‘Wildschwein’ Danielak (vocals, guitar), Joachim ‘Eroc’ Ehrig (drums) and Gerd-Otto ‘Lupo’ Kühn (guitars, vocals). No one could foresee that Grobschnitt were to be a unique band of which the legacy lives on today. The longest existing line-up included Volker ‘Mist’ Kahrs on keyboards, Rainer ‘Toni Moff Mollo’ Loskand (vocals and lightshow) and Bernhard ‘Baer’ Uhlemann (later replaced by Wolfgang ‘Hunter’ Jäger) on bass.
One reason of the continuing interest in Grobschnitt is, that a revival band plays live again since 2007, albeit in a different line-up, but including ‘Wildschwein’ and ‘Toni Moff Mollo’. The other reason is, that the original drummer of the band, Eroc, has released an impressive collection of Grobschnitt music, originally recorded on tape from the very early rehearsals and live performances until Eroc left the band in 1983. Furthermore, solely for the fans he has released a number of live concerts on his own labels Wolkenreise Records and Silver Mint Records . Eroc has mainly been responsible for the new state persona the band got in the seventies, performing their shows filled with bizarre costumes and theatrical performances that even featured their roadies. After the release of the album Razzia (1982), the group had abandoned many of their more progressive tendencies and Eroc left the group, to play with Grobschnitt just one more time in 1989, the last performance of the band before the revival in 2007. Eroc already had embarked on a quite successful solo adventure, mainly through his ‘hit’ Wolkenreise but pursued an extraordinary career as studio-engineer, producer and currently ‘master re-masterer’.
Since the Grobschnitt revival-band will be performing only a few more concerts and the works on the Grobschnitt Stories and live albums are as good as finished, I thought it was about time to highlight the tremendous amount of time and craftsmanship, Eroc put in the music of this legendary German band. So, on the 9th of October, I drove off to his home in Breckerfeld near Hagen just about 20 miles south of Dortmund and was offered a delicious coffee. We sat in his garden where I learned that Eroc’s wife is studying hard and is busy writing her thesis to become a doctor in philosophy! Subsequently I had a truly nice chat with this very friendly and dedicated artist in his new studio.
Menno: To start with Eroc, why did you leave Grobschnitt in 1983? Was it the lack of fun, quality of the music perhaps?
Eroc: Not so much the quality of the music, that was still quite okay but the goal of the band had changed: they aimed more and more for a hit record and this was not something Grobschnitt set out to do in the seventies: we always wanted to have fun, set new standards and be an experimental band, not a band driven by commerce. In some way I feel responsible for this, too, because I wrote the lyrics for the first attempt to produce a ‘hit-single’ “Wir wollen Leben” (We Want To Live). But if it would have been my own decision I would rather have thrown out our song “Wir wollen Sterben” (We Want To Die) as a single: that would have been much more Grobschnitt-style. Another reason was that the band had reached their summit in 1981/1982; we were a truly ‘big’ act in Germany, filling all of the greater halls instantly. What more could we possibly aim for? Being a musician from the age of 17 for almost 17 years of which 13 in Grobschnitt, I achieved everything an artist could possibly want: press, radio, TV and fame too. The last thing I wanted was to get rich due to a switch to be commercial all of a sudden. The “weird” thing was that my instrumental Wolkenreise made me the first commercially successful artist of the band and that was something I never set out to be! Back in 1979 we needed a tune for the opening of our new show. Just like all the playbacks we used in our shows, which were prepared by me and put on tape, they wanted something odd, a little old fashioned, maybe with trumpets for example.
Menno: So, what happened then?
Eroc: Well, instead, I decided to lend an accordion from a friend, a synth from our keyboarder and an Ovation 12-string from Lupo, our guitar-player and produced a little tune. Later at the shows people clapped their hands and obviously liked this intro a lot and one day among the audience a guy from our record company Metronome heard it and then forced me to release it on my next solo album. First I rejected this proposal, also because I really didn’t want to be a commercially successful accordion player and because I was very busy preparing everything for the Grobschnitt shows and performing live with the band regularly. Eventually I gave in and assembled some of my older existing material to satisfy the record company and suddenly had a hit record! Funny thing was it got a lot of airplay and most (commercial) DJs didn’t seem to know the name Eroc with all it’s background: they even announced “The Band Eroc”, a true error, because I had played every instrument myself for “Wolkenreise” by using the playback method: drums, keys, bass, guitars, accordion… everything! Although I performed the tune once “live” on a TV-show with some help from a few friends, I didn’t have a regular band playing my songs. So going out on the road was not an option. Fortunately I made a lot of money with this record so my decision to leave Grobschnitt was made a lot easier, because I was financially independent. As far as I can recall we parted ways very friendly. I wanted the guys to continue without me and in the way they wanted to. I did leave them all my shares in equipment, vans and everything.
Finally, the third reason I wanted to quit the band was ‘Mist’ our keyboarder who had left the band one year before. He always was a true friend of mine and my real musical counterpart in the band. And we maintained good contact all over the years until he passed away. You know, we even chatted about a Grobschnitt reunion in 2011, when the band would celebrate their 40th anniversary. We had plans to re-arrange Solar Music but unfortunately this never happened. He was a terrific keyboard player and it was mainly his output that helped create Rockpommel’s Land. When he left, I felt something was missing because we were the ‘band within the band’. In Solar Music there’s a large piece with only keyboards and drums which reminds of that particular band in the early seventies called Hardin & York, rather a duo than a band really. They were Eddie Hardin on Hammond organ and Pete York on drums & percussion. They came from the Spencer Davis group and their concerts were really something else, they were geniuses. Something like that Volker and I delivered in “our” part in Solar Music. Anyway, fact is ‘Mist’ was responsible for many of Grobschnitt’s compositions and he also wrote some lyrics (e.g. Anywhere). Although I must admit that Volker’s successor Jürgen Cramer was also a very good keyboardist with whom I have collaborated quite nicely, but still he was different: younger, more modern and he had to learn to improvise, something ‘Mist’ and I had done spontaneously and in a very natural way since the beginning. Eventually he also learned to improvise too but it wasn’t the old familiar Grobschnitt feeling anymore so one more reason I decided to quit the band and concentrate on the production side. That’s when the Woodhouse Studio was founded in 1983.
Menno: What about your solo career?
Eroc: Well, my solo career was merely coincidental. It was in 1975 when there was this label manager with Metronome, Günter Körber; I think he’s still working in the business. He is the one who founded Sky Records, you surely know about that label don’t you? (Menno nods to confirm) Even before I joined Grobschnitt I recorded a lot of electronic orientated stuff, mostly quite odd and insane and I used to do these listening sessions with my friends and have them listen through headphones to all the weird things I had recorded. I kept on doing these sessions as well as recording more material of my own. Once upon a time Günther was visiting me and I shared some of these insanities of mine with him and he went nuts! He said to me Eroc, you HAVE to release this stuff, this is extraordinary and he really liked it while I personally didn’t give too much on these bits and pieces I had composed. After a while I finally agreed to assemble some of my compositions and so the first Eroc album was born as well as my solo career was initiated. With Eroc 2, I wanted to do things differently and I tried my best to come up with more mature material in the vein of Frank Zappa, also weird but a bit a little less electronic. It also involved ‘Toni Moff Mollo’ from Grobschnitt, who added some spells, jokes and even sang a tune. Then came Eroc 3, Eroc 4 and Eroc 5, but still more like a hobby besides my work with the band. Wolkenreise however made a big difference because it changed the perspective drastically: suddenly my hobby started to be serious business! That’s where I came out finally: I had a hit and so the record company demanded another one. But when I would try something similar to Wolkenreise I already could hear the press complaining ‘this sounds just like Wolkenreise’ and if I had tried something different they would state ‘oh gosh, this doesn’t sound like Wolkenreise at all!’
Menno: You continued to work as an engineer and producer from 1982 until 2000 in the Woodhouse Studio: this was a joint venture with Sigi Bemm?
Eroc: To cut a long story short, it was all because of Wolkenreise. All of a sudden I had quite a bit of money, and we’re talking about 100.000 and more! So this is what I did, being suddenly rich: I took the money and I bought hi-tech studio equipment, a 24-track recorder for instance or a professional Studer master-recorder (pointing at a huge tape machine at the far end of the studio). That piece of equipment is 25 years old now but still working properly! I took all this new gear up to a farmhouse we had rented for our rehearsals and built a complete recording studio right into it for Grobschnitt. There I produced Volle Molle, Illegal and also Razzia with my own equipment. When I quit Grobschnitt I took all that high quality gear with me which was quite well something like a middle class studio, but I needed a lot more equipment to build up a first class studio. That’s were Siggi Bemm joined the game: he also had some studio equipment and some money and we decided to go on as partners in the new studio he was building in Dortmund. That was the beginning of the Woodhouse Studio and there we made a name for ourselves and continued working there until 1994. Then we moved over to Hagen into a bigger location. There I worked up to 1999 until we didn’t get along with one and other quite so well as we used to and we didn’t see eye to eye on a number of subjects anymore so we decided to part ways. I sold most of the studio equipment, because I wanted to continue working as a mastering expert and I was fixed on getting to use state of the art digital technology. So this is when I founded ‘Eroc’s Mastering Ranch’ in 1999. The Woodhouse studio existed until autumn 2010. There were still some personal things such as my drum kit and some keyboards standing there, and I went by to pick them up because Siggi had told me he wanted to close down the studio. He now runs a smaller facility in his own house and there he will continue to work as a producer. (Looking sad and with a voice filled with melancholy): so yes, it’s definitely goodbye to the times when there were many internationally famous acts recording in the Woodhouse Studio….. no more! But (looking cheerful), I wish Siggi all the best and although his new studio is slightly smaller, it now has a nice garden and it’s more cosy and comfortable, so I hope he will continue to have success with this new adventure.
Menno: Some of your clients in the mastering and remastering field are well known names in ‘progressive/symphonic’ or related rock-music like Art of Noise, Beggar’s Opera, Caravan, Everon, Frumpy, Gentle Giant, Guru Guru, Jade Warrior, Jane, Nautilus, Novalis, Propaganda, Renaissance and Wolverine… Any special memories?
Eroc: Well, sit back and relax because I could tell you stories that would last more than three days! Apart from the fact that I contributed my fair share to the preservation of ‘Krautrock’ throughout all these years now, I’ve done remasterings for all the bands you just mentioned and for many more. Up to this day I have finished more than 1000 (!) productions in mastering and remastering.
So I can tell you “some” striking stories: for instance – Leo Sayer. Leo Sayer was famous in the seventies and eighties and had hits like The Show Must Go On or More Than I Can Say in 1980. A few years ago I was asked to do the re-mastering for a 3-CD Best Of set for Repertoire Records. Leo lives in Australia nowadays and when I had finished working on that production, the label sent him a copy. Leo subsequently wrote a letter to Repertoire Records, ordering some 40 copies of this re-mastered version. He wanted to send one copy out to all musicians, producers and studios involved in his former days, accompanied by a letter stating: ‘this is how my music should have sounded right away’. Can you imagine I was thrilled? This is when you realize there are artists truly appreciating all the efforts you put into making a recording sound better than ever before.
Another nice story is about the Yardbirds, a band from the sixties. I always loved this band and For Your Love was the first single I bought, Evil Hearted You the second one: I still have these singles in my archives! But, being a fan of the Yardbirds made me a bit of an outcast at school because in those days one should be a fan of the Beatles, the Stones or the Kinks and maybe the Who but certainly not of the Yardbirds.No, that was insane! But I knew they were a great creative and experimental band, I really loved Jeff Beck’s guitar work and I loved the voice of Keith Relf. Well anyway, a few years ago I remastered the whole back catalogue of the Yardbirds for Repertoire including the BBC tapes, recorded when they actually played live in a show at the radio-station. When I was done with this huge job I got an email from Chris Dreja, the guitarist -you know the band still exists with two original members, Dreja and McCarty- thanking me for a most impressive job and that all their music sounded terrific now. He asked me if I could send him all the re-mastered material on DAT for his personal archives. Of course I did and a few days later I received this nice autograph card, signed by all current members of the Yardbirds saying: “Thanks so much, Eroc” ! So after 45 years now I finally found myself in contact with members of the band I used to be a huge fan of!
Menno: So you really enjoy working on this fairly ‘old’ material from the sixties?
Eroc: Oh yes! I re-mastered even older stuff like from the “Swinging Forties” by legends like Benny Goodman, Stan Kenton, Louis Armstrong, Doris Day, Count Basie, Les Paul, Ella Fitzgerald etc. etc.! It gives me joy and satisfaction when music from the past can sound so much better than ever before and that the artists still in the business appreciate what I have been able to do with their original recordings. Some of the musicians want to see for themselves how I do the re-mastering process and they join me here at the studio while I’m at work.
From the same era as the Yardbirds, are the Pretty Things, a wild bunch in the sixties. I re-mastered all of their 14 albums and they sent a big photo of the current line up (all sophisticated gentlemen now, dressed in black) with the message “The best re-mastering, many thanks – The Pretty Things”. This photo has been on display in the office of Repertoire Records for many years. Of course it’s a bit of a strange company, Repertoire Records, because they don’t always write in their booklets who did the re-mastering, but actually I couldn’t care less. I don’t need such publicity anyway. Alvin Lee was also one of the artists who was thrilled by the results of my re-masterings of some of his older albums and he called me up and asked me to do a fairly recent one too: that’s how I got to work on Alvin Lee’s “Alvin Lee in Tennessee” with the drummer of the late Elvis Presley, D.J. Fontana. One of the tracks he did was “I’m Going Home”…… So it happens that when artists like what I did with their older stuff, they insist on having me doing their current albums, too. Another nice example is Jade Warrior, another act from the sixties. They were disbanded in1996. In 2007 and 2008 I remastered some of their early albums. When they came out, some of the former members of Jade Warrior stormed into the London office of Repertoire Records and yelled: “these reissues sound so fantastic, we’re gonna bring the band together again.” And that’s what they did leading finally into their great new album “Jade Warrior / Now” on which I also laid some hands and ears for the mastering. Sometimes I even get to work on material that has been re-mastered by others. Mostly when the musicians aren’t happy with the sound, these kind of ‘second opinion’ jobs crosses my path.
Menno: I think re-mastering is pretty much depending on one’s ears. Didn’t your hearing suffer from all those live performances as a drummer?
Eroc: Thank goodness not! I always had protective wax in my ears and that saved the day for me. Working with the finest equipment available and being careful with turning up the volume are basics I work with. The other day I had a hearing test and my hearing is still impeccable and maybe this is one of the reasons why I can do a better job than many others, who knows!
Menno: You also listed a fairly recent release by Novalis “Letzes Konzert in 1984”. What’s your professional opinion on the quality of this recording, because personally I find all those bits and pieces of conversations you can hear, very disturbing.
Eroc: Ahhhh, yes I remember. You should know that the A&R successor to Günter Körber at Metronome, was the drummer of Novalis, Hartwig Biereichel! In those days you often could find real musicians in the ranks of the management of a record company and not only all these business managers, like nowadays! Hartwig and me are old buddies, because Metronome was our record company back then, so we maintained contact. He still lives in Hamburg working for the NDR radio company. Back in 2008 there were plans to re-release albums by Novalis, Atlantis, Guru Guru to name a few through SPV, but because of the financial problems of SPV many of these releases never saw the light of day. When this Novalis recording was on schedule, Hartwig provided me with a cassette from someone who had recorded an open air gig of Novalis in 1984 with a tapedeck, standing way back in the field among the audience, between talking people just with two tiny microphones. He sent me this tape and asked me if I could do something with it. I decided to give it a try and I must say it’s a miracle how many of the disturbing noises, crackles and sounds I have managed to erase because the original recording was really terrible: not directly taken from the mixer’s bus or from the amplifiers, as it should have been – but therefore a much more realistic sound impression as could be heard between the audience way down in the back of the field. This is exactly how most people heard the band play on that very day in 1984, a really authentic document, no more, no less! But this should have been mentioned in the booklet and one should play this album at a higher volume to get the feeling of being part of that event: if you listen to it too softly, the sound is less lively and quite flat.
Menno: Did you have contacts with other members of Grobschnitt between 1983, the year of your leaving and 1989, the year of their final show?
Eroc: Strangely enough not. Although they recorded their next albums without me (Fantasten and Kinder und Narren) at our Woodhouse Studio, they didn’t involve me as producer or engineer. So that’s where the contacts ended. They also did Sonnentanz, a live album sounding rather awful IMHO, recorded on a simple DAT-recorder. That one really should be re-mastered….. Finally in 1989 when Grobschnitt was to do their very last concert, ‘Lupo’ contacted me and said: “Hey, we will play in downtown Hagen for the very last time and we’d like all former members to hit the stage one last time: will you join us”? So of course I agreed and I played three songs with the band then. Then it lasted almost twenty years before there was any contact again between ‘Wildschwein’ and me: it seemed as if there was some tension had built up over the decades between us, when all of a sudden ‘Wildschwein’ called me up (uses the same voice as ‘Wildschwein’): “Hey Eroc, this is Willi, let’s meet and have a cup of coffee”. So one day he showed up at my place and we chatted for about 4 hours and now there are no tensions any more between us. With ‘Lupo’ I shared some regular contact at least via telephone, also because he lives only 5 minutes from here. ‘Mist’ and me were always quite close as I told you and both former bass players ‘Hunter’, unfortunately also no longer with us and ‘Baer’ visited me quite often. Also I attended the annual meetings of the still existing Grobschnitt Fanclub and forced other former members like Volker as well as Milla Kapolke or Geheimrat Günstig to get there, too!
Menno: at the final gig you announced your intention to release the Grobschnitt Story. When did you decide to start working on the first Grobschnitt Story CD and how did you work through all the recordings you have in your archives?
Eroc: After I left the band I needed a break and took extensive holidays in Denmark for some months. I had taken a huge pile of tapes with me and took time to listen to what was good and what was bad. I was sure, there was a lot of good material and there would be no second chance to do something with these recordings. So in 1989 I already had listened to many recordings and the actual work on the first Grobschnitt Story CD started in 1990/1991 at the Woodhouse Studio. Unfortunately I didn’t have access to the technology available today…. the gear I had to work with was analogue and I didn’t have any tools to e.g. get rid of crackles and noise and hiss like I have now. That’s too bad, the more because it took me three years of work, then part 1 was released by Metronome, our old record company. Part 2 was released four years later in 1998 by Repertoire Records, because Metronome had ceased to exist in December 1996. The other reason was that in 1998 the first software was made available to the market, with which you could perform “miracles”, so I was very eager to use this new technology for Part 2. Those were the days when I also launched my Mastering Ranch using the most up to date equipment, later leading into the Solar Music volumes of my Grobschnitt Story series. For example: I worked my heart out for a recording of Solar Music from a 1978 concert in Berlin. Our bass player ‘Hunter’, rather drunk as usual I might add, had played not only out of tune the whole track but also had been picking not every note in time. So I had to take the bass track solely and rework each single note until every one of them was in tune and had the correct timing. This took me several weeks for about one hour of music: no one would ever have been able to afford that if it would have been a paid job. Only because I did it that way, this hour turned out to show Grobschnitt at its very best and listening to that show now, I can only say it has been worth all those hundreds of hours of ‘hard labour’. I know when I have to pass away some day, no other one will be able to handle those antique tapes and machines anymore and surely no one would be willing to pay tenths of thousands of Euro’s to do this kind of job. But because it’s my own past and was my own band and last but not least it’s my favourite hobby this has been possible.
Menno: what about the legal aspects? Weren’t you afraid one or more (former) members of the band were going to sue you because you could be accused of trespassing applicable laws?
Eroc: When I started to work on the Stories I called up each single one of the (former) members of Grobschnitt and informed them about my plans and I invited them to stop by, listen to the tapes and help me along with this process. But no one came. When the first Grobschnitt Story was released I sent out a copy to all involved and I asked them again: let’s do it together, I could use some help collecting more material, images and so on. I still have all the letters I sent them to prove it! Again hardly any response, only ‘Lupo’ replied. At first he said he would be in, later he was telling me that he would try to stop me from doing all this. Then the record company interfered and asked ‘Lupo’ whose recordings these were. Things got a little complicated but in the end I was alone to finish the job and until now no one has bothered me at all. And why should they? Every release means a little money for them too, coming in through the GEMA and it helped and still helps to keep the name Grobschnitt alive, especially from 1994 until 2007. I In my opinion there’s a fair chance that Grobschnitt would have been forgotten if I wouldn’t have released all these CDs and maybe the band that performs as Grobschnitt today wouldn’t have existed at all. The record companies didn’t do anything for Grobschnitt over the past decades. The albums Kinder & Narren and Fantasten, as well as Sonnentanz or Last Party have never been released on CD! Of course the royalties from the GS-Story sales flow into my pockets, but that’s hardly enough to pay me for the enormous amount of days, weeks and months I put into each one! It also helps to keep my studio equipment up to date and to finance the next Story, because all the images, the booklets and the covers for a double or triple CD are rather expensive, you know…
Menno: It seems all the Grobschnitt Stories were and are your tour de force and yours only. The (former) members of the band must have expressed their feelings at some point, didn’t they?
Eroc: Yes, of course! ‘Hunter’ called me up when he received Grobschnitt Story Part 1 and he wept…. he said “man this is so unbelievably beautiful! It’s like a dream coming true that I can hear this once again.” ‘Mist’ phoned and complemented me on the quality of the release and said “I never knew we were that good: this is awesome!” Milla Kapolke responded also very enthusiastically and urged me to continue working on the other parts of the Stories. He wanted to make sure I would send him everything I will release in the future. ‘Wildschwein’, too, thought it was really cool and wrote me a friendly letter back then. Only ‘Lupo’ was negative at first. He tried to sue me and stop the whole project with a call at the record company Metronome. But they told him clearly that I am the owner of these recordings and they have a deal with me. After a few weeks we got together and had a long discussion about it all and in the end he agreed to let me go ahead with the other parts. He even handed me some tapes from his own archive with the words: do with them as you please and hopefully you are able to use some of this material’. Later I sent ‘Lupo’ and ‘Wildschwein’ some re-mastered audio of my recordings from the Crew back in the 60s, which made them totally surprised and they were stunned by the quality of the sound! So yes, I can safely say they are all happy with what I have been doing so far.
Menno: Did you have a specific plan in mind with the Stories, for example a chronological sequence?
Eroc: Not exactly. It has been some kind of adventure up to this day. I started out working my way through all these huge piles of tapes and didn’t pay attention to specific dates or locations. It comes up as it loves to and it’s a permanent challenge for me, to face each new surprise I discover on the tapes. On Grobschnitt Story Part 6 you can find my ‘masterpiece’ and in the booklet I described how I managed to get a fairly decent sounding result out of a seemingly erased tape! It contained an extremely nice composition from 1974 with a lot of keyboards of which I didn’t even remember the name. Back then I listened to this unique live-recording many times until I erased the whole tape accidentally. The track was gone completely – nothing but bare hiss on the tape any more. That made me so upset, that I threw it into the last corner of my archives and forgot about it over the decades. In 2005 I suddenly discovered that tape again and first didn’t know, what it contained. There was nothing written on it. When I put it on the machine I didn’t hear anything but hiss. But suddenly after a few seconds there was a very dull and weak signal to be heard through the foggy noise. And then – it all came back to me. But why the hell could I hear suddenly something from a completely erased tape after 30 years? And how could I finally succeed in bringing up the music again so that we can now listen to it? A complete sensation… The rest of this story you can read (and hear) on Part 6 of my Grobschnitt-Story. I’m very proud and satisfied this piece could finally be saved, because that was the only existing recording. Once I got a cassette from a fan, a bootleg from a concert in 1983. Another fan from Münster sent me a tape he recorded at Düsseldorf Philipshalle, also from 1983. He recorded the concert with two microphones attached with tape to his head. Just these things, too, make it impossible to work according to a specific schedule and that’s why I was able to dedicate another Story CD on my last concerts with Grobschnitt in 1983. Of course I also own some awesome material from Sonnentanz, a radio recording from 1987, prepared and ready to be pressed. But ‘Lupo’ has expressed he explicitly doesn’t want to see Stories released with material after 1983, when I had left the band and -with mixed feelings- I have decided to respect his decision, because I really don’t want anyone to be annoyed about these releases.
Menno: What kind of feedback did you get from the fans after the release of Grobschnitt Story Part 1?
Eroc: The release was done by Metronome and the sales were very satisfying. I got a lot of positive reactions from many fans. The “West-Deutscher Rundfunk” did an interview with me, even followed by a WDR TV special and several newspapers covered the event. Primarily in Germany, however, because all booklets are in German only. Anyway, later Part 2 was released in 1998 by Repertoire Records, because Metronome wasn’t existing any more. The fans still remembered the series and sales went on, but don’t reach huge amounts. We’re talking about a few thousands for each issue in Germany. But bit by bit it started selling CD’s in foreign countries, too.
Menno: Your latest creation are a number of live recordings by Grobschnitt: why a special label called Silver Mint Records?
Eroc: Take Mercedes for example. They are known for making high quality cars, especially the classic, big models. At some point Mercedes decided to build a small car for the first time in their history and it became a huge success because it was handy and not so expensive like their big models. So I have been contemplating, too: I already have my ‘big ones’, namely the double and triple CD’s with long stories and extensive booklets. These are the Grobschnitt Story collection. I asked myself: what should I do with all these other live tapes I have? The answer I came up with was to release these -purely for the fans- as simple single CD’s, low budget, no jewel-case and booklets, just plain, good music in best quality. For the die-hard fans this series consisting of three albums per bunch each half year (31,50 Euro incl. postage within Germany) is great and something like a dream-come-true. Every CD contains pure Grobschnitt and original atmosphere from back then. So for 10 Euros per CD you have an awesome ticket to the past…
Menno: Were you contacted in 2007 when attempts were made to reform the band?
Eroc: No, nobody invited me to join in. Although I don’t know if I would have joined them because I have so much work (pointing at the huge piles of CD’s on his desk and boxes with old tapes), I regret not to have been asked, considering what I have done to keep the name Grobschnitt alive! Still I went to see them at their first gig in summer of 2007 and had a nice chat with the guys. In their own way they are contributing to preserve the name of the band too but to me it’s a totally different band than the Grobschnitt we were back then.
Menno: Probably due to the reformation of the band, Universal sublicensed SPV to re-release all Grobschnitt albums: what were/are the consequences for you?
Eroc: When the new band started to perform live throughout Germany I contacted SPV and told them that in my opinion this should be a good moment to re-release Grobschnitt’s back catalogue. So they passed me the jobs for re-mastering Ballermann, Solar Music Live and RPL, just to name a few, but due to the bankruptcy of SPV in 2009 all Krautrock related plans were put on hold. Negotiations to take over SPV started and in the end not Universal, the existing business partner but SONY offered more money and now cooperates with SPV. Since SONY and Universal are competitors, Universal withdrew all their sublicenses from SPV and said they intended to start re-releasing the Krautrock back-catalogue themselves. But somehow Universal doesn’t know how to put things right and they work much too slow, in my opinion. It’s a shame because with SPV were a few extremely competent guys like Manfred Schütz, Ecki Stieg and Wilfried Pinnau who made a great contribution to the releases of Krautrock-music. Unfortunately then, these guys were no longer in charge, so it all stopped. But, the good news is these three guys plus other former employees of SPV founded a new company in Hannover: M.i.G. Music (Made In Germany), concentrating on Krautrock among others. They are releasing e.g Rockpalast concerts and also my first Grobschnitt Stories (0,1 and 2). Only bottleneck for further Grobschnitt releases is, that they need these sublicenses from Universal. But time will tell…
Menno: What’s your involvement in Radio Canadian Army Europe (CAE)?
Eroc: (:-D ) Yes, I am ‘lieutenant of honour’ of the Canadian Forces Radio Station CAE in Germany. There was this little radio station called CAE, like there were and still are other stations in Germany since the 40s and 50s, broadcasting for the armed forces of the US, Great Britain and Canada stationed over here and in the Netherlands, too. Radio CAE was founded in 1956 and used to be covering the Westfalian area located with a 250 watts FM transmitter east of the Ruhr Valley, close to the old city of Werl. They played that special kind of music you could hardly find on German radio back then. In Holland you had e.g. Radio Caroline and Radio Noordzee and subsequently many ‘pirate-stations’ like these. In Germany we couldn’t receive any of those, only “West-Deutscher Rundfunk”, “Nord-Deutscher Rundfunk”, Bayerische Rundfunk etc. But these were all “scheisse”, especially for us youngsters!! So we only could receive AFN (still existing today and still playing the best in rock music), BFBS and Radio CAE, playing Country & Western music and the latest hits from Britain and the U.S. I always was a big fan of radio, even had my own ‘pirate-station’ in downtown Hagen for some time. Being such a huge fan, I got in touch with the guys at Radio CAE in 1970 and was allowed to go up there for a visit. That was not a “normal” visit, because the station and transmitter was located in Fort Victoria, a restricted Canadian military area in the woods near Werl, fenced with barbed wires and signs warning for use of weapons. So it was a real adventure when I showed up there and was allowed to pass through the gate to walk up to “my favourite radio station”. I was truly devastated when the station was closed down in October 1970, because the Canadian brigade in Westfalia was phased out and had to move down to Southern Germany. All of the CAE-staff, employees and listeners alike were very sad. Anyway, thirty years later I decided to look for CAE on the internet and found absolutely no information at all. Next thing was, I made a decision to gather information myself and launch a website to honour Radio CAE and all people involved, to keep up the memory and pass on information to the world. Just like with Grobschnitt, from 1966 to 1970 I recorded many of their shows including the final four hours of broadcast before the station went off the air forever. I’ve got that all on tapes and they still are in pretty good shape. Then I started looking for images and additional information and wrote the story of the station as far as I could remember. When I got it all together on my website in 2001, I suddenly got a call from Barclay McMillan. He used to be station-manager for twelve years at Radio CAE. And some of the former German technicians of the station made contact with me, too, they all are elder gentlemen now. They were so enthusiastic because they and also their children now discovered what had happened back then during those years. Later McMillan came over from Canada to see me when he turned 70 and also Ted Wood, former program-director at CAE became a good friend of mine He had married a German woman from Werl back then, so he’s over here from time to time. The former Canadian fort and the station building is still existing today, but it’s abandoned and has not been maintained for many years. After the Canadians left in 1970 it became a British brigade until 1992. Since then it’s slowly dilapidating. Anyway, over the years more Canadian veterans reported in and many more friendships occurred. Like my work for the Grobschnitt memorabilia, it’s a great hobby and something I thought worthwhile to be preserved. Believe it or not but the Canadian Forces recently introduced a new fully automatic system for destroying land-mines, a huge piece of machinery and they named it …. EROC! Really, you can check it out on You Tube!
Menno: Recently you have moved your studio from your own home to a building just a few feet away from your house: why?
Eroc: Quite a bunch of reasons but mainly a matter of privacy and space. The studio I have here is at least twice as big as the room in the attic of my house I used before, and now I have far more space available. What was getting in the way was when my wife and daughter were sleeping in on Sundays or holydays, I would like to get up early and start working. Same as late at night, when they would already be gone to bed and I was making noise upstairs. My daughter goes to the university now and needs more space and I was getting fed up to be forced to receive each visitor, producer or musician in my own home and thus depriving my wife and daughter from their privacy. And although many of them became friends and are no longer strangers to us, I think it’s much better to separate business and private. Simple things like the ringing of a telephone: now it rings here instead of disturbing my family. Of course it’s a more expensive solution, but I hope the amount of work I have been offered and all requests coming in each day will surely cover these costs.
Menno: You’re an expert on digital re-mastering. What goals do you have for the next years?
Eroc: I think I have became quite a unique expert because of my life long experience. I started working with tape recorders in 1960 and have used every single step forward in the studio technology, with the likes of Conny Plank and other great “teachers” for instance, extensively and I still know how to use all the old techniques; at the same time I know the limitations, too, and the ways to correct certain mishaps. I have been a musician behind the studio screens as well as a producer and engineer in front of the studio screens. I have built my own synthesizers in the seventies and I’m still capable of taking apart a tape recorder and put it back together again. I’m a technician too, you see. I usually am able to tell with what kind of microphone a vocal has been recorded, in which studio–room it has been recorded and even what kind of compressor or reverb was used, only by listening to it. I know how to fix a broken tape, how to ‘bake’ a tape when it got sticky and I have done a enormous amount of analogue mastering. So I can discuss each little detail of a recording from the first take to the final mastering with every pro in the business. This kind of knowledge and experience is extremely important to be a big number in re-mastering, because you know instantly where things went wrong and how they could be corrected. For instance incorrect phase or clicks and crackles on a recording on an LP. Tones, sounds, technical progress has always been my passion and hobby, I have a big name in the biz, so for the future the best for me will be to stay right where I am: in front of my screens and speakers…
(Eroc shows me one of the first tapes he still keeps in his archives, recorded from the band on his then newly bought Revox tape recorder. Then he gives an impressive demonstration how the ‘re-masterer’ can change the sound of a drumbeat or the sound of a bass guitar as well as the overall sound: his expertise and the speed with which he uses the newest software were really stunning!)
I definitely will continue re-mastering. All gear you can see here is state of art and very expensive. It’s partially financed, so yes, I want to go on re-mastering but I also have to (grinning), to pay off all this equipment and software. I’m contemplating if I should be working for my own music again in the future, because people keep on asking for that since years now. I don’t know the answer to that question yet. If I find the time I would love to pick up my old instruments like the accordion again and work on yet another solo album, but for the moment I see plenty of months and years of re-masterings ahead.
Menno: Your website doesn’t seem to be fully updated: any other developments we should know about?
Eroc: As you already mentioned my website is not always up to date. I’m too tied up to keep it in shape each day. But I’m planning a totally new website both for Eroc as well as a site completely dedicated to the Grobschnitt Stories. This site will be www.grobschnittstory.de if it’s launched some day. The whole history will be outlined in German and in English, sound-samples, images and a fully integrated webshop, so stay tuned!
Interview & Photographs for DPRP
by Menno von Brucken Fock
1975 – Eroc
1976 – Eroc 2
1979 – Eroc 3
1981 – Eroc 4
1986 – Changing Skies
1987 – Kino (with Hans Reichel)
1999 – Eurosonic Experiences (with Urs Fuchs)
1994 – Grobschnitt Story Part 1
1998 – Grobschnitt Story Part 2
1999 – The Return Of Onkel Boskopp (Kino on CD)
2001 – Grobschnitt Story Part 3, vol. 1
2002 – Grobschnitt Story Part 3, vol. 2
2002 – Grobschnitt Story Part 3, vol. 3
2003 – Grobschnitt Story Part 3, vol. 4
2003 – Grobschnitt Story Part 4
2004 – Grobschnitt Story Part 3, vol. 5
2004 – Grobschnitt Story Part 5
2006 – Grobschnitt Story Part 6
2010 – Grobschnitt Story Part 0
…and meanwhile 27 CDs of the SMR-series since 2007