The legendary German band is back and hotter than ever, with the release of Live 2001 , as well as a special engagement at Prog Day in North Carolina this Labor Day weekend. With such classics songs as “Andy Nogger”, “Yaqui Yagua”, “Nam Nam”, and “Let It Out”, these purveyors of a complex and mostly instrumental brew of prog, fusion, and funk get ready to take on the world once more. We spoke to virtuoso bassist Hellmut Hattler about this latest reunion of KRAAN. By Pete Pardo
Sea of Tranquility: The recent KRAAN Live 2001 CD shows that the band is in fine form after being out of the public eye for a while. Can you talk about what the band and the individual members have been up to for the past ten years or so?
Hellmut Hattler: Jan Fride (drums) did some web design and played with the German band De-Phazz. Ingo Bischof (keyboards) did some teaching and was involved in several side projects, one called Tavil (an Asian sounding group). Peter Wolbrandt (guitar/vocals) became a professional programmer, and did not do too much guitar work. I released eight albums and played from '91 to '99 with a band called Tab Two.
Sea of Tranquility: How would you classify KRAAN? Many lump the band into the progressive rock category, but there is a clear jazz/fusion, as well as funk vibe to the bands music-would you agree?
Hellmut Hattler: Oh yes! KRAAN's problem always was the missing categorization. Krautrock didn't fit either.
Sea of Tranquility: What do you consider to be highlights of the bands discography
Hellmut Hattler: The most personal release for me was Flyday from 1979, and especially the track “Young King’s Song.” The bands most successful release was the Live double album from 1975, with "Nam Nam" or "Holiday Am Marterhorn" being the highlights, but that's only my personal opinion...
Sea of Tranquility: That album, Live, from 1975, was considered one of the better live albums from that period, as well as being very popular and successful for the band as you mentioned. How do you compare it to the new live album, or even Tournee?
Hellmut Hattler: That album reflects a band in a time of highest acceptance, especially in Berlin at one of around 100 shows per year. When we decided to play the first two gigs after 10 years (or 20 years, if we look at the line up with Ingo) two hours before we went on stage I had the idea to record the show, more for myself, on my 16 track device, as we did not plan any further concerts. After these shows we released it on my label, Bassball Recordings, and called it Live 2001, so this was a surprising new start for the band.
As for Tournee (from 1979), after we recorded the Flyday album we did some touring. Conny Plank recorded some of the concerts, and it just happened. We had no original plans behind the album Tournee.
Sea of Tranquility: Why was the decision to replace your sax player (Johannes Pappert) with a keyboard player (Ingo Bischof) back
in 1975/1976 made?
Hellmut Hattler: Well, we’ve been together since I was seventeen, and KRAAN was always a music community, around each other day and night, and we just were too familiar with each move and tone of each member. I guess the "4th person" in KRAAN always had a hard time with Peter, Jan and myself...
Sea of Tranquility: Once Ingo joined, the keyboards added an almost Return to Forever feel at times especially on songs like the classic “Yaqui Yagua” or “Vollgas Ahoi.” Was this the direction the band wanted to go in, as opposed to the more guitar oriented, jamming tone of the earlier material?
Hellmut Hattler: Ingo increased the musical possibilities of the band, which helped since we never wanted to sound like someone else. Of course a band with a more conventional line up sounds more conventional, but the compositions were still KRAAN.
Sea of Tranquility: Much has been said about the vocals on some of KRAAN's songs being the weakest part of the band-did you ever consider being a strictly instrumental band?
Hellmut Hattler: We do consider ourselves an instrumental group, but sometimes someone sets up microphones! That's why you hear voices occasionally, but it is usually not intentional.
Sea of Tranquility: Your bass style is truly unique-can you talk about how long you have been playing, your influences, etc..
Hellmut Hattler: Oops, my favorite subject...I just play bass, because there were three guitarists in my band and I was the least skilled...this was when I was 16 years old. Still now I think that
The bass is simply a great instrument, very sexy, that pulls the strings. Almost all of my compositions were composed on the bass.
My influences are John Entwistle, a little Alphonso Johnson, and Percy
Sea of Tranquility: Can you talk about any side projects you and the rest of the band are involved with?
Hellmut Hattler: My main project is simply called Hattler (which does not mean KRAAN is a side project...) and besides many others, the KRAAN musicians give a helping hand to me as well in my band. The first Hattler album No Eats Yes was awarded an Echo in the jazz category. There was a project in '84 called Heartware, but the LP has been out of print for ages.
Sea of Tranquility: Besides the upcoming US show at Prog Day, what else is in the near future for the band?
Hellmut Hattler: I'm just coming home from the studio now, after doing some new material with...KRAAN! (I didn't place microphones yet...) Let's talk about Prog Day after we have performed there in September, but we are all very excited to say that it's the very first U.S. appearance for KRAAN, and we'll do the best we can...and hope to be back soon!