Siegfried Loch: 50 Years on the Music-Making Scene
Except I never forgot my dream of having my own label. So it took me 30 years before I finally did it.
AAJ: You heard the Beatles back in the early years?
SL: Yes. I saw them in 1962. They were playing a whole month in that club. They were one of five bands that played there in a revolving system. They played at 5 in the afternoon until 6 the next morning. The bands were rotating. They came back in June of the same year for another month. That was near the end.
AAJ: Did you know or see anything then that would indicate they would go on to stardom?
SL: No. They were playing the music of Chuck Berry. Like most of the other bands from Liverpool, they were covering American R&B stuff. But they had their own first songs. The most successful tune that they had to repeat every show at the Star Club was a piece by Bobby Scott, "A Taste of Honey." It was a ballad sung by Paul McCartney. That tune also made it onto the first album by the Beatles, [Please Please Me (Parlophone, 1963)] but it was never released as a single.
AAJ: What did you see in jazz that you liked? What about the art form captured you?
SL: What fascinated me more than anything was this idea of individual freedom in a group of equals. That was a fascinating thought for a young boy like myself after World War II. It was very fascinating from a political aspect, not just from a musical aspect. I guess that was fascinating not just me but a lot of my young people of my generation at the time.
AAJ: American jazz was the template at the time.
SL: At that time, West Germany was still dominated by foreign radio. I lived in the north of Germany, that was heavily influenced by the BBC and BFNthe British Forces Networkthat's why in the north of Germany, traditional jazz became so popular. While in Frankfort and that area, where the American forces were based, AFN (American Forces Network) was the major influence. That's why in that part of Germany, modern jazz was discovered earlier there by youngsters than in the north. In Munich was the American base. On the west side there was the French, but they didn't have much influence except, of course, Sidney Bechet. He lived in France and his music was very, very popular in Germany. It was a lot more popular at that point in Europe than in America.
AAJ: I think that's why he moved there.
SL: I think he moved there because he was in love with a lady from Frankfort, whom he actually married and stayed in Europe. He was then very sorry to see that Louis Armstrong became the king of jazz: he considered himself being at least as important in the history of jazz as Armstrong was.
AAJ: You had all along in your head the goal of producing jazz.
SL: That's correct. In 1966, when I left Philips as a producer, that was the first time I wanted to start my label and I even had the name ACT already, sketched out on the label. But at that point I was invited to come to the United States, to Los Angeles, to meet Al Bennett, the owner of Liberty Records. He wanted to persuade me to work for him as an independent producer and a consultant. I was only 25 at the time.
AAJ: You met Nesuhi Ertegun around that time?
SL: That was the next step. I did have the chance to meet Alfred Lion and Francis Wolff. Alfred had decided in '67 to quit the business and move to New Mexico. But Francis was still working for Blue Note in New York until he died in 1971. Bennett sold the company to Transamerica (Corp., 1968). He got kicked out. I just felt I don't want to be connected with the new owners. In 1971, I wanted to quit Liberty and then do my label. But then came Nesuhi (then international chairman of WEA Records). I was a big fan of his recordings for Atlantic and also had met him in Berlin before.
He called me up and said, "Hey. I'm on a mission of building an international company for Warner." It wasn't called that then but it became Warner. He said, "I need you to help me in setting up the business in Germany." Nesuhi was a very persuasive guy. He became my mentor and also a kind of fatherly friend over the years. So I worked with him, and for Warner, for as long as he did. We quit on the same day [June 30, 1987], when he had to step down as the chairman of WEA international. At that point I was in with WEA in Europe, I decided to quit as well.
AAJ: So Nesuhi influenced you in a way?
SL: Absolutely. He was a tremendous influence in my life, both business and esthetics and everything.
AAJ: He had quite a track record.
SL: I don't think there are too many people around in the world who had a profound interest and knowledge about music ands sport and art and literature. An amazing man, he was. It's such a pity there is no book on him. There are many on his brother Ahmet Ertegun, his brother, but none on Nesuhi. There's hardly anything to be found on him on the Internet. It's really a shame.
AAJ: After you severed ties there, what was next?