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Ulrich Krieger: Bringing Metal Machine Music to Life

By Published: March 25, 2010

UK: Actually, honestly, no. Zeitkratzer was in a big crisis at the end of 2002 and, when I left in early 2003, not only me but most of the original members left with me or had already left. After 2002 Zeitkratzer was mostly a new line up, a new group. There were many artistic and personal differences that were unsolvable. I don't think I will play with Zeitkratzer again.

I started teaching at the California Institute of the Arts in 2007. Coming to California had nothing to do with Zeitkratzer. The artistic atmosphere in Europe felt too limited, too closed, too one-dimensional, too ideological—I don't really know what to call it. The academic post gives me the freedom just to do projects/concert I really like to do. I don't have to hassle with public grants anymore, which I felt to be very limiting and kind of oppressive. You always administrate the deficiencies, you are always underpaid for the work you do, and you are supposed to be grateful for that. Grants, especially public grants, are like pocket money parents give a child. It is never enough and if you don't play by the rules, you don't get it. You have to fit into the description of art at any given time that the grant-giving institutions or juries have defined. You only get money for art officially sanctioned—this is the death of art and we see this crisis all over Europe now.

Over the years I have become a big critic of public grants the way they are given in Europe—although I profited from them especially in my early career. But that is a long discussion for another time... Here in California, I compose a lot and my music gets performed regularly, I improvise, play experimental rock music, noise, silent music, and leftfield metal. This is not a profile appreciated much in Europe, which likes to pigeonhole its artists.

AAJ: Whose idea was it to create Metal Machine Trio as an ensemble to perform live? Did you suggest it to Lou, or vice versa?

Lou Reed

UK: It kind of developed naturally. I used to be in New York regularly and after Zeitkratzer performed MMM I met Lou whenever I was in town. Out of our conversation the idea of playing together evolved. Redcat (the experimental theater at the Disney concert hall complex in downtown LA) was then a possibility to try it out. Lou proposed to add Sarth Calhoun to it, with whom he had worked already in New York. Sarth does real time processing as well as playing the continuum fingerboard using a kyma system and other electronics.

AAJ: MM3 plays music in the spirit of MMM, rather than creating a faithful reproduction of it. What rehearsal, discussion or pre-planning goes on between the three of you prior to a live performance by MM3?

UK: We normally rehearse/improvise and then talk about what we played, what worked, what didn't work. We also try out ideas one of us might have and we just play. The music of MM3 is in the spirit of MMM but includes a much wider field from ambient to noise to experimental rock to electronica. The concerts are all freely improvised based on our experiences from the rehearsals and previous shows.

AAJ: What should a fan of MMM expect to hear or experience when they come to see MM3 live? Is the double CD, The Creation of the Universe, a typical MM3 performance?

UK: The double CD is a good example of a typical MM3 show, but The Creation of the Universe was from our first concerts in LA. I think we have developed a lot since. We know each other much better now, musically and personally. And because we improvise freely, concerts may vary a lot. Some shows might be more ambient and calm, others might be more noisy, sonic assaults and others again might be more "free rock." But any of these elements might be found in most MM3 shows. Our sound is mostly dense and multi-layered.

AAJ: How does MM3 fit in with your other playing activities such as Text of Light....?

MM3, from left: Sarth Calhoun, Lou Reed, Ulrich Krieger

UK: MM3 is another aspect of my musical interests. Surely much of what I do with Text of Light has found its way into MM3. But playing with other musicians makes me play different, makes me take in new influences and directions. Otherwise there would be no point in playing in different groups or with different musicians. In MM3 I include traces and influences from R&B and rock saxophone, which I normally don't use in Text of Light, for example. This is surely an influence coming from Lou, a space which had opened up, and a part of my musical interest I had not really ventured into much until we started to play with MM3. Of course, all my interests in ambient, noise, drones, post-free jazz, post-rock, metal, contemporary art music, extended saxophone playing techniques, amplified saxophone, etc are audible in MM3. It feels like in MM3 everything is possible at any given time.

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