Perfect Sound Forever

In memoriam Manuel Göttsching

Manuel and Lutz

by Lutz Ulbrich
Culled and translated by Michael Freerix
(February 2023)

ED NOTE: This originally appeared in German at the Radio Ens website to honor Göttsching, who died on December 4, 2022

This news shook me deeply. I knew Manuel from very early days. We met for the first time as 13-year-olds in a music school in the Westend. We had the same guitar teacher. We didn't know then that we would later make music together for decades.

We met again in 1969 at the Beat Studio. He was playing in the Steeple Chase Blues Band, and I was with Agitation Free. We saw a lot of each other there and also jammed together.

Then Ash Ra Tempel! This band hit the spot with their powerful music, and driven by Hartmut Enke's bass and Klaus Schulze's drums, Manuel Göttsching took off to new guitar heights. A wonderful constellation that impressed and carried us all away. We played many concerts together during this time and became fans of each other.

In 1971, Conrad Schnitzler invited us to a kind of Berlin supergroup - Eruption - with Manuel Göttsching, Klaus Schulze, Michael Günther, Hartmut Enke, me and some others. We played at the Quartier Latin - not on stage but spread out all over the hall on the sides and with Schulze and me in the middle. A memorable concert and I was able to witness first hand the fastest bass drum in Berlin! When Hartmut Enke and Klaus Schulze left Ash Ra Tempel, Manuel's big hour struck.

With Inventions for Electric Guitar, he created a milestone of experimental rock music. A stroke of genius! As guitarists, we all use echo devices, of course, but Manuel found totally new ways by transferring minimal music to the guitar and playing with the echo in triplet mode to perfection.

I was living in France at the time when I first heard the LP. It totally blew me away. I knew immediately I HAD to make music with Manuel!

Back in Berlin, we rehearsed together for the first time and it clicked. Through my contact with Assaad Debs, our manager of Agitation Free, we had our first concert in Paris. A wonderful prelude to many years of music together. The two of us played tracks from his brilliant LP in France and England and became friends for life. I still remember how we rode in our VW bus with open windows through the warm summer night on the way to Arles in 1975, where we were to play together with Can, Nico and Kevin Ayers in the amphitheater.

We both had shoulder length hair blowing in the breeze. I looked over at Manu and said, "I used to be Old Shatterhand!" Manu: "Me Winnetou!" We had a fit of laughter. As it must be said in general, you could have a lot of fun with Manuel. He had the great gift of being able to laugh at himself. And in general he was a relaxed person and we had a very good vibration together. It was a great pleasure to play this hypnotic music with him, and I remember that time very fondly.

So we played ourselves into a frenzy in the live broadcast of José Arthur's ORTV and exceeded the intended length many times over. We didn't even hear the host's desperate announcement, "Ash Ra Tempel - for those who like it and for those who don't!" We were simply unstoppable.

Since I had met singer Nico at the same time and was living and touring with her, our paths parted at times. But at least the soundtrack for the film Le Berceau de Cristal by Philippe Garrel starring Nico was created. In 1977, we met in London, then as Ashra, with Harald Großkopf on drums, to make music together again. This resulted in some very nice LP's: Correlations, Belle Alliance and Tropical Heat as well as tours in this trio constellation. For example, in 1981 to Barcelona, where the musician Michael Huygen invited us to a live concert on Spanish television.

At the end of the eighties, I organized the music festival Wüstenklänge im Planetarium at the Berlin Planetarium, and Manuel and I created Walkin' the Desert together. In 1991, we performed in front of 10000 spectators together with Klaus Schulze in front of the Cologne Cathedral. The concert had been organized by Winfried Trenkler from WDR, and it became a terrific event.

After that, it became quieter, and it took the invitation of Gen Fujitas from Japan on the occasion of the inauguration of Manuel Göttsching's wax figure in the Tokyo Tower Wax Museum to get together again. Harald Großkopf also brought sound tinkerer Steve Baltes into the band, who redefined Ashra's sound once again.

An hour before the first concert in Japan, Manuel fell backstage, and suffered a badly bleeding laceration on his forehead. I got into the ambulance with him, and he was quickly patched up with thick band-aids at the hospital. We ran back to get some air so Manuel could take a breath. We went back on stage and it turned out to be a furious success after all. Manuel played great in spite of everything. We were celebrated like gods. This man was really tough!

A concert at the Burg Herzberg-Festival and at the E-Live-Festival in Holland were further amazing highlights, but after that, we parted ways. In the meantime, the 17 Hippies had been keeping me busy. Actually, it took several years until we performed again: In 2015, in Holland, we played the music to Le Berceau de Cristal - the only time.

There was always something relaxed, easy and at the same time highly concentrated about playing with Manuel. He had the gift of creating magical music, and I am proud and happy to have accompanied him on his journey for a very long time.

May his beautiful music live on and fly into the world...

See our 2007 interview with Lüül and also see our 2015 interview with Lüül

Check out the rest of PERFECT SOUND FOREVER