Interview With Steve Jolliffe
Former Tangerine Dream Keyboard and Synthesizer Pioneer
Legendary keyboard and synthesizer pioneer Steve Jolliffe, formerly of Tangerine Dream and collaborations with Klaus Schultze and Rick Davies, was kind enough recently to lend some of his time for this interview to let us know about all of his recent projects!
[Billy Donald] Steve, thanks so much for taking the time to join me here! It is a real pleasure. I wanted to catch up here first of all and ask you what kind of musical projects you are busying yourself with at this time?
Steve Jolliffe I have two new releases coming out in the next couple of months one with Horizon and one with Voiceprint. The Horizon release is called Space, and is the follow up to Deep Down Far. It is very much a natural development of DDF and is totally electronic. The voiceprint release is The Bruton Suite, which again, is totally electronic but is written for orchestra, classical guitar and harp. Originally written on paper, it imitates the classical form which meant a lot of programming on the synth. I am also in the process of recording a live flute album in the minstrel gallery of my home, which has particularly nice acoustics.
[Billy Donald] For those not totally familiar with your work, you are a true pioneer of electronic ambient music, and you were actually one of the members of the earliest incarnates of Tangerine Dream. Tell us how you got started and what inspired you to tap into this genre of music?
Steve Jolliffe I started making music in the mid sixties, halfway through an art course, and joined a band to support my painting. That was with Rick Davies of Supertramp fame. That led me to Berlin, where I met Edgar Froese in the late sixties and toured around Germany as Tangerine Dream. I left TD and joined the English blues band Steamhammer and carried on touring heavily in Europe.
I always saw myself as a composer and had been developing my work for some time by then, and when I left Steamhammer, I spent some time writing for small film projects, mostly at the Beaconsfield Film School. Then when Baumann left TD, I was asked to rejoin and we made the album Cyclone. I then left again and concentrated on my solo work, and have been making albums ever since, averaging one a year for the last 23 years. For me, they have been a bit like a diary expressing my emotions along the way.
[Billy Donald] In those early days, how difficult was it to try getting record company support for a product that was anything but commercial, like electronica and ambient music?
Steve Jolliffe Companies were generally more open minded in the early days and were inclined to take more chances, but all that changed as money and commerce became the main incentive. With my solo work, it has been very hard to survive. I have never really followed any sort of fashion, which probably made it difficult for companies to know where to place me. I am also pretty hopeless as a businessman, and have always found it difficult to combine my work with commerce or fashion.
[Billy Donald] As you had stated earlier, even before the early days of Tangerine Dream, you had formed a group with Rick Davies called The Joint, which eventually morphed into Supertramp. What kind of music was The Joint playing at the time (in 1967)?
Steve Jolliffe It was a sort of cross between soul and sixties rock. We had a residency in a restaurant in Geneva, so we had to keep it reasonably tame. But we eventually left there to make the music for a film The Happening, which was wild, and we then started moving into melodic expressive stuff . Magic days !
[Billy Donald] In 1978, you joined back into the fold of Tangerine Dream and recorded Cyclone, which really was a departure in many ways of what people had come to expect from TD. What led to Chris Franke and Edgar Froese asking you to join up with them?
Steve Jolliffe Edgar felt the band needed a new injection to help the diminishing sales, and that was one of the reasons for bringing in the vocals, to try and bring it to a wider audience. We tried a few different directions, but we all felt it was a good idea to keep the vocals. I certainly had no thoughts of changing TD into a song thing.
[Billy Donald] As I had mentioned, the album was quite different in that TD, although still displaying the classic wash of synth and sequencers, the band was suddenly infused with some solid backbeat drumming and your lyrical and vocal tapestries. This lead to TD playing some huge shows to huge audiences that year, but it was very short-lived. Why so?
Steve Jolliffe The decision to disband was Edgar's, and he was the boss, so I left.
[Billy Donald] Following your departure from TD, you released a string of successful solo projects and you also joined up with your fellow TD mate, Klaus Schultze, for some great collaborations. You then moved to the United States in the early ‘90s. What led to your move to the States?
Steve Jolliffe Klause was working with various different people, then and he asked me to come and do some work on an album. We recorded loads of stuff, which keeps popping up every now and then. I've given up trying to trace it. I really liked Klause. He always seemed a kind-hearted soul. The States came about through sheer frustration with record companies in England. I just wasn't getting a look in, so I decided to spread my wings. It was fun, and was a needed break from the rejection letters back home. I lived on every corner of the states, wrote lots of music, did some really interesting concerts, and even created a TV show titled “The Art of the Music Workstation.”
[Billy Donald] Your work was and has been critically acclaimed throughout the years, despite your great will to not give in to the commercial pressures of the music industry. What do you think has been the key ingredient in your longevity in this business?
Steve Jolliffe I decided very early on in life what it was I wanted to do, even as a child. I knew it was something in the arts, and since then I have never been able to come up with a better idea.
Music as we know is a very powerful tool for expression, and for me, life is far to short not to take the path that feels the most natural. It's not been easy trying to survive in such a materialistic and often insensitive period of history. But I believe in the individual and for people to say what they truly feel, and not to be driven by financial reward or ego.
[Billy Donald] Steve, I want to thank you so much for joining me here once again, and I wanted to wrap up here by asking you what you have planned for the future to continue the success of your music and your record label, Siren Music?
Steve Jolliffe I will be continuing on my journey of musical discovery and hopefully reaching people's hearts. At the moment there are three companies releasing the music I write : Horizon, Voiceprint, and Siren, and the three new releases should be out within a couple of months.
Visit Steve Jolliffe on Horizen Music at www.hmnetwork.com.