Markus Müller (1992)

Interview Jost Gebers

The 25th Total Music Meeting has just come to an end. 25 years of music that has not tired of inspiring, shocking, polarizing, sensitizing, politicizing, aestheticizing: this music is music about our sensory capabilities. Jost Gebers is the man who has been promoting it since 1968.


Markus Müller: We know you as middleman, be it as the organizer of festivals like the Total Music Meeting, or as head of the record company Free Music Production, as one of the most important driving forces of the Free Improvised Music scene. Originally, just like Manfred Eicher, you were a bass player, a strange coincidence. How, when and why did you change sides, on the first Total Music Meeting 1968 and even later you were often still playing?

Jost Gebers: At the beginning, even before the Total Music Meeting 1968, I didn't only play but was also organizing things. Obviously in order to play as well, but also in order to get fellow musicians to Berlin, to be able to play with them or hear them play. There was a forerunner to the Total Music Meeting, something that happened in an underground car park in Cologne, as an alternative to the established scene, which was organized by the local 'Rhinelander', like Schoof, Alex (von Schlippenbach), Brötzmann. The actual trigger for the first activities in Berlin - and I can say this today, in those days you were not allowed to say it, you just didn't talk about it - the trigger was, if I remember correctly, that Brötzmann was supposed to be playing the Jazzdays with a large group and was asked to perform in black suits by Berendt. Which Brötzmann obviously refused because he himself could have come in a black suit but there was no way he could have guaranteed all the others turning up in dark suits, as well. That was the last straw and we said, ok, shit, let's do something like that ourselves. I had been to London that year where we had talked about the possibilities of a festival, and so one thing led to another and we actually decided to do it. We also had a good place, a fantastic disco on the Kudamm, which went broke just a fortnight before. That's why we ended up in the Quasimodo, because I knew the people there. That was it. Obviously right from the beginning it was also about doing certain things differently. You had all those pick-up bands on stage on the Jazzdays which Berendt put together, and absolutely nobody felt like doing any of that. Above all else we wanted to create the possibility of presenting fixed groups in the way that they were actually working together. Very soon there were open formations, as well, because this obviously got around in no time and the early morning hours in that place were just great. They all came over from the Philharmonie and wanted to do something, that was pretty clear. And even at that time I could see how different Europeans and Americans worked. One amazing example: Sharrock and Pharaoh Sanders were playing over there, on the Jazzdays, they came over and wanted to play a session, great. On stage were Brötzmann, Evan (Parker), Trevor Watts, no, Brötzmann wasn't there, who else? ... Kowald, for sure, some drummer and Sanders and Sharrock. First, from Sanders, in relation to the two others I definitely remember, Trevor and Evan, you couldn't hear a thing. There was no PA or anything like that. They played acoustically. Sharrock was struggling to force down the level by playing some kind of riffs so that you could finally hear Sanders, and in the end he stood there, conducting the whole thing, so that Sanders could get something happening. Well, that was quite funny. And it abruptly became clear that, at least then, we were worlds apart. How, with all the freedom or whatever you want to call it, people were thinking very much in boxes and the Europeans' approach was very much looser, like: let's just get on with it.

Markus Müller: And you also acted as co-promoter with this first event in the Quasimodo?

Jost Gebers: I still tried to play, as well. I did that for two nights but then they stole the cash box, the tickets were stolen and I thought, it won't work like that. You really have to concentrate on the organization and Kowald took over my parts. We actually even did another thing with two basses but it became very clear to me that both things wouldn't work together very well.

Markus Müller: You sound quite relaxed now when you say that. I could imagine that it was for you also a problem to do with creativity.

Jost Gebers: Well, wait, at that point there was no way of foreseeing that something like FMP would exist. At that time I was a bass player who had organized something. And the same half a year later in the Academy, with similar success because I didn't manage to do any playing there, as well, because people started to attack the wonderful artwork there because they wanted to hear Alexis Korner and not some band of Schlippenbach's. Those experiences made it very clear to me that you couldn't do both things at the same time. You do either one thing or the other. And in 1969 I finally stopped playing and the decision was made, ok, let's do something. And then, only after this, we started FMP. Obviously it was in everybody's head. Everybody knew ..... not like this, you have to ….. it doesn't work like that. And you can't compare today's possibilities with the situation then. Today there are masses of small organizations doing something all the time and you have a much better possibility of being able to make a record in the way you want to do it. It was different then, it was for everybody a very direct question of existence and of course you thought, damn it, I just have to get a record out. Brötzmann did it himself, his first two things, Adolphe Sax in '67 und Machine Gun in '68. And apart from actually doing it, which everybody can these days, there is the problem of distributing the stuff. And it was exactly here that it became crystal-clear that we had to do something. And only then FMP really came into existence. In the late summer of '69, to be precise.

Markus Müller: And then you saw yourselves as a musicians' collective …….

Jost Gebers: Well, …

Markus Müller: …and founded a non-trading partnership ….

Jost Gebers: well, nobody thought about that at the time. We were sitting together, everybody had their say and then we decided: ok, let's do it. And then we had the possibility of getting the tapes of this Bremen thing, the Schoof-Orchestra, European Echoes, and we thought, ok, we're all in on this, let's make a record. The result was a great feeling of something's going to happen, great euphoria. Obviously, because everybody felt, great, now we've got an organization, here we go. Naturally nothing happened. First of all it backfired. Ok, you have 500 records but you've got to sell them first. And you've got an idea and you have to put it into practice. What followed was an enormous dry spell and of course some people left again due to the lack of prospects. And stayed out, with the exception of Brötzmann. Who was the only one, apart from me, of course, who was aware that we would have to wait a while in order to get some kind of feedback.

Markus Müller: How did the second production happen after that?

Jost Gebers: The second production, that's a good story. But I have to say that for these stories, you have to bear in mind, that there were certain environmental conditions. We had that "68 luck". That there was supposed to be a revolution happening or something like that. It faded away fairly quickly with the public but with certain people it sharpened their senses. Some of them were writers, music critics and so on who, all of a sudden, actually were dealing with our stuff. There was the idea of doing a record of the Brötzmann-Trio, that was it. So I got in touch with, how should I put it, a guy at the radio, the SFB with not such a defensive attitude towards us and asked: Couldn't we just do something? Naturally this wasn't official. But nevertheless he wanted to look into it. Then we had to get the travel money together, the group had to be able to play somewhere which was arranged in a very ‚straight' bar at the Richard-Wagner-Platz. And this was exactly where a huge new tube line was being built and exactly this bar was the place frequented by the building workers. It was a bit of a strange feeling seeing these guys in their working gear the first day. And they played. Han (Bennink) played a solo and I was standing there in this space, well you could hardly call it a stage, I was standing there and somebody slapped me on the shoulder and screamed in my ear: This guy is much better than Buddy Rich. Just try and imagine, I was in my early thirties, the guy was as old as the hills to me, around 50, and that he even knew who Buddy Rich was and also put the two together, whether it was better or worse didn't matter, I thought it was great. Anyway, the whole thing was brought to an end by the police because there was a woman running around outside in her night dress who wanted to sleep. In her flat next door she had a built-in cupboard which had the effect of a resonator. Which means that when they started to play she would jump out of bed. The next day we went into the studio with a lot of milk. But we had a very good sound engineer who started to replug everything and so on and turned the mono studio into a stereo studio. And we wanted to do just a really quiet, closed studio production. It started off quite well. But then this guy from the radio - and remember this was all unofficial - ran around the building telling everybody and said they should all come and see, there are some real nuts in the studio. And suddenly the studio was full of people. There were masses of people listening and we were scared stiff that some of the top brass would turn up and hear, as well. Four weeks later the record was out: Balls, our fastest production of all. Then it carried on, nice and regularly. With the support of the Academy of Fine Arts we did our yearly workshop, and at our own risk, with our own money or with money donated to us we did the Total Music Meeting. While these donations were somewhat different from today's sponsoring. For example, there was this lady dentist from Travemünde, who would send 2.000 marks every October and then she was always there, with her whole family, standing on the table in the first row in front of the stage. So. Those were friends, the people who gave the money. There were people who played the Jazzdays who brought their fee over to us, so that somebody could play.

Markus Müller: Who decided in the beginning who records which record and who performs?

Jost Gebers: Initially, everybody together. After European Echoes they all backed out pretty fast and only Brötzmann and myself were left anyway. This is why the first four recordings are Brötzmann recordings. After that we usually all got together - we always met in Wuppertal, everybody could join and we discussed things. This regularly ended in total chaos because it was clear that everybody wanted to play. Logical. In 1976 we blew this out because it became clear to everybody that it couldn't work like that.

Markus Müller: So for a few years there was true democracy?

Jost Gebers: Yes, with infallible regularity we thought: Who is playing? Whoever was there, took part. Although we didn't print invitation cards. You just knew that we would meet on some long weekend in Wuppertal.

Markus Müller: How did the different organizational tasks develop during that time? What were the working relationships between the organization FMP, the workshops, the organization of the Total Music Meetings, technically speaking?

Jost Gebers: Two things are important. The organization was always in Berlin, I always did that. The preliminaries were done together. The decision who plays with whom and why and who is invited, was a collective decision. Then there were certain individual contributions, like Brötzmann who would always do his cover, Hans as well, others passed that over, Brötzmann did a lot of the posters.

Markus Müller: But with a record production, did you have the say as to what it was supposed to sound like? Were there certain aesthetics in the way they talk about the Eicher-ECM-productions, for example?

Jost Gebers: No, no, everybody together. One example: The next three productions were a live recording of Brötzmann with Albert (Mangelsdorff). We rented equipment, went to the Quartier, did a bit of a soundcheck, everybody listened for a bit. During the concert I stood at the back and gave the guy at the mixing desk some tips. Afterwards we listened to the whole lot, edited it and ready. No aesthetics. It was just the way it was. I still love those productions because they still manage to bring some of the concert situation of that time across realistically, no PA and so on, maybe there was a microphone in the piano. You could hear the relationships in those groups, how the musicians had to look for acoustic spaces in order to be heard at all. When Han exploded, of course you couldn't hear anything else, finito, that was it. Today this is all back to front. Today everybody wants to hear everything, quite naturally. In every concert today somebody comes up to us and says: the bass is too low. Every time! It's because everybody is used to this pop shit where the bass is so dominant that they think a double bass has to sound exactly like that. When you're working with the space, the way we do it, which means you only amplify certain parts, lift certain things in order to allow only specific things to be heard in a balanced way. But when a drummer like Baby (Sommer) suddenly really hits it, maybe even in the lower registers with two bass drums and tympani, he is going to cover up every bass. This is obvious and everybody on stage knows it. But this is where the misunderstandings start, which at some point are going to affect the music, it's pretty evident. But this is why I still love those old productions because they sound right. It was only when we started to work with our own recording equipment that we could start and play, go into a room and say: Ok, let's do something, try something. In the beginning and also today we couldn't afford a studio, that was, and still is much too expensive.

Markus Müller: The Workshop or the Total Music Meeting strive for special performing structures, it seems that they are set up in a way the differentiated possibilities of Improvised music can be made 'discernable' by means of intelligent concepts. Has it always been like that?

Jost Gebers: Without anybody actually realizing it, already in the beginning there was the fundamental consideration of letting people perform several times within the five-day cycle. It was clear to everybody, in particular to the working groups that things could go wrong, the situation was relatively relaxed. People were there for a certain period of time and played at least two or three times. Which meant that even if you messed up your first performance you had a second chance. And for the audience there was the opportunity to learn quite a lot about how this music actually works, at least if you were prepared to get involved in it. You could try to understand that some things went wrong, you could ask yourself what was it I heard yesterday, why does it all sound so different today? This basic consideration is still there. And even today it is exciting to watch a group like Alex's trio (von Schlippenbach) which deals with its material in a very confident manner, and how you notice increases or decreases. And sometimes, just when you think everything has been explicitly discussed with good friends it can happen that you get the shock of your life just before the concert starts. Like with the Total Music Meeting 1991, when it suddenly became clear, just before they started to play, that nobody had even the faintest idea as to how the suggested rotation principle on stage was supposed to work. And after everybody slowly tested the temperature, the idea took shape in such a fantastic way, better than I could ever have imagined it. On the afternoon before the concert they were still cursing me. Brötzmann came and complained that people couldn't play for four hours continuously. So we went through the whole concept again. The only specification was that something should change every 30 minutes. You could play in stages, overlapping and so on. It starts at ten and finishes at two. Right. Everybody understood what was happening. And Rashied (Ali) leant back in his chair, waited a while and then asked: OK, so what are we doing tonight? I told him that now it was up to the musicians. Rashied looked at me, completely stunned, looked at the others. Kowald bent over to him and said: man, this is democracy. And on all the time plans we set out Rashied wanted to play at least three hours in a row. - Anyway these events were obviously a didactic model. Which maybe not everybody has in his head but which is so inevitable and maybe enables things to get moving.

Markus Müller: Within the framework of this didactic model you talked about there were also discussions as to whether this improvised music should be recorded at all. Were there discussions about the record production?

Jost Gebers: I'm just having a huge discussion with Paul (Lovens). It's about the production of the two days you heard (Workshop Freie Musik, Schlippenbach Trio 1991). This is how it is: you can leave everything as it is. This is on the one hand. You can take that to the limit. Which is what Han (Bennink) and Misha (Mengelberg) did once: we record everything and publish it as a cassette, unedited, sounds dreadful but who cares, we motivate people to do stuff which sounds just as terrible. This is one consideration. The other one is the one which takes us further. You use fantastic equipment, record everything perfectly and still leave everything as it is because it could only have been played in that way. My attitude is that this is over and done with, the tape is played music. The ones who were there heard it the way it was and you experience it in that way. Now it is recorded and we make the best of it for this particular medium, either record or CD. The two sets they played will be on the CD exactly the way Paul wants it. Also, we cannot change it now just because of some fades. But it's like this: if you listen to it properly it has to be the other way round, for musical reasons and only when you listen to it, not when you actually played it and hear it the way Paul does, because he played it. He is one of three with this awareness. Nobody else who will hopefully listen to it can relate to this. All the others who will hopefully hear this, thousands I hope, will think, what is this shit they are playing, this should be the other way round. Actually a build-up, in fact. - We know Derek's attitude. Which is not mine. The thing is over once it has been played. In a concert as well as in a studio recording.

Markus Müller: And after '76, were you responsible for such decisions?

Jost Gebers: To some extent. Obviously I was able to do things I couldn't do before. But the decisions on the productions which paid for themselves anyway were still collective decisions. Brötzmann or Kowald have always been able to make their records whenever they wanted to. But on top of that, recordings of people turned up who didn't have anything to do with the inner circle of FMP. It was similar on the festivals and workshops. But it is never that I sit at home and think things up. First, there is a certain flow of ideas which develops over years and then you also continuously communicate with people you talk to, who answer you, or not. New ideas are flowing in, all the time, and when you're working on a specific project you just ask what is possible and what isn't. You won't know a lot of people as well as for example Kowald, who has lived in New York and played with those people. Or: It is pretty obvious that I'm not going to ask Brötzmann when I want to do a trombone project, but a couple of trombone players.

Markus Müller: Let's go back to the actual situation in 1976. There is this quote of yours that you would never have started this whole thing if you had known how much work it would be. It must have been clear to you by 1976 what it meant to continue.

Jost Gebers: I said I wouldn't have done it if I'd known in '69 what it meant. In '76 certain things were being discussed. But once you're in something like this, you're in. There is a great attraction to the whole thing. You start to think does it make sense to stop the whole thing so that everything just hangs in the air and there is a good chance of nothing happening at all anymore. And it is still like that: Looking at the whole scene, without FMP something would be missing. So. It had to go on. And the scene did get richer, after '76. But once you've got going, the question is no longer relevant. Then there is so much energy and an enormous incentive because you continuously get to know things you didn't know before. And this is the greatest thing about it. Speaking for myself, of course.

Markus Müller: There has always been the prejudice that FMP equals Free Jazz equals noise. Going through the recordings, the picture is obviously much more differentiated. 'Buben', for example, Hans Reichel, Violino and Rüdiger Carl, Concertina is quite unusual.

Jost Gebers: … great record.…

Markus Müller: …or Reichel's Daxophon-Operetta, are a far cry from this simple equation. But what are the criteria for or against a project?

Jost Gebers: I don't know. I can't give a reasonable answer. I think it is to do with the strength of the people involved or the story …. 'Buben' is such an unbelievably fantastic record you can listen to again and again and you keep hearing new things and you just don't believe it. This is what it is about. When people just play their stuff, it's not about somebody just doing his thing perfectly. It starts to get incredibly boring because there is nothing behind it. What's behind, the story behind it, that's what's important. Sometimes I managed to find that out, sometimes I made a complete mess of it. But to find this story is the exciting bit. The basis of the history of FMP is much more the people and the stories behind them than the music, whatever you want to call it. And at some point certain good stuff from good people didn't happen anymore because you hear more and more what is behind it and the things became too conventional, in a way.

Markus Müller: How did the non-european expansion of FMP come about?

Jost Gebers: Well, you see Lacy as a European, well ok. There was Michael Smith, Noah Howard. You cannot read the whole FMP story from the records, for economic reasons. We did fairly large projects in Berlin twice a year and Americans played there regularly. Frank Wright, a lot of people. You have to look at it together, there was a collaboration right from the beginning. Part of it was the kind of money the Americans asked for which we couldn't pay.

Markus Müller: But there was this one important collaboration between an American and …

Jost Gebers: I want to tell you something about that right away. Nobody, including you, ever wrote, ever heard the thing that was most important, obviously. That Taylor plays a completely different kind of music with this stuff than in all his other previous recordings. I'm totally amazed, I just listened to it recently and thought it's just not possible that nobody heard this. Even the next recordings he did are the typical Taylor-US-productions, no matter where he made them. With us it was different and obviously nobody heard that. That's the most important thing for me. We gave this man free space and he could forget everything and that's what he did. Yes, I just wanted to get this out of my system.

Markus Müller: OK, I did mean Taylor. What I was getting at: the Americans, put concisely, have ‚invented' Free Jazz, the Europeans have kept it alive and developed it. And now this great man comes to Berlin and plays with these Europeans and the music is just fantastic. The critics react worldwide, appropriately and exuberantly. What did this festival and this production mean to you and FMP?

Jost Gebers: I'll tell you a story, it was the evening Taylor played with Bennink, in the afternoons we had the soundchecks. It was a complete concert every time and idiot me didn't record it, it was unbelievable the stuff they played there. After this soundcheck with Han, they had played for two hours, we sat backstage and talked, like, you know …, you remember …. all sorts of things. And then we wanted to eat something. Taylor took a taxi to the hotel and Han grabbed a friend's bicycle and took off, split. And this friend said to me, I would like to ask you a question, what project would you like to do and I said I'd like to do something with Tristano, Monk and Taylor. And how do you feel now that you're doing this thing with Taylor? It was a dream come true. Right. We had done another project with him two years previously and had made a lot of mistakes. I made mistakes, he made mistakes, others made mistakes but we were able to learn from them. When we went to this restaurant, a lot of things had happened and we knew that it had been great and we knew that it would carry on like that. That is a huge pleasure, obviously. But for me it was like, how often do you get the chance to work with such a guy, under such optimal conditions, over such a period of time, to tempt him, to say do it. And he was open enough and had enough trust to say: I'll do it, I want to.

Markus Müller: And the actual financial side of the project? My feeling tells me that this box-set and also the euphoria about the whole thing had this 'That put you on the map'-effect. This put FMP on the global map. What effect did this production have, financially?

Jost Gebers: A lot. An enormous effect. Opened a lot of doors. Because there was a lot of media coverage. It made people take notice who hadn't been aware of us before. Which meant that the turnover abroad went up incredibly. Not in Germany, people knew us, here. But in the States and Japan, figures increased unbelievably. But working on it was also a total nightmare. There are fundamental attitudes, what I mean is, put simply: the American only looks at the money, he doesn't give a shit about the impetus. The European only looks at the content, if I have done this, it's ok. Taylor was here for four weeks and after such a long stay he was quite impressed with what he saw, how it all works and then we also, very carefully, talked about this idea of a CD-box and he couldn't really imagine it. And while we were working on the material and there were masses of it, more and more turned up which had to be considered, like, if we actually do it, this has to be in and this and so on. We would regularly talk on the phone, and he came to Berlin again to complete things and up until that point he really didn't know exactly .. we maintained phone contact and discussed those things vaguely. And there are so many things you have to do: 'will you write something?', of course, but nothing came and so on and it was really getting tight. More than a year passed, Taylor didn't have a clue about what I was doing here. And I noticed for the first time how a man like him can be touched because he suddenly faces something he originally saw in a completely different way, which was from this financial point of view. That's really nice. It was pretty much of a nightmare. When you realize, while you're working on it, that you will be doing 10 CD's instead of 5 and then 13 instead of 10, that's a financial problem, as well. But I think it was worth it.

Markus Müller: Let's get back to the financial side, the problem within, with FMP music has always been the distribution of the music, as well ...

Jost Gebers: The difficulty within the music is a nice formulation. The problem has always been the money! If you've got money, you've got distribution, it has always been like that and always stayed like that. Ask Paul (Lovens) with his stuff. He is too small and even if this keeps his costs low, the problem is always how do I get the stuff to the people?

Markus Müller: But you seem to be having a boom in production since the Taylor-Box?

Jost Gebers: No, there isn't actually a marker, but we always managed to sustain a certain level, 8 to 12 productions a year. There is a kind of a hole at the present, in a way, because the machine we use for mastering is not available this summer.

Markus Müller: Have you got any favourite FMP productions?

Jost Gebers: Of course, definitely. Records or CD's?

Markus Müller: CD´s.

Jost Gebers: Hans Reichel Solo is a really special thing, Coco Bolo Nights and Misha (Mengelberg) I also think is really great. Everybody loves the first one, but I think I'm the only one who likes the other one. Or Kowald's duo stuff, the CD, as well as the records, also this Japan-record, that's incredibly exciting stuff. But obviously it changes from this to that. It's much easier with the older things. The Brötzmann stuff with Albert, that's fantastic.

Markus Müller: How did the reaction of the public and the reaction of the press, in particular, regarding FMP change over all the years? You can't really speak of a favourable '68-solidarity bonus anymore.

Jost Gebers: Well, everybody got older, first of all, including us, and we just have different interests today. They've built a house, now they have to put in a wall unit, and they listened to Brötzmann in '68. And in the same way they say, I know him, I listened to him in '68. And that's it. They're the older ones occupying the places they are supposed to be occupying at that age. And the younger ones don't know it at all, obviously, or only very few. And the problem with this music, in my opinion, seems to be that you have to confront yourself. It's not enough to just sit down and let it go past and think, oh great, you have to listen to it and I think only very few actually want that. And with a lot of the articles you read, you realize that somebody dipped into it swiftly and thought, I see, … alright. And then opened a draw, saw that it fits, and finito. There are too few people who are actually prepared to deal with this music. I suppose it is not really different with other kinds of music, you just don't notice it in the same way as with our special stuff. If you don't expose yourself to this music, you just write crap. Apart from that we have a very special situation in Berlin. There is no media for our kind of music. This music doesn't happen on the radio, in the papers definitely not. It used to be totally different. We had qualified people who used to write competently about this music. This phenomenon is developing certain comical aspects. We do a concert here in Berlin. They write about it in London or Tokyo, but not in the town where it's taking place. There's definitely something about that.

Markus Müller: So Taylor is right, when he says that it is not so important today to play this kind of music but to make sure that people listen to it?

Jost Gebers: Yes.

Markus Müller: When you look at the development of the jazz scene in Germany after 1969 you notice that it would be lacking quite a number of initiatives without the FMP. I cannot imagine the 'Kölner Jazzhaus' or the Wiesbadener Improvisors without the avantgarde FMP. What is the FMP contact to the second generation like?

Jost Gebers: Next to nothing. There's the Europe Jazz Network, but I can't join that discussion because I don't have a mailbox or any of those computer "games". Apart from that, a cooperation like that can only work to a limited degree. Look at what the Jazzhaus people are doing. There are obviously connections to things we do, a lot of what is happening in Cologne is actually based on ideas we originally propagated, no question. But the Cologne people had a disproportionally better chance to get something like that together because they have an important environment, easy to get to and a huge radio station in the background. Which we never had. But as a basic principle, what they are doing or what the Artist-people in Wiesbaden are doing, corresponds to exactly what we formulated from the very beginning. There should be many organizations like FMP, which could work together in certain areas, at certain points. But, take the Cologne people, they also make records, so you're immediately in competition. Even if the stuff is totally different, every new record just clogs the market. And the market is getting smaller all the time because of the mass output. People have only a certain amount of money at their disposal in order to buy records. And it's exactly that money we want! We don't want the Cologne people to get it, obviously. Because our music is much more important. Why does the saxophonmafia have to sell so many records, that's totally unnecessary. (laughs). And that's where the problems with cooperation start. We have tried to set up some kind of network, I think that was in 1971. That was ECM, Incus, Vogel, a company Fred Van Hove was running together with a Belgian, JCOA, Michael Mantler. We wanted to distribute the stuff world-wide reciprocately and that went down the drain pretty fast. You can only counter capitalism the way it existed at that time, to a very limited degree, because all the partners were in a similarly weak position. The Americans, like Carla (Bley), or Evan and Derek (Bailey), or us, we all came off badly. And when somebody has the chance to get himself in a safer position, people break out of this kind of network and do their own thing under better economic conditions. It's the same problem in a musicians' collective that as a musician you're not only part of the collective, but you're also a saxophone player, a bass player, thinking of your own career, your own ideas. That makes it very difficult to cooperate.

Markus Müller: So with Paul Lovens and his label Po Torch, or with Brötzmann and his productions with Caspar (Brötzmann) or on DIW you've got competition in your own back yard?

Jost Gebers: Yes. I do notice that over the last period of time. When Paul puts out a Schlippenbach-Trio-production, for example, and we publish in similar musical areas at the same time, you do notice it. The channels are pretty similar. Our target audience is identical, obviously.

Markus Müller: Does a conscious socio-political attitude, we grinned about the '68-thing before, play a role anymore in FMP or is it only the market which dictates the attitude?

Jost Gebers: If FMP didn't have this socio-political attitude anymore, I wouldn't be doing it anymore. It is still a pleasure to spread alternative ideas, I still enjoy that. We are not so much carried by the social situation as for example in 1968, and our attitude is certainly more difficult to perceive, for sure. But for me, and also for some of the musicians this impetus is still very important.

Markus Müller: After you did the Taylor-project, and Tristano and Monk-projects aren't possible anymore …

Jost Gebers: We had a contract with Tristano for a workshop and he died just a month or so before. Urs Voerkel had visited him shortly before. Otherwise there is very little of which I would say, you absolutely have to do this. Maybe a symphony orchestra playing Charles Ives, the Breuker-Combo on another stage and Frank Zappa on the third one. For 24 hours. Let's hear who's ripped off who. And Sonny Rollins is another one of those things I would find fantastic. I couldn't think of something which could be compared to the Taylor thing, I don't even think about it. I'd like to hear Jackie McLean, he should play here. I find it a bit odd that you have these second-hand-Bebop-players everywhere but you don't get to hear the only living one, who actually really developed something. What you do hear are concepts, also marketing concepts but very little authentic stuff and sometimes I think that there is a great potential in our authenticity to directly reach people with our music. We did concerts for a while in our studio. About 70 or so fitted in and that was really very up front. And the most amazing things happened, obviously. I remember one evening when Irene (Schweizer) played. And when Irene plays there's a lot of women in the audience. And at some point in the interval a group of young women was talking to Irene and one of them asked: Say, what actually are you are playing? And Irene, thoughtfully and carefully, began to explain what she was doing. And suddenly one of the women said: Wait a minute, don't tell me it's Free Jazz you're playing. Really disgusted and Irene explained and explained and another woman said at some point, Oh well, Free Jazz I figured it to be much worse. I really like things like that.

Markus Müller: And the bass player Gebers?

Jost Gebers: Well, that's over or, put very drastically, one bass player more or less won't make as much of a difference as an organization like FMP, which is about so much more than just a bass player. I think it probably annoys me a little bit more than other people to listen to duff bass players, but otherwise …

Translation: Isabel Seeberg & Paul Lytton

From: JAZZTHETIK Nr.12/1992 - 1/1993 (December/January)

The copyrights remain with the aforesaid sources and/or with the authors.