Where to begin introducing Dave Schmidt aka Sula Bassana? The German musician has been a household name in the psychedelic music scene for ages it seems, playing festivals and releasing records with his (ex-) bands Liquid Visions, Electric Moon, Zone Six, and many more. Not to mention running his own label, and releasing important albums by bands like Giobia, Saturnia, and Sun Dial. There is a ton of experience and interesting stories to explore here, so let’s dig in, because Dave is willing to share!
Can you tell me how you have managed as a musician and a label owner during the corona crisis so far? In what way(s) has it affected your ways?
For me as a single person in a single house in the countryside it made no big difference in life. Only the sales got really low because everyone was in fear and stopped buying unnecessary stuff. But after a while it slowly got a bit better. And I’m happy I received some help (money) from the government one time, which helped me to survive.
Also I am burnt out and need some rest and much less gigs. So it came at the right time for me. And I moved into a new house (new, hahahaha, 200 years old and a total mess) where I had (and still have) to renovate a lot. And we played a few gigs anyway, which was nice.
Can you tell me a little bit of where and how you live and how you usually go about your day?
I live in a small farmers village near the beautiful Kellerwald (wood area) in northern part of Hesse (a county in the middle of Germany). I work around 6-12 hours a day for the label/shop/promo… and sometimes (very seldom at the moment) I make some music or do long walks in the woods.
You have been around in the psych/stoner/kraut scene in Europe for quite some time, what is or was the best time for this scene would you think and why? Can you share some memories?
Uh, in 35 years on stage there are a lot of stories. Don’t know which ones to pick out. I always had some great times and some bad ones. The best time for this scene is always, hahahaha. It always was a small scene (I mean the psychedelic/acid/kraut scene, not the stoner/doom/metal scene, this one is MUCH bigger!) with just a few bands and possibilities. I started in the 80s with electronic music and we had some nice highlights as playing in 2 Berlin Planetariums (at Insulaner and Zeiss Großplanetarium), making small cassette tape issues as our releases, and contributed some tracks to CD samplers and a vinyl sampler (in 1987). Later, in the 90s, with Liquid Visions we played some sixties style psychedelic with some pretty spaced out psych rock jams, with full liquid light shows and blacklight performance. Maybe it was 20 years too late or too early, not many people might remember this band, but we released 5 vinyl albums and played around 10 years! Mostly in Berlin, but also in Germany, Austria, Denmark, Czech Republic and Switzerland. So, there were plenty of funny stories.
In 1997 I founded the free form impro spacekraut band Zone Six, which is still active and will have its 25th anniversary next year. 2 vinyl-albums to celebrate it are already in the pressing plant. We jammed with some guests over the years: Nik Turner, Huw Lloyd Langton (both Hawkwind), and Ax Genrich (early Guru Guru)!
Later (in 1998) I was drummer in Growing Seeds, a band who travelled to Portugal in several camping vehicles to record an album. That was a fantastic and strange trip, with recording sessions at spectacular places. Best was a (I guess) 100 meters high cliff, were the shore was loudly breaking below and we were jamming on top of the rocks. Sadly we never released these recordings, except just a 7“ ep.
I also have played some gigs in a acid rock trio with Ax Genrich and Mani Neumeier (Guru Guru) and had some more projects.
When I moved to Austria for a few years I played in a indie rock band called Alice Dog and founded Interkosmos with Pablo Carneval (later Zone Six and Electric Moon) and Sergio Ceballos (Mohama Saz, ex Rip KC, Melange) for some serious spaced out music. We played gigs in Austria and Spain and made one album. After 2 years we split because Sergio went back to Spain and I moved back to Germany. But we are back after a 12 years hiatus, had 2 gigs this year and started new recordings!
In 2009 we founded Electric Moon with Pablo and Komet Lulu. Our first gig was at the legendary Duna Jam in Italy and we released a huge amount of albums. This is the most known band I’m a member of I would say. We played (almost) all over Europe and had a fantastic residency week and festival in Tunisia in 2019!
We also did some albums with a project that lived only for 3 days or so, called Krautzone. This is real krautrock!
Sorry for telling my history in very short words here. Just to show you it is hard to pick out some special moments. There are so many… 🙂
About Electric Moon: can you tell me a bit more about how you got to know Lulu and Pablo and how you managed to stay creative and prolific for such a long time? And are you only in a band together or are you also friends outside of music would you say?
When I moved to Austria in 2006 I met Pablo (Bernhard Fasching) at concerts of his band The Blowing Lewinsky and we became friends. Actually he is one of my closest friends! He started playing drums in Interkosmos and later I met Lulu and she moved into the cold house in the woods where I lived and we became a couple for several years. When Lulu wanted to start a band we did some recordings as a duo (I played the drums in the very first recordings and overdubbed Guitar and Organ then. You find the tracks on Lunatics & Lunatics Revenge). But this way was a bit frustrating so we invited Pablo to join us and the first recording became Moon Love. So it worked very well from the beginning. When Lulu and I moved back to Germany Pablo left and we had some years of changing drummers, but in 2017 he joined us again and is still the drummer. Last year we invited Joe Muff to play Guitar in Electric Moon, so we have been 4 members since a while.
Could you elaborate a bit more about Growing Seeds? It sounds like a really awesome and important event in your musical journey! Also the pictures are great; real Pink Floyd-y :))) Can you tell me what influence those jams had on your later career?
Oh, that was a story… We played some gigs together with my band Liquid Visions, and also with Zone Six, around 1997/98 and all 3 bands were booked for the Burg Herzberg Festival in 1998. So a few days before the festival I went down to Bayreuth (where they lived) to have some nice days with them (we instantly became good friends when we met at the first concert with our bands). First evening we jammed a bit and I played the drums. Next day we found a note from the Growing Seeds drummer, that he moved to Nürnberg and left the band. Bang! 3 days before a nice festival gig! So they looked at me and asked if I could replace him. I never played drums in a band and didn’t know all their live tracks, so we rehearsed hard for 3 days and already made a new song in those days too and then played the concert. It was big fun and so I became their drummer. I hitchhiked from Berlin to the gigs we had, only equipped with my pair of sticks (really only one pair! Hahahaha). That was so much fun that I decided to move to Bayreuth in late summer 1998. I quickly bought a 1968 Trixon Drumset and some hardware in Berlin and then moved to Bayreuth. Suddenly the idea was born to go to Portugal to record an album somewhere in nature. We borrowed some camping mobiles, stored our equipment in the vehicles and went down south in October 1998. It was a super intense trip with tons of stories. Enough for a nice little book. We recorded 12 tapes on my kassette 8-track in several spots in Portugal, but never released these monumental jams. Only a 3 track 7“ EP that runs on 33 on one side and on 45 on the other side (incl. 2 tracks from the coast) was released (Pleitegeier Records). In early 1999 we split up due to private reasons and I moved back to Berlin. The first pair of sticks was still in use! 😀
I’m still in touch with these people. Andi and I did another Weltraumstaunen album some later. Silke (Ellipopelli) and I started Südstern 44 together when she moved to Berlin, but after a CD and CD-R I left Berlin. In 2006 we did the Sula Bassana and the Nasoni Pop Art Experimental Band Vol. 1 album for Nasoni Records, which will be re-issued in 2022.
The Keyboarder Vuzz T. (Sebastian Züger), plus Hale Prob (Holger Probst), a friend of him, and me started the Space Shuttle Pilots project with several recordings, one concert but no official release, except a cool video which is hard to find on youtube.
Growing Seeds and all the experiences with these people made of course a deep impact into my soul. Silke and Vuzz T. are still very close friends of mine.
Can you tell me what it has been like starting up and maintaining your own music label? Would you recommend it to anyone? Why or why not?
After a long time without a proper job it was the only way to survive for me. I worked hard to get into the business and still do. But I’m so happy I did it. For me it was the right way after being a musician for more than 20 years. I started in a time when not many labels in the psychedelic rock direction were active, which is completely different to today. Which makes it even harder to survive. So, I can not really recommend it. It brings not much money and is tons of work. But I run my label for over 15 years now and have a strong base in the meantime. And I release and promote my own music too, which makes it easier for me to do nothing else than this job.
Are there stories to tell about certain artists on your label and how you met them? Saturnia or Giobia for instance? How did you get to know them? And how do you rather get to know new artists? I bet you get a lot of demo admissions…
In most cases I prefer to release music of people I know personally.
Sometimes music I found somewhere and went in touch with the band then. But this is mostly only for an album, not many real friendships happen this way.
Or just asking bands even though I think they will never reply, like Sun Dial. But they did and now we are friends and I can release a lot of their wonderful music.
Giobia just sent me a demo which I liked. So I asked for more and got the chance to take my favourite tracks for the first release I did with them. After the second release things got weird, so we ended our relationship.
Saturnia is a band/project I have really liked for almost two decades. I sold a lot of Luis’ stuff via my shop, which was released so far by Elektrohasch. Elektrohasch is one of the few labels I work directly with. But Stefan stopped releasing non-Colour Haze-acts, so he was interested in handing Saturnia over to Sulatron, which was a fast decision for me to make! I really love this album I released!
Which or what influences have made you into the musician you are today? Can you recall the moment you knew you just had to “go for it”?
Oh, there were several. It all started in the 70s when I fell in love with synthesizer sounds. So for me it was clear that I will do electronic music when I get the opportunity. So with the years some gear was collected and I started playing concerts in several electronic duos, trios and solo. But when I saw Hawkwind playing for the first time (early 90s) I was so fascinated by Alan Davey’s sound that I decided to quit electronic music and start playing bass. And since then I love to play every instrument I get between my fingers. 🙂
What do you think about the European “scene” today, is there one? Do you feel there is a lot of support for our music these days? Was it better before, and how?
As I told already there is no real scene for my kind of music. Only a few bands get the chance to play at bigger festivals or tour more than a weekend. Except Electric Moon, which has some doomy moments which makes it more popular, and we play a lot of festis. And I’m thankful there are some really open minded festivals around, such as Yellowstock (Belgium), Roadburn (Netherlands) or Kozfest (UK), where you can see really far out bands from all countries. But most of the nice small and cozy festivals are not existing anymore, which is very sad.
The psychedelic music scene has of course always had associations with drug use, or at least being inspired by the use of certain psychedelics. In what way have you experienced drugs as an inspiration for your art?
Oh, acid was a big changer in my music back in the 90s. It had a deep impact and changed my own music and taste in a great way. But I don’t recommend any drug use. Everyone must decide for her/himself.
Can you tell me about your latest works? Which records should be one everyone’s mind right now and why?
My very new Sula Bassana CD (2-LP will be out in summer next year on Pancromatic Records) is called Loop Station Drones and contains tracks I did in spontaneous sessions all alone, plus loopstations, effect pedals, a drumcomputer and a bunch of Instruments, in 3 evenings. These are almost live played tracks with only a little post production and sound relaxed and trancy.
Also freshly out is the album Sabotar (CD and LP, marbled 180 gr. wax, lim. to 500!) by Electric Moon together with Portugal’s psychedelic trance duo Talea Jacta. The music was created live as one band with all members from both bands and is completely improvised live on stage of the legendary Sabotage Club in Lisbon during the concert in 2019. This is a really tripped out cosmic krautrock of the experimental kind.
And I just finished a new solo album with more band orientated songs, with Drums, Bass, Guitars and everything. I started recording in 2013 but didn’t find the time and energy to finish earlier. But it will definitely be released next year!
Ah, and around April next year will be the release of a 15 years old album, I made with a bunch of friends back then, called Sula Bassana and the Nasoni Pop Art Experimental Band (Vol.1) and came out originally in 2006 on Nasoni Records Berlin, to celebrate Nasoni’s 10 years anniversary. And now, 15 years later (sadly the LP is delayed to 2022, argh!) it is the 25 years Nasoni anniversary album. It will come with a new artwork, 2 patches, and on 180 gr. colour vinyl, limited to 500 copies.
And next year we have 25th anniversary of my band Zone Six! To celebrate it I already have 2 albums in the pressing plant, a 10“ EP with 2 songs from our second recording session (1997) and the vinyl re-issue of the debut album (recorded 1997 and only released on cassette tape) which was out in 1998 on CD only and with overdubbed vocals by a friend from Australia (Jodi Barry). In 2017 I released this album in the original instrumental version on vinyl (as 20 years anniversary LP) and it sold out fast. So there will be a re-issue of that LP with slightly changed cover and with 2-colour vinyl!
Can you tell me when a record becomes a Sula Bassana record and when Zone Six or Electric Moon? What is the deciding factor creatively? And how do you separate all your musical endeavors?
That’s easy, because it always depends on the people I play with. Electric Moon is a band with members, so it is Electric Moon. And so with Interkosmos and Krautzone. In Zone Six people change from time to time. And everything I do alone will become a Sula Bassana release.
What are the plans with Electric Moon recording-wise? And how about live? Will there be any more future Planetarium sessions for instance?
We just returned from a intense concert at the Desertfest in Gent (Belgium). And we will have another concert at November 26 at the Vortex Surfer Club in Siegen (Germany). Sarkh, the band run by Electric Moon’s new second guitar wizard Joe Muff, will play that night also.
We all for sure hope that we will play at Planetarium Bochum again. But as far as I know there is nothing fixed so far.
I guess we finished 2 new tracks for a 4-band split double LP which will be out on Komet Lulu’s label Worst Bassist Records next year. You will find one LP side by Kungens Män, ElonMusk and Kanaan, next to us.
And we recorded more and will go on recording for a new album.
What should the Weirdo Shrine readers do directly after this interview?
Whatever they want 🙂
Stay healthy, peaceful and psychedelic. Listen to good music, enjoy nature and animals, be nice to others, laugh, love and spread good vibes! 🙂
Thanks for the long interview!!!
Love and peace
Fotocredits: Kilian Schloemp