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Colour Haze

Naar aanleiding van het eerste officiële live album van de Duitse stoner / desert rock reuzen Colour Haze spraken we uitgebreid met gitarist en voorman Stefan Koglek over live optredens, waarom het tegenwoordig zo moeilijk is om goede live opnames te maken en waarom er tot nu toe geen live album van Colour Haze was. Stefan gaat ook in op de toekomstplannen en de beperkingen die een part-time band als Colour Haze tegenkomt. Misschien niet al te verrassend blijkt hij ook nog eens een rasoptimist te zijn die het beste met de wereld voor heeft, maar dan moeten we wel stoppen met het illegaal downloaden van zijn muziek!

Door: Jan-Simon | Archiveer onder stoner

Thank you for taking time to answer a few questions. You have just released your first official live album ‘Live Vol. 1 – Europa Tournee 2015’, not counting the Burg Herzberg record. Are you happy with its reception?
I’m satisfied how the album turned out, especially concerning for what was possible in the situation. Don’t know how people like it yet – let’s see…

Colour Haze is, if anything, a live experience. Why did it take so long for a first live album to be made?
We simply hardly ever got good recordings of a show, not to mention good recordings of a good show. Finally for the 2015 tour I could make it to have a budget for a second sound engineer only to record all the shows so we hopefully could catch some good versions. Still I was not totally satisfied with the quality of the recorded tracks. But we got something we could work with and as we built up our own studio the recent years I had enough time and no costs going through the twelve of the eighteen concerts we got in the end (digital recorders tend to loose data when you are on tour and it’s getting rough you know ; ) Unfortunately some of the best versions were lost in the digital nirvana, e.g. we played a quite great version of ‘Tempel’ in London but in the recording 30 seconds or so were missing because we didn’t had enough space at the venue to get the HD recorder out of the resonating areas around the stage – so we had to take the less well played version of Cologne for the album.

I read somewhere you weren’t that keen about live albums? What made you change your mind?
Certainly not in that sense. Anyway it’s hard to get live recordings in decent quality, not even to ask for studio quality as the great live albums from the 70s had. And though I think we play our songs live sometimes better than on the album you have to record a lot of shows to get something which is good beyond the moment of the concert. Those old mobile recording trucks are no longer around and would be way out of budget for today’s small market. But this live recordings we made now with an old cheap HD24 digital recorder gave me the idea to invest in a mobile set-up of preamps and recorder in high end studio quality once my budget allows this to get our studio out to the music - and offer this also for other bands.

There is not much audience noise to be heard in and between the tracks. Can you tell us why?
We didn’t had any ambience recording. You just hear the close-miking on stage, which are the microphones placed directly at the speakers and the drums. But from how natural the audience sounds from that you can tell I mixed the stuff pretty good.

Rather than recording a show from the beginning to the end, this album is a compilation of tracks from a number of different shows. Did you want to choose the best version of each track?
Yes, that was the intention. At first a live concert is all about the moment and playing mistakes don’t matter too much but when you listen to the same song on your stereo you will recognize them or they can even be annoying. And what was an energetic show live must not translate on the record. Of course we always hope to play the one perfect show but on tour it’s so often circumstance and situation that in the end we compiled the tracks to give an overview of the whole tour. We were picking versions that had a good energy and not too many mistakes – as I didn’t want to edit anything but simply keep the recording true to the actual concert. I don’t think much of editing and correcting everything to death which got so common today that you hardly hear any actual performance anymore on record - just because it’s so easy to cheat everything to point digitally – which seems at first massive and perfect but actually often remains lifeless and dull…. on our studio albums the basic tracks are always recorded live altogether in one room and playing loud as well - Harder to mix but I think you get more “magic” - if you are lucky.

This is called Volume 1. Is that a nod to Neil Young’s Archives series?
Don’t know about that. No, it’s no nod anywhere. I’m just open to release more and needed a name.

Can you already tell us what the next volumes will contain and when they are scheduled for release?
Some material from Duna Jam was collected over the years. Need the time to sort the material and mix it (and at the moment we are producing a new studio album and also Los Sounds De Krauts is still waiting for remix, besides taking care of my family, my job with Elektrohasch and etc.). Anyway a Duna Jam record most likely will become Vol. 2 – showing more rare and improvised stuff.

Speaking of which, Duna Jam must be an amazing experience, for musicians as well as the audience. How do you look back to these shows?
Duna Jam has been the most fantastic festival on earth and we always had an amazing time there – the shows also sounded fantastic for the audience when we hardly used any PA but delivered direct sounds from an big backline – we had some of our best times there. Anyway Duna Jam is also hard to play, especially standing in the sand (and sinking in) you are sometimes more concerned about not falling over than playing… I’m afraid in the recent couple of years the festival lost a bit though, the line ups were not as strong anymore as they had been, it cheaps out a bit.

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The only live recording of Colour Haze that was available up to now, was the Burg Herzberg double album from 2009. Apart from the songs taken from ‘She Said’ and ‘To The Highest Gods We Know’, the two latest albums, almost all the songs on ‘Volume 1’ can be found on the Burg Herzberg recording as well. How do you compare the two?
Actually not even the half of the songs of the 2009 show have still been in the 2015 set. Anyway that show was a good concert at the moment but we could have played better for a record and the recording-quality the PA-company achieved with its shitty digital live console made a good sound impossible. Burg Herzberg wanted to release it and it was ok for me but it was not the record I really wanted to get out in the public – therefore only 2000 copies have been printed and I refused to have it on vinyl. I think the new Live record is more representative – especially as we always take care to get a good live-sound and always work with our own sound engineer – of course it is impossible make a sound recording true to the actual sound – as long as we can’t make and reproduce a 3-D holographic scan of the movement of the air molecules in a room and reproduce that.

What do you prefer: stick to the same basic set list and try to do it differently each time, or play different sets as much as possible?
We are in a difficult situation with the limited time we have from our lives to run the band professionally (which is our intention). We are in between the need to keep songs we play live rehearsed and our want to create new material. We also always want to play a good show and therefore rather stay on solid, rehearsed ground with the set list. And then we are on the one hand around for quite some time so we have a rich catalogue from which people want to hear their favourites and we are also not that well known and still often play to people who see us the for first time (so you also rather give them a “best off”) – I mean we hear from the crowd’s reaction that e.g. ‘Tempel’ is received always better than any new song. And then of course there are the “have heard that already three times, know it all and know it better” ;-) people who always expect a complete different show …. So we try the compromise to deliver on the one hand some of our “hits” people expect to hear, the one or other old song we get back in the set list and new material which is more interesting to play for us (though songs we play since ten years normally are also played better by us) – the set is in constant evolution, featuring some of the best things we had the luck to create and new songs. In the end it’s all about playing a great show for the audience and making people happy. When we have the possibility to create a special situation we also try to bring something else on stage, though it’s quite a task with limited resources – as we did with the “She Said”- tour (for which someone set that very ugly “XXL” name on the poster, ouch ; ) - for the tour with the new album we also discuss to put the old material to the side and play much of the new one – let’s see...

’To The Highest Gods We Know’ was released two years ago. Can we expect a follow up to this studio album in the near future?
We are on it at the moment – the basic tracks are already recorded. It’s going to be a double album and we are very happy with the new songs. They feel fresh for us and it seems the long journey over She Said and To The Highest Gods lead to something really good – but let’s see how it turns out in the end.

One of the best things about Colour Haze is the instant recognisability. Just a few chords and one will know it is your band. Do you never feel the need to step out of your own comfort zone and try new things? For instance, have you ever thought of a very heavy or very fast Colour Haze album? Or Colour Haze unplugged?
Oh we always try new things! There are so many influences and we don’t feel like we have any “comfort-zone”. But I’m afraid we can’t get out of our skin and everything we pick up turns very Colour Haze the moment we play it – and I consider this as a very great gift for which I’m grateful – no need to change that by force. We don’t think about albums in terms of giving them this or that direction. We just want them to be as good and enjoyable as we are able to get it on vinyl. And over the years we expanded the variety of instrumentation, working with classical musicians etc. (which is quite a task and investment for us by the way), on all of the last albums is some acoustic stuff as well - which we also do live on occasion (also already played unplugged shows). We also expanded live shows with a keyboarder, a 2nd guitar player, a percussionist, sitar… So I think your question is a bit unfair, I mean what else should we do? We are just a little underground band from Munich with limited resources and a demanding life besides the music. If people would buy the records instead downloading we could maybe live from the music and invest more time and energy – I’m not complaining you know. I just tell how it is – I’m very grateful and happy what we were able to achieve and how we sorted our situation to keep it up. But we are on our own as well. We already put all our heart and love and energy and thought and money and just everything we can give into this. And after all these years, as we became known to a little greater public we suddenly face a situation where we are confronted with all different demands from people – more like in the old days, something new and never heard, acoustic, heavy, whatever, everybody seems to have his own favourite Colour Haze (which is a good thing!) – people have “opinions” and “demands” while we are here and only can try to do the best we can do. I mean if people only listen to mp3s they stole somewhere and then complain about how we didn’t deliver this or that they wanted to have – what’s that? But of course it’s us who make the offer to you to listen to something we do and if it’s not entertaining enough we wasted your time for which we have to take the blame. Anyway let’s keep things in perspective. We are Colour Haze and what we do is some of our own favourite music and playing anything else for you than our favourite music as good as we can would be a cheat, right?

Your band has been around since the early 1990s. Have the three of you talked about the moment it should be over, or do you see the band just going on forever, sort of like the Rolling Stones?
We once talked the moment to stop for us would be when we are no longer creative. We still want to go on for a long time but I don’t think we will do this forever.

Is there anything you still want to achieve as a band, secret wishes even?
I still would like to record better albums that stand in line artistically and in sound with the very, very best already out there. And I wish that the music that comes through us can empower people with good energy and love to transform their lives and actions in a positive direction. I wish to add something that matters in a good way to the world.

Many thanks for your time. Is there anything you would like to share with our readers?
If you read until this point I hope you enjoyed it and if not you should think about how you can make better use of your time.

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