Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Making of Zweistein

written by: Suzanne Doucet

In 1969 I got my first portable cassette recorder which was a revolution for anyone at the time who wanted to record while travelling without having to rent and "schlepp" expensive equipment such as a nagra tape recorder (which was widely used for professional field recordings.) This was not a walkman yet, the size was more like a lap top computer but for me it was the most exciting device besides my 8-mm film camera, which I took everywhere as well. Between 1962 - 1969 it was mostly my guitar that was a continuous companion but now the cassette recorder and camera went everywhere with me as well.

My half sister Diane, who had just moved from Switzerland to Munich and went to her last year of highschool (we graduate with a bachelor), and I experimented with psychedelics and went to see every avant garde band/group that came to Munich. I was a quite established pop star in Germany - hosting and moderating 2 popular TV shows with about 20 million viewers. I had several hit records under my belt and radio, TV and press coverage from all over Europe. But I was kind of fed up with the entire music industry, which was only interested in formula entertainment and not interested in real creative art. Since I was a child I was only interested in real art! Paintings, music, poems, literature, Theater, film, photography and technology that could be used to create new artforms were always in the foreground of my field of interest.

I was educated and trained in classical and modern music, had studied ballet and grew up with the best Theater and film actors and directors in Europe. My mother, a well known theater actress in Munich, was the daughter of a silent movie actress and my father, a writer, art and antique collector and para psychologist, had given me the opportunity to be educated in many artforms and since I was a multi talented person, I just soaked it all up and created as much as I could...

By accident I was discovered by a record producer who convinced me to do a pop single. The second single became a #1 hit in germany. At the same time I was also appearing in several TV shows as a singer, actress and also hostess. After 3 hit singles I produced my first own song album with sophisticated lyrics, arrangements and musicians. For that production I used one of the first studios that had 4-track recording!!! I became the youngest record producer in Germany! I received great reviews and found myself all of a sudden in TV shows next to Gilbert Becaud and Charles Aznavour or Hildegard Knef.

I played many Musicals (one with Rainer Werner Fassbinder!) appeared as an actress in TV plays, played Theater, did script writing, directory assistance and dubbing as well as song writing not just for myself but also for other well known artists.

But in 1969 I was not satisfied with my thirst for more revolutionary creations. I wanted to break free from all restrictions, rules, concepts, etc. Like modern painters and film makers, I wanted to create Avant Garde in Music: Sound Collages and Sound Paintings. With my sister, who had incredible ears and even if she did not really play any instruments she was very conscious and heard music in a very open and mind blowing way, I was able to record music I would have normally not paid attention to. When I would play for myself she said, Suzanne you should record this and - we did - I incorporated her in many ways in the creative process for a period of about 3-4 months, where we travelled a lot and recorded just everywhere - sound - music in non tradional ways, such as caroussel organs, children playing, people whispering and praying inside the Haradshin Kathedral of Prague and so on... We were also (like everyone at the time of course) pretty stoned and experimented a few times with LSD.

I was always into recording technology - starting when I was 14 to record songs with my first tape recorder... so I took all the recordings of ZWEISTEIN and transferred and edited them into a "piece" and it became 3 album length pieces. We took those to the studio to my favorite recording engineer Peter Kramper (who was also a producer and recording engineer for Liberty Records, I was signed to until 1970) and added effects and magically appearing sounds that came out of nowhere (you can hear those strange tones on the 3rd album in the beginning and end...) and they did fit perfectly with our 3rd album MEDITATION.

The 3 albums were called TRIP, FLIP OUT and MEDITATION because that was in our opinion the logical evolution our generation was going through. We all had experimented with psychadelics and the first album is such a recorded TRIP. As a result many of us went into a psychotic state of mind, i.e. FLIP OUT (the world upside down, reverse all concepts and rules were off) and if you ever came out of that your only salvation would be spirituality MEDITATION. Maybe ZWEISTEIN became such a "cult" recording because it reflected the evolution of the mind of a whole generation. And if we accomplished that I would call that art!

My sister and myself were huge fans of Einstein (of course) therefore the ZWEISTEIN pseudonym. My dear friend Christian Bruhn (who is now head of GEMA and CISAC) was a composer and (very successful) pop producer, I had worked with for years. We did a children's TV series and he produced 2 singles with me for Liberty Records in Germany. When I played ZWEISTEIN for him he was blown away and because we had that deal with Phonogram and they wanted a single he agreed to produce the single which should incorporate A VERY SIMPLE SONG but also a new song he and I would write together. We came up with MELODY MAKER. Because of the unusual and non traditional way of how the albums were recorded I convinced Christian not to use any traditional instruments in the studio. We invited a few friends to the studio (which you see on the cover of the single) which were NON musicians and had them stamp their feet on the ground, clap their hands and sing along with us and play whatever instruments they would be able to play like a little flute or mouth harmonica (which I believe was Christian). My sister was part of it of course and we all sang I'm a Melody Maker whereby Christian Bruhn sang the lead part and I sang the lead part in SIMPLE SONG. We produced the single in one night. There was of course lots of weed, nothing else though.

One of the men on the cover is Ishtwan von Barlog (he was a DJ for Radio Free Europe and a very good friend. I took my first LSD trip with him and my sister) the Chinese guy's name was Li(?) he was actually German (born in germany) a great guy, he was not a musician and I don't think he ever did another recording after... and the big blond guy had nothing to do with music, he was just a friend. I don't remember his name.

The cover shot was taken that night while we produced the single by a very famous music industry photographer. Christian like me was kind of shy to appear on the picture because he was well known as a pop producer and this was obviously not german pop! This is also the reason why my name does not appear on the LPs. Nobody would have imagined that I would do something like this. You know how people are, labeling and categorizing... I did not want to prevent the public from being able to experience something like ZWEISTEIN with a "concept" in their head of a german pop singer. The money we received as an advance from Phonogram for the single and LPs was used to finance a trip to the middle and Far East, which we started right after completing the single.

By the way George Harrison was one of the first people to receive a copy of all 3 albums which we delivered to him in England, he lived in a "castle" close to London. We hung out in his estate for 24 hours with the most incredible people (friends of George) and played ZWEISTEIN all night! (But that is a different story)

But lets go back to the actual record deal. After we had mastered the tapes we played the finished albums to many friends who all wanted copies. When we looked at the task to make 30 copies for friends we said - hm - maybe we should give this assignment to a record label. I called Phonogram in Hamburg from Switzerland/Lugano where I lived at the time because I knew they were a great label and always pushing the envelope. I knew the head of A&R, Wolfram Kretschmar, since 1964 and he sounded interested in a meeting and we set a time for November Monday Morning 11AM with him the marketing director and head of distribution. Heavy duty meeting, and you can imagine 11am is not the best time to listen to such a far out project. But when we arrived my sister made some tea, we had a pipe with us, we closed the curtains, found somewhere a candle and listened for 2 hours to ZWEISTEIN I had the masters in my guitar case (this was all strategy) and we signed a contract at 3PM at the Phonogram headquarters in Hamburg, got a check (Advance on royalties) designed the concept of the cover with the graphic people delivered the liner notes and took the train back at night to Lugano! I have never before and never after experienced a deal like this! It was magical.

But hey, the whole project was magical in many ways. For example we never found out where those mysterious tones came from that appeared on the 3rd album MEDITATION and several "mysterious inductions", you could call them, on the first album..

When I met Uri Geller in 1972 and ANDREA PUHARICH his professor who discovered him I played ZWEISTEIN for him in his house in Ossening, NY. He and his assistant were convinced that those mysterious tones were messages from aliens... You never know? Peter Kramper and I were always wondering how they appeared. He just said to me "push record" and I did. So, I guess Peter and the "aliens" are part of Zweistein as well...


  1. I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


  2. I've just discovered this blog too. I've been listening to Zweistein on MySpace and love reading your posts - it makes the listening experience so much richer. I've found a new band I love! :)

  3. Wie toll ist das denn!!!!! Eine meiner liebsten Erinnerungen an diese tolle prägende Zeit ist dieses 3 LP Set. Wochenlang habe ich die Seiten wieder und wieder gehört. Leider mal verliehen und nie wieder bekommen. Wie das halt so war. Gibt es eigentlich noch ein gut erhaltenes Exemplar um eine vernünftige Reproduktion auf Vinyl zu erstellen?

  4. just discoverd this, really interesting, thank you