"The accordion is the most erotic instrument ever made. So many buttons, each an erogenous zone in itself. The bellow resists and submits at once, just like a woman. Pity so much unerotic crap is played on it."
Hohner Gola 454 M III
Pete Townshend is right! But what he probably can't judge, because he doesn't play himself, is this: Wonderful vibrations are produced on the belly, depending on the pitch and register. You have
the instrument close to you, you weigh yourself together, and you breathe together. There's something intimate about that. Probably that's why I like to play so deeply with the 16-foot
The accordion is with me very early and accompanies me through my childhood (more about this in a later chapter). But then, as a teenager and young adult, it's completely uncool. Suddenly you need Hammond organs, electric pianos and synthesizers. After all, you want to move with the times. At that time I possessed and played all this, but the accordion is almost always "in the musical hand luggage" with me.
In the mid-90s, I made the wisest decision of my life. I was initiated by a concert by the wonderful Toots Thieleman. It's very special how he makes me cry by playing me against the wall with his little harmonica, already quite old. When making music with the Hammond I organized enough furniture transports and turned synthesizer buttons, from now on I only do that as a sound engineer. As for my music, I want it simple from now on, back to the roots. And today I know what causes these strong emotions in me when I hear such instruments. It is the sound generation and sound that is created by these aerophones.
The cantilever tongue (what a nice word...) - Check it on Wiki
THE BIG INSTRUMENT
During a tour with Reinhard Mey we stop in Trossingen. I have a few hours off and I'll address Hohner. I was allowed to try out the accordions in the then still existing showroom. I choose the
instrument that appeals to me most visually. "Aha, the Lord has taste," says the projectionist. He straps the instrument, I put it on and play a single note. A middle G in the 8-foot Casotto
register. Two things become clear to me at this moment: firstly, I'm in love and secondly, it won't come cheap.
I'll play a little. The sound is of sublime beauty compared to the instrument I own. Because of "Le piano des pauvres". The word velvet probably describes the timbre best. The synchronisation of the keys is sensational, as is the fine response. I don't really want to give up the "Käschtle" anymore, but that's not going to happen. You can only order these instruments, and they're built for you. This may take a while, depending on the order situation.
I get the necessary contact data and order a GOLA 414 a few days later, which I pick up less than a year later in Trossingen.
Foto: Arnaud Nilwik
With this instrument - I do not exaggerate - a new life begins. Musically I already have a lot on my hump and a lot of experience, but how to transfer that to an accordion, that's what I have to
look for first. And I'm looking. I'm obsessively practicing and writing plays. And the old wisdom is true: What you practice a lot, you get better at some point. And more and more I realize that
I don't have to take any restrictions into account. I just play what I want and how I want. As an autodidact I always did that and the time with the Hammond helps. Besides, I'm not a
Now I need comrades-in-arms. I find them in Steffen Thormählen and Antoine Pütz, both "youngsters" fresh from the Maastricht Conservatory, really good and musical. The saxophonist Heribert Leuchter (neither related nor related by marriage) is added. A lot of air in the music, and except me no instrument that can make chords. And so we make my first CD in "Chroma", my big studio, which I have owned since 1986. It is called "SPARITO".
A little excursion: I don't like listening to my own music. So actually I don't like listening to music from other people at all, and my music seems to me fast like the music from other people,
because I quickly forget that it was me. Sounds funny, but it is like that.
Well, the old masters, I make an exception, I sometimes like to hear them. But the own CD is a static matter. A document that reflects the time in which it was written and produced. I actually only hear things in my recordings that I could do better a month after completion, in every respect. No pleasure. But if I do get into SPARITO from time to time today, because it has to be for some reason, it seems to me on the one hand like a wild hodgepodge. On the other hand, I hear departure. My own and that of my comrades-in-arms. We play the first small gigs in the clubs of the area, learn to deal with each other, gain a certain routine. This goes on for a while until I get a call sometime...
Ullrich Pesch is an old friend with whom I can talk about things I normally prefer to keep quiet about. And who has been doing the cultural programme of Burg Wilhelmstein for decades. An experienced organizer with his nose in the wind, who has his own taste and never lets himself be distracted from his style by any comedy wave. He has such a good nose that in the early 2000s he succeeded in bringing the "Buonavista Social Club" to the castle, for example, at a time when the gentlemen were still affordable. And the list of artists who have performed there over the centuries reads like a who's who of jazz and world music. He's a great one, my friend Ulli.
Mit Ulli Pesch 2011
He wants to see me and talk to me about a project. So we meet and he proposes to organize us at the Burg next summer. I'm waving away, way too big. I'd rather start with small clubs. At that time
I was not blessed with the self-confidence to consider something like the Burg economically feasible. But Ulli has, among many other good qualities, the one very special: He is persistent and
believes in it. At some point, I believe him and agree. And in the time after that I have to believe him, because the concert is announced everywhere, the advance sale is going on. In short: Ulli
is right, it will be a great evening, the hut is full and it is the beginning of a long and beautiful story between Burg Wilhelmstein and me. And, by the way, he arranges the agency with which I
still work with today.
Ulli died in 2015. I was with him until shortly before his death and played at his funeral service. A loss I have accepted only with reluctance. Rest in Peace, my friend, I owe you much!
Two years after receiving my first instrument I ordered another accordion: A GOLA 454/ MIII with 120 standard basses on the left side and a "fast lane" with three more rows of chromatically arranged melody basses. If you have never seen the inside of an accordion with your own eyes, you won't believe it: such a great instrument, a masterpiece of mechanics, thousands of components made of different materials, all and everything tuned to a tenth of a millimetre. A linkage that cannot be understood by normal people like me and hundreds of tiny feathers in the bass section. Incredibly many details result in the end in a miracle. And the miracle is made for the most part by hands.
In my case these hands belong to the two masters Gerhard Herbach and Sigmar Gothe at Hohner in Trossingen. Gerhard takes care of my instrument and me as well. Now and then we both need care. The
many climate zones, the differences in humidity, sometimes in a short time, travelling, and last but not least my sometimes somewhat brute way of playing leave traces. They have to be removed at
regular intervals. And at least with the accordion this is possible...
So it is a pleasure for me to travel every one to one and a half years to the capital of the accordion for instrument care. If I allow myself to appear with an instrument that has not been cleaned, Gerhard stretches my ears. In a way, it is still his "baby". But when I get it back from him with the mumbled hint "I had the bass mechanics outside for a moment, there was something there", I know he spent hours and days making it as perfect as possible. And it looks like fresh out of the store. Masters are like that.
We became friends over the years.
A little digression: The Swabian himself did not really get that with the praise in the cradle. if you do not complain, it is praised enough so says an ancient Swabian proverb.
After one of my concerts somewhere in the country, where Gerhard is sitting in the front row (which is quite frightening), the huge guy comes to me afterwards and says:
"Highest respect!" More is not possible in the country.
But I appreciate that, and, conversely, he knows for sure that I also acknowledge his work excessively, and that I also pay him "the highest respect". And Gerhard is one of the few people who are allowed to sleep in the recording room of my studio...
And that's how things sometimes work out when you're born shone on by the sun in June. The accordion has shaped and accompanied my life, and as long as I am able to wear it, I will play it. As my
friend Kinan Azmeh once said: "F*ck plan B". This instrument has given me the happiest moments and an infinite number of exciting encounters to this day. I'm traveling. My childhood dream has
come true, I am allowed to do what I can do quite well and what makes me happy. And since I can't do anything else to be on the safe side, I'll do it. As best I can.
And as long as I can.
I thank everyone who helped me and made this possible!
Mit M3 - Melodiebass