Living the Tangerine Dream
Living the Tangerine DreamWords Paul Watson
Tangerine Dream have been pretty busy of late. Their zig-zag tour kicked off in Copenhagen, then they went Stateside for a couple of cruises with The Moody Blues and Yes in Miami, then Honduras (as you do), before hopping back across the pond to play the super-cool Shepherds Bush Empire in London, a couple of gigs in the Netherlands, and a series of shows in the Fatherland, first in Munich, then Nuremberg, Cologne, and Stuttgart.
It’s a bloody hard life, isn’t it?
“It has been a pretty extensive stint; the longest two seasons since 1997, I think,” says FOH engineer, Kalle Hogrefe, who has been at the helm for some 14 years (he thinks – he really isn’t too sure, truth be told). “The show has its challenges, but at the same time that’s what keeps it fresh; it’s not your regular guitar, bass and drums band; you have to really keep an eye on the intricate details, which these guys have plenty of.”
For those that aren’t aware, Tangerine Dream was formed in 1967 in West Berlin by Edgar Froese; 47 years on, he’s still there, propping up his keyboard and rocking out (in an atmospheric, instrumental, sitting down type way). The band has 18 former members, has recorded more than 30 studio albums over the past five decades, and is in its 24th different guise (there must be some kind of world record in there, surely?); and today, the five-piece is still selling out theatres across the globe.
How low can you go?
Several bits of loudspeaker kit are always prominent in this Tangerine setup: a pair of Nexo 45N-12 monitors; a pair of Nexo PS12s; and Nexo’s STM modular line array system. Hogrefe is a true advocate of the STM S118 subs, and has been using them in various configurations (depending on the acoustics of the venue) along with Nexo’s S12 tops.
“What Nexo’s STM does better than any other PA system is provide us with a big sound when you can’t bring a lot of weight into the room,” he insists. “On this tour, we’ve only needed four per side of the S118s - that’s more than enough power, and they work perfectly for this band, as it’s a very ‘dry’ sub. I’ve used them for the main part in omni mode, and a couple of times in cardio; and each time, they work perfectly. It shows just how versatile the system is. I also like to experiment now and again, so I tried them in this cool 3, 2, 1 cardio mode; and again, not one issue. Perfect. ”
Because of the nature of the tour, sometimes the band is forced to play through certain venues’ house systems. What’s interesting, though, is that the musicians themselves become vocal when their precious Nexo subs are taken away from them...
“We did a venue recently that had a d&b system, which of course is a good brand, but when the band listened to the subs, they insisted on using ours, as they sounded so much better! They’re very particular about their sound; we don’t have amps on stage anymore, but what we do have issues with, because we are playing in theatres, is limits for the loudness. That’s a challenge.
“In here, we have a limit of 93dB, and that’s not easy; and in the US, every time it’s a maximum of 95dB. Thankfully, with a combination of the loudspeakers, the wedges, and our in-ears, we are capable of dealing with all of this. Edgar loves the N-12s, and so do I, as the clarity is all there, there is zero feedback, they’re completely configurable, and they have a ton of headroom; and I also like the PS12s, as they replicate the FOH sound nicely as sidefills.”
Hey Mr. Tangerine Man, Play Your Gong For Me
For the past 11 years, classically trained Thorsten ‘Q’ Quaeschning has been at the centre of proceedings for Tangerine Dream, taking on the tricky role of musical director, keyboard extraordinaire, and occasional vocalist... And here’s a curveball for you, his true love is gothic rock. I wasn’t expecting that...
“[smiles] I worked in the studio for Edgar [Froese] for two years, and then they asked me to join them on stage, and also to compose,” he says, donning his favourite goth jacket that he ‘cannot be without’ on stage. “Today it helps very much having the studio knowledge
to get you going on stage, especially with keyboards, which I have a lot of. I also handle the DAW stuff like Cubase, Logic, and so on; but for most of us, it’s more about the hardware. We have a system with six oscillators, two step sequencers, and just a lot of hardware equipment, really.”
Quaeschning is a big fan of the Nexo PS12s, as are the rest of the band; he says they provide the group with a solid stage sound, because the sidefill mix is nigh-on identical to the mix that Hogrefe puts out front. Thorsten begins to speak about his love of keyboards, and his gothic roots:
“I studied composing, and the piano, but I also played violin in the Berlin Orchestra... And the recorder! [we both laugh at the latter] Being musical director, I write the notes for the violin players, so it’s good to have played violin, though I am now the worst violinist in the band, of course... I’ve always played synths as well, since around 1994, when I was 16. At this time, I was playing a lot of dark stuff in Berlin!
“Being musical director is a much easier job nowadays; I create six different click tracks, and as Kalle says, I pre-mix all my keys and send them stereo to him; we really couldn’t do it any other way, or Kalle would begin to really hate me! But yeah, that works well, too, and everyone’s comfortable with their stage setups.”
Come showtime, the theatre was packed with 20- to 90-somethings; it’s an audience that sits and listens for the whole song (or ‘piece’), then shows full appreciation... I immediately sense the classical undertones... And it works. The lighting show was superb, it sounded tight, and the band were right on the money throughout. The music? Personally, I found it a pretty relaxing experience - and so must the band have done... They were pretty static, to say the least, but that’s all part of the experience, and it really was a very slick operation.
One other thing worth noting - you have to see Quaeschning play the keys to believe it. He is a hell of a musician, and this band is one hell of a story. Let’s hope they keep the Tangerine Dream alive for some time yet.