holger czukay



 short historical review of the can studio.

the idea to have an own studio goes back to the year 1960 when i was invited by a nation wide radio station in germany to record three tracks with my amateur jazz group. when i entered studio 7 where jazz orchestras usually were going in and out my first thought was: holger, that all must one day belong to you.

it was in june 1968 when the fresh assembled can members met in irmin schmidt’s flat for the very first time. irmin knew a young film director who was fascinated by the idea that we were going to become a band and let us do the music for his film “agilock and blubbo”.  fortunately irmin found a nice and rich gentleman who let us a room in his castle 30 km west from cologne. after having tested the accoustics in that room we started to build up a room in the room with unregular angled walls. This “studio” was very small but also very cosy. it consisted of thin wood covered with blankets and cheap carpets. each of us was preparing his private corner, the tape recorder was set up outside. we were quite surprised how good these first recordings sounded and we soon found out  how this little place should be called: inner space. the name became the program so to speak and before we started to play like a band the first recordings could be characterized as being falsed ethnological. 

however, soon it became obvious that we had to open up this tiny inner space room no matter what the sound consequences would be. the parts and material of  the recording cell were taken to build a roof inside the castle room with enough space for the drums, the guitarist and myself playing bass. the technique consisted of  2 revox tape recorders and a few microphones, we possessed anything which could be described as a mixer. the mixing was done through the air and recorded with two microphones. Actually alltogether we had 5 microphones, 3 for the drums and 2 for the singer who was accompanied by a “chorusline” of an organ and a guitar box. the mixing of the 5 microphones was realized by two hi-fi amps with 5 inputs. these amps were connected to a bass box “monitoring” the left channel and a guitar box monitoring the right channel. you probably  can imagine that it was more a guessing than a conventional monitoring.

one year later can was invited to perform a theater piece as musicians in zuerich and the technician of the theater, mr. rico maag liked our uncompromising way to record even in a cellar nearby the theater (“thief”) that he built for us an 8 channel mixing desk - i only had to pay for the electronic parts. with this elemantary equipment can’s first 7 albums and more than 10 film soundtracks were recorded and premastered. end of 1971 can had to leave the castle and moved into an old cinema nearby where all further albums beginning with “ege bamiasi” till  “rite time” came into existence. what had started already in the castle was consequently continued in the cinema. the technique was set up like a bar where the musicians were hanging around the desk. this had several advantages: the “engeneer” could easily leave his place thus making the musicians think nothing was going to be recorded. some of the best can recordings were banned this way on tape when the band thought nothing was going on. but best of all was the communication between musician and “engeneer” which was extremely direct.

more and more the studio became a living landscape, a natural feel good playground. some of the members could withdraw themselves privately still being able to follow what was going on. one can imagine what it means when the band was working creatively there every day more than 10 hours, over seven years long. 

1978 irmin and michael moved to france and jaki, rene tinner, former can roadie and also engeneer stayed in the studio for 2 more years. in this time my albums “movies” and “on the way to the peak of normal” were recorded there. rene was working at daytime with other groups and at night i came in as a nightwatchman taking care that the heating system was loaded with coal. we both became owners of the studio and bands from all over the world were successfully recording there. artists like jah wobble, david sylvian. and one of prince’s engeneers (mark) was driving through germany looking out for adequate recording places and didn’t leave the can studio anymore for a longer period.

the can studio has a size of more than 220 square meters and height of 6 meters. the walls and the ceiling are fully covered with 1.500 sea grass matraces. can used to say the studio is looking like an elephant from inside. jaki’s girlfriend christine had sewed huge pictures out of textiles which gave the studio a unique and uncomparable atmosphere. the technique consists of a custom built 56 channel inline desk, a 24-track digital otari radar II, a 24-track otari mtr90 analogue recorder, a huge microphone park including bruel & kjaers and neumanns, extensive periphery and also old devices like tube filters from k &h, emt gold hall etc etc.

in the last two decades thousands of studios came into existence but most of them don’t have what is most essential for musicians: a historical background where you can breathe a magical atmophere. the can studio combines both with an uptodate technical and historical equipment. according to the latest development the studio will be completely moved near the dutch border in order to become an active historical outpost in the new rock and pop museum in gronau

images can studio

copyright by holger czukay, all rights reserved