Lutz Ulbrich

Lutz “Lüül” Ulbrich was born in the Charlottenburg section of Berlin, West Germany, in 1952.
"I remember listening to Elvis songs in the 1950s; my parents had some singles. I also really liked the ‘Th e River Kwai March’ and the German National Anthem! I discovered both in a jukebox at the age of 5, when I was on vacation in Austria with my parents. My father though told me not to choose the ‘Das Deutschlandlied’ too often—which I could not understand, as I liked the melody a lot!"
"Both my parents could play piano, but I only heard my father play whenever he saw a piano, as we did not own one. He was playing some marching music with great fun, and until he was very old; and he was always playing by heart. My mother always needed the notes. They were more into classical music, but my mother really liked traditional folk music. She used to sing a lot of these songs, sometimes together with my sister. It is a shame I never was part of that, and I wonder why. They knew all the words, and I never did, and still don’t.”
“It is true that Armed Forces Network was the only radio station that played a lot of music. The German radio stations had too much talk in their program and hardly any music. We had to wait once a week to listen to Schlager der Woche, where they played the international charts.”
“I cannot recall who bought this single, but it had Th e Beatles’ ‘Roll over Beethoven’ on it, and ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’ on the A-side. I was excited by that guitar sound, especially on ‘Roll over Beethoven.’ I asked my father to buy me a guitar, which he did, when I promised to take guitar lessons.”

Lüül’s childhood friend was Tangerine Dream member Chris Franke; of course they were in school bands together.
“I knew Christopher Franke since I was two years old! Together with some neighbor friends, we formed Th e Tigers and played at our school. Th e first gig had only four songs: ‘Get Off of My Cloud,’ ‘Hang on Sloopy,’ ‘Lalala’ (by the German band The Rattles), and my own composition, ‘She is Looking Pretty.’ Later, with The Sentries, we would play:
1. ‘Gloria’ (Them)
2. ‘Paint It Black’ ( The Rolling Stones)
3. ‘Everybody Needs Somebody to Love’ ( The Rolling Stones)
4. ‘2120 South Michigan Avenue’ ( Th e Rolling Stones)
5. ‘(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone’ (The Monkees)
6. ‘LSD’ ( Th e Pretty Things)
7. ‘Spoonful’ ( Cream)
8. ‘Hold On, I’m Coming’ (Sam & Dave)
9. ‘In the Midnight Hour’ (Wilson Pickett)
10. ‘You Keep Me Hangin’ On’ (The Supremes)
11. ‘All Day And All of the Night’ (The Kinks)
12. ‘Hank Panky’ ( Tommy James & The Shondells)
13. ‘Wooly Bully’ (Sam Th e Sham & The Pharaohs)”

"At that time in Germany, you would go to grammar school for six years, and then you could choose to go to Hauptschule (six years), Realabschluss (five years) or Gymnasium (seven years) with Abitur to be able to go to university— which I did. [I met] Chris Franke earlier, in the kindergarten; but Michael Günther I met in the 9th class. I got to know Manuel Göttsching at the age of 12, as he had the same guitar teacher as me, and we sometimes had lessons together."
“My parents always kept an open house where everyone was welcome, and we had a lot of freedom. But they also were pretty prudish. The liberation came from the student revolution and the hippy movement. The younger generation was fed up with the old Prussian system, the past World War II
atmosphere, and wanted to cut off the old beards and the very conservative way of thinking.”

The beginnings of Agitation Free were closely tied to their schooling in Berlin.
“Chris Franke’s mother was a music teacher who gave violin lessons. We used to rehearse at her house; but when Chris tried to make the cellar deeper with a shovel and she heard his digging, she was very upset. That was the end of that rehearsal room! She had contact at the Volksmusikhochschule
in Berlin, and talked to the director to get us what later became famous as Beatstudio in Berlin-Wilmersdorf: two rooms in the school with three tape machines and a music teacher, Thomas Kessler. From Monday to Friday, it was open to bands to practice under his guidance. Th at is where Tangerine
Dream and Ash Ra Tempel met—all of what later became known as Berliner Schule. Kessler also taught us to play with long tape loops, which we let run around microphone stands throughout the rooms. He also was the first to mention the synthesizer, which could be a good instrument for our music. You can see a short film of that in one of our CDs for our SPV back-catalogue, Fragments.”
“I also remember that in 1968, our guitar player Ludwig Kramer had been in England on summer vacation and was enthusiastic about Pink Floyd, whom he had seen in concert. We began listening to The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn and began to extend our songs into longer improvisations. A song like ‘1220 Michigan Avenue’ would last 12 minutes and longer, until we were only playing improvised music. Chris once said in an interview that our music was close to punk, which maybe is a nice way to
put it."

Lüül discusses how the political changes of the 60s in Germany affected their outlook on life and music.
"It [was] a huge influence as we all wanted to break free from that old system and take over the world with new ideas, and more transparency and freedom. Together with the psychedelic drugs we were using, it was a perfect platform for new music and sounds; that was what we were going for! Even though we did not write songs with words like MC5 or Berlin’s Ton Steine Scherben, we had a lot of followers in students and played a lot at their parties. We were also rehearsing at the famous Kommune I with Rainer Langhans and Uschi Obermaier."
"We played a fantastic gig in 1970 at the First German Rockfestival and got an off er [from] Rolf-Urlich Kaiser to produce a record. But as our guitar player Ax Genrich left the band for Guru Guru, and Christopher to join Tangerine Dream, it took me and Michael Günther quite some time to get a band together. It was not that easy to fi nd musicians to perform improvised rock music. Most of the bands were used to playing blues or rock songs, and did not dare to play free [rock]. But with Jörg Schwenke,
Michael Hoenig and Burghard Rausch we had a fantastic band together. That is why we did not end up in Kaisers’ Ohr Music, and became a record partner of Wergo in 1972."
“Our school was very liberal, and even allowed us to go on short tours during the school year. Our art teacher Herr Fleischmann was fed up with the conservative school system and made us try some real avant-garde; for instance, he let us paint trees—as Waldschule was directly situated in the woods—and when a student painted the green tree totally violet to put him on, he liked that very much! He also taught us to print our fi rst posters, which we used for our concerts at the school, and together with Folke Hanfelds, organize a so-called ‘intermedia.’ [A lot] of things going on were performed at the school auditorium. Th e highlight was a concert by Agitation Free; but as we played too loud, the director cut off the electricity—big scandal!"
"Well, we were young, open to new sounds, and tried to explore. Kessler encouraged us to do so, and we had a lot of energy to go for it. Basically, we did a lot of jamming during the rehearsals, more than practicing technique. We tried to get this feeling for one another, and [wanted] to explore our freedom. Drugs helped a lot, too. We started smoking hashish at that time, which made it easy to get new ideas.”

In 1971, Agitation Free went with the Goethe Institute to Egypt and the Middle East to play music.
“It really was a very big influence for all of us, [and] for me particularly; as Assaad Debs, a young fellow of our age who saw us playing in Beruit, decided to become a concert promoter. He introduced me to Nico later in Paris. When we entered Lebanon, coming from Egypt, the security would not believe that Michael Hoenig’s EMS Synthi A, which was built in a suitcase with a lot of knobs, was a musical instrument. So, he had to play them some melodies to make them believe it was not a bomb!”