January 20, 2009

Rolf-Ulrich Kaiser - Prophet of the "Kosmische Kuriere"

Ohr Musik Produktion GmbH (1969)

Rolf-Ulrich Kaiser, founder of the legendary labels Ohr, Pilz and Kosmische Kuriere and author of dozens of books on pop music counterculture is one of the key figures of the german Underground Music which became popular under the expression 'Krautrock'. Ohr became the home of the most important groups, like Ashra Tempel, Embryo, Guru Guru, Mythos, Tangerine Dream and Klaus Schulze, by the English press collectively called 'Krautrock'. A term - originally meant more pejorative but later mutated into a term of amazing quality.

In fact of the success of Ohr and Kaiser's undeniable ability for new trends in popular music, BASF proposed in 1971 the new label Pilz (Mushroom). On Pilz Kaiser now published, among other things the first albums of Popol Vuh and Wallenstein as well as of Witthüser & Westrupp. In 1971, Rolf-Ulrich Kaiser was the architect of one of the most curious experiments in the history of German music when he joined in the same team Ash Ra Tempel and the American psychologist and writer Timothy Leary, who was very popular for having coined the phrase “Turn on, tune in, drop out” and whose ideas about the spiritual benefits of the LSD shocked the universities and put him in the eye of the storm of the late sixties American countercultural movement.

1972 Kaiser drifts in the direction of esoteric. With his girlfriend Gille "Star Maiden" Lettmann and Leary, who has just fled to Switzerland to escape the CIA, they call themselves the "Kosmische Kuriere" (Cosmic Ambassadors) which have set themselves the goal of "To travel around the world to distribute LSD 25". Kaiser and Gille Lettmann go completely in this cosmic religion and devote themselves body and soul to their Proliferation. After the “Seven Up” experiment Rolf-Ulrich Kaiser gave birth to a new brain-child: the label Kosmische Kuriere. A year later, Kosmische K. released four albums, all of them under the name of The Cosmic Jokers, including “The Cosmic Jokers” (1974), “Planeten Sit In”, “Galactic Supermarket”, “Sci Fi Party” and “Gille's Zeitschiff”.

All of the tracks featured the correspondent authors, but the musicians involved were not noticed about any of these releases and got no payment or benefit from any of the productions. It was Manuel Göttsching himself who discovered the scam when he heard by chance one of the albums in a Berlin record shop. After these many bands from the label such as Popol Vuh left the company, and Tangerine Dream refused to release their forthcoming “Atem ” album on the label to find out that Kaiser had already licensed it to the Polydor label in the UK without their knowledge. And Klaus Schulze, who was involved in the “Kosmische Kurriere” sessions, took legal action against Kaiser. Rolf-Ulrich Kaiser lost the case in court and eventually the musicians got their rights back.

From 1973 then start more groups litigate Kaiser, because there are various contractual ambiguities. Wallenstein leads a lawsuit against the label. Edgar Froese of Tangerine Dream doesn't want to do anything with Kaiser's strange religion and denied him the use of the name "Cosmic Music" where he claims the paternity rights. The group Hölderlin breaks the contract with Ohr in Oktober 1974. The process series' affair against Kaiser was taken up by the German music press, which in turn him attacks also because of his links with the Timothy Leary. Kaiser's reputation and credibility was now seriously damaged, and he soon stopped the activities of Ohr Music and Kosmische Kuriere in the wake of the legal problems.
Finally, after the release of Seven and One Jager Jager (1975) by Popol Vuh,
and a 1975 with Gille Lettmann together designed Tarot game, "The Legendary Star Maiden's Tarot", Kaiser ended all artistic generic and commercial activities. The labels closed and Rolf-Ulrich Kaiser apparently disappeared from the country and quit the music industry for the rest of his life.
Without some official confirmation of the date and place of his demise we have no final ending for the story of what truly became of Rolf-Ulrich Kaiser, or Gille Lettmann.

Ultimately Kaiser became a lost soul, a victim of his times, the drugs, and broken relationships. All this serving as a trigger for some form of congenital schizophrenia that led to his ultimate downfall and becoming a virtually forgotten man. He is not the only one to be counted among the missing in the generation. It seems dreams and dreamers sometimes die hard.

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