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Embryo in Reading - Interview with Christian Burchard

As the first German group ever, Embryo managed to get a place in the star list of the Reading Festival. This probably most legendary British festival has helped Jethro Tull, Rory Gallagher's Taste and the Dutch Focus to achieve a major breakthrough in recent years. Why should Embryo not make it this year! At least they have the necessary experience and qualities, they are always open to the latest musical influences and always willing to play progressive, interesting music. They have proven this not only on each of their 4 fantastic LP's so far, their live performances are also a valuable gem in the German rock scene. We immediately spoke with drummer and last original Embryo-member Christian Burchard about the success and the impressions of this performance.

How did you manage to leave most of the English groups behind and get a fixed place in the reading program?

Christian Burchard: Our manager was over there with a brand-new tape of us to maybe sell it there. The people from Radio Luxemburg, for example Kid Jensen, heard it and were crazy about it. They wanted to buy it for their publishing house, but at that time I had already given it to BASF here in Germany! Because the Luxemburg guys were so enthusiastic and also had something to do with the selection for the Festival, we managed to get a gig. Only because of this tape it worked out. We were surprised ourselves, because we really didn't expect it.

How were you received as the first German group there?

It was incredibly good and the people were really fired up. The disadvantage was that we opened the whole festival (3 days), but at least 40.000 people were already standing in front of us at that time. Also many Germans were among them, who shouted our names during the songs, just insane! We didn't stay long after the gig, but I think we were the only ones who played a little bit more freely, so that people could fully join in. Unfortunately there were no encores possible! It was all so well organized, and everyone had exactly 45 minutes time for their songs, no matter who it was!

In which line-up did you perform over there?

We were three people. Roman Bunka on guitar and other string instruments, Jimmy Jackson on keyboards and me on drums, xylophone and percussion. Shortly before the gig our pianist, Dieter Miekautsch, unfortunately left the band. Now at the end of September we want to build up a permanent line-up, which will hopefully stay together for a while longer.

When will the new Embryo LP be published?

Probably by the end of September. While "Steig aus", our last release, had a session character and was put together like a collage, this one is almost completely conceptualized and worked out by the whole group. In the past, unfortunately, most of the songs were written by me. Now that they all originate from everyone, they frequently change, etc. The instrumentation changes in the individual pieces according to taste and need. The album is called "We keep on" by the way.

One can tell from your music that you don't want to be squeezed into any scheme. You would certainly not agree to be addressed as a rock or jazz musician. But what I would still like to know is your opinion about the musical changes of the next years. Which style will dominate?

Probably none in particular. The best thing, of course, would be to leave out all of that terminology. People will probably listen to both jazz and rock music in the next few years. You can already hardly separate - what is pop or rock? If you were to force me to give a definition, you could perhaps put it like this: 40% rock, 30% jazz and a lot of music from other cultures that are far from being fully exploited, and of course technology will take up more space as well. But especially the music from other cultures will increase, less towards India, but for example Turkey etc. Roman plays a Saz (stringed instrument) as well as a solo guitar at our gigs and especially electrically. You will get a lot of new possibilities through new sounds. But in the end it's all up to the individual musician, how versatile he is and how open he is to such things.

From: ME, October 1973

Pop-Scene in Germany: Embryo on the Reading Festival

At the end of August, three German pop formations were invited to English festivals: Can to Edinburgh; Kraan to the Windsor Free Festival, where they did not arrive due to a car accident; and Embryo to the 12th National Blues & Jazz Festival in Reading.

The most spectacular performance was given by the Munich-based jazz-rock group Embryo. The trio with Christian Burchard (drums, marimba, vocals), Roman Bunka (guitar, saz, vocals) and Jimmy Jackson (organ, vocals) opened what is probably the most renowned festival in the British Isles: the National Blues and Jazz Festival, organised for the twelfth time by the "Marquee" management, has long since grown into a pure pop festival.

Groups such as Cream, Nice, Chicken Shack or Led Zeppelin had once celebrated their breakthrough here, and a perfect organisation, thought out down to the smallest detail, did the rest to consolidate the good reputation of this festival.

Accordingly, the Munich rock trio had arrived full of expectation, but also full of nervous tension. Friends of the band and a large crowd of German fans, who greeted the three with loud shouts as they set up their instruments, quickly took away their nervousness.

The festival's carefully devised schedule planned for Embryo to start their set at 4 pm. Excitedly gesticulating "stage-managers" quickly made it clear to them that they did not want to deviate from the planned program for even one minute. Until shortly before 4pm Jimmy Jackson's organ for rent was still missing, which Embryo's record company had generously ordered. Only two minutes before 4, it finally arrived so that Embryo could open the festival on time.

Their 45-minute performance was enthusiastically received by the 30,000 visitors. The 30,000 were already on their side with the first part, an acoustic dialogue performed on the Turkish Saz (Roman Bunka) and the South American Marimba (Christian Burchard). Most listeners quickly noticed that this is not an ordinary rock band that is looking for success with well-known rock clichés, but a group that is completely in line with the English idea of "German rock" and makes fresh, forward-thinking music, whose most important characteristics are communicative improvisation and a fabulous joy of playing.

The good impression was somewhat blurred by Jimmy Jackson's way of underlining the other two with rather inappropriate, clichéd organ chords. The black American, whose chosen home has been Bavaria since his release from the US Army, obviously did not have his best day. But the audience seemed to understand this and said goodbye to Embryo after three quarters of an hour with a warm, hearty applause.

"I would have wished for a better-tempered Jimmy Jackson for our England debut," Christian said afterwards and wiped the sweat of the effort from his forehead, "but I think we showed the people that there are still pop groups out there who don't give their listeners clichés that have been chewed over a thousand times. Embryo didn't let themselves be distracted from their path, which they have been following consistently for over five years now, even at this prestigious gig in Reading (60 km west of London). Couldn't the breakthrough be achieved at a festival like this in Reading, which is the centre of attention, if they had adapted a little more to the great taste of the masses? A decisive no from the Embryos is the answer! "We want to make the music we enjoy," says Roman, "if we succeed with it - fine, if not, that's fine too!

The prestigious London "Times" recognized the originality and freshness of the group and devoted the greatest space to them in their festival report in the 27 August issue. And surely even more English people will realize this when Embryo will be on their first big tour of England soon.

From: Pop, No. 20 1973