Illusions of... yesterday, today and tomorrow.

In the first week of December, I travelled to Hamburg to meet Hartmut Kreckel from Yellowhouse for an exclusive interview. It was a rainy day. You would not get the idea of it’s getting close to Christmas. We met for lunch at a nice restaurant at the harbour. It was a very nice and relaxing atmosphere, just right to get some more interesting news about Yellowhouse. Here we go...


Alicia de Groth (A): Hello Hartmut, itīs nice to meet you at last.
Hartmut Kreckel (H): Hello Alicia. Itīs my pleasure.

A: There are a lot of questions I would like to ask you about Yellowhouse!
H: Sure, go ahead.

A: First of all, I always wondered how this band survived all these years, with so many handicaps and line-up changes that came along.
H: Sometimes I’m wondering too, but it has to move on and on... and get better, of course.

A: The first time I saw Yellowhouse was in April 2001 at the JWD, which was hard to find.
H: *Some things are hard to find...* Yes, that was the first full show of Yellowhouse Mark 7.

A: I always knew this band has something special. Something, I can’t find in other bands really. And the people in the audience got that too.
H: Well, thank you. Yes it was pretty good, considering that it was the first time that we played the whole set. It was a rebirth of Yellowhouse to me, also due to the fact, that we re-introduced "Ahead Of Our Time".

A: Letīs talk about the beginning...
H: From the beginning.

A: I understand you and Jürgen Weißig started Yellowhouse in late summer 1995.
H: Thatīs correct.

A: How did that happen?
H: I joined the band Blame in June the same year, we recorded the "What Went Wrong?"-Demo after we played 3 gigs, I had one week to learn the songs. What I didnīt know initially, that there already was a big rift in that band when I joined. The bass-player, with his sort of punk attitude, was obnoxious, I would say that he got me into Blame to get rid of Jürgen, who also played guitar. Anyway, the bass-player and the drummer left and we decided to start again, a new band with a new name that became Yellowhouse.

A: And then you recorded "Living In The Light"...?
H: Yes, but before that, in September/October Jürgen and myself wrote "Burn, Learn & Turn" and tried out a few other ideas. I brought "Ainīt No Cure" and like 80% of "For Ever". We kept Jürgenīs song "Diana". Iīd also came up with "Silver Shadow", but Jürgen didnīt like it too much, so we dropped it. Then we found Ulrike Steinbart and borrowed Lars Thomas, who would join later on, and after 2 or 3 rehearsals we recorded these four songs at Masterix.

A: That was very good after such a short time.
H: I think so.

A: What was the reason "Whatīs Shining Through" was not on "Living In The Light"?
H: "Whatīs Shining Through" was written afterwards, in April 1996.

A: And what happened then?
H: Iīd say that "Living In The Light" was a good starter and then it went down hill. We got Timm on drums, he and Ulrike as a rhythm section was a nightmare, the whole thing fizzled out and Jürgen and myself didnīt work out as innicially expected.

A: Why so?
H: Well, in a band itīs not only the music and performance, if you wanna go somewhere and you are good, or letīs say *marketable* , itīs the management factor that decides whether you perform or you stay in your rehearsal room basically. In Yellowhouse we were managing ourselves, which has its advantages. The problem was, that when I joined Blame, Jürgen took me on one side and complained that the bass player and the drummer did nothing to push the band. So I said that weīll do it together. Later in Yellowhouse, it was vice versa, Jürgen left me to do everything. So it was where Ulrike stepped in. On the other side Jürgen didnīt want to have her in the band. I wasnīt too happy as well. But it was not the only problem. Timm was fired, for he became unreliable. I started Yellowhouse with Jürgen, who couldnīt be bothered and didnīt have the clout to move on. Plus the fact that Jürgen´s and my musical background were totally opposed. So in September 96 I said to myself, "whatīs this?" After a couple of months trying out other bands I decided, that the only person, that I could really trust is myself, in the sense of pushing a band forward. And the time was right to start with a new Yellowhouse.

A: And you did?
H: Yes, Yellowhouse Mark 2

A: How did that happen?
H: Toralf I got to know at a party, Lars I knew (see above) and Dominic we found through an ad, I think it was in Zitty magazine.

A: I understand this version of the band sounded already pretty much as the Yellowhouse Mark 7, which I saw.
H: Thatīs right, Alicia. Yellowhouse Mark 2 layed down the foundation. My Yellowhouse-concept was already there! The transition from Yellowhouse Mark 2 to Yellowhouse Mark 7 and Mark 8 was a improvement in the realization of the concept, that means there were better performers, while the set-list and song arrangements basically stayed the same. To make it short and simple: Yellowhouse Mark 7 was the band that Yellowhouse Mark 2 should have become, but didnīt.

A: I wondered myself. I was going to ask you which line up was the definite so far.
H: Well, first of all, Yellowhouse got better which each line-up change, with the exception of that infamous Yellowhouse Mark 3.

A: That was with Mike Koch & Alexa Weber?
H: Yes, and Toralf. I had the feeling that I was ripping off the audience for their money. It should never have happened. What a waste. Plus Toralf and Mike got so infatuated by Alexa, it was beyond belief. I couldnīt take no more and one day I said: *this is not a kindergarden, this is not a therapy group, this is semi-pro rockband*! It did a lot of damage to Yellowhouse!

A: And then it became Mark 4...?
H: Pretty soon, we found Jensen P. and drummer Detlev Bruckhoff.

A: And soon after that you recorded "Whatīs Shining Through"?
H: After we demoed "Red Light Diamond" and did like 10 gigs.

A: How did these CD recordings happen?
H: Quite fast. It was a story of too many cooks, production wise, 3 studios involved, and problems with Toralf, who became a pain in the neck, pretending that he was a genius. Detlev didnīt work out as well, professionally, musically and personally speaking.

A: And then you got Florian?
H: Yes, we finished the recording, got rid of Detlev, and then we got rid of Toralf as well and it began to work, it began to move on. It was a situation, where Jensen and myself started to write songs together after we finished "Whatīs Shining Through" in April/May 2000. We wrote "Signs", "Sacred Feelings", "The Silent Screaming", "Better Hero" and we were holding these songs back, because there was no way to work them out with Toralf and Detlev in a band situation. We got Flo and eventually Nick, then Matze and it worked very well.

A: Wait a minute, I thought Yellowhouse Mark 5 was with Toralf and Florian?
H: Yes, only for 3 gigs in north east-germany. Toralf had already announced in July that he was going to do fulfill his own artistic ambitions.

A: A long time Toralf was in Yellowhouse, wasnīt he?
H: Too long, much too long to be perfectly honest with you. He was hindering the band in almost every aspect. Yellowhouse Mark 4 had split into two camps, Detlev sidelining with Toralf and Jensen and myself doing what Yellowhouse should do: write and play some good melodic rock. So to answer your question, I realized long time before, that Toralfīs days in Yellowhouse were numbered. He just wasnīt the right person for this band. Too many things that he did were just wrong. Add to the fact, that he thought, that he is a much better bass player than he actually was, did not help the situation. I had let him pick Detlev, which was another mistake, Alexa being the first big mistake. He didnīt want to have Jensen in the band, for he thought that Alexa was a better singer than Jensen. Unbelievable, but true. So it became a bad situation. I didnīt trust his abilities, so the less Toralf got involved, the better it worked. Iīm sorry to say it, I know it sounds hard, but thatīs the way that it was.

A: Tell me, when I first saw Yellowhouse, I thought you all would be friends. Is or was there any friendship in this band between any members?
H: Friendships in bands are a double-edged sword, I mean friendships tend to relegate professionalism to the back seat. Know what I mean?

A: I think so...
H: You donīt ask a good friend to leave the band easily, right?

A: Sure. What about the other group members? Were there any friendships?
H: I can only speak for myself: no, there werenīt any friendships. I only picked people on merit. Thatīs professional. Jensen, because he got the voice required for Yellowhouse, Flo because he plays classic hard rock and would wipe the floor with any other drummer we auditioned. I never told him that, of course. Once I got rid of Toralf, whoīd rather suggest to pick women, whom he thought they look good, no matter if they could sing or play, things were run properly by myself alone: musical abilty and performance were the name of the game, no amateurs and wannabees.

A: I see.
H: Sure, Yellowhouse was wasting time and money at that time.

A: Then you got Nick?
H: Yes, October 2000. We did the record release party for "Whatīs Shining Through" in December.

A: What happened with Nick?
H: Nick was a very nice guy, but still looking for his musical direction, identity. He was too young as well and heīd overplay. His style was not exactly what we needed.

A: Then you got Matze immediately?
H: Yes, we did. We pulled him up musically. Flo, Jensen and myself were a very strong musical unit, so we knocked him into shape. He played straight bass, just what we needed. At first everything was OK with Matze, he promised these contracts for gigs, press coverage etc. I was happy that he contributed to these management issues, as Flo and Jensen couldnīt be bothered, they couldnīt even write their names. Then Matze took the swing, he lied to us for months about gigs coming up that actually never existed, only in his fantasy. We lost a lot of money through him. Later I found out, that Matze did the same thing with Galileo, where he was before Yellowhouse.

A: Incredible
H: It is incredible. Matze Pfund kept lying to all of us for several months about those no shows in Sept/Oct 2001 until the day before they were supposed to happen. He got caught in his own web of lies and made a runner. This was on Sept. 12th 2001, the day after 9/11. What a vile impostor. This was the worst thing that ever happened to Yellowhouse!

A: Why did he do something like that?
H: I donīt know, I only can tell you that he did the same to Galileo and probably with another band after Yellowhouse and before all that he lost his company by announcing things, that only existed in his fantasy. A professional liar I must say: first gain someoneīs confidence and then pull one over him. I never saw something like that. It had hurt my pride for quite a time to have been a victim of his lies. What a crook, what a rip off artist.

A: I see... then you got Stefan Weihe?
H: Yes, to his credit I have to say, that he learned all the songs in two weeks.

A: Quite a short time.
H: Oh yes. We were all over stressed with studio-work, shaken up by the situation with Matze and surely the 9/11 syndrom. Yellowhouse was like a spanish hotel at that time.

A: But you recorded the album "Illusions Of Everyday" before that?
H: Yes, the deluxe length CD, that youīre holding in your hands. If we would have recorded one or two songs more, we could have made two CDs.

A: I think it is a big improvement on "Whatīs Shining Through", which I also like very much.
H: Yes it is. We did everything in one studio, much better production, better band. We put a lot of work into it.

A: At first, I wondered, why you re-recorded "Ainīt no cure", besides, this is my absolute favourite...
H: I know...

A: I know you know... and "For Ever".
H: "Burn, Learn and Turn" was also earmarked. We wanted better, contemporary versions, these songs needed to be re-recorded and Iīm convinced that it was the right thing, they sound much better than the original versions on "Living In The Light".

A: Absolutely. Did you play all the songs from "Illusions Of Everyday" at your shows?
H: All the songs except "Leaving Too Late".

A: I was going to ask you about that one. What a beautiful song. And it made me wonder why you chose not to perform it.
H: Hm, thatīs a deep rooted question about "Leaving Too Late": We had long discussions about doing it or not. First Jensen was not confident enough to perform this song live on stage. Flo and Stefan said, that they wanted to do it. And I said: look, IF it really is the best Yellowhouse song, then we should not do it. Never! Why? Iīd say "Give a lot, give it all - but donīt ever give everything." You have to keep that for yourself or for the audienceīs dreams so to speak. So we compromised to rehearse "Leaving Too Late", in case that IF weīll all feel to do it as a 2nd or 3rd encore, weīll do it. We never did.

A: Is it your favourite song?
H: I have many favourites... it may sound square, but I like them all. I don't wanna bad-mouth anyone, but if you listen to most albums these days, you will hear two or three decent tracks and the rest are fillers, b-sides so to speak. I´m certain, that there is no filler song on this CD.

A: On the official Yellowhouse website there was an interview, where former lead singer Jensen P. mentions "Signs" as his personal favourite. Itīs not my favourite really, I like it, but there are lots of better songs on the "Illusions Of Everyday" CD.
H: This seems very strange. I mean, everyone has his taste, sure... There is a story: Jensen and myself wrote „Signs„ in April 2000. Shortly after the record release party in December of that year, we were going to do a show in Cottbus that was cancelled, because the promotor couldnīt come up with the money. Nick was in the band and we were going to play "Signs" at that show. When we got Matze in March 2001 and after we had rehearsed the Yellowhouse standard set from 1997, we talked about which songs to add to the set to make the transition from 90 to 120 minutes. So I came up with a rehearsal tape with Nick and presented it to the others. Jensen and Flo said something along the lines of "letīs skip that one..." I said, "are you kidding or what??? OK, I have the tape here, give it a listen, while I use the toilet, and if you then still think that we should not play "Signs", then we will skip it, OK." Five minutes later I came back and they go "hmm, thatīs good... letīs try it..." We did, played it live a couple of times as a first encore, recorded it for the album, and then Jensen came up afterwards and said, that "Signs" was his favourite song. Strange, eh? Thereīs nothing left to say, as far as Iīm concerned. I think itīs a good song, not typically Yellowhouse and not my top 5, but I am happy that we did it.

A: And which are your top 5 now?
H: It varies, I love "For Ever", everytime it sends shivers down my spine to get the guitar solo note for note. Some former band members hate this song actually. "Ahead Of Our Time" for the lyrics, "Leaving Too Late", where everybody did a great job at the end of the day.

A: I wonder who did that snorring sound at the very end of the CD?
H: Iīm sworn to silence on this. Certainly not me.

A: "The Silent Screamin" is very tasty!
H: And very hard to play. Thereīs lot of dynamic, something that I like. Itīs hard to play loud and controlled at the same time.

A: The CD cover of "Illusions Of Everyday" is really extravagant for a rockband.
H: Oh yes! Itīs a risky one, Iīd say, as it may surprise a lot of people. I love it, for it reflects the positive message, the warmth of the Yellowhouse music. And it stands out instantanealy. It doesnīt hit any cliche.

A: Then in April last year, it was your last gig so far, and I couldnīt make it...
H: There will be more.

A: Iīm glad to hear that. What exactly happened with Yellowhouse then?
H: Thatīs a long story. There are lots of things, that people don’t know about what goes on in the band. Two problems basically: one, the often changing bass player. Problem two, was Jensen and to a certain extent Flo: both flaked out. During rehearsals they adopted a "one song-one beer" attitude. If thereīd be a difficult section to rehearse, I found myself with the bass player alone in the rehearsal room, as Jensen and Flo cleared off. It could have been much better with a proper attitude. Plus Jensenīs personal problems were a challenge that became a problem, a problem that became a disease, and finally a disease that became a nightmare. There was no way to continue to work with him, it rubbed off on the whole band and spoiled the atmosphere. One night, this was before we did Emergenza, Stefan and Flo came to me wanting Jensen out of the band and Stefan said: "I did not join Yellowhouse to be faced with these kind of problems with Jensen. This is disgusting... lets get another singer." I would not let somebody put the trigger on me, but he was fed up after only 6 months and I was more than fed up after 2 years. And certainly Jensen was indulged too long, much too long. You see, I am a guitarist, who writes songs and manages a band, Iīm not a social worker. So I decided to end that version of the band, as I did not see any signs that the situation could be improved.

A: I was going to ask you that. Why did you end that version of the band?
H: Because I like people to ask me "why did you end it?" opposed to "donīt you think itīs time for a change" or something along those lines.

A: Many times it seems like singers carry a lot of problems with them?
H: Maybe they are more prone to trouble, because they are more exposed to the audience in the sense of that their impact comes from the inside rather than by making noises with your fingers or feet. Know what I mean?

A: Yes. Interesting theory. I never thought about that. Isn’t it sometimes frustrating to put so much energy into a band?
H: Yes it is. But donīt get yourself down, you gotta move on. One thing leads to another. You see how many band members this band had.

A: What kind of leader do you consider yourself?
H: Hm... difficult question. Once somebody told me: "the worst leaders are the ones, who are feared. The next ones are the leaders, who are loved, next are the leaders, that are respected, but the best leaders are the leaders, who pass inadvertised." I try to be in that cluster.

A: Very interesting... who was that "somebody"?
H: Doug Ingle from Iron Butterfly.

A: Do you consider Yellowhouse as a berlin based band?
H: Berlin based in the sense of geografically located, operating, yes. But not a "Berliner Band". Definetely not. Itīs not the adecuate Yellowhouse environment. I mean, which band came out of Berlin in the last 30 years that compares to Yellowhouse? None. Berlin has a lot of these punk bands, Yellowhouse certainly doesn’t fit in that mould. Itīs another world.

A: Once a promotor said about Yellowhouse "Yellowhouse sing about sacred feelings, but when itīs down to money, itīs rather sacred fee!"
H: Oh, really? I wonder where this comes from. A good play of words nevertheless. Must have been an English native speaking promotor. "Sacred feelings and sacred fee"... uhh. Very good indeed. Iīm flattered, I take it as a compliment. Look, if you donīt take care about being payed in this business where vultures fly, then somebody would walk over you. A lot of bands donīt have a clue about the business side of things. They get ripped of all the time.

A: Any plans to release a live CD?
H: I had toyed with the idea. I decided against it.

A: Why?
H: Simply for the fact, that we never recorded a show professionally, that means on multitrack. I have a lot of soundboard recordings to use, but they would only make a good quality bootleg, nothing more than that. I think that professionals should stay away from bootlegs, and Iīm not refering to a bootleg in the copyright sense, but regards soundproduction. Soundboard recordings are unbalanced, vocals and drums generally are far too loud. Plus the fact that during our concerts we did stick very much to the recorded versions, that are on the CDs. So, in a nutshell, youīll get a much better idea of Yellowhouse listening to the studio CDs than to any official bootleg. A Live DVD would be an option, I have several shows on two camera sources. So, the sight might make up for the lack of produced sound.

A: What does it give to you, performing live on stage?
H: The positive reaction of the audience. You got to give it all. People devote their time and money to see you. Anybody should be grateful for this, not take anything for granted. It was always great for me to travel to other cities and play for different people, touch the hearts of the audience with the music and the message of the songs.

A: What is the message you want to bring to the people with your songs?
H: Every song has its own message. In general... stay true to yourself. Get a positive attitude towards life. Use your hearts and brains to make a difference to choose to live certain dreams and kill other dreams in the time of your life, for you only live once.

A: Which specific songs do you mean in saying that?
H: "Kill your Dreams", "Ahead Of Our Time"

A: "The Silent Screaming", the song sounds like it was written about one specific person´s life. Is it about somebody you know?
H: Good question. If you´d like, it can be about a specific person, someone that I know, someone that you may know. In a sense it could be about anybody. The change of the role in the course of one´s life.

A: Does that mean now you draw inspiration from outside sources, or are they autobiografical? I mean the lyrics are very deep rooted, I wouldn´t think they are fiction?
H: I try to balance it. But every song I have lived myself in one way or another.

A: Do you plan to reform Yellowhouse with some members of the past?
H: No.

A: How can you be so sure about that?
H: I AM sure. I mean, as far as I am concerned, and Iīm not saying this to put somebody else down or wash any dirty laundry, there were three people in Yellowhouse that were responsible for the level headed standard of performance: Flo, Jensen and myself, in no particular order. Having said this, these two ex-members would be the only ones, that would be interesting from an artistical point. But from a professional point of view, both would not be acceptable to me. Bad attitude, lack of discipline, too many maybes. So thatīs that. Plus the fact that both f***ed me over, excuse me, ripped me off for some money. And more generally, I think that the reason for a split would always eventually come up again. So, there you have it. To be in a pro or semi-pro band requires more than just being able to sing or play. It also requires all those outside factors... a professional attitude. And in my humble opinion, Yellowhouse deserves players with a better attitude.

A: Does this mean "yesterday was yesterday and tomorrow has become today..."?
H: Exactly, it took me a long time to understand my own song...

A: Are you proud about Yellowhouse?
H: Yes, Iīm very proud about Yellowhouse!

A: Did you perform lately or did you write any new songs?
H: I did some modern gospel, but discontinued that after two performances, as the band did not work out as Iīd expected. One song I wrote is "Blessing In Disguise". Currently Iīm working on some very interesting project, I can not speak about this yet and also re-planing my solo album. Iīll keep you updated.

A: Thank you so much. It was very interesting to get some details about what really happened to Yellowhouse.
H: Welcome

(c) Alicia de Groth 2003