Hot Butter

Band members               Related acts

- Stan Free -- synthesizers

- Gershon Kinglsey -- synthesizers




- none known





Genre: pop

Rating: 3 stars ***

Title:  Popcorn

Company: Musicor

Catalog: MS 3242

Year: 1972

Country/State: US

Grade (cover/record): VG / VG

Comments: gimmick cover

Available: 2

GEMM catalog ID: 5309

Price: $20.00


Yeah, it's hard to not laugh when you hear these horribly antiquated sounds, but I can remember hearing this stuff as a child and being enthralled by the strangeness of it all.




"Popcorn" track listing:
(side 1)



(side 2)



Musicor catalog number MUS 1458-A

espite the wide range of music Gershon Kingsley has composed, he is most well-known for a 1972 instrumental dance hit called "Popcorn."

Kingsley recalls that he wrote the primary melody to "Popcorn" in about 30 seconds. The song was first released in 1969 as part of a Kingsley solo album called "Music To Moog By." LINK TO: MOOGBY Then the First Moog Quartet, while on their nation-wide tour of college and universities, used "Popcorn" as their encore song.

In 1972, "Popcorn" was recorded by a group of musicians under the band name Hot Butter. Stan Free, who was a member of the First Moog Quartet, played the Moog on this recording. More information on the recording is available here.

The song quickly became an international hit, with cover versions sprouting up all over the world. It hit Number 1 on the German charts and sold over one million copies in that country alone.

And unlike so many pop songs, it has not faded into history. Not at all. Cover versions of "Popcorn" have continued to show up. Most recently, an English group called the "Space Penguins" have used the "Popcorn" melody in their tune "The Electrofunk." It is also featured in the soundtracks of two recent movies, "Dick" and "Detroit Rock City."

And Kingsley himself, with the help of Producer Dave Baron, has remade "Popcorn" for an upcoming compilation on the Beastie Boys' Grand Royal label. Sharing the CD will be Beck, Sonic Youth, Jean-Jacques Perrey and many others. See News.

It was written in '69 by Gershon Kingsley, under the name of "the Popcorn Makers".

Popcorn by Hot Butter
(Gershon Kingsley)
Moog by Stan Free
Printed 1972
On Musicor Records
MUS 1458-A
Time: 2:30
Groove Sound - New York
Engineered by Steve Jerome, Bourne Music - ASCAP
Produced by Bill & Steve Jerome, MTL Productions, R.E. Talmadge, & Danny Jordan
Arranged by Dave Mullaney & John Abbott
(this info is taken from the 45 single. Thanks Scott!)

USENET info:

Topped the charts in early 1972, became 4th overall best song for 1972. Uses synthesizers. Can now be obtained on the tape cassette "The World of Synthesizers" published by Quality Records, 33 1/3 LP(2) "The World Of Synthesizers", published by Quality Records, on CD "Hit Songs of 1972", track 4, published by Columbia records.

Kingsley recalls that he wrote the primary melody to "Popcorn" in about 30 seconds. The song was first released in 1969 as part of a Kingsley solo album called "Music To Moog By." This version differs quite a lot from the well-known version released by Hot Butter. A single version was released too, which had some extra effects compared to the album version. Then the First Moog Quartet, a band formed by Gershon Kingsley in 1970, used "Popcorn" as their encore song while on their nation-wide tour of college and universities. This version was released in 1972 on their LP Popcorn.

hot butter single (france)

In 1972, "Popcorn" was recorded by a group of musicians under the band name Hot Butter. Stan Free, who was a member of the First Moog Quartet, played the Moog on this recording. Stan Free was a session pianist who had worked with artists like Paul Simon and Peggy Lee and was credited on many film and TV productions.

The song quickly became an international hit, with cover versions sprouting up all over the world. It hit number 1 on the German charts and sold over one million copies in that country alone.

In the Netherlands, the song also became a #1 hit, thanks to the various versions which were released in 1972 (these were Hot Butter, The Popcorn Makers, Anarchic System and Revolution System). There was not a solid policy for the same song by different artists back then. To avoid problems, the Dutch top 40 organization added all the versions together so that every music company which released Popcorn could say it was at number 1. And it would a bit silly to play the same song four times in an hour.

And unlike so many pop songs, it has not faded into history. Not at all. Cover versions of "Popcorn" have continued to show up. An overview of several cover versions can be found here.

Later in his career, Kingsley started to work with classical orchestras, where Popcorn was played also. The song "Popcorn International" is an orchestral version of Popcorn played by the Cologne Radio Orchestra; the Boston Pops have also played it. The song consists of seven movements titled: Moderato, Japan, Italy, Spain, Austria, Hungary and USA (many thanks to John Gibbs from the Universaty of Washington for this). More info can be found here. There you can find a sample of Popcorn International too. Official album releases have not been found and precise dates are unknown, sadly.

In 2000, Kingsley re-recorded the song with the help of Producer Dave Baron. This version is released on the compilation album "At Home With The Groovebox", which also includes bands like Air and Beck.


Popcorn" is a famous early synthpop instrumental. Composer Gershon Kingsley (of Perrey and Kingsley) first recorded it for his 1969 album Music to Moog By. In 1971 the song was re-recorded by Kingsley's band First Moog Quartet. Stan Free, member of the First Moog Quartet, rerecorded the instrumental with his band Hot Butter in 1972, which became the first primarily electronic-based piece of music to reach the American popular music charts. The record was one of a rash of Moog synthesizer-based releases that characterized "synth-pop" of the 1960s and 1970s.

It has since been covered by various artists, including DJ Voyager, Jean Michel Jarre (as the Popcorn Orchestra and also as Jamie Jefferson), Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops, Richard D. James or Aphex Twin, M&H Band, DJ Fantomas, Gigi D'Agostino, Iranian artist Shadmehr Aghili, Afrosound, the Time Frequency (TTF), Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, The Treble Spankers, the Boomtang Boys, Bass Bumpers (fronted by the Crazy Frog cartoon), Liars, Finnish band Seidat and Japanese electronic artists Denki Groove. It has also been remixed by Hexstatic on the Pick 'n' Mix album. In fact, more than 500 cover versions of the song exist[1], some of which add lyrics (lyrics have been added in at least six different languages). In 2003 Greek Synthpop Duo Marsheaux released a darker mix of Popcorn as their debut Single, which became a radio play hit in Europe. The song was also featured as the background music in the 1982 arcade game Pengo and the 1984 Mikro-Gen microcomputer game Pyjamarama.

The title refers to the short staccato or sharp popping sound used. Part of the song's fame comes from the rumor that the characteristic main melody was in fact written by a computer program created to compose music [citation needed].

[edit] Misattribution

Although some versions of the song, including the Kingsley original, are commonly misattributed to Kraftwerk, they never performed the song. (One version, 6:57 in length, commonly circulates on OpenNap or other file-sharing networks with either Kraftwerk's or Jean-Michel Jarre's name attached; this one is in fact by the M&H Band, released as a 12" single by Arcadia Records in 1987.)

[edit] References

VALE: As an artist, do you feel you've gone against the grain?

GERSHON KINGSLEY: Once you get me going on that topic -- yes, I'm definitely a maverick. Look: there is no easy way of doing something in the arts. People ask me, "Who did you study with?" and I reply, "Mozart and Beethoven." If you study their scores, you find that nobody can teach you how to compose -- the "masters" always break their own rules. So I'm always suspicious of fancy super-teaching systems like "Learn to Play Piano in One Day," because you develop your own system. Through your own experience you develop how you work, how you write, how you live, how you get up in the morning: do you first go to the toilet, or make breakfast?
I was always interested in sound. In 1947 I went to a psychic who told me that one day I'd produce some "crazy music that everybody would dance to." I didn't take her seriously, but later on somebody else told me the same thing. I became involved in electronic music, and in 1972 wrote a pop tune which doesn't fit into any particular category, yet it's been the biggest instrumental hit of the past twenty years.

V: Popcorn.

GK: Yes. This classically-oriented electronic pop tune has since sold millions of records, including 500 cover versions all over the world. People still come up to me and say, "You wrote 'Popcorn'?!'"

ANDREA JUNO: So much of what is produced today sounds so derivative--it's so easy to pick out the references or the primary sources of inspiration.

GK: I strongly believe in the power of the individual -- creative personalities will always emerge. One of my favorite composers is JOHN ADAMS who composed the operas Nixon In China and The Death of Klinghoffer." He takes newspaper ideas and makes opera s out of them. I regard myself as a metaphysical or spiritual person; I would love to write a work which would have the same effect on people as the Bach D-minor mass by using only electronic sounds.

V: How has your life changed over the past two decades?

GK: When you create, you try to be as honest and true to yourself as possible -- which is, of course, very difficult because you're always influenced by your surroundings. In the sixties, I was part of the avant-garde with John Cage and others. We would give concerts where we would rub stones together and recite poems over the "music." Or I'd give the audience ping-pong balls to throw against the microphones and then we would modulate the sounds and throw them back at the audience. That was only thirty years back, but now it seems like ages ago. It's crazy; for years I've felt very happy living in my cocoon. But now my inner reality seems to be merging with the outside world. Symbolically, everybody seems to be moving away from fat; greed, materialism, things to hang onto -- what George Carlin calls "stuff." And as St. Francis once said: "The moment you own stuff, you're no longer free, because you have to protect it." But the artist usually is less concerned with stuff, because he gives up his creations to other people.
At the same time, everybody is searching for meaning. There are so many different spiritual philosophies (e.g. Buddhism, Krishnamurti) one can learn from. I think ethnic and cultural differences are important, but at the same time it's wonderful that all people can share the philosophies of life. It's almost like a kaleidoscope: if one color is missing, then we don't have the full spectrum to enjoy. Whether it's Judaism or Taoism or Buddhism in religion --

V: You believe in religion?

GK: I believe in spirituality. I would like to come back in another hundred years; I lived before my time.

V: What are your thoughts on originality?

GK: Originality is not such a big thing to me -- sometimes I encounter a homeless person on the street who is very original. A more difficult question is: how can you find the essence of your own inner being. Sometimes you don't even know what that is, or you may have once known but then destroyed it.
I was in psychoanalysis for years to become more "conscious" about myself and to deal with my fears; it used to be very fashionable in the '50s. I would discover, "Ah yes! Now I know why I do what I am doing." Then I would confront a situation and realize I was still making the same mistakes I made in the past. I would realize that it didn't work. I think there is something wrong with our common brainpower; I think our brains are very decadent. There is a story about Richard Strauss, who like me loved to talk and speculate about life. When they were at parties, his wife used to say, "Do us a favor Richard -- go back home and compose."

Vale: But isn't it important for artists to be verbally articulate?

GK: One of my most important software programs is called Articulation; it allows you to accent the music you write. This is the basic ingredient that makes music music: instead of bup-bup-bup-bup you can make it bap-bup-bap-bup. You need this articulation -- the same seems to apply to all human behavior. I keep a journal and am writing fiction about a character I call "G"; for example, "The only thing 'G' wanted to do was write a hit tune, because everybody wants to write a hit tune." Then I describe how he achieves this aim -- then undergoes all this tribulation

V: How were you affected by the holocaust?

GK: I am an indirect holocaust survivor. When I left Germany in 1938, I was fifteen years old; this was just before Kristallnacht. I belonged to a Zionist youth group and we were very motivated to come to pre-Israel to till the land and live in a kibbutz. My mother was Catholic (she later converted to Judaism), my father was Jewish. That was already going against the grain.
In Palestine, I worked hard in the fields as a farmer but would come home and study music, plus read everything I could get my hands on. Then in 1941, I had to join the British army.

V: So you had some musical training as a youth?

GK: Oh yes, but I trained myself. My father was a pianist, but not professionally. He was very talented and could play by ear anything he heard; he had perfect pitch (which I don't have, by the way). I inherited my ability for improvisation from my father, and this is one of the most important parts of my musical personality. It is also the basis of composition in general: if you cannot improvise, how can you compose?

V: You went through some formal academic training. What did you study?

GK: Keyboards, composition, orchestration and conducting. I managed to do all of these things quite well, and this is maybe one of the bad things about myself: if I would have concentrated on one aspect of musical studies, I probably would've been a better composer (or conductor, or whatever). Instead, I turned into a jack of all trades. My saving grace is that eclecticism became part of my palette; my music draws from many styles.

V: How do you compose?

GK: I think, therefore I compose! A psychoanalyst once told me, " We're all swimming in water, but everybody has to stand on his own terra firma." I really never attempted to imitate anybody; I tried to find my own earth.
The older we get, the more we think of our failures and our successes, and about death and life. We ask the impossible question: "What is after life?" All we know is we have to work toward what C.G. Jung calls the reconciliation of our opposites. Man is made of two halves, and when we reconcile the light and the dark sides, we balance our personalities. Only when we become conscious of our evil side -- when we realize that this is party of our own personality -- can we control it.
On television, there is so much unconscious expression of hate. All the anger -- whether it is in the family, the state or among nations or ethnic groups -- is being expressed. And it takes tremendous strength on the part of every individual to keep from falling into that deep emotional morass. Hate is a very powerful emotion, just like its opposite: Love. Hate often has more energy than Love. And never before has Hate been more expressed in music than today -- just listen to heavy metal music. Sometimes I feel very pessimistic...but I believe in the power of the individual, and I really think that beauty and love can only be felt and expressed if you know the darker side of yourself.
In the '60s, a lot of people thought that everything that came from the East was better -- that as long you knew your chakras, you were set. But why not try understanding Hegel or Aristotle along with haiku? In the past thirty years, I have been studying the works of C.G. Jung -- although, as Jung himself used to say, "Thank god I'm not a Jungian!" When I first started reading him, I wasn't as mature as I am now. The problem with wisdom is: it's wasted on the wrong age!

V: Earlier, you downplayed originality -- but aren't you striving to do original work?

GK: I was always striving for originality. But I also made a lot of enemies because I was outspoken about everything. If I notice something unjust, it drives me up the wall. And my music, I hope, has always been honest music. If only five people around me enjoy it, then I am happy. I cannot pretend, I don't want to impress anyone. Sometimes you come to this realization late -- maybe when I was younger I wanted to impress people. If you really want to become a true individual artist, then you may have to do like Philip Glass did -- for years he drove a cab because he didn't want to compromise his music. His music is very controversial. One either hates it or loves it. But still it has a personality --

V: It's instantly recognizable. Can you summarize how your musical career developed?

GK: As I said, I grew up in Germany, but because I was Jewish I had to leave and go to pre-Israel. I was an autodidact -- I taught myself to read scores and played in some bands. We would listen to the BBC (on shortwave radio) and imitate the music of Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller and Teddy Wilson. In 1946, I came to America intending to go to Julliard, but they wouldn't accept me because I hadn't attended high school. I moved to California where my brother was living and I answered an ad: a violinist was looking for an accompanist. At the same time I went to night school, finished high school, and went to the LA Conservatory (now Cal Arts) where I graduated.
If you want to survive as a composer, you have three choices: 1) get tenure at a university and work in academia, 2) work in the commercial world of movies, television, commercials, etc., or 3) marry a rich woman...Me -- I married out of love! [laughs] But I always tell my students, "Don't follow in my footsteps." When I was young, I became a musical whore. I did everything to survive: played for children's dance classes, gave lessons, played in seedy clubs, etc., etc. Then I worked in the theater; I conducted many Broadway shows and worked for one of the most successful producers, David Merrick. My first job on Broadway was being the Musical Director for "The Entertainer" starring Laurence Olivier.
The Moog synthesizer fascinated me: a strange contraption that looked like an elephant switchboard and made sounds I'd never heard before. I began learning about things like oscillation and frequency modulation and finally decided to meet Mr. Moog himself. I went up to New York State to Trumansburg and there he was, sitting in a basement with a few technicians working away. I have tapes of him trying to explain the theory to me. I remember saying, "Mr. Moog, I'm a musician, not a scientist--how can you explain this to a musician." He replied, "Don't you understand? This is the future." I was down to my last $3,000 and that's what the Moog cost back then. I decided to take the chance. In a few weeks, I earned my money back doing my first Moog commercial. Then I met a lawyer, Herb Wasserman, and he asked, "What would happen if you put four Moogs together? What would you call it?" I said, "The First Moog Quartet," remembering that one of the greatest commercial successes of its time was called the First Piano Quartet. He said, "Let me talk to Sol Hurok."
I got a call from the office of Mr. Hurok: "We'd like to visit your studio." (At the time I had the only Moog-equipped studio; later on everybody copied me.) When Sol Hurok appeared, he looked like an impressario: white hair, silver-handled cane, big white flower in his lapel, a uniformed chauffeur. This was the man who had launched the careers of Heifetz, Horowitz and Rubenstein. He simply said, "Play me something." Of course, I tried to impress him with all my weird new sounds, but he wanted to hear a melody: "Can you play 'My Yiddish Mama'?" I had a "whistling" sound programmed and I used it to play the tune for him. Almost immediately he asked, "Do you have a phone?" He called his secretary and asked, "What opening nights do we have at the end of '69?" Then he said to me, "You have a concert at Carnegie Hall on January 30, 1970. We'll let you know the details."
Now first of all, I didn't have four synthesizers, so I called up Bob Moog and asked, "Can you build me four more Moogs?" But he needed money to build them, so Herb Wasserman (a very smart man) went to Audio Fidelity Records with a proposal: "I'll offer you the recording rights to this concert at Carnegie Hall if you give us an advance of $25,000." With this money, I bought the Moog synthesizers, and auditioned about 150 young musicians, mostly from Julliard. I needed people who could play jazz as well as classical, and who could improvise with dexterity. It took a week to audition 150 people; then I was down to four.
First, I taught them the Moog. Second, I needed a repertoire -- I didn't have a program yet; what would we play? So I composed the first piece, which was titled (appropriately) "In the Beginning." It started out with white noise and little random cricket noises, like the beginning of the world.
A week before the concert, nobody had bought any tickets. But Hurok said, "Don't worry." Three days before the concert, NBC and CBS talked about it...and it was sold out! By the way, this was an early multimedia event. We brought in a huge screen and projected movies (like rock groups do today), and we brought in dancers. Everybody came -- the magazines, all the press, and it was so controversial. People in the audience went up to Hurok and said, "How can you present a piece of shit like that?!"
The next day the reviews came out. Some were horrible -- the Times murdered me. One writer for the West Coast equivalent of New York magazine wrote an incendiary review saying that I was a fake; I had no right to call this music! But about a week later, I got a call from Arthur Fiedler of the Boston Pops Orchestra, saying, "I heard about your concert. Do you have a piece for four Moogs and symphony orchestra?" I said, "No, but I can write one. When do you want to do a concert?" "In four weeks." So I got together two orchestraters and in two weeks I completed a 30-minute work, the Concerto Moogo, which was performed on TV and became a hit.
Then under Sol Hurok we began touring and playing colleges, universities, and concert halls with major symphony orchestras. I wrote more avant-garde music. Years later in Kyoto, Japan, I performed "Popcorn" in different styles (Japanese, Hungarian, etc.) with a Japanese student orchestra -- they were marvelous. That one tune sent my daughter to university and paid a lot of bills.

V: You can't just sit down and write a hit, consciously--

GK: No! But record companies are greedy; they want you to do it again. After "Popcorn," I recorded "Cracker-Jacks," "Sauerkraut" -- all these stupid titles about food. "Sauerkraut" was a minor hit in Germany. "Cold Duck" featured a girl singer recorded very slowly and then speeded up; it became a small hit in France. But nothing ever hit again like "Popcorn."
Then I became very busy doing work for television and movies; it seemed like I was vomiting music out from morning to night! [laughs] I've been waiting all my life to do something for the theater. Now I've written both a Broadway show and an opera about Christopher Columbus; the opera was just performed in Germany. All my music is visual and theatrical, even my religious music -- you can stage it...

AJ: Can you tell us more about your involvement with early performance art?

GK: I was only on the periphery, but I did a few programs with JOHN CAGE. In one "happening" he recited something by Buckminster Fuller while Merce Cunningham danced and I improvised on the Moog. But I think I was always aware that the word "avant-garde" has "derriere-garde" built into it. These performances were too intellectual for me -- despite all my craziness, I'm pretty "down to earth."

V: Let's talk specifically about The In Sound From Way Out. How did you meet Jean-Jacques Perrey?

GK: In 1964 someone told me about "a stout Frenchman who has a very strange sound." Perrey invited me to his studio where he demonstrated his "Ondioline" for me. Years ago when you went to a piano bar, the pianist would often have this little organ-like keyboard -- he would play a melody with the right hand and piano accompaniment with the left. The Ondioline was better -- its inventor in France had figured out how to produce tones that sounded more like a real violin, a real trumpet, a real trombone, etc. I had an idea; I said, "Look. You talk with a nice French accent; why don't you work up an act playing the Ondioline?" And he began to make a living with it.
Later Perrey invited me to his studio, and showed me a reel of tape with all these splices on it. I asked, "What is it?" and he said, "Listen." On the tape I heard boom-chuck-a oom-chuck squeal oo-chuk -- it made me laugh. Then he explained, "I took a sound, recorded it and spliced it together according to measurement -- an eighth note might take exactly one inch of tape." At the time I was staff arranger for Vanguard Records and I asked Seymour Solomon, the company president, "Would you be interested?" He said yes, so we made a demo tape and he loved it. Then we went up to his studio and recorded an album on a 3-track Ampex. We began our collaboration at a time when ad agencies were looking for new sounds to use in advertising; consequently almost every track we recorded we sold as a commercial -- we made a fortune. "Baroque Hoedown" is still used as a theme at Disneyland. After recording a second album, Kaleidoscopic Vibrations: Spotlight on the Moog, we split up.

V: What's amazing is the humor -- how can humor embody itself in sound?

GK: I was always interested in the relationship between sound and humor. First of all, our greatest composers have written humoristic music. Bach wrote the "Coffee Cantata," Haydn wrote the "Surprise Symphony," Mozart wrote for the glass harmonica. You cannot be a great artist without humor being a part of your personality. You have to have a certain distance from yourself, and humor can provide that.

V: You must have had fun making The In Sound From Way Out --

GK: It was both fun and painful, because each piece took a solid week of tape splices to prepare. What we did preceded sampling; we recorded the sounds and spliced them together. Nowadays you just record the sound and digitize it. Now I can generate sounds of my Kurzweil and compose with my computer.

V: Why did you call your album The In Sound From Way Out? Did you feel you were in tune with the '60s, after the horrible '50s McCarthy era --

GK: Someone else named it. And to me, every era is horrible and good at the same time. In the '60s-'70s I had a house in Woodstock and of course was aware of the whole youth movement then. I was never a hippie, but I had friends who were hippies; I never took drugs, but I had friends who took drugs.
Besides The In Sound From Way Out, I made another musical innovation: in 1969 I wrote the first rock service for a synagogue, "Shabbat for Today," which has been performed all over the world.

AJ: You've blended the worlds of classical and pop music--

GK: To me pop is an aspect of the whole, larger culture. On the radio you can hear pieces by Stockhausen next to Pink Floyd and they can sound not dissimilar. Electronic music bridges those worlds and makes the question, "Are you a serious composer or a pop composer?" harder to answer. What's the difference? In a negative sense, you could say that pop music is trying to appeal to the lower aspirations of the masses, like the fantasy of instant success. You see that in film, you see that in television soap operas. But there are a lot of different, smaller markets opening up, whether it's New Age, or Minimalistic music, or whatever you call it. All so-called mass market ideas are slowly getting dissolved; as a market becomes more global, you find regional groups starting their own variants. For example, in San Francisco there are at least 3 or 4 little companies bringing out New Age music, which is a category that didn't even exist 10 years ago.

V: How do you deal with the criticism of your work?

GK: If you want to survive you have to develop elephant skin. You have to trust your own ideas. When I performed at the Chicago Symphony, one of the reviewers said I should go up to a tall building and jump off! For an artist, the act of creation is what matters. When I'm finished with a work, it's not so important anymore--the doing is the best part. And I don't want to become involved with business -- I write and that's all. I may only have another 10 or 20 years left, so I want to use my energy to just work. I'm still in good health and can work 12 to 14 hours a day.

V: How do you handle periods of discouragement.

GK: I look at each moment to experience and know that it can all change in the next moment -- still I go on. When I compose, I go with a theme for hours or weeks and suddenly -- bingo; it's like Zen and the Art of Archery -- you've hit the target without even trying. The moment you become too conscious of "it" -- you lose it. And I think that my most important work is not done yet.

V: That's a good way to feel.

GK: The '90s are going to be awful--terrible. Yet to me, hope is the essence of living -- if you give a homeless person a quarter, then he has hope, if only for the moment. I'm a survivor; I pick myself up. It has something to do with self-respect; if you don't have respect for yourself, how can you respect other people? Respect your own personality (including its dark side), and know that even if man destroys the earth, the universe will keep going -- the universe is more than the earth. When you go out into nature and examine how a plant or butterfly works -- well, this didn't just happen by coincidence. And all creation involves destruction; it comes out of destruction and chaos.

V: People are brought up not to contemplate their dark side; to pretend they only have a light side--

GK: There are many times when you feel like killing someone, or you hear voices saying strange things. In order to work, you must distance yourself from this. By projecting the dark side into something external, like another person, people have tried to pretend this is not part of their personality. This reminds me: recently some old prayer benches in a medieval church in Italy were undergoing restoration. When they opened them up, they discovered some very pornographic wooden sculptures inside! The past 40 years have shown that many of the pillars of our puritanical society that go to church on Sunday also have a dark side -- what they do in their private life is being exposed. My wife and I have a certain understanding: when we have a fight we say (to the dark side that flares up between us), "We accept you."

V: When you argue, do you conceptualize a "dark" entity that embodies both of you?

GK: Yes. And I feel that the most interesting things in life are caused by their opposites. New York has such great energy because there is so much evil and darkness in the city. The energy comes out of that dark chasm. Sometimes when an idea comes I think, "Ohmigod, I think I'm going crazy." It's interesting how close creativity is to insanity. Many modern psychiatrists let the "insane" express themselves through drawings and paintings....So that through intuitive means the creative imagination can be released.
I've made friends with my dark side, it doesn't haunt me anymore. In 1951, I returned to Germany thinking I'd forgotten about Hitler and what had happened with Nazism. But I'd be waiting in line or something and find myself getting really angry -- I didn't understand why. This got worse and worse. Finally I went to an analyst and we discussed this strange dream I was having.
In the dream, I was sitting in a chair surrounded by a circle of people who were all looking right through me, as though I didn't exist. I wanted to get their attention, but couldn't. Suddenly out of the air came a pointing hand that came down and went right through me and out the other side. I got goose bumps; I began to say these Hebrew words which people say when they fear that they are about to die. Then I would wake up in a cold sweat.
After months, I understood that this dream had to do with the fact that I'd always negated my background. Always I had said to the Germans, "I'm half-Jewish; my father was a Polish Jew but my mother was a real German Catholic" (before she converted to Judaism). After psychoanalysis, I could look people in the eye and say, "Look, I'm Jewish -- so what? I have a Christian mother, but I was raised Jewish." I had accepted my heritage. You see: what Hitler had achieved was to make many Jews ashamed of being Jewish.
Sometimes when I walk on the street I have this strange feeling of being in the eye of the hurricane -- a place where everything is very peaceful, yet on the street there's all this insanity going on -- the cars, bicycles, people all rushing by. And I feel, "I am my own eye of the hurricane."

V: Do you watch TV?

GK: Yes, I can watch TV without being brainwashed by it. If fact I very often find myself amused by what I see. When you become more aware of your true self, you don't have to be afraid it's going to brainwash you. I follow the ingenuity and the technology in the commercials -- some are very clever and humorous. I love to watch old movies. But I don't have that much time to watch anything -- if you're an artist, the most important thing is doing. I keep clippings for my kids of all the press I've received, but I don't look at them. A friend of mine (I won't mention his name) who was once an artist and who retired has now become his own audience and his own critic, but that's very bad. My rule is: Don't look back.

V: You worked in films--

GK: I did the score for Silent Night, Bloody Night --remember that? It was also called Deathhouse. Then I scored a softcore porn move, Sugar Cookies. I did a film on drugs that won an award at the Venice Film Festival, plus a movie called The Dreamer which was Israel's entry in the Cannes Film Festival. There were a few more whose names I forgot. Those were the days when I was still trying to pay for my studio.
A lot of people wonder why horror movies are popular. Well, it's because we like to be afraid! Even though man has rationalized away "god" and most superstition, they reenter through the back door in the form of horror movies. Man seems to enjoy renewing his sense of fear...that emotional dimension which sometimes separates life from death.

V: By the way--was learning computers easy?

GK: There's a big problem with working with computers. It took me a long time to learn computer technology, and you have to constantly upgrade. I think back to when we were making The In Sound From Way Out -- we had to be crazy to sit down and make those tiny tape loops. We would take sounds and splice them together manually, with scissors. Then we would add a rhythm underneath and a melody on top -- it would take a solid week just to do one number. Today you can do this much more quickly with a computer (but the sounds we produced are still original just because no one today would have the patience to do manual splices day and night). Recently someone referred to me as "the granddaddy of electronic music" -- now I've become a collector's item!
In 1975 Stuart Kranz wrote Science, Technology and the Arts, which profiled all these unusual artists and visionaries like John Cage, Dennis Gabor (father of holography), Stan VanDerBeek (multimedia artist), and Dr. Jan LaRue (computer musicologist who did musical scores). It's a fascinating book in that it shows how much technology has changed. Now it seems back in the Neanderthal Age, yet it was only 20 years ago.

V: How did you write your biggest hit "Popcorn"?

GK: Well, it only took me about two minutes to invent the whole song, but I could never do that again! It's a mystery how people write hits -- especially instrumentals. Look at the song, "Winchester Cathedral." What happened to that group? Nobody knows. Most people only write one or two big hits during their lifetime.
The topic of "inspiration" reminds me of James Burke's book, Connections. Everything has a connection. Mozart could not have been Mozart without Bach; Beethoven leaned on Mozart, and the evolution of electronic music is based upon the evolution of instruments in general. One of the original electronic instruments is the organ; it's the predecessor of the synthesizer. And evolution is ongoing. Right now I use a Macintosh computer, eliminating the need for carrying around instrument modules; everything's getting smaller and more refined. And who knows about five years from now?
What did Beethoven hear when we wrote his "Pastoral" Symphony? Hoofbeats, insects, birds, folk dances, thunderstorms. Now look at what composers put into movie scores or television soundtracks or commercials. Electronic sounds and noise are part of our society; artists always reflect the changes in their environment. The evolution of sound will continue.

V: In general, people's tolerance for dissonance continually increases--

GK: Dissonance is a very philosophical concept -- one man's dissonance may be another man's consonance! Today if you go to a heavy metal or hard rock concert, you hear sounds like guns going off, sounds of violence. Guitars have become dangerous weapons!
The pause or silence has largely disappeared from music because silence has largely disappeared from our lives. And I'm trying to put it back in. I have to react the way I feel inside. I'm not Philip Glass, I'm Gershon Kingsley, and whatever I do (whether it's in a pop vein or a more serious vein) can only express the way I feel. I have 25 minutes on Cruisers 1.0, a "New Age" CD from the Hearts of Space label, and some people think it's boring and awful while others meditate to it and feel wonderful.

V: Do you consider yourself avant-garde?

GK: While I don't support the obvious or the commercial....I guess that makes me a bit avant-garde. The avant-garde was always about shocking the bourgeois. Well, one thing about getting older and living a long time: nothing can shock me anymore. Even moral infractions and injustices no longer shock me, because I expect them.

V: In your music, were you trying to integrate spirituality with machines?

GK: First of all, I don't like to use the word "machines" because then we'd have to call the piano a machine, the flute a machine, they're all machines. The "purest" instrument probably is the voice; the moment you use strings you're creating a machine. What's important is: if you use a clarinet, that you use your own personality to create a sound or tone by the way you blow into it. The problem with synthesizers today is: even though they're touch sensitive, a lot of the sounds sound alike.
It's so easy today to produce notes -- anybody can become a synthesist instantly with one of these instruments that can even be programmed to compose. But composers are now sampling their own sounds, a truly new development in creating new sounds to express your own personality. The future of electronic instruments will be to use the modern technology so that the musician can play an instrument like the violin, but also create different sounds with it. Penderecki in Poland combines electronic sounds with live "traditional" instruments or voices. In the end it's your own personality that determines how successful you are at creating your own musical sound....and whether people like it.
When I die, maybe I'll have an electronic tombstone with a television monitor so that people visiting my grave can push a button and my face comes on the screen: "Hello -- nice of you to come! What would you like hear -- Popcorn?" If it's solar powered, maybe it could last for eternity.




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