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Fit & Limo - The Serpent Unrolled (1998)

Fit & Limo to fajny duecik pochodzący z Niemiec. Trochę psychodelii i trochę folku. Niejaki "Limo" związany jest między innymi z neo-psychedeliczną grupą Shiny Gnomes - możliwe , że ten projekt jest kontynuowany. Ich muzyka przypomina dokonania Toma Rappa z Pearls Before Swine, ale czerpią też z samych psychodelicznych klasyków jak np. The Grateful Dead, którego wspaniały cover "Dark Star" znajduje się na albumie. Nie mam pojęcia czy są obecnie aktywni twórczo. To był 1998 rok.


Fit & Limo is a couple of multi-instrumentalists folk artists from Bavaria (Germany). They started their career back in the seventies as an acid folk rock formation. Their sound is in the tradition of the Incredible String Band influences. Today the duet explores “world”, ethnic harmonies & traditional acoustic instruments. Compositions provide an important variety of dreamy folk sections including a heavy use of sitar. This is for fans of fusion music and kraut-folk, mixing psych rock to chamber folk, “ethnic” arrangements. A large community of musicians accompany the band in this adventure; also involved into numerous side projects (the religious “the god box” and the more rock sounded “Discolor”…). From their retrospective (1983-88) to the recent inspired kraut-folk "Terra Incognita" (2004) the band has brilliantly brought folk rock on new territories.



For more than 15 years, Stefan "Limo" Lienemann has been playing with various innovative German bands including Shiny Gnomes, Weltraumservice, Discolor, and the husband and wife team of Fit & Limo. The styles covered by Limo's releases have included garage-psych, delicate minimalism, world-folk and electronica. Limo's trademark has been his subtle light touch and enthusiasm for stretching musical boundaries. Fit & Limo are responsible for my favorite Grateful Dead cover, a majestic version of "Dark Star" from The Serpent Unrolled. The latest Fit & Limo CD Ginnistan shows a restless desire to explore new ground: along with some of the duo's most haunting folk melodies, the album ventures into unfamiliar territory with the stunning free-jazz opus "Upper And Lower Ginnistan". Discolor III made a major impression with its combination of airy drones and charming psychedelic melodies. A CD by Limo's new psychedelic pop band The God Box is now poised to come out in the fall. The God Box will also be featured on an upcoming Free City compilation. Limo and I corresponded via post and e-mail over the course of several months during late 2002 for this interview.


Nick Bensen: What first motivated you to become a musician, and when did you start playing?

Limo: I suppose the fact that my grandpa played guitar, my mother piano and violin, and my dad occasionally sang with dancehall-bands in the '50s had a certain influence on me. My mother told me I had always sang and whistled while playing games. Then I remember the Beatles-mania of my elder sister who collected every photo she could find of the Fab Four and listened a lot to Radio Luxembourg and AFN - and the controversy about the Beatles (if it's still music or whatever) had a great impact on me. Then I acted with a badminton racket in front of the mirror imitating guitarists and finally got my first guitar lessons at 10 and changed to the piano at 12. As guitar/piano lessons in the late '60s/early '70s were exclusively classical or worse "Volksmusik" in Germany. I'd soon had enough of boring rehearsals and wanted to play pop and rock.

As I didn't have an electric guitar until I was 15, my first songs on the acoustic guitar were more folk influenced. In the mid-seventies, we had a pure folk band with guitars, recorder, bongos, sitar, harmonium, et al (similar to Fit & Limo nowadays!).

In the early '80s, I was hooked by the punk revolution and we founded bands every day anew. Those were the times of cassette recording and experimenting with every style - punk, avant garde, electronic, "schlager", and all that finally led to the Shiny Gnomes in late 1985.

NB: Your own music is so eclectic. What kinds of things do you like to listen to?

Limo: I really like so many different kinds of music! My absolute faves are The Beach Boys, The Incredible String Band, J.S. Bach, Sun Ra, The Grateful Dead, and, in a second row, the Krautrockers (Ash Ra Temple, Popol Vuh, Witthüser & Westrupp, Cosmic Jokers, Faust…), Shirley Collins, Albert Ayler, Lee Scratch Perry, Sixties-Punk, Plasticland, Maria Callas… and many more.

NB: How did you meet Mrs. Fit? Were you a couple for long before also becoming a musical duo Limo: I met Mrs. Fit in college and fell in love with her. As soon as we were together, she was involved in my music, playing recorder, bongos and singing in our early folky sessions although she hadn't had much to do with music before. I think it was like The Incredible String Band bringing girls in the band who weren't musicians in the academic sense. This non-musician touch seemed very interesting and it still is.

NB: Fit & Limo's music somehow conveys a sense of wild, wooded landscapes. Is the feeling of place an important inspiration in your music?

Limo: Absolutely! We always liked to play outdoors in parks, fields and forests, mixing our music with the sounds of wind, birds and water. "In the beginning there was sound" - that principle reflects in the music of Fit & Limo.

NB: The Shiny Gnomes have gone from playing psychedelic garage rock to electronic soundscapes. Has the progression been intentional or just based on the changing tastes of the band members? What are The Shiny Gnomes up to these days?

Limo: Obviously - both are right. The Shiny Gnomes changed intentionally and intuitively with psychedelic garage-punk-pop, then included country elements, abandoned those, and on our 4th album Colliding experimented with amplified baking tins. Our producers then, Chris Allison and John Leckie, urged us to make more strange noises like smashing guitars on the floor and using the wackiest old effects we could get, like Electro-Harmonix, et al. They called Colliding "The Sgt. Pepper of The Shiny Gnomes".

As we lost our contract with Polygram, we went to Rough Trade Germany and made more albums with hardcore tendencies, free jazz eruptions, but also folk touches to have the widest range of dynamics. On our last albums in 1994 and 1996 (MC Creatix and Weltraumservice) we found more and more interest in electronics and droning ambient tracks. After all it's been a "long strange trip" according to the Dead.

Summer 2002 we reunited for some summer festivals in Germany. We excluded all experimental stuff in favor of our early garage-punk-pop. Maybe we will release a live album from these concerts. New studio material isn't in sight right now.

NB: Discolor manages to be extremely subtle without being soft. How do you achieve such a level of melodic psychedelic impact using such gentle elements? Is there an intentional approach to the Discolor sound?

Limo: Discolor started as an outlet for my drony and ambient dispositions, thinking less in songs but in atmospheric textures and keeping off all rock elements. Stillness and timelessness is/was a big factor with Discolor. On the other hand, the already recorded (but not released) 4th Discolor album is an extreme change to psychedelic pop songs with some hints of progressive rock. As I said, there's always chance and surprise in my music to please myself and listeners.

NB: Can you tell us a bit about your other musical projects in addition to Discolor, Fit & Limo, and The Shiny Gnomes?

Limo: Some other bands/projects I'm involved with are Weltraumservice, which is me and The Shiny Gnomes' drummer Ufo.

Weltraumservice started with the intention to continue where the late Shiny Gnomes had stopped. Therefore it's a complete electronic thing, handmade analogues and computer stuff. It even has some songs sung all in German. For ourselves, it's a kind of best of collection of electronic music of the last 30 years. We've received some enthusiastic reviews but didn't sell very much maybe because we're not in any techno-dance scene and of course the Weltraumservice album Delta Echo Foxtrot (2000) isn't techno at all.

Fim Froil made one album in 1997 featuring Riff (of The Cosmic Gardeners) and myself. Some writers compared it to the Canterbury scene - I don't know, certainly it's kind of psychedelic pop. In the next months I start some recording sessions with Pure Luege, a bunch of experimentalists and old pals of mine, and another session with The Supergroup, 5-7 musicians from local bands. We'll see what will come out of those meetings.

NB: Is the recording process very different for each of your bands?

Limo: Apart from a different set-up between the more acoustic sound of Fit & Limo and the more electronic music of, let's say, Weltraumservice, we use any recording system we can get: 8-, 16- 24-track recording, hard disc recording, simple cassette recorders, Dictaphones… whatever… with mikes or direct-to-console - everything is possible.

NB: What are you working on recording now?

Limo: The actual Fit & Limo Ginnistan has just been released on September Gurls Records and the double-vinyl should be outin January 2003. It always sounds a little selfish but in our humble opinion and those of our dear friends it's our most beautiful one. At the moment I'm recording the last tracks of a forthcoming Discolor album (working title: Head Symphonettes Of Mrs. Color). It will be a little surprise for all who know the first three albums because "Head Symphonettes…" will be no more drony/ambient/Krautrock-like but pure pop-syke songs with a lot of Mellotron/Chamberlin sounds. It should be out in spring 2003 on Mizmaze Records in Italy again.

In January 2003 the Shiny Gnomes will mix the live tapes of a concert we had in Nuernberg in the summer which should be out in spring, too. And then we started the recording sessions with my old pals Vital, Britz and Riff (Cosmic Gardeners). The act is Pure Luege (we made some tape recordings from mid-80s until the early 90s) and we hope to release a CD on a proper label next year. Wesing all the lyrics in German and it has some Krautrock-beats, gothic touches and even political lyrics in a rather weird style,an adventurous project. Meanwhile we're working on a long overdue Shiny Gnomes web-site with all the links of all the other acts.

NB: What kinds of new musical directions do you hope to explore in the future?

Limo: Generally I'm open for (or let's say almost) all kinds of musical directions, everything is possible: That was always animportant maxime but on the other hand there is always a decision what shouldn't be included. As I'm so hooked with my Mellotron sounds, these will play a good role in my next music. Everything else time will show…

NB: Are there any causes or issues you would like to mention to our readers?

Limo: I'd like to give my deep compliments to all those brilliant but often too unknown American bands. Lately I was sooverwhelmed when I did listen again to all these Pebbles/Nuggets and so on… bands who played their souls out for a 3 minute-single and today there are so many bands especially in the USA who are nothing else than fantastic (and I want to include acts like Nick Bensen and Mandible Chatter I know via web contacts). I wish all those garage/living room combos to keep their creative passion!

NB: Thanks so much for taking the time to do this interview (and furthermore for kindly mentioning my work in the final answer!). Very best of luck with your current and future releases. (© 2003 by Nick and Stefan)

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