In 1988 Martina and I organized the festival called Fata Morgana - Desert Sounds at the Planetarium, and the arrangements went very well. Five different international artists would compose and perform music for deserts. The first I asked was Nico, as I knew she liked deserts. Philippe Garrel’s film La Cicatrice Intérieure, in which she had played the main role, had been filmed entirely in three deserts: in the Sahara, in Iceland and in Death Valley. “What do you think, Nico? You got to write one hour of music about a desert. Do you want to do it?”
“Oh, that sounds interesting.”
“What desert do you want to choose?”
“Well, what about deserts on earth?”
“No, I want to take the moon!”
The moon goddess had spoken.
There were some other musicians there, like Norwegian guitar player Terje Rypdal for “Ice Desert”, Swiss musician Joe Mubare for “Mohave Desert”, Die Elefanten for “Water Desert” and Ashra for “Sahara”. We had proposed that project for E 88 - Kulturhauptstadt Europas (Cultural Capital of Europe) and our proposal had been accepted.
Everything went well, except that Martina and I had just split. But we still had to work together. Martina was also the director of the Ashra event (with Manuel Göttsching and myself) and we rehearsed together, but all in all it worked out well. Besides we had to book flights for the musicians, who came from different parts of Europe to Berlin. Once in a while I also called Nico, to ask how her compositions were doing. I was a bit worried whether she was able to manage this project. “Yes, I have already written some lines: I will be seven, when I will be in heaven,” she answered. “Nico, you get 10,000 Mark, only for the composition, plus the fee for two shows. That is a lot of money. One can expect something for that and all you had done so far is ‘I will be seven, when I will be in heaven?’ The other artists are really working very hard on it!” She answered, “Ja, ja, don’t worry, I will get some more ideas.” It did not really sound very encouraging.
Some weeks later the festival had started and Ashra had done two shows. After these concerts we were sitting in the Pizzeria Roma at Bundesplatz together with electronic music pioneer Klaus Schulze and his manager Klaus D. Müller. I had asked Ralf, our assistant, to pick up Nico at the airport. He arrived some time later with her. Manuel Göttsching from Ashra had always liked Nico and vice versa. It became a very nice reunion. Nico preferred to live privately instead of in a hotel, so I took her to my home in Moabit. Her musicians lived in a hotel on the Kurfürstendamm.
Nico had not been taken drugs for two years now, had lost weight and was slim again. I had the impression that she felt quite comfortable in this period and that she had calmed down a bit from all her struggles with drugs. As always, when I met Nico after some years, it was like she had never been away. You did not need many words. We felt familiar with each other.
The next day her rehearsals began. The local TV evening program, Abendschau, did an interview and made some footage of the rehearsals as well. It was broadcasted that same evening. I still own that clip.
Nico’s band The Faction, with keyboarder James Young, guitar player Henry Laycock (later Olson) and drummer Graham Dowdall, were very inspired to work on Nico’s vague ideas and seemed to have great fun playing. They were all fantastic musicians, who knew exactly how they were going to improvise on Nico’s music. They were able to adapt her mystical moods in a wonderful way, and their talent contributed a huge portion to the success of those two Nico shows.
Nico and the Planetarium plus the subject desert: It simply was a genial constellation. Nico had been affected to deserts already with her soul brother Jim Morrison, when they made trips to Death Valley Junction. These two shows had been spacy for sure. As encore she sang You Forget to Answer, which she had written for Morrison after his death. It was the last song she ever sang in public.
The next day we were sitting in my living room. She counted the money and was happy about the deal, but complained, as always, about the “expensive” musicians. She had ignored her manager with that deal this time.
“I am fed up to be on tour all the time. It really sucks! I would rather write a book or play in an opera house. In the summer I will go to Ibiza with Ari for some months to write. Maybe you want to join us?”
I accompanied her to the airport. When they wanted to charge her extra money because of her organ, she really flipped out and got very upset. She kept insulting the entire ground staff of the company. That’s how she entered the plane. One flight attendant gave me advice to look after her. “The way she gets furious, she won’t live much longer!” I just shrugged my shoulders. I never imagined how right he was. I would never see Nico again.