The semiconductor Bloch equations provide a very versatile and microscopic approach to compute and analyze optical and electronic properties of semiconductors. Here, we focus on high harmonic generation arising from the driving of crystalline systems with very strong optical and Terahertz pulses. Implementing a proper gauge allows us to solve the semiconductor Bloch equations in the length gauge. The length gauge turns out to be advantageous since it converges for a smaller number of bands than the velocity gauge and, in addition, enables a unique distinction between inter- and intraband contributions. Besides odd harmonics polarized parallel to the incoming field our approach also describes even harmonics which originate from the Berry curvature and are polarized perpendicular to the incident field. Next, we demonstrate that the electron and hole collision/recombination dynamics is mainly responsible for the anisotropy of the interband high harmonic generation. Our findings connect the electron/hole backward scattering to van Hove singularities and the forward scattering with critical lines in the band structure and we show that this dynamics can be controlled by properly designed two-color fields. Furthermore, we consider excitonic effects within a two-band model and show that they can strongly enhance the high harmonic emission intensity for suitably chosen incident pulses. When an odd-order harmonic corresponds to the energy of the 1s exciton this harmonic is several orders of magnitude larger than the emission from non-interacting electrons and holes.