Unedited Klaus Dinger interview by Biba Kopf in early 2001 for the Neu! article that appeared in The Wire 208
Can we start right at the beginning. You and Michael were in this touring version of Kraftwerk?
What was happening? How do you mean what was happening?
It was you, Florian [Schneider] and Michael [Rother], wasn’t it?
Michael, eh hm. It was, overall and in general it was quite a nice situation, I think... quite a successful team, ja, quite a lot on the way at that time, for it was a very short period, several months only, but yeah, I liked it very much.
Was this pure improvisation, or were you working on songs?
We tried, and I think we quite well did, we tried to promote the first Kraftwerk album. We played these titles, like “Ruckzuck” or “Vom Himmel Hoch”, and so on, and we tried to do these live, mixed with, ja, but that sounded a bit different or so, I mean, compared with the originals on the LP. But it probably was much more live. You probably know this Beat Club recording, film (referring to this lineup’s TV appearance).
You never saw that? Well, I’ve got a copy at home, but I heard
it was available as a laser disc, as a bootleg, years ago already.
Ja, what else can I say? Can you ask more precise...
OK, you went on from Kraftwerk? Ralf Hütter rejoined Kraftwerk and then you and Michael started working on Neu!? Can you tell me how Neu! Came about, how it came out of that early lineup?
Ja, we separated from Florian, I think it was end of June 1971, ja, nice summer holiday I remember, “Im Gluck”. Ja, this story, Hanni [?? his then girlfriend, see further down] went to Norway and so on. It took quite some time, several months until we finally decided we would go on together. After we split it was all a bit undecided and open. For instance, Michael was not so sure about whether that was possible to do this. That was also about the time when he started studying Psychology as an alternative from the other side, or so... you know what I mean. Ja, in the meantime I somehow arranged that with [producer/engineer] Conny Plank that — and finally by the end of the year or so, we decided, and the opportunity was there to go into a studio in Hamburg, and we recorded the first album. Was that about what were asking for? [chuckles]
That’s the kind of thing, yeah. Did you have songs or did you just generate them in the studio?
Well partly we had songs, well not songs really, I mean sketches or so. But I think the most important things happened in the studio.
To decide on this lineup, drums and guitar, was unique to Neu! wasn’t it? It was quite a strange combination without a bass player?
Well, ja, we didn’t see any other chance at that time, there were not so many people like that for instance today, the younger generation here is much easier to find people to understand musically or work with together, which was very difficult at that time, because everything else was far away from what we wanted to do. But I think we somehow found, especially during this work with Florian, we somehow found what we wanted to do alone.
Can you recall what it was you were aiming for at that time, and what it was you didn’t want to do?
What we did not want to do? You mean in relation to Florian?
I mean in relation to the other music happening at the time...
Oh, ja, I mean it’s probably more easy to understand, or quite easy to understand if you listen to the records and compare with other music of the time, I think. I don’t see so many... at least for me at that time, let’s say Ralf und Florian were the only ones possible. Also I’m not such a big fan of Can or Guru Guru, or whatever. I mean, many things are a matter of taste, what you like and what you don’t like, and, ja, I mean from the beginning I felt we were quite special. And also later, after the first album, we tried to find people and also did the six or seven concerts, but gave up because they were not the right people somehow, they couldn’t do what we wanted to do. Ja, a bit difficult, ne?, with just two people at that time. Today is a totally different story.
The music of Neu! and what Kraftwerk were doing at that time seemed to be very consciously not rock in an American or English sense, it seemed to be very much defining a different kind of rock, but not in a nationalistic sense.
Ja, and it was very conscious, also.
What were you trying to avoid in British or American music?
Well, I like lots of British or American music, but as you said, we were not British or American, and, ja, music-wise, in this area we have a quite big past, I think, and also, in a way it also came quite natural, I mean this, everybody, I think, wants to somehow, well, maybe also wrong, maybe not, be different. I mean, I always promoted the individual, the original and so on, and it still doesn’t make sense to play Beatles, or so. It’s quite natural.
When one compares what you and Kraftwerk were doing,
compared with other European countries, in Düsseldorf and Hamburg
you had the confidence and self-belief to be able to define a kind
of music that was very much your own, which was a rock music but
did not directly take anything from whatever was popular at the
time? Where did this confidence come from to make your own music in
this way? It didn’t seem to exist anywhere else in Europe.
Personally I can say, this situation, I decided... I studied architecture for three years and gave that up and jumped into a black hole, and, ja, let’s say this official way of life was gone at that time, so somehow I had to express myself, or together with Michael, but still myself — or himself. I also was very, I mean I believed in his originality from the beginning. It was very obvious. So, ja, what else, what more can you ask for? But, ja, self-consciousness, I think that is a very individual thing, not so much... also I am not a big fan of Germany or so, totally not, also, very critical, my point of view, towards my home country. Never trust these... [laughs]
Isn’t it the case that with all the people who were making the best art, music or films in this period were highly critical of Germany in that period?
Was this also what was happening with Neu!? The idea of stripping everything down to the bone, cutting away everything and starting off again from the bare beat?
To me, the most immediately striking thing about Neu! is the drumming and that is the basis of everything that followed.
It’s probably the reflection of this situation where you, that somehow, where you have the feeling somehow the only chance to go that way, and somehow refine that, and so on. But typical artist problem, I think, I mean if you are really true to yourself and don’t look so much what the others are doing, or maybe even totally don’t, totally close up also. I remember we were never really very cooperative with all the other stuff, let’s say, maybe sometimes a bit arrogant even. Ja, it can happen if you really try to find yourself and how to transpose that or transform that into music, or other things.
Was Neu! also responding to the culture and politics of the period?
That was, at that time, I think, I personally, and I think also Michael, not so much politically motivated, I would say. It was more art point, but later, especially with what I personally experienced in this business, somehow my political views developed from there, and somehow I learned the connection between politics and culture, and also music business, and all this... ahhh, dark chapter!
How did you start feeding what you were learning from the music business into the music? How did you start introducing those experiences/reflections on what was happening outside in broader culture, how did you start introducing that experience into the music. Did it start with the lyrics you were singing on the third album, or did it start earlier?
There’s a very direct connection to my experience in this year. Neu! 75 happened in December 74, and, ja, in this year, early 74, I made my own label, and had produced another group, called Lilac Angels, to whom I borrowed the — there’s this title also, “Lilac Angel”, or “Lila Engel” on Neu! 2, where, anyway, I spent a lot of money on that and I didn’t get the response I wanted from the industry. I remember they wanted to give me 10 marks an LP and I had 5000 pressed. No they wanted to give me eight marks and I wanted back, had to have 10 marks. Anyway, the deal didn’t happen and I was very angry, bankrupt for the first time in my life, lots of debts for my experience so far at that time, it was about 50,000 marks. And I made two more attempts to get this label going, and organised, and also borrowed money to finance two free concerts in 74, which happened in a place quite close to Düsseldorf. And also then nobody appeared from the industry, and, ja, I think at that time I already had a quite bad image — which didn’t get much better in the meantime over the years. Yeah, that was the situation, but also this Hanni [??], who went to Norway in 71 already, finally decided that that was it?
My then girlfriend, which you find one way or the other in many songs, “Lieber Hönig”, for instance, that is this one, or the one who sat with me in this rowing boat you can hear on the first album. This was a bit difficult relation, because she had to go to Norway with her parents, and during the whole Neu!, this whole time, these three years, we nearly never met, or so on, somehow strange to believe today, ne?, how this can happen, and in 74, in this year when all these things didn’t happen, also this relationship finished, and all these bad feelings and, ja, not so much perspective, I must say, at that time, the only chance was to, OK, there was one more record to make for Metronome, and we did that. But as you can hear... it’s maybe quite interesting to really write it down these “Hero” words...
I’d be intriguing after misunderstanding the song all these years.
[laughs] yeah strange
Michael Rother seemed quite shocked when I thought you were singing “fuck the harmony”.
Ja, no, that is absolutely not true. I can tell you what I wanted to fuck, fuck the company, which, company [laughs, addressing Rene Renner from Grönland, the label responsible for the official Neu! reissues] We are talking about “Hero”, ne? And “Fuck the programme” and “fuck the press”. These are the three fucks on “Hero”, but certainly not the harmony. But anyway I think Michael was quite shocked.
It’s a great song, which seemed to anticipate what was to come in punk a few years later.
Ja, now it all looks a bit different somehow. I think it was not only Michael that was shocked. I think it was, it also didn’t make my relation with this business better, oder so. It may improve now, since Herbert Grönemeyer [the German rock star behind the Grönland label] appeared on the scene. Did you meet him personally?
Briefly, last time. But he’s an artist so he has a different understanding of business.
Ja, that’s an important point. That can become quite nice now. For instance yesterday [at the CD remastering] it was quite a tense situation. There was also a photographer yesterday but I somehow couldn’t.... nothing, because this studio situation, remaster situation was very tense somehow. I had the feeling we can’t make it. And then Herbert arrived, he actually flew in from Berlin for a few hours, and when he arrived, my impression was that it all became a bit more smooth. One good example, ja?
Also, I think, what, how he thinks about Neu! That he was from a certain point on really determined to get this thing but also to bring this back to the world or so on, from this bootleg level, and, ja, I think they’re doing quite big job now on it, and I can imagine that it will function now, what never functioned before.
If we could backpedal to Neu 2!, I gather you ran out of money before you finished?
That’s right, yeah.
Did you go into the studio prepared, with songs?
Ja, there was before Neu 2!, I had another Schnapps idea, as I like to call them. Nobody in our, let’s say, [circle]... no singles. Singles was only for Deutsche Schlager, these people made singles, but so called, I don’t know how to call this music, difficult, ne?, but totally unusual, and I thought, yeah, that’s a nice reason to make a single, and so on, and we made a single. We went to Munich with Conny, he had discovered a new studio which he thought was a good studio, and yeah, we made this single which the company didn’t want. Also, we didn’t talk about that with the company before, we just made a single. It may sound simple, though, only two titles, but still, the company didn’t want it, so it was also quite a bad investment somehow. It cost moneywise in this context what we were fighting with at that time maybe may seem a bit ridiculous now, but it was just a loss of money and a loss of time, and not very supportive for no perspective coming from that point. We were quite frustrated. And then there was this deal, an official contract, which was over three LPs, so a bit after the single we decided to make the LP, which they wanted, the company. And then, that was also quite, or relative expensive studio, and the money was gone after, let’s say, side one. Ja, and we still had this single, which nobody wanted, so that was probably quite a good idea [talking about side two’s manipulation of one song, “Neuschnee”]. But also at that time, horror was the reaction the people, also of the company, or journalists or also inside, very disputive.
I still like it very much, it’s great. Things like this have to be done, I say, and I’m not ashamed of it.
What you were doing there, using record players, manipulating tapes, banging turntables, has become more commonplace since...
What was Conny Plank’s role on these three albums?
Ja... he was... difficult, difficult to say. Ja, certainly very important as, let’s say, catalysator, somehow being involved in these atmospheres in which these things could happen. Like making photos or interviews or so certainly depends on the people involved. And I think, ja, he was certainly one of a kind, I mean everyone says that, and it was, I think, quite close and sometimes, can you say something like quite tough, tough relationship? Ja, very open-minded, very idealistic, unlike many other people in this business, he never thought of money in the first place. He was more focussing on, OK, let’s do it, however or somehow. And when we first started, the first two albums were done, were made not in his own studio. Neu! 75 was, I think, the second record in his own studio. I think he was working as a freelancer at that time. Somehow he was probably also doing some not so nice things, I remember he was also a radio engineer working at some radio station at that time. And in his free time, he made things like Neu!, or Cluster, or Kraftwerk, which were all, I think, quite insecure enterprises, no safe haven at that time, very risky...
But also very convinced, also, very well motivated. Ja, and somehow he got these things on tape...
How did the music actually come together? Would you, say, start with you doing the drums, then Michael, or would you be in there together playing live?
Ja, I mean on each of these three albums there a certain tracks that you could call their own cliche, also, because there is what some call hammer beat, or I call Apache, or however, some call Dingerbeat or maybe Neu Beat, or so. So at least one song based on, let’s say, this ability, like “Hallogallo”, “Für Immer” or others, but ja, this kind of music started with Michael on guitar, or, for instance, in “Negativland” on bass, while I play drums, and after that we went on more, everybody doing something, so from time to time, how... also, this was all the most important things, the total product somehow developed by playback, starting with two people, two instruments, then adding one track after the other, depending on the way we wanted to go.
And apart from that there are certainly totally others where
drumming was not so important. It’s a quite diverse programme
altogether. Awe, what can I say? Hmm...
I like the description Apache or Dingerbeat for your drumming...
Well Apache is how I like to describe it, all the others I read or heard from other people.
Was there a point when Michael’s musical interests start drifting towards ambience?
Are you talking about Neu! or...
Yes. And how did that diverge or otherwise from the driven music, which you describe as cliche...
I mean, as long as it’s your own, it’s OK, I think, that’s OK to use this, also to, on the other hand, open up other possibilities and go somewhere totally else, together with “Hallogallo” you can do totally different stuff. Once you have got “Hallogallo” on the records, it’s somehow OK, so what else is impossible? Go for the impossible somehow, or the unthinkable.
Was it seen as ‘unthinkable’ at that period to use street sounds on the record?
Street sounds? Ja, for instance, this collage, ne? you’re talking about the beginning of “Negativland”, one thing is, drill, I don’t know how you call that, they use in the street, [a jackhammer], a quite noisy thing. Then it is applause from Kraftwerk live appearance, and then it is, the other thing is noises from Annie went to Norway, this together somehow. How would you describe that sound? Ja? Ja! Nice [laughs]
One thing I forgot to ask, what are the origins of the name, which you see everywhere in shop windows, maybe, in Germany?
I am quite consciously from Düsseldorf, and Düsseldorf is a quite small city, but there are so many advertising agencies, also photographers, and much fashion there, I mean fashion business, and for instance people like [Joseph] Beuys were also effective in Düsseldorf and so on. And in this environment somehow it was very logical to me, though I even had an advertising agency myself — only on paper to get certain rooms, those studio rooms I somehow had to be a bit more official also, and at that time you could go to some official city authority and for five marks get certain paper, and you are an advertising agency and so on. And many of my friends were busy working or trying to get into advertising, or were photographers, became photographers, or were studying at kunst akademies, or Beuys students, I know quite a lot of them. So Neu! at that time was the strongest word in advertising, everybody knew, and I think it still is, everybody knows, so I don’t know why nobody else did that before. But that’s about how it was. And also, it was of course, ja... At the time we decided to make this first album it was not yet clear how we would call ourselves, ne? The name was also quite disputed — why Neu! I remember Michael was not so enthusiastic about it but in the end agreed on it. And, eh... I lost the pfaden.
But then you followed through with the simple artwork on the album sleeve...
Ja, there is written Cover by Neu! but it’s not quite true, I think. Michael agreed to all this in the end. And I think in the meantime we are also quite, also we have quite shared the opinion about how it was, who did what and so on. So you could say this is my artwork, and that will also be made clear on the new rereleases, even if in very small letters, but I think it is very important, especially if you look at how people react to just this, without the music, just the cover, or this logo. Incredible stories I heard about this! So, after all. you start to take this a bit more serious... I am sorry if sometimes I just... stop.
That’s fine. After a two year break, when Michael went
and played with Harmonia and was living in Forst with Cluster, what
precipitated that break from your point of view? Were you off doing
other things at that period.
Looking back at these few Neu! concerts we tried and also live Kraftwerk we did, and I was sitting there in these live situations also with Neu!, I mean, I also had a microphone, but I didn’t use it that much, it was mainly drumming live... ja, there was always these third guys, or the other two guys, I mean, Michael was never the problem, there was musically, especially live situation, there was quite blind understanding and so on, but ja, I was sitting there and scheisse what are they doing there, and so on. You know, from this feeling, ja, I thought this drumming I did was quite easy anyway, so maybe find drummer or people who like to drum, like for instance my brother [Thomas Dinger]. I started to somehow introduce him to this at that time, after Neu! 2 hoping, which on Neu! 75 in fact functioned quite well on side two, ja and myself tried to be, let’s say, the opposite of Michael. My plan was to play the guitar, which I more or less started then, more seriously started then, and this in principle was what I could offer to Michael in 74 for the third album. Also, I was busy with this label thing and produced these Lilac Angels, also with Conny by the way, ja, quite high energy output this was, and also, maybe, ja, a bit wasted, all this energy, after all, I must say, but at that time I thought it could be an important step to somehow get more control about this business side. That was about what I was busy with. I was also quite busy with living in Düsseldorf, and, ja, living quite different lifestyle than Michael, which also becomes quite clear if you look at this situation in Forst, which was, jaaa, nice, country life, no dangers, no, nothing crazy really happening with that, so, ja, certainly also busy with that.
Well, in the meantime I also have an affinity to country... since many years I have a place in Zeeland in Holland quite close to the sea and try to be there as often as possible as a contrapunkt to the city. But at that time I was quite focussing on city life...
Was the label called Dingerland at that point?
And did the Lilac Angels album ever get released?
Well, these records were made. They stood there, 5000 LPs, it’s
quite a lot! And I think in 75 I separated from, how should I say,
with one of the members of the Lilac Angels I made this Dingerland
Musik GmbH. And after all this, this didn’t function, we separated
and settled somehow, also financially, and so we got these 5000 LPs
and somehow we got all these sold later. The problem was, of
course, I was dreaming of somehow getting a bit more control over
Neu!, taking Neu! a bit more away from the industry. So if you look
at the Brain label on the vinyl, these things are quite a big
punishment for me, maybe some like it, even. But often in those
small details you realise they don’t understand what you mean, and
it’s just wasted. But Neu! still had to make one more record.
Again, I forgot the question.
That‘s fine you have already answered it. If we can backpedal for a moment to when you went out live. What period was this. This was after the first album?
That was after the first album, ja.
And you brought in some musicians to cover for the fact that you were doing things on tape?
Who were the musicians, apart from your brother?
One was Eberhard Kranemann, with whom I also planned to produce a solo LP, which he wanted to call Fritz Müller, but because of this bankruptcy didn’t happen anymore. So he was only involved, I also made a documentation about this 1974 all let’s say about this Dingerland, but this didn’t go through. He later made this record with Conny, and also somehow it was released. It was very difficult for Michael, I remember, this kind of person, this kind of colour. I remember he was very harsh, very destructive, but only destructive, I remember. Somehow Michael had no chance against him live, so he played him totally broke, because... it’s much easier just to make noise and cover everything with that, instead of trying to be supportive oder so. So there was no chance somehow. The other one was Guru Guru bassist Uli Trepte who was a nice guy but also somehow no ideas, like playing notes like the blue from the sky, as we say in Germany, not so much sense, which you quite often find with musicians, or so called, I think. So what came out of this was totally not what we wanted.
Six or seven...
When you reconvened to make Neu! 1975, Michael said you decided to divide the LP into two with each player leading one side, albeit featuring both of you?
The thing was, when I arrived, although I must say in these 74 free concerts, there was also, let’s say in this documentation I did also as an invitation to people, there was an announced an invitation to these two concerts. There was also announced Fritz Müller, Lila Engel played there and La Düsseldorf, which at that time was only fiction, it was no music, nothing concrete at that time, the name was there and somehow the vision was there, but so far nothing concrete done, which in the end took two more years. The first La Düsseldorf album came out in 1976, and there was cold winters inbetween. So he knew these guys, you could also say the two La Düsseldorf drummers, my brother Thomas and Hans Lampe, he knew these two from these two free concerts which we did, where not announced was only La Düsseldorf, and nobody really knew whether it was now Neu! in this formation that appeared there, or was it La Düsseldorf? Anyway, he knew these two people and as always, somehow, I wanted to get them involved in this last or third Neu! record, and appeared with them in Conny’s studio, but nobody really liked this idea, really. And Michael I don’t know why really, and Conny was also not so enthusiastic about it, so we made this sort of deal that I should at least play drums on one side of the album, which was maybe the point. Also mentally I let’s say decided that on Neu! 2 somehow, I always had the feeling that what I did drumming wise, I couldn’t achieve anything better or more, so from there on also trying to get away from that, which... ja, also to make a point this last big hit, which I don’t remember the title, maybe it is...
Mentally somehow this phase or period was finished for me. I was aiming at a big machine, I always like the idea of two drummers playing as one, somehow, it is easy to get into this, and I mean, they really, it was nice, I think, after all, I think that, ja, Michael somehow must like it in a way. But at that time, afterwards is much easier, often is much easier. When things are really new and the other person can’t imagine, like this second side of Neu 75, and that was also a difficult situation so I decided, OK I’ll go back to drums again once more on the first side of Neu 75 and that was it then really, the first side of Neu! 75, and for instance on La Düsseldorf I didn’t do a single drum hit, totally not, I did all the rest, but not that anymore.
Even so it has that identifiable Apache or Dingerbeat.
Ja, ja, ja.
After Neu! 75, was that it then for you and Michael?
Ja, I think it was quite, I was certainly a bit sad about this development, but that was how it was. Somehow he prefered his country life and obviously also the people he met there, must have felt much better there. And ja, he didn’t like the scene where I was in, at that time in Düsseldorf, he didn’t like very much. I was and still am not so much against acid, for instance, and this kind of stuff, and he was totally not involved in this kind of stuff, the total opposite, so now I realised we had these two quite of totally opposite maybe I shouldn’t say this, but became better, specially recently, I don’t know how to describe it really. It was quite clear that at least for a certain period that Neu! 75 was the last project we did together. Also, as I mentioned before the name La Düsseldorf already existed so in that period after Neu! 75 I tried to make sense with that. I got these two other guys somehow, not got but found, and that was a very pleasant situation, we were very familiar, very close, which I never really was with Michael. From the beginning it looks like we only made music together, nothing else, we never did anything else together. And that was totally different, probably for him, with the guys he found in Weserbergland, which was the Cluster guys, and somehow the same for me in La Düsseldorf. So it was quite natural. I mean, we still contacted, or I should say, I contacted him from time to time, because as I said before, he’s a great guitarist, so I was always interested in great guitarists. So once a year, also in La Düsseldorf, I made this triangular trip, La Düsseldorf, Hamburg, Weserbergland, I made this trip to see how things go. I think in 1976, after the first La Düsseldorf, we made this trip together, my brother, Hans and me, to Weserbergland for a few days to find out if we could do something in this bigger context, ja but not so satisfying...
By the time La Düsseldorf were making albums, had an infrastructure for rock evolved in Germany?
Well, La Düsseldorf made it a bit easier for me, because it was quite successful from the beginning and somehow I met quite good guys at that time in quite good company, so this was quite good experience for me, also business wise. The difference also was, very conscious difference compared with Neu!, I felt the need to become more understandable for more people. Somehow Neu! seemed to me, very important, nice having done this, but I think we both didn’t have the feeling that we could live from it. So somehow change programme not necessarily make shit but change programme, that was also a quite conscious decision and it functioned, and then inside problems, functioned too well, money too much money too fast and so on and this broke from inside, which was also quite normal, quite often happens, which was big pity and big drama also in the end.
Why the name Düsseldorf? What is it about the city? And why the song too?
The thinking was, just first name it Düsseldorf. Then I thought ja, but Düsseldorf, you don’t get copyright for Düsseldorf. So somehow connect with... so from this old fashioned photo business... also we were quite stylish, I think. We also were but La Düsseldorf a bit more even, a bit more glitter on everything and so, La Düsseldorf. It also has maybe a little reference to my brother, who at that time was certainly one of the most beautiful persons in Düsseldorf.
Punk was happening around then, Bowie naming Neu! as an influence, it seemed things you were doing before were now getting noticed?
For me it was not quite like this. You mentioned David Bowie, the first thing I read in an English paper, I think it was Melody Maker, it was some positive credits about La Düsseldorf. I didn’t hear anything about Neu! I must say. That may have been developed more recently, so maybe you better ask him. Maybe I just didn’t get it. Sometimes we were very locked up, sometimes very open, but sometimes totally locked up, nobody in nobody out, and in such a period you can maybe miss this kind of statement, so maybe I was too closed at that time. I don’t know. But in principle I think he certainly couldn’t refuse. It would be interesting to know how it was at that time. Quite some people mention this connection between “Hero” and “Heroes”, which ja in a way he made the best of it!
His instrumentals seem to relate to some of Neu!’s instrumentals?
Did you feel any affinity with punk at that time?
I like The Sex Pistols. I identify punk with The Sex Pistols. But like with all these mass movements, 80 per cent which goes with this one or whatever, and after having experienced, let’s say, these hippy periods, this official hippy period, where you also have this 80 or even more per cent, having experienced this fake, foresaw the next fake, somehow, punkwise, and that is somehow something in principle which I still don’t like, but the intention, ja, I quite liked, but later found out it was also only tricks, it was not really true, where have they all gone? But on the other hand I still feel quite like, also, punk-minded, so from my point the artist has always got to be like sand in the gearbox, or from my point of view he is not really artist. If too smooth and no problems and everything fine, ja, maybe nice for the media and so on, but ja I somehow very much like, for instance, Van Gogh behaviour. But these movements like punk oder so are not so honest, I think. It’s more like it turned out to be fashion or so.
Certain groups, DAF, people who did come out of it, maybe not continuity but they maybe followed on from what you were doing. When you got back together with Michael in 85, or 86, what is the story behind this?
The story behind this was La Düsseldorf split in let’s say the third album Individuellos was released in 1980, and sales wise it was a bit like this [indicates downward slide] because from inside already it was starting to not function anymore somehow, much bad vibrations and so on, and there was a last attempt in 1982 with a maxi single called “Ich Liebe Dich” and “Koksknödel”... this is also quite an interesting in developments, if you look at my brother how he developed from early 1973 beginnings on drums, how he for instance developed also on other instruments, even making his solo album, I think, in 1981 when I was already working on the fourth La Düsseldorf album, which was to be called Mon Amour, but never really happened because in 1983 this totally deteriorated and big court period which lasted 13 years around La Düsseldorf, and so during this development I was forbidden to use this name at that time, and also a bit complicated all this, suddenly stood there was my own studio which I could not operate. Only this third La Düsseldorf member could operate, who had been assistant to Conny Plank, for instance during Neu! 2 while on Neu! 75 already played himself drums, what was also at that time was still also assistant connection with Conny, and when this inside war broke out, I suddenly was in Holland, totally alone, with things I could not use, or was unable to operate, so I decided, or somehow had to go back to Conny, which I did in 84, and I recorded... also there was this technology, sequencers, these things became a bit more usual, you could get the impression it was not so important any more to have people involved somehow, maybe the machines are there, push button at anytime and function, which in a way they did but it is quite obvious what the difference is at least in the meantime between man and machine, and I don’t believe Ralf und Florian, I mean, their ideology I think is a bit over the top, which by the way I find a very pity that they don’t like their first three albums, which I find incredible.
Anyway I was able to record, let’s say, the structures and some basics in this lonesome situation with this 16 tracks, but I thought no way do these two mix an album at that time, so anyway I went with I what I recorded there, went back to Conny, and Conny was very nice, very kind, whereas he was quite angry in 1978, La Düsseldorf bought own studio from in principle the money from the first La Düsseldorf record, and we recorded the Viva album, the most successful album in our own studio, and he was no more involved, for which there are quite obvious reasons, because many people from all over the world arrived at Conny’s studio and wanted to have a look, how did you do this, and so on, and I think we all didn’t find that so satisfying, including also others, somehow left him because he was busy somehow with people coming from England or America or so on. Ja that was also a bit sad development, how Conny got on, in the meantime he is dead for some 14 years, and there is certainly some logic in that which you don’t know at the time. So I went back to Conny and Conny was very nice, and I met first and last time in my life worked with classic studio musicians. This project Mon Amour still existed but I had to change this album title, and changed it to Neon Dian, which you probably never heard, I think, it was a sort of fake release, and in my opinion it was the reason for sort of the final boycott of the industry because there are two not so nice titles on this, one is “America”, which is where in 1984–85, ja, somehow, my let’s say political conscience became quite, also, I had quite a clear picture, I felt, I still think, also I still like these songs, and, ja, I made this experience with Conny and talked about this with Michael on one of my yearly visits and at that time, which was late 85, he somehow agreed that we wanted to do something together again, make another Neu! record or production. I experienced quite a nice situation there with Conny on this Neon Dian project, and soon after we went there, Michael and me went to Conny, and Conny was very enthusiastic, he would have liked to do it, but strangely enough or not, somehow the percentage or money was why this did not happen. In fact, I mean, I don’t know how Michael thinks about that today, probably quite different, but at that time he somehow couldn’t agree on the old deal we had with Conny, which was 33, 33, 33, or so, record company wise, royalties wise, money was never involved, song wise or author wise, but this record company deal was always 33, 33, 33. Somehow I remember on the way to Conny when we wanted to talk with him about that, we were thinking ja, maybe it could be 25, things like this, and in the talking with Conny about this, somehow, Michael stuck to this view, so what can you do, I mean, it didn’t happen. Conny wasn’t involved anymore, so we looked for somebody else. Also during Neon Dian I met Rene Tinner of Can studio, engineer there, and in the meantime, 1985, Conny became big business, 13 people running around there in his own studio, which became quite, I wouldn’t say Hollywood-like, very different from the Neu! 75 situation, and it was a little pigeon, a little pigstall, big business. I also met Rene there and at one point from this Neon Dian title, I also mixed two titles with Rene in Can studio, because Conny was busy with, I don’t know, some American act or whatever, so he was also a nice guy, so we tried Rene for this planned new Neu! production, and it seemed to function, but somehow somebody, I think the owner of the Can studio, which is one of the Can people Holger Czukay, for the biggest part 80 per cent or something, somehow felt he had to prohibit this plan because he felt a little certain solidarity with Conny. So there was nobody there. So Michael and me started in a very small studio, which I knew from making a Neon Dian video. We started there and later went on... I mean, we had the feeling that we had to start at a neutral place, we could not go directly to his studio or my studio, or so on, but then after having started at this, also not very good studio, but good enough to start, finally, we went on to my studio and played in his studio. And somehow we did something together. I mean it was certainly not the best we did, but I think for us, we were somehow pleased with the fact that at that time after 11 years, we were able to do something together, but ja, looking at this now, as I said before, it could have been better. It may also become better. After all, it was also the first record that Kazue [one of Klaus’s entourage sitting in on the interview] here heard in Japan, he didn’t know the originals of course, which were never really available, and somehow he must have liked it, I guess. Kazue can you speak. Am I speaking too much or too long?
The Neu! related Captain Trip releases [Neu! 4 and Neu! 72 Live] seemed to be indicative of your breakdown with Michael, in so far as you were communicating through the record sleeves, asking him to get in touch?
Ja, ja, ja... I think it is necessary to take a closer look at the situation, though, why, for instance I did that. I also heard that Hans Joachim Roedelius, from Harmonia, also had in principle the same problem with Michael, and somehow decided at a certain point, OK I just do it and see what happens. But it certainly was not, if you look at it in black and white, it was certainly not legal, although I felt I had a moral right to do this, especially as Michael refused a deal and offer in 87, which I got from Sky records, a label where he was on as a solo artist. It was not a big offer, but percentage wise was quite OK, not much cash but it would have been released, and nobody close to me could really understand why he did not want to release that album at that time, that was 1987, so this was lying there all these years, and when Captain Trip contacted me in 1994, it was, seven years later, obviously we quite soon also talked about what was available from Neu! so I decided without asking Michael, because if I did so, I am sure it still wouldn’t exist.
You were talking about your contacts with Captain Trip and the release of Neu 4!...
Also Neu! 72 Live, which I called like this, and also I changed the name, originally, this Neu! 4, we originally entitled Neu! 86 or 87, but I don’t know why really. In the meantime the CD as a medium had also developed, which how can I say, 20–30 years ago, always thinking in vinyl lengths, which is 2 x 20 minutes, which is about 40 minutes overall length, while CD gave us possibility for 60, 70, I think even 80 something minutes. And looking at the official material of Neu! 4, or 86, which we agreed on at that time, it was much worse, I think, than I think, if that had been released, because... what I wanted to say, I took a look at the whole material, also what we did not want to put on the records, and I think I found some interesting outtakes. Also, I think the only Rother sounds on guitar at that time. That was also strange. When we did this in 85, 86, this Neu! 4, Michael had totally separated from guitar, totally busy from Fairlight and machines, and it was very difficult to get him to play guitar at that time, and there is in fact only very, very few Rother guitar in this production, and in the offmaterial, looking at the overall, what we got also listening to things we didn’t want to put on the LP or the record originally, I think I found some quite interesting scenes, which I also included, and because that was totally not agreed with Michael, that may have been the reason why I changed the title or something, because 86, Neu! 86 material was different from that. Ja, still doesn’t change the story. Nobody, nothing to smoke here? No hashish available anymore? Ah, pity!
The German national anthem was the one interesting track for me. Extracting moods from different kind of melancholia.
I also don’t know. But I mean, I remember I changed it a little bit, for instance. This record version doesn’t exist on the Neu! 86. And also I slowed it down. So originally on Neu! 86, it was only, certainly not nationalistic. Also somehow apart from being the national anthem, I somehow like it as music, especially if played with string quartet, there is a very nice version, or so on...
Did it have any connection with Hendrix’s “Starspangled Banner”?
Ja, maybe worth thinking about that, but I wouldn’t, maybe it was not so much thought about, it was just...
The Japanese label Captain Trip seems to have totally revitalised the idea of Dingerland?
Yes he was very helpful, even I must say in a way saved my life
at that time. Also I didn’t release Neu! 4 to make Michael angry. I
mean, since this Neon Dian business and this “America”, and the PPR
title, and also from the beginning somehow, through my behaviour
towards the music business I felt quite boycotted, or so,
especially looking at what I had done until that point, not so easy
to boycott, but somehow functioned and so on. Also in 96, for
instance, ah this all so complicated, the dealings about the
original Neu! classics started in 1990, and somehow was always,
also ja, eh, but never really happened... Where was I? Captain
Trip, ja, that was somehow out of the blue, this guy appeared on my
scene, very easy relationship, although very far away, much more
far away than all these people quite close here, but the other way
round far away, but... what was the question?
Captain Trip seemed to revitalise your Dingerland idea, which became very family orientated?
Also, for instance, in 94, I met Kreidler the first time, or they rang me up, so I met Andreas, as this happens sometimes, a bit more light period started. Also, it was the same years, Captain Trip, Andreas, Vicki. Also production wise it became much more easy than, for instance, La Düsseldorf, or also Neon Dian, or also Neu! 4, which all have something in common, in the way that they are much more work simply, in the way they are much more... while for instance Neu! were always very fast, four days or three days, and er somehow came back together with Andreas and other people from a new generation a lot, I felt came back to this more, let’s say, free and fast and let it go behaviour... And I remember in I 98 released four CDs or so, no problem, could have been six, and somehow Captain Trip with his spirit is a very important part of this situation. At least I didn’t know anybody in Germany who would have done that one. That was very nice, I am very grateful for that one. While in the meantime having done this for awhile, also supported some other people I thought are worth to be released, also all with Captain Trip, so this smelled all a bit like Dingerland, and he saw it also a bit like Dingerland, and so on.
The Neu! dealings started in 90, and in 94, also in 94, Captain Trip, Andreas, and also a court case against Metronome, which was then part of Polygram, started. I had to go there because after four years of dealing, they and our man lost his nerves, and said, “You know what, we do it without you now, this release.” So what could I do? Funny this, if you look at where these dealings starting in 1990 which Herbert Grönemeyer finished last year, this is also quite interesting, if you look what happened and what did not, most crazy stories. For instance, 97 we got invitation from Polygram US to come to New York to talk about everything. They also made a nice offer, not as good as Herbert but quite good compared with how it started in 1990 or so, which was nothing, which Michael signed, it was nothing. Quite ridiculous or so, sometimes I felt he wasn’t aware of what it was, at that time felt like it was the last chance for Neu! or something, oh come on, let’s do it. But I thought, no, not for nothing. But in the meantime, I was at this point very pleased. But the question was something else. Captain Trip? Ja, 94, what can I do, they ring me up, I go to lawyer, and lawyer goes to court, and after two years this was clear, and I won quite fundamental procedure there. Unfortunately in 97 the same thing started with La Düsseldorf, and we are still waiting, and for some reason it takes a bit longer, because I think Hamburg is more a media city than Düsseldorf, and the lawyer with whom I won against Metronome, is totally not from music business, just a normal lawyer. While this now, this took place in Düsseldorf, Düsseldorf Court, different courts, but all in Düsseldorf, but La Düsseldorf case is all in Hamburg, and I maybe, I think maybe the courts there belong to Time-Warner, and may take, I don’t know, but we are waiting since four years for the next court decision, which is quite scheisse, specially if you look at the facts it’s totally the same situation so it is a bit strange that something like this is possible. You have a clear decision about the CD rights for Neu!, which is a very nice decision of about 14 pages, and they really did a great job, the judges, on that. If you look at this, itt somehow seems ridiculous that the same procedure has to take place with La Düsseldorf still, but that probably comes because the courts have probably somehow their own rights in their different regions, that may be the reason, but I somehow lost...
With Captain Trip, you began this La Neu!...
Ja, obvious, ne? But it was precisely at that time that La Düsseldorf was blocked, Neu! was blocked, what can I do, so, ja, I chose that name, which I think is not necessarily big damage for Neu! also, because it is totally different, I think, but inside, or Neu! wise, it became big problem, and at the moment I must say it is also difficult because I think that at least some of the releases are quite interesting and so on, and what to do with these now, and also what to do with the people involved it is also quite difficult.
Rene: Can we round it up now?
I hope I didn’t take too many side roads...
No, it’s fine. Maybe just one last question, I think out of all that Captain Trip material, couple of really good records came out...
Too many records, maybe, but the best restored those ideas of simplicity that have never gone out of date, the Apache beat, Dingerbeat or whatever, that survives all these years, continues, never losing ground. What is it about repetition and monotony that works?
If you take a close look at this, it is not as easy as it looks. It is, eh, ja, I myself thought, I mean, it is in a way very easy if you look at big master drummers compared with that it is, but energy wise it can be much stronger than this, let’s call it artificial dru... also, artistic drumming, it is a totally different story, but I think the important thing is how to do this seemingly simple thing, how alive or how fresh or how forward instead of backward instead of like this, which is more African or more machine styles, I was always dreaming or aiming at this, so, fast, also forward, forward, forward, forwards and so on, and people with this mentality it is maybe not so difficult. Like, for instance, at the moment, Kazue not only playing drums but also playing drums, we have worked together since one year now, started with Viva remix, he came from Japan with total computer equipment, which he even expanded here during last year quite a lot. We started with Viva remix and Herbert Grönemeyer singing on “Cha Cha 2000” and got mad a bit after four months totally computer and started making noise simply, he playing on my old drumkit standing in the studio, and I played guitar and from there a whole programme or vision developed. Also, quite some Japanese friends of him, of mine also, who is connected us also, by the way, one of them involved me, and so in the meantime we also working on the new La Düsseldorf album, because the inside war was somehow also finished through the Captain trip release of the La Düsseldorf CDs, which were stopped by Time-Warners and so on. New La Düsseldorf, which will be called Japandorf, I am not sure who will be releasing it. I think maybe that first of all we make it.