PETER HEPPNER requires no introduction; his voice is recognisable worldwide, even to those who didn’t know or remember WOLFSHEIM.
It all started in Hamburg, a city known for many an accomplished act, but it was and still is WOLFSHEIM that brings the notion of melancholic nostalgia to minds.
After a few successful albums and having established die-hard fans, Heppner left the coop and went solo.
And expectedly so, his own provisions continued to feed the lovers of his deep, unusual and classy vocal over ‘Solo’, ‘My Heart Of Stone’ and various collaborations including CAMOUFLAGE as well as many others like NENA, PAUL VAN DYK and SCHILLER.
‘Confessions & Doubts’ and its ‘TanzZwang’ companion collection eases the burden of the long wait since his last offering, providing enough material for four albums.
The original material gets the first airing in album versions, then instrumentals, followed by the ‘TanzZwang’ portion with further tracks plus remixes of those by some notable German bods. If that’s not enough, Heppner will be touring the offering throughout Germany this winter.
‘Confessions & Doubts’ opens with demurely ‘Unlovable’, where the listener is transported into the Heppner parallel universe, full of minimal instrumentation, familiar abandonment notions in the lyrical content and that haunting voice, which could be recognised anywhere in the universe.
Joachim Witt, an artist celebrated in Germany something chronic, joins Heppner on ‘Was bleibt?’ Performed in his mother tongue, it’s a modern semi-electronic ballad, coming into its own thanks to WOLFSHEIM-like connotations.
Heppner returns to English on ‘Nothing Ends’, where the tempo speeds up like ‘Once In A Lifetime’ with a modern twist. Thanks to this album, the listeners are truly enjoying ‘Viele Schöne Stunden’, yet another beautiful easy listening ballad, while the reminder that ‘Good Things Break’, as they “tend to change… always end”, brings Heppner into a monologue, where he translates his childhood toys into the pain of adulthood.
German domiciled American Kim Sanders joins the Königsstimme on ‘You Don’t Love Me’, while the most synth content can be found on ‘Chance’, which is stompingly bubbly and super electronic.
The vocal numbers are followed by their stunning instrumental renditions before ‘TanzZwang’ rolls out its red club carpets with delicious dance tracks.
‘Und Ich Tanz’ is wonderfully fast and pointed, leading into superb ‘All Is Shadow’ with its magically executed dance sparkles.
‘Herman Hesse: Im Nebel’ musically nods towards modern day DEPECHE MODE and could be easily performed by Martin Gore and the listener is yet again reminded of the classic WOLFSHEIM on ‘Just One Word’ with its classic hooks and perfect vocal transitions.
‘Once Again’ Heppner waves his magical vocal wand, where the sound blossoms into a mini Love Parade. No chance to ‘Sedate Yourself’ here, the best thing is to continue dancing till the end with ‘Standing Tall’ and he is! But that’s not everything; to top it all, there are further remixes to enjoy…
Heppner can do no wrong, because the moment he opens his mouth, the magic starts to flow, only to cease with the quiet. Nevertheless, with the vast offering of forty tracks, it is easy to lose sight and interest very quickly. The first part is a beautiful standalone piece and the original dance part should have been provided as a separate offering.
A worthy body of work, but only if you allow yourself four independent listenings, pretending those parts don’t form a whole. “Never too much of a good thing” could have been proven very wrong here.
Still, it’s Heppner, and it’s more than good…
‘Confessions & Doubts’ is released by RCA Deutschland as a single CD and vinyl LP while a 4CD boxed set and digital formats are also available, along with a separate edition of the ‘TanzZwang’ remixes
Hamburg Markthalle (15th November), Rostock MAU Club (16th November), Berlin Huxleys Neue Welt (17th November), Hannover Musikzentrum (29th November), Haus Leipzig (30th November), Glauchau Alte Spinnerei (1st December), Magdeburg Factory (8th December), Nuremberg Hirsch (9th December), Stuttgart Im Wizemann (11th December), Zürich X-TRA (12th December), Oberhausen Kulttempel (14th December), Langen Neue Stadt Halle (15th December), Cologne Live Music Hall (16th December)
The German city of Hamburg has been the home of many a great band, but WOLFSHEIM is, by far, the one always mentioned with a dose of nostalgia and melancholy.
Even though the group ceased to exist around 2008, the ominous voice of Peter Heppner still haunts the listener of dark wave electronica, it being WOLFSHEIM material itself, Heppner’s solo projects or his vast collaborations with various artists. The synth duo’s most known song is still 1991’s ‘The Sparrows And The Nightingales’.
Yet, since then, they have compiled a wealth of material widely adored by, even the more discerning fan of electronica. The fourth album from WOLFSHEIM, ‘Spectators’ released in 1999 went straight to number two in the German charts and had been issued in America on Metropolis Records in 2001, before reaching the Gold status in Germany in 2004. Ten songs, one of them in their mother tongue, plus a closing instrumental, left the receiver with a great dose of sombre feeling and pensive nostalgia-like sentiment. How did they achieve that?
Well, Markus Reinhardt’s use of melodies deepens the mood of sorrow for sure; the backdrop to Heppner’s vocals is astounding and meaningful, the uncomplicated musicality of his creations second to none. Without the tone of the voice of the master songster however, WOLFSHEIM would, quite possibly have gone unnoticed.
It is, after all, his distinguished voice, sounding lugubrious, moody, gloomy and very cinematic that made WOLFSHEIM what they became.
All this said, Heppner’s solo projects, although received warmly, never somehow managed to penetrate the listener to the same extent that the work which the duo’s had turned out.
Perhaps it was a case of DEPECHE MODE syndrome, similar to neither Gahan, nor Gore ever meeting full potential outside of the project they share. Either way, it is worth re-visiting ‘Spectators’ and re-introducing this intense, yet un-laboured creation that put WOLFSHEIM on the world map as a band worthy of the repeated listen.
‘It’s Hurting For The First Time’ opens the record with an operatic female vocal, before Heppner comes in with his immaculate, deep and atmospheric rendition over eclectically selected musical elements, coming together skilfully to round up the starting track. The only German language song on the album enters next. ‘Künstliche Welten’, being in Heppner’s native tongue, sounds softer somehow, despite the natural harshness of Deutsch.
The dreamy intro of ‘Touch’ is simply stunning; carefree melody, gentle synth lines, all swaying around the architectural sound of Heppner’s genius. ‘Blind’ has very similar qualities, deeper, softer still and sentimental in feel. Exquisite use of drum patterns and delicate key strokes give the necessary back drop to the desperate melancholy of the vocals.
‘Once In A Lifetime’ drives a change in landscape; heavier synths and harsher beats introduce this magnificent tune, to which WOLFSHEIM released a rather enchanting video. An easy-listening, singalong hymn, despite of its lyrical content has all the danceability elements too.
‘Sleep Somehow’ opens with a drum and bass sequence, the fetching drumming responds extraordinarily well to Heppner’s portrayal of the saddening verse. ‘For You’ is more guitar based and the songster’s craft shapes the tune over a simplistic manifesto of sounds.
‘Read The Lines’ has a dance feel, to which the singing style lends itself surprisingly well, given the nature of Peter’s innate melancholy. ‘I Don’t Love You Anymore’ is a quintessential gloomy song. Depicting a failed relationship with no feelings left in it, yet being artificially life-supported. “I don’t love you anymore… yet we’re dancing” Heppner laments, ”you’re not the one I’m falling for, but we are dancing”. With distinguished synth combinations, surprisingly it bears a light feel and has a definite dance factor to it.
‘Heroin, She Said’ is lyrically strong on the addictions of the subject and has harsh guitar elements to it, more so than the rest of the album. It certainly provides an alternative end to the album before ‘E’ finishes it completely with its nearly all-instrumental content.
The feelings of yearning and sentimentality on this record are truly astounding. Heppner’s melancholic deep voice, so evocative of emotions, yet warm and inviting, draws one in with a great sweep of nostalgia and leaves the listener wanting more. Why not re-visit the other, oh-so-superb albums of WOLFSHEIM’s like ‘Casting Shadows’, which followed ‘Spectators’, with the intense likes of ‘Kein Zurück’ or ‘Find You’re Gone’, or the earliest creations such as ‘Popkiller’or ‘Dreaming Apes’?
is still considered THE VOICE of Germany, with multiple artists, more recently none other than CAMOUFLAGE, collaborating with him on their recent album ‘Greyscale’, with Heppner lending his voice on ‘Count On Me’ so skilfully. German electronica rules once more…
‘Spectators’ is still available on CD and download via Indigo
Dream no more, brace yourself, build that excitement, then rush out and get yourself a copy of this masterpiece by the German veterans of electronica, CAMOUFLAGE.
‘Greyscale’ is the eighth studio album by the trio of Heiko Maile, Marcus Meyn and Oliver Kreyssig from Bietigheim-Bissingen.
Yet again, it is well appointed, loaded with architectural sounds and skillfully hitting the spot, even for the more discerning listeners of the genre.
No two CAMOUFLAGE songs have been same sounding, repetitive or laboured; this being true since ‘Voices & Images’, through to ‘Methods Of Silence’, ‘Meanwhile’, ‘Bodega Bohemia’, ‘Spice Crackers’ and the newer ‘Sensor’, ‘Relocated’ and now 2015’s ‘Greyscale’.
The album will have you ‘Spellbound’ for days on end, with its full bodied, yet easy listening tones, exquisitely selected to complete this one of a kind jewel. ‘Shine’, the first single from ‘Greyscale’, opens the record with its uptempo sounds and invigorating lyrics. A refreshingly stimulating track, it has all the elements of a good introduction tune. It is gripping and dynamic enough to make the listener compelled into wanting more, and more certainly comes with ‘Laughing’. The second song on the album uncannily resembles DAVE GAHAN’s ‘Dirty Sticky Floors’ from his acclaimed solo project ‘Paper Monsters’. This intense and resonant anthem empowers and lifts the spirits with swirling synth motif and intriguing tonality, giving background to the earthy sound of Marcus’ voice. The mood changes swiftly on ‘In The Cloud’. From the quirky, bright and vibrant, we descend into melancholic, reflective and nostalgic. What a superb song it is, with its inspired, ominous and
This leads us perfectly into the next number, which is ‘Count On Me’. To say that the listener is onto a rare treat is an understatement in itself. Marcus opens with his mellow and warm rendition of the first verse, just to be replaced momentarily by the vocal genius himself, Peter Heppner of WOLFSHEIM, the God of atmospheric and lush voices, whose tone can be easily recognised from far and wide.
Heppner gives the song the uniqueness of his own material, especially reminiscent of his own project outside of WOLFSHEIM, ‘Solo’. The serenity of each sound on this track is simply superior, and the element of interest grows with such diversity only into the song number four of this genius-like formation.
The title track ‘Greyscale’ lacks vocals, but it is by no means inferior or disjointed. Sophisticated synth sounds interspersed with quirky rhythms are reminiscent of the magnificent instrumentals DEPECHE MODE used to produce at their best. The track paints a picture of mysterious, hushed situations, with uncertain, eerie and supernatural elements, very much like ‘The Great Outdoors’ or ‘Oberkorn’, the classic DM “no voice” gems. What comes next, is ‘Still’; another delicate and tranquil tune, gracefully embellishing this amazing album, with its rich, almost AND ONE’s ‘Virgin Superstar’ quality. Beautiful strings and French horns soothe the recipient, gently caring for the listener in a carefree manner.
A different sound is introduced with ‘Misery’, a fast, up-tempo track; again, evocative of those brilliant tunes of AND ONE. Danceable and full of melody, this exceptional song leads one nicely onto the more mellow, yet wonderfully rich ‘Leave Your Room Behind’. THE BELOVED ‘Sweet Harmony’ reincarnated in one modern, uplifting form. Bright, rounded vocals by Marcus sit perfectly on the backdrop of the reborn melody.
The second instrumental track from ‘Greyscale’ is cleverly named ‘Light Grey’. A short, yet wholesome tune, rich with suspense and apprehension introduces the listener into ‘End Of Words’. Sublime vocals on this song, resembling tracks of ‘Six Feet Underground’ from DE/VISION, fall against sensational melodies, leading to the third and last instrumental tune ‘Dark Grey’. A bit longer lasting than its light predecessor, yet similarly full of tension and uncertainty.
‘I’ll Find’ closes the album, with clear Leonard Cohen and Peter Heppner influences. Wholesome, yet with a large dose of insecurity and need of reassurance, just like the old WOLFSHEIM tracks we all learnt to love. Superb production, but as this is CAMOUFLAGE; one wouldn’t expect anything less.
Although the immediacy of ‘The Great Commandment’ or ‘Suspicious Love’ is missing, the album does not disappoint; it grips the listener with amazing dose of perfect electronica and leaves one with wanting more. That is why with over thirty years of experience within the music machine, CAMOUFLAGE’s varied concepts have proven popular on both sides of the Atlantic, with audiences in Asia, South America, Stateside and Europe alike.
It is, after all, German electronic music at its best.
‘Greyscale’ is released by Bureau B on 27th March 2015 in CD, vinyl and download formats
CAMOUFLAGE’s 2015 European Tour includes:
Erfurt Stadtgarden (26th March), Dresden Reithalle Strasse E (27th March), Berlin Kesselhaus & Maschinenhaus (28th March), Hamburg Docks (29th March), Factory Magdeburg (31st March), Warsaw Progesja Music Zone (17th April), Bratislava Ateliér Babylon (18th April), Roxy Prague (19th April)
CAMOUFLAGE, the German veterans of electronica, are back with a superb album ‘Greyscale’ this year, a true synth extravaganza of everything that’s great about continental electronic music.
‘Greyscale’ is the eighth studio album by the trio of Marcus Meyn, Heiko Maile and Oliver Kreyssig from Bietigheim-Bissingen.
With the first single ‘Shine’ brightly opening the album and its radiant video depicting Marcus Meyn illuminated by the sparkliest of lights, the listeners are in for a rare treat, as they are invited to join the journey that is this album.
Named after a song by YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA, no two CAMOUFLAGE records are the same or monotonous, from the brilliant 1988 debut ‘Voices & Images’ and their comeback ‘Sensor’ in 2003, through to the current gem, which is “shining” as brightly as the first single recommends. Beginning with the beat of a TR808, Marcus Meyn begins with the lines: “This is the story, we should shout out loud, tell everybody, that no-one lives without – Shine Shine Shine within your mind”.
TEC’s very own Chi Ming Lai was responsible for the liner notes of ‘The Singles’ compilation which was released in 2014 by Universal Music. So to complete the circle, The Electricity Club has the pleasure of chatting to CAMOUFLAGE’s lead singer Marcus Meyn about the old and the new…
Your new album ‘Grayscale’ is out soon. After a successful career of many years starting with ‘Voices & Images’ in 1988, what keeps you motivated and creative?
We love music and we love to make music – it’s a drug. We are still good friends and the way we work together functions like gearwheels. We can’t imagine to live without writing songs or playing shows.
You celebrated your 30th Anniversary as a band with live show in Dresden with a number of special guests. What are your memories of that event?
The event was a fantastic happening we’ll never forget. It was sometimes like a déja vue and when you closed your eyes you were right back in the time, of the original recordings or shows – you know, we had the people on stage with whom we performed years ago and you turn around and see them performing – can you imagine how strange this was for us? And the duets were so much fun – especially for me, the performance with Peter Heppner from WOLFSHEIM was a dream come true.
On the new ‘Greyscale’ album, you feature the amazing Peter Heppner on ‘Count On Me’, how did that collaboration come about?
It was a long-time dream of mine to perform the song ‘That Smiling Face’ together with Peter, because I always thought that his voice with this sadness inside would fit perfectly together. So when we celebrated our 30th anniversary in Dresden, we asked him, if he would like to join the show and sing this song with us – and he did. This was so fantastic – for both of us that we were thinking about producing a new song together for the upcoming album and when I sent him ‘Count On Me’, he immediately said YES, so we recorded the song for the new album.
Being seasoned musicians, do you find live performances easier now, especially with the technology available?
For me as a singer, I always felt uncomfortable with the sound on stage, that’s why I didn’t like to play concerts in the early years. Since the end of the 90s, we play with in-ear monitoring and this changed everything for me. Nowadays I love to perform and it’s getting more and more crazy – I feel free and act free.
During the 90s, the German alternative music scene flourished with acts like WOLFSHEIM, DE/VISION, AND ONE, ALPHAVILLE and FURY & THE SLAUGHTERHOUSE. Was there any rivalry between the bands, or did you consider them as brothers-in-arms?
To be honest, we never thought about other bands – we had enough to do with ourselves. I don’t know what these bands thought or did – I just know, that we acted like a snail and we ran ourselves until we stopped the band for 2 years in 1996.
You sing in English and only very rarely in German? Have you ever thought about combining both like WOLFSHEIM or AND ONE?
No, we never wanted to expand the rare excursions. If we would have more ideas for lyrics and songs, then maybe, but at the moment we have no plans for that.
You had an American Billboard Hot 100 hit with ‘The Great Commandment’, which also featured at No1 on the US Dance Chart; as mentioned, you sing in English but why do you think the UK was never took an interest in CAMOUFLAGE?
I really don’t know – to be honest! It would be an honour for us, to get the chance to play there, but until today we never had a chance to do so.
The UK electronic music scene has given birth to the likes of MESH and more recently VILE ELECTRODES, yet we struggle with acceptance of the genre despite the pioneering ‘Synth Britannia’ era which gave rise to GARY NUMAN, THE HUMAN LEAGUE, OMD, ULTRAVOX and DEPECHE MODE. Why do you think Germany is different and more open to electronic music?
The German music scene also has a long electronic tradition – starting with CAN or KRAFTWERK and it invented Techno, so the fans continue to support this scene – maybe it is inside us, that we like this kind of music, because the fans are growing again, as you can see in the concerts. You could call it dated, but we are quite happy the way it is here!
Your fan base is worldwide, with audiences in South America, most of Europe and the US, do you have a preferred crowd?
Every country has its own crowd and own way to celebrate a good show. But after we played several times in South America, the fans in other countries started to copy the enthusiastic party they saw on YouTube about these shows – it’s really unbelievable – the crowd is singing in between songs, they are celebrating special parts of songs etc. It’s quite funny!
What prompted the choice of ‘Shine’ for the first single?
Right from the beginning we know, that this song MUST be the first single – it was so obvious – if not ‘Shine’, which song would be more obvious to become the first single! The hook line is so catchy and the beat is driving you on – every time when we played the song and the people joined in singing along to the chorus, then we knew, it would be the right decision.
The new album has a beautiful, mellow sound throughout; what’s been the inspiration?
Melancholy is a significant colour of our sound since the beginning, so we knew right from the beginning the sound of the new album will be mellow again, too. We can’t say why this happens all the time, but we feel quite comfortable and at home in it. It is part of our characters.
Titles like ‘In The Cloud’, ‘Misery’ and ‘Light Grey’ indicate that this maturity may have been brought on by middle age? How does age sit with being a touring musician?
To be honest, we’re not thinking about age. We know that things are not as easy on stage as they were a few 10 years ago, but we still feel strong, healthy and in a very good shape and mood, to go on stage and play shows.
But are electronic musicians now the new Blues musicians, where that life experience can only enhance the credibility of the work?
You should always be yourself, when you write songs. Life’s about telling the best stories and to have a certain credibility, you need to be real in what you’re doing and what you’re writing about. People are not stupid – they’ll find out, if emotions are giving a real feeling or not.
‘Greyscale’ promises to be a great success; what are your favourite tracks?
My favourite songs as the singer are ‘End Of Words’ and ‘I’ll Find’… at the moment!
Do you prefer the vintage hardware or soft synths? Are there any particular favourite synths that are key to CAMOUFLAGE’s sound?
We’re using both worlds, but we’re still using the old analogue systems from Roland and Korg, as well as other wonderful real synthezisers.
How have your composition and recording processes changed over the years?
Today, it is quite easier to record stuff in a good quality. In the beginning everything was based in a studio, because the technique was huge and not removable. Today, you only need a laptop, a MIDI keyboard and a microphone and you can produce a whole album, wherever you want.
What’s particularly different now, from say, recording ‘Meanwhile’ in 1991 with noted producer Colin Thurston?
By that time, the record company was spending a fortune of money for an album – these times are over… we don’t have the money to work with names like this at the moment 😉
30 years as a group is a long time, how are you keeping each other sane?
Our basis is friendship. As long as we can act within this, the band will continue.
You are touring Europe to promote ‘Greyscale’, do you think you will ever play the UK?
This would be a dream come true – I hope it will happen one day!
What has been your career highlight with regards CAMOUFLAGE, either musical or personal?
Oh – this is something I really can’t name – there were so many unbelievable and beautiful things happening in the last 30 years – positive and negative, that we won’t miss, that it’s not possible to name them!
The Electricity Club gives its warmest thanks to CAMOUFLAGE
Additional thanks to Sean Newsham at Mutante PR
‘Greyscale’ is released by Bureau B on 27th March 2015 in CD, vinyland download formats
CAMOUFLAGE’s 2015 European Tour includes:
Munich Backstage Werk (19th March), Stuttgart LKA Longhorn (20th March), Cologne Live Music Hall (21st March), Musikzentrum Hannover (22nd March), Aschaffenburg Colos-Saal (24th March), Erfurt Stadtgarden (26th March), Dresden Reithalle Strasse E (27th March), Berlin Kesselhaus & Maschinenhaus (28th March), Hamburg Docks (29th March), Magdeburg Factory (31st March), Warsaw Progesja Music Zone (17th April), Bratislava Ateliér Babylon (18th April), Prague Roxy (19th April)