Founded in 1984, The Strongroom is a music community hub in London’s Shoreditch comprising of studios, rehearsal spaces and bars.

It was the location hosting for a special book reading event with Robert Görl reading from his memoir ‘The Voice That Dwells Within’ with his co-author Hanna Rollmann, although this remained oblivious to the polite security lady when asked about where the room was within the complex. Musical luminaries in attendance included Sarah Blackwood, Jonathan Barnbrook, Anıl Aykan and James Knights.

Robert Görl, together with the late Gabi Delgado, formed DEUTSCH AMERIKANISCHE FREUNDSCHAFT after meeting at the iconic Düsseldorf punk club Ratinger Hof; the pair pioneered what became known as Electronic Body Music, influencing a whole generation of bands including FRONT 242 and NITZER EBB.

Although originally a five piece band that also included at various points Kurt Dahlke, Michael Kemner, Wolfgang Spelmans and Chrislo Haas, the classic DAF duo incarnation of Görl and Delgado become reality thanks to the advent of affordable synth and sequencer technology from Japan. Armed with Korg’s MS-20 patchable semi-modular monophonic synth and SQ-10 three channel 12 step CV / Gate control sequencer alongside Görl’s powerful drums and Delgado’s provocative snarl, the combination provided a unique barrage of sound without the use of guitars.

DAF’s ‘Die Kleinen Und Die Bösen’ in 1980 was the first album released on Mute Records and the duo would go on to issue a trilogy of acclaimed albums ‘Alles Ist Gut’, ‘Gold Und Liebe’ and ‘Für Immer’ on Virgin Records all produced by the legendary Conny Plank. DAF then spilt for the first time in 1983. Görl returned to Mute Records and recorded the cult hit ‘Mit Dir’ ahead of his debut solo album ‘Night Full of Tension’ in 1984. He would reunite with Delgado in 1986 for their only album in English, the disco-oriented ‘1st Step to Heaven’ but DAF would become an on-off affair until Delgado’s untimely passing in 2020.

‘The Voice That Dwells Within’ begins in 1989 when Görl was involved in a serious car accident near Munich on a very cold night. His body is literally in pieces but as he slowly recovers and learns to move again, he has time to reflect on his life and future motivations…

The publication of the authorised ‘Das Ist DAF’ book in 2017 meant that Görl’s own autobiography was temporarily interrupted. But interest returned with Dr Hanna Rollmann, whose PhD thesis discussed “existence and transcendence” in the work of Søren Kierkegaard and Franz Kafka, entering the fray to help make sense of all his little paper pieces before interviewing her subject to complete the book.

Robert Görl and Hanna Rollmann make a wonderful partnership, with the glamorous academic acting as moderator to the esteemed musical pioneer, steering the interview about his career, giving prompts to the readings and providing the voice to the dream sequences of the book.

Despite the heavy atmosphere during some parts of ‘The Voice That Dwells Within’ reading, there were lighter moments too as Görl remembered his departed DAF brother Gabi Delgado. Although DAF emerged from the German punk scene, Delgado hated guitars and dismissed other bands reliance on them which he considered to be creative nothing more than old fashioned rock ‘n’ roll. There was also a recollection of Delgado appearing in one of his dreams as Elvis complete with iconic quiff!

On his return to the reunified Germany from his Buddhist studies in 1992, it was the once-divided city of Berlin that Görl chose to make his new home, thanks to the emergence of the now famous Love Parade as a symbol of freedom, inclusion, tolerance and acceptance. To conclude the book reading event, Robert Görl gave an intimate performance of two DAF songs ‘Der Räuber Und Der Prinz’ and ‘Verlier Nicht Den Kopf’ before a touching emotive rendition of his brilliant first solo single and signature tune ‘Mit Dir’.

‘The Voice That Dwells Within’ is not a standard chronological autobiography. Through its story of Görl’s recovery, it takes an almost surreal impressionistic approach, coming over like a journal, as personal details and reminiscences pop up at unexpected moments.

One of those recollections comes when prior to their 1984 collaboration ‘Darling Don’t Leave Me’, Annie Lennox recommends that our hero takes singing lessons with her vocal coach Tona De Brett whose other clients ranged from Elizabeth Fraser, Rick Astley and Paul Young to Edwyn Collins, Ari Up and John Lydon! Being made to repeat the phrase “red lorry, yellow lorry” for over an hour while practising octave changes and observing the vowel shapes in his mouth proves to be liberating. But it also provokes amusement that other less likely characters may have had to do the same thing…

The ultimate lesson from Robert Görl’s life story is that contentment and well-being is not from fame and fortune but from a wider sense of acceptance and salvation.

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its sincerest thanks to Robert Görl, Hanna Rollmann and Simon Helm of Cold War Night Life

‘The Voice That Dwells Within’ / ‘Das Versteck Der Stimme’ by Robert Görl and Hanna Rollmann is published in English and German as a double-sided hardback book by Hirnkost KG, available from Amazon UK

Text and Photos by Chi Ming Lai
7 February 2024