Tag: Electri_City Conference (Page 2 of 4)

ELECTRI_CITY_CONFERENCE 2017

With the ELECTRI_CITY_CONFERENCE now running for its third successive year, 2017’s event gathered together another stellar line-up of speakers and performers to celebrate Düsseldorf’s standing as the spiritual home of electronic music.

Noted previous participants have included Jean-Michel Jarre, Andy McCluskey, Daniel Miller, Rusty Egan, John Foxx, Mark Reeder, Peter Hook, Stephen Mallinder, Gabi Delgado-Lopez and Michael Rother.

In keeping with the best-selling ‘ELECTRI_CITY – The Düsseldorf School of Electronic Music’ book by Rudi Esch which got the ball rolling, its ethos is to reflect on the cultural impact of the city, while providing a platform for both new and veteran artists.

While the conference still had its usual international feel, there was a distinct focus closer to home with local heroes such as Robert Görl, Zeus B Held, Eberhard Kranemann, Bodo Staiger and Tommi Stumpff all speaking at the event, while others such as Wolfgang Flür and Ralf Dörper graced the event with their presence.

Proceedings began with a showing of ‘Blue Velvet Revisited’, an art documentary on the making of the David Lynch film, serenely soundtracked by TUXEDOMOON and CULT WITH NO NAME; the latter’s Erik Stein chatted with German filmmaker Peter Braatz aka Harry Rag about how he captured the psyche of the maverick director and the behind the scenes tensions on set as a young intern on the iconic movie.

Following on, ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK chaired a panel discussion with renowned music producer Zeus B Held and one-time GARY NUMAN band member Chris Payne, whose musical lives changed when they were introduced to synthesizers. While Held became a member of the German prog rockers BIRTH CONTROL, Payne first became acquainted with German music at music college via FAUST, while he was also a fan of English band VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR who were also a favourite of Paul Humphreys from OMD.

Although Held wanted to make a cold electronic album with GINA X PERFORMANCE, he found that the art student’s eroticism countered the coldness which in turn, created something completely new. For Payne, he admitted it took him some time to get over his original perception that synthesizers were cold, but Numan possessed a strong creative vision that used techniques that could not be learnt at music college, like using diminished 5th chords that suited the dystopian aura of work.

After GINA X PERFORMANCE, Held attended a 1980 Numan gig in Düsseldorf which Payne was a part of. The pair would cross paths again via DEAD OR ALIVE.

In a lively and light hearted chat, the pair recalled their experience of working with their larger-than-life frontman Pete Burns who passed away 12 months ago.

In the studio, Held said “I got on fine with Pete because his mother was German, so we had a few common words we could use. He had a clear vision of what he wanted and the emotional thing he was aiming at. It was crazy, we used four microphones because he sings very loud!”

Meanwhile as live musical director, Payne remembered: “We were rehearsing in Liverpool in 1985 for the ‘Youthquake’ tour, none of the backing singers had arrived, it was just myself and the band making sure everything was in place. Pete was actually quite shy to talk to and he didn’t say anything for the first few days apart from hello… then all of a sudden while we were playing, I heard this VOICE! I looked round and it was Pete who was coming over clearly, but he had no microphone! We could hear him over our racket! It was absolutely extraordinary, I’ve never ever heard anything like it! Although he was insecure, he was a great performer!”

What was particularly striking about the DEAD OR ALIVE material produced by Zeus B Held was that it successfully integrated sequencers and programmed drums with live bass guitar, percussion and brass as on the cover of ‘That’s The Way (I Like It)’ – “It was quite risky and we had to squeeze the brass in” recalled Held, “but Pete wanted this stabbing brass in and we were lucky as we had some good guys, THE KICK HORNS, and explored the spaces we could use them and made sure the sequences weren’t too much on the one to get a feeling of rhythm”

The other artist both Payne and Held have a shared history is of course GARY NUMAN. Payne was one of the musicians on ‘The Pleasure Principle’ in 1979 and recalled “We all played together, we had drums, we had a bassist and myself and Gary on keyboards… there were overdubs but the fundamentals were recorded together”.

From it, ‘Cars’ became a UK No1 and was remixed in 1987 by Held who remembered “I had my new secret weapon called the Fairlight, so I synched up my points and put in car noises. It was also the week the Roland D50 came out so with this and the multi-tracks of ‘Cars’, it was a dream job… I beefed up the drums a bit and I had fun”

With both Held and Payne now in their 60s, their reinvigorated enthusiasm for electronic music and playing live in their respective projects DREAM CONTROL and ELECTRONIC CIRCUS are proof that age is no barrier to continuing musical creativity.

Erik Stein returned to the stage to interview poet ANNE CLARK who despite being from London and being almost unknown in her home country, became a cult favourite within Germany’s vibrant alternative music scene. Growing up in South London, her aim was to put music to poetry and punk opened the doors for her. She said: “the punk thing exploded culturally in everything including comedy, theatre, dance and literature… the things that came after are still resonating”

On her love of electronic music, it was the energy that attracted her, particularly Giorgio Moroder and ‘I Feel Love’. Although Clark has almost near anonymity in the UK, key figures such as John Foxx and Mark Reeder have worked on her music. On why her work has been more appreciated in Germany, she said: “I don’t know, maybe in mainland Europe, people are much more open minded”, although Clark still remembers there was disbelief when ‘Sleeper In Metropolis’ and ‘Our Darkness’ became German hits as she “didn’t fit into the pop star mould”.

The first day of talks was concluded with an excellent presentation by Jonathan Barnbrook entitled ‘Designing Bowie’; “It sounded like someone doing an impression of David Bowie” remembered the Grammy award winner on when the much missed legend phoned Barnbrook about becoming his graphic designer, after seeing his work on a Damien Hirst monograph. He found Bowie to be a charming man who made the process of working with him really enjoyable and fun; this in turn got the best out of Barnbrook.

Referring to designers such as Peter Saville, Malcolm Garrett and Vaughan Oliver, Barnbrook said: “when the magic of the graphics works, it makes something better of the album’s music and the artist, and it’s beyond marketing and something almost spiritual”

On the polarising artwork for ‘The Next Day’ which was the “Heroes” album sleeve with a white square over the top, Barnbrook said it questioned why a new image was expected of an artist every time they released an album, especially with an artist like Bowie who was often shackled by his past.

Also as Bowie hadn’t done an album for 10 years, it was a direct reference to ‘Where Are We Now?’, the lead single from the album. So the artwork effectively subverted Bowie’s whole history by defacing it.

Although the process took six months to get to the white square, various studies had been carried out using the ‘Aladdin Sane’ and Pin Ups’ sleeves, as well an old photo of Bowie performing in New York with a particularly isolated look.

Of course, the artwork was not entirely embraced but with good humour, Barnbrook gamely showed screen captures of some of the more critical responses he received. One was “@barnbrook the Bowie cover? come on, it really is bollocks right?”, but maybe this was actually referring to DEPECHE MODE’s recent live reinterpretation of “Heroes”? 😉

But ‘The Next Day’ artwork became a viral marketing sensation with the public, something that had not been planned at all, with cats inevitably figuring later on. While the passing of Bowie in January 2016 inevitably lingered over the follow-up ‘Blackstar’, its graphics and various ‘secrets’ were again an internet talking point.

“It’s a system and not an album cover” reflected Barnbrook, referring to how modern visual representation of albums ranges from iTunes, CD and vinyl to posters and advertising boards.

Remembering a question the young Barnbrook asked William S Burroughs about the future of typography, the Texan replied “it’s between Egyptian hieroglyphics and airport pictograms…” – inadvertently, the postmodernist writer had predicted emoticons!

So this was discussed with Bowie and the idea for using the Unicode U+2605 pictogram came into being, with the eventual black-on-black vinyl edition of ‘Blackstar’ becoming a much talked about art piece on its own. Barnbrook’s fascinating insight into his work proved to be one of the highlights of the conference.

The musical programme was opened by ELECTRONIC CIRCUS, the combo led by Chris Payne featuring his wife Dominique Hemard plus college buddies Nigel Bates and Mike Stewart.

The emotive gallop of ‘The Trapeze’ and the midlife reflection of ‘Roundabout’ provided a captivating start, with Hemard providing her sweetly naïve Gallic voix. Meanwhile, with Trump and Kim treating the 38th Parrallel like a school playground, the frantic ‘Direct Lines’ was a stark reminder that nuclear war is still a real threat

Mid-set, Payne remained on stage for the arrival of KATJA VON KASSEL to showcase three magnificent songs that the pair had co-written over the last few months. ‘Someday’ captured the beautiful melancholy of Billy Mackenzie while ‘Radio Symphony’ exuded pure electro Weimar cabaret.

A new song ‘Walking In West Berlin’ gave an indication of what is to come on Fraulein von Kassel’s new EP, before the chanteuse and the band swapped positions again for some ‘Space Invaders’.

Returning to the stage to join ELECTRONIC CIRCUS for their final number, those present were treated to a wonderful synth laden version of ‘Fade To Grey’, the German No1 for VISAGE which Payne co-wrote with Billy Currie and Midge Ure.

CREEPS gave a suitably mysterious performance as per their name, the trio donning masks with hints of ‘Twin Peaks’ within their carefully thought out presentation. However, the illusion was tempered slightly when they thanked the audience at the end, rather than moodily walking off stage which would have suited their aura better.

A good proportion of the crowd were gathered for ANNE CLARK to savour her stark observations on the darker side of the human condition. Beginning with dramatic ‘Sleeper In Metropolis’, she kept her audience entranced. With electronic backing provided by Herr B, Clark has said her future live performances will be more selective, but she gave a confident performance which more than satisfied her enthusiastic fans, especailly when she encored with her big German hit ‘Our Darkness’.

The second day of the ELECTRI_CITY_CONFERENCE 2017 had a more Germanic flavour and Dr Uwe Schütte, who compiled the academic guide ‘German Pop Music’, addressed the conference on KRAFTWERK who all but put the city of Düsseldorf on the world map, while Tommi Stumpff recollected the development of electronic body music with journalist Ecke Stieg.

Bodo Staiger from RHEINGOLD made a rare appearance to talk about his career with Rudi Esch; the band never performed live despite the popularity of songs such as ‘Fluss’ and ‘Dreiklangdimensionen’ so have almost become lost whenever the history of German pop is discussed.

RHEINGOLD are certainly under rated and the excellent new album ‘Im Laut Der Zeit’ is a fine return after an absence of original material for many years.

With questions from Jochen Oberlack of Bellerophon Records, the enthusiasm of original KRAFTWERK member and multi-instrumentalist Eberhard Kranemann aka Fritz Müller brought a smile to proceedings. Talking about his new project KRAUTWERK with Harald Grosskopf, he enthused about taking their updated art school kosmische to places as far flung as China. Inspired by the lack of new material emerging from his former colleagues at Kling Klang, the talkative Kranemann certainly has the zest of a man half his age.

Following a presentation of visual and audio interpretations of DAF under the title of ‘Der Räuber Ist Der Prinz’ by students from Der Hochschule in Düsseldorf, it was fitting that the focus of the conference moved towards the duo who formed around the scene at the city’s punk club Die Ratinger Hof.

With the release of the ‘Das Ist DAF’ boxed set on Grönland Records, the profile of the EBM trailblazers is in the ascendancy again. While the music of DAF was aggressive by nature, drummer Robert Görl smiled a lot and revealed an endearing sense of humour during his chat with Rudi Esch.

This was especially evident when pretty photos of himself and partner Gabi Delgado-Lopez, that wouldn’t have looked out of place in Smash Hits or Bravo, were projected on the big screen.

With a biography on the duo written by Esch as a companion to the boxed set on the horizon plus more new material too, new generations of electronic music enthusiasts have the opportunity to discover DAF.

ARCTIC SUNRISE began the musical leg of the second day with their enjoyable brand of dark synthpop. Songs like ‘Tell The Truth’ and ‘When Traces End’ recalled CAMOUFLAGE and particularly DE/VISION whose singer Steffen Keth has clearly influenced the vocal style of Torsten Verlinden.

While mostly remaining behind his rack of keyboards, Steve Baltes dusted off a Roland GR77 bass guitar synth to use on ‘Silent Tears’.

In the absence of his DAF partner, Robert Görl bravely performed along to a selection of pre-laid backing tracks comprising of material from his ‘Glücksritter’ live only project. Musically close to DAF but without the live drums, the material was laced with amusingly deviant lyrics while there was a techno edge in keeping with his more recent and largely instrumental output. However no songs from his brilliant solo debut ‘Night Full Of Tension’ were aired, but Görl’s uptempo set was enjoyable with songs like ‘Schieb Das Kind’ and ‘U.S. Acidboys’.

Modular trance duo STRÖME provided the musical surprise of the weekend. With their magnificent tandem Doepfer A100 systems in full view, the pairing of Mario Schönhofer and Tobi Weber kept the audience’s attention, with their combination of pulsing electronics and moderate but energetic synthesized rhythms showing how modern EDM should be done.

And so ended another fabulous weekend with a friendly, intelligent cultured atmosphere that held plenty of insight and passion; the 2018 event promises a new central location and a big name speaker as the ELECTRI_CITY_CONFERENCE continues to develop and build its reputation even further.


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its grateful thanks to Rudi Esch and Carsten Siewert

Next year’s ELECTRI_CITY_CONFERENCE will take place on 12th-13th October 2018

http://www.electricity-conference.com/de

https://www.facebook.com/ELECTRICITY.Conference/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Chi Ming Lai, Kerstin Key and Anja Deerberg
6th November 2017

Lost Albums: ROBERT GÖRL Night Full Of Tension

DEUTSCH AMERIKANISCHE FREUNDSCHAFT, also more commonly referred to as DAF, undoubtedly all but invented electronic body music; the late veteran DJ John Peel charmingly called them the “Grandfathers of Techno”.

Featuring the nucleus of Gabi Delgado-Lopez on vocals and Robert Görl on drums and electronics, their punky ethos utilised the availability of the-then newly affordable synthesizer technology, attaching the Korg MS20 semi-modular synth driven by its corresponding 16-step SQ10 analog sequencer to heavy Teutonic rhythms.

DAF’s music was a confrontational statement against the very strong American influence in popular culture that had seeped into post-war Germany. But following the cult success of their acclaimed Virgin album trilogy of ‘Alles Ist Gut’, ‘Gold Und Liebe’ and ‘Für Immer’ produced by Conny Plank, DAF went into hiatus after falling under a haze of “sex, drugs and sequencer”.

1982’s ‘Für Immer’ with its best known song ‘Kebabträume’ had already seen DAF veer towards synthpop territory at various points, but it was still something of a surprise when the DAF drummer appeared in 1984 with an eight track album made in that vein, released on Mute Records.

Görl’s solo career had begun with a standalone single ‘Mit Dir’ in 1983. Dark, brooding and magnificent, the song was to become a favourite among the cognoscenti, eventually borrowed by a newer generation of electronic duos like SIN COS TAN, reinterpreted for Prada commercials and covered by DJ HELL with STEREO MCs. But by ‘Night Full Of Tension’, Görl had lightened up considerably and the artwork even had him looking totally relaxed, posing by a swimming pool.

Co-produced by Mike Hedges who had worked his studio magic on ASSOCIATES ‘Sulk’, the percussive backbone of the record was dominated by an Oberheim DMX, in a contrast to the live drumming that DAF followers were used to. And while sequencers were still prevalent, the patterns were now more sophisticated, thanks to the advent of digital sequencers like the Oberheim DSK which could control polyphonic synths such as the OBXa which DAF had used on ‘Für Immer’.

Singing in English apart from on the solemn Brecht-influenced cabaret art piece ‘Gewinnen Wir Die Beste Der Frauen’, Görl exuded a relaxed vocal style in the manner of Bryan Ferry and David Bowie that actually came over more like Yukihiro Takahashi of YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA and Winston Tong of TUXEDOMOON.

And in another twist, ‘Night Full Of Tension’ featured vocal contributions from Annie Lennox; the two had met when Görl played on EURYTHMICS’ ‘Belinda’ from ‘In The Garden’ which Conny Plank had produced. Laced with ad-libs by Lennox, ‘Playtime’ was a fine accessible opener recalling NEW ORDER that showcased the sequencer and drum machine driven pop ethos of the album.

‘I Love Me’ referenced ASSOCIATES and resembled a less frantic and more electronic ‘Club Country’, a track which Mike Hedges helmed. Given the Mute connection too, elements of DEPECHE MODE’s DAF influences that had been heard on ‘Construction Time Again’ ironically also crept in… the sorcerer was grabbing back from the apprentice.

Meanwhile the quirky ‘Charlie Cat’ actually saw Lennox take the entire lead vocal and unsurprisingly, it sounded like something by EURYTHMICS as around this time, David A Stewart was using similar Oberheim equipment.

The second half of ‘Night Full Of Tension’ was glorious; ‘Queen King’ played with androgyny and sexuality over hypnotic sequences and synthetic brass stabs, while on the brilliant ‘Love In Mind’, its machine groove sat comfortably next to the similarly constructed ‘Big Brother’ by Winston Tong and ‘Big Blue World’ by Paul Haig as fine examples of the sophisticated electronic pop that was emerging during this period.

But the album’s highlight was probably ‘Darling Don’t Leave Me’, a passionate but fun duet with Lennox that was also a wonderfully wiggly synthpop pleasure. Closing with ‘Wind In Hair’, this was the closest ‘Night Full Of Tension’ got to DAF, its bassline resembling ‘Der Mussolini’ although this realisation was far lighter, with the synthetic choir and string drones pushing it closer to KRAFTWERK.

DAF reconvened in 1985 for ‘1st Step To Heaven’, their only album in English, but the pair parted ways again. Since then, Görl and Delgado-Lopez have more than occasionally reunited for DAF shows, while the recent release of the ‘Das Ist DAF’ boxed set on Grönland Records has cemented the duo’s status as the “Grandfathers of Techno”.

Meanwhile, the intervening years have seen Görl pursue that very Techno direction with albums like ‘Watch The Great Copy Cat’, ‘Sexdrops’, ‘Final Metal Pralinées’ and ‘Dark Tool Symphony’. So like Winston Tong’s wonderful ’Theoretically Chinese’ excursion, ‘Night Full Of Tension’ was a one-off experiment.

But Görl’s intriguing and cool escapist journey into synthpop crossed over into an audience that may have found DAF a bit too threatening, and that was not necessarily a bad thing. ‘Night Full Of Tension’ is a very good but forgotten body of work that deserves as much recognition as DAF’s Virgin-era albums.


‘Night Full Of Tension’ is still available via Mute Records as a digital album featuring the extended version of ‘Mit Dir’ as a bonus track

http://www.robert-goerl.de

http://mute.com/category/robert-gorl

https://www.groenland.com/en/artist/deutsch-amerikanische-freundschaft/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Sabine Raef
22nd October 2017

ELECTRI_CITY – The Düsseldorf School of Electronic Music

OMD’s Andy McCluskey said: “Musically we are much more the sons of Düsseldorf than we are the sons of Liverpool. KRAFTWERK, NEU! and LA DÜSSELDORF were so much more influential on us than THE BEATLES”.

Meanwhile ULTRAVOX’s Chris Cross adds: “Personally I would have loved to have been in a band like LA DÜSSELDORF” – First published in German during the Spring of 2015, Rudi Esch’s ‘ELECTRI_CITY – Elektronische Musik Aus Düsseldorf’ gave a fascinating insider’s account of the Germany’s influential post-war music scene which was centred around the city of Düsseldorf. The original book spawned an English language edition ‘ELECTRI_CITY – The Düsseldorf School of Electronic Music’, two compilation albums released on Grönland Records and an annual music conference.

The third event in the series will take place on FRIDAY 27TH and SATURDAY 28TH OCTOBER 2017.

Among those performing live will be ANNE CLARK, ROBERT GÖRL, ARCTIC SUNRISE, STRÖME, ELECTRONIC CIRCUS and KATJA VON KASSEL, while JONATHAN BARNBROOK will be giving a talk entitled ‘Designing Bowie’. In addition, ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK will be chairing a panel discussion with Zeus B Held and Chris Payne.

Rudi Esch came to prominence as the bassist of industrial trailblazers DIE KRUPPS whom he joined in 1988, but prior to that, he was in DIE ENGEL DES HERRN with the mercurial Klaus Dinger of NEU! and LA DÜSSELDORF fame.

The book takes an unusual format in that it features a series of parabites, pieced together from over fifty exclusive interviews, to tell the story of The Düsseldorf School and its cultural significance.

This makes the text easily digestible and is certainly a preferred layout compared to the more tedious documents that have been published about musik von die Bundesrepublik over the last few years.

Interviewees include Michael Rother, Klaus Dinger, Wolfgang Flür, Daniel Miller, Paul Humphreys, Andy McCluskey, Martyn Ware, Glenn Gregory, Chris Cross, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Giorgio Moroder and Rusty Egan who gives one of the funniest quotes: “To me, the Germans made cars and rockets. Mercedes and Messerschmitt were the names I knew before KRAFTWERK”.

“Düsseldorf is the capital of electronic music” says Esch, as he gives an account of how the Düsseldorf electronic scene developed from 1970 to 1986 with acts like KRAFTWERK, LA DÜSSELDORF, DER PLAN, LIAISONS DANGEREUSES, RIECHMANN, RHEINGOLD, PROPAGANDA, DAF and NEU!

In those early days, the choice of instrumentation was dictated by money. Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider-Esleben both came from affluent millionaire families, with the latter’s father a prominent architect who oversaw the redesign of the Cologne-Bonn Airport.

As expensive as synthesizers were back then, the more avant-garde types tended to prefer EMS equipment as it did not come with a keyboard, while those who liked melody opted for the Minimoog.

KRAFTWERK of course bought both! But as former member Ebehard Kranemann remembers “KRAFTWERK was not about the money, it was about the music”.

And with his Farfisa organ and its preset rhythm accompaniment, Hütter became fascinated with mechanical percussive templates and goaded their then-drummer Klaus Dinger with his proclamation that it was “the fastest drummer in the world”.

Klaus Dinger and Michael Rother were working class boys, which influenced their pursuit of a more organic approach and ultimately led to them flying the KRAFTWERK nest to form NEU! While Rother had the talent and an easy going manner, Dinger had ambition and his forthright tendencies did not win him many friends. “With Klaus, you never knew if he would give you a headbutt or an invitation to dinner…” says Wolfgang Flür, “…all in all, I didn’t like him”.

Dinger was explosive, confrontational and unpredictable. In KRAFTWERK, while Hütter and Schneider had their neon lit signs with their first names in blue, he wanted one with ‘Klaus’ in red! When Colgate offered to pay a substantial amount of money to use LA DÜSSELDORF’s hit ‘Rheinita’ in a TV advert, he declined. There was also the incident of him breaking journalist Konrad Schalensick’s nose following a negative review of their second album ‘Viva’.

The signs were there from the start, with Dinger playing rhythmic guitar alongside Rother’s melodic interplay, not satisfied with just being the drummer. So without Conny Plank to act as buffer and referee, NEU! would never have lasted for three albums. The silent partner in NEU! who recognised talent and created an atmosphere for musicians to experiment, Plank was without doubt a factor in the second side of ‘Neu! 2’ being filled with speeded up and slowed down variations of a previously issued single.

The thorny issue of KRAFTWERK’s treatment of Conny Plank is discussed in the book; “I don’t know where KRAFTWERK would be today if it wasn’t for Conny” says Hans Lampe, assistant to Plank and later to become a member of LA DÜSSELDORF.

However, Plank did accept 5000 Deutschmarks (a lot of money in 1974!) which bought him out of the co-producer credit on ‘Autobahn’ after it was licensed and edited for release by Capitol Records in America.

Another discussion point is Karl Bartos‘ contribution to KRAFTWERK as he wrote many of the melodies as ‘the kraftsman’. According to Michael Mertens of PROPAGANDA who was a conservatoire classmate: “Karl understood that to make popular music, you had to retain some degree of naivety”.

Classical music education played an important role and it appeared in the most unlikely of places. DAF’s Robert Görl had much in common with Karl Bartos and Michael Mertens, although Görl says: “Wir wollten lieber mit Maschinen arbeiten. We always preferred working with machines”.

During the post-punk period, just as Liverpool had Eric’s, Manchester had The Factory and London had The Blitz, Düsseldorf had a creative centre emerge around Die Ratinger Hof.

Affordable synths from Japan such as the Korg MS20 were a game changer for younger bands like DAF and DIE KRUPPS as they found their sound. However, there was an important distinction between synths and keyboards as Kurt Dahlke of DER PLAN and PYROLATOR explains: “I insist that I am never credited as a keyboardist on records. A keyboard player is some kind of all-round entertainer, sat at his keyboard using various presets. I insist on synthesizer”.

While KRAFTWERK were a reaction to the Americanisation of popular culture in Germany, the next generation of more forthright and aggressive acts like DIE KRUPPS and DAF were a reaction to KRAFTWERK.

Jürgen Engler mentions “I hadn’t bought a single KRAFTWERK album” while Gabi Delgado comments that “To me, KRAFTWERK were sounding too boring, too beautiful, too sedate and too sterile” and even adds “Sequencers and Moroder. That was more important for electronic music than the entire legacy of KRAFTWERK, NEU! and LA DÜSSELDORF”.

DAF’s preference for a militaristic aesthetic caused controversy and confused observers, but from the off, they were out to shock. They attracted a following which Gabi Delgado hated; his parents had escaped from the Fascist Franco regime in Spain. However, their early sequencer guru Chrislo Haas was less bothered and flirted with the ideology as a fashion statement.

Their manager Bob Giddens reckons “DAF kind of overdid it later on with their hyper-Germaness” and as they hit the peak of their success, Ralf Dörper reckons they disappeared in a haze of “Sex, drugs and sequencer”. Haas eventually left DAF and went on to form alternative club favourites LIAISONS DANGEREUSES in a charged partnership with Beate Bartel of MANIA D.

Of course, all this is only a small part of the story. The visionaries, technicians and eccentrics who played their part like the late Gunter Körber (A&R for Metronome and Brain Records who later founded the Sky label that issued key albums by Michael Rother and Wolfgang Riechmann), inventor Werner Lambertz and Florian Schneider’s sister Claudia also give their takes on the scene.

The book appropriately ends its coverage in 1986, when KRAFTWERK’s ‘Electric Café’ disappointed many and led to the departure of Messrs Flür, Bartos and eventually Schneider.

But fast forward to 2017 and Düsseldorf has come to terms with one of its biggest cultural exports and is now happy to celebrate the city’s influence on musicians and artists all over the world.

However, the final word has to go to the departed Klaus Dinger: “A lot of people may have helped themselves to the stuff we developed, and then made big bucks abroad. But nevertheless I’d go as far as saying: this was only ever possible in D-U-S, my home town Düsseldorf”.


‘ELECTRI_CITY – The Düsseldorf School of Electronic Music’ is published by Omnibus Press, available via all good book and online retailers

https://www.facebook.com/Electri.city.Esch/

The ELECTRI_CITY_CONFERENCE takes place in Düsseldorf on FRIDAY 27TH and SATURDAY 28TH OCTOBER 2017 featuring ANNE CLARK, ROBERT GÖRL, STRÖME, ARCTIC SUNRISE, ELECTRONIC CIRCUS and KATJA VON KASSEL – for further information, please visit http://www.electricity-conference.com/

Tickets available from https://www.eventbrite.de/e/electri-city-conference-2017-tickets-37245039917

https://www.facebook.com/ELECTRICITY.Conference/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
26th August 2017

ELECTRI_CITY_CONFERENCE 2016

The ELECTRI_CITY_CONFERENCE held its second event at Düsseldorf’s CCD following the success of the inaugural gathering.

With impressive line-up that read like a ‘Who’s Who?’ of electronic music, former NEW ORDER bassist Peter Hook, OMD’s Andy McCluskey, HEAVEN 17, WRANGLER, MICHAEL ROTHER, VILE ELECTRODES, METROLAND and TINY MAGNETIC PETS were among those who took part in 2015.

For the 2016 event, JOHN FOXX, STEVE D’AGOSTINO, RUSTY EGAN, MARSHEAUX, CULT WITH NO NAME, JIMI TENOR, JORI HULKKONEN and ERIC RANDOM played live while among the speakers were DANIEL MILLER, CHRIS LIEBING, MARK REEDER and CHRIS PAYNE.

The conference coincided with co-organiser Rudi Esch publishing ‘ELECTRI_CITY – The Düsseldorf School of Electronic Music’, an English language version of his acclaimed book documenting the development of the city’s innovative and inspiring music scene which spawned acts such as KRAFTWERK, DAF, RIECHMANN, NEU! and LA DÜSSELDORF. With Jochen Oberlack of Bellerophon Records acting as the weekend’s Master of Ceremonies, the first of the special international guests was MARK REEDER.

mark-reeder-in-dusseldorf2016Presenting his acclaimed documentary ‘B-Movie: Lust & Sound In West-Berlin 1979-1989’, the film captured the music, art and chaos of West Berlin before the infamous wall came tumbling down.

But as Reeder explained in his charmingly fluent Mancunian lilted German to Tassilo Dicke in the Q&A afterwards, the enclosed conscription free environment allowed a creative melting pot to emerge where everything and anything seemed possible.

Next up was CHRIS PAYNE in an interview hosted by ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK. Best known as a member of GARY NUMAN’s band between 1979-1990 and for co-writing VISAGE’s ‘Fade To Grey’ with Billy Currie and Midge Ure, the Cornishman began by demonstrating his bass Cornamuse, a double reed instrument from the 14th Century.

Revealing that he studied Medieval music, he even treated the audience to a quick burst of ‘Cars’ before reflecting on its limitations and therefore highlighting the expansive possibilities of synthesizers.

Now domiciled in Normandy, he happily chatted about his period with Numan, recalling how he had 21 keyboards in his armoury and some of the practical jokes he played on the 1979 support act OMD.

At this time, OMD were a duo comprising of Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys plus a third member Winston. Despite some electronic music publications stating Winston was a drum machine, Payne confirmed that Winston was most definitely a tape recorder. And on the final night of the UK leg of ‘The Touring Principle’ at Hammersmith Odeon, Payne thought it would be amusing to put on the lock of the TEAC A344 4-track reel-to-reel to stop it from playing.

The genesis of ‘Fade To Grey’ occurred during soundchecks on ‘The Touring Principle’, but Payne recalled how the song’s cyclic structure had been composed during his time at music college.

With regards the song’s female French voice, while the eventual German No1 featured RUSTY EGAN’s then-girlfriend Brigitte, the idea had come from Monsieur Payne and featured on the original recording made at Martin Rushent’s Genetic Studios with a different lyric.

Mute Records impresario DANIEL MILLER and techno guru CHRIS LIEBING followed and while Miller reflected on his love of German music which inspired his own recordings, he highlighted the musical kinship he had with Liebing and even joked that they would probably want to play exactly the same tracks during their DJ sets later that night at the Time Warp club night hosted by Salon des Amateurs.

The ELECTRI_CITY_CONFERENCE was about live music too and Manchester electronic veteran ERIC RANDOM had the honour of opening proceedings.

Random recently released his new album ‘Words Made Flesh’ on Austrian record label Klanggalerie, but the one-time CABARET VOLTAIRE and NICO collaborator made his return in 2014 with ‘Man Dog’, ‎having last issued a long player using his own name in 1986 as ERIC RANDOM & THE BEDLAMITES.

Opening with his set with the groovy ‘Knock Yourself Out’, he captured the ethos of the weekend with his sinister but funky, voice sample laden electro. Occasionally adding vocoder and his own FAD GADGET inspired vocals as on the hard beat driven ‘Let It Go’, the Germanic environment more that suited his stark style of presentation.

MARSHEAUX’s appearance prompted dancing in the aisles and despite monitor issues, the duo delivered a fine performance which can soon be witnessed in the UK at TEC004 in Norwich.

The brooding aggression of ‘Burning’ from the new album ‘Ath.Lon’ proved to be a highlight, while other newbies such as ‘Safe Tonight’ sat well next to slightly reworked fan favourites like ‘Breakthrough’, ‘Dream Of A Disco’ and ‘Come On Now’.

A beautiful rendition of DEPECHE MODE’s ‘The Sun & The Rainfall’ won over anyone who wasn’t already convinced, with two new converts being Claudia Schneider-Esleben, sister of KRAFTWERK co-founder Florian and JOHN FOXX who sat absorbed throughout the entire set.

Finishing proceedings on day one was RUSTY EGAN with a part live-part DJ presentation of his upcoming record ‘Welcome To The Dancefloor’.

Augmented by NIKONN and CHRIS PAYNE, it began with a marvellous dual overture where the latter performed instrumental piano based renditions of ‘Down In The Park’ and ‘Fade To Grey’.

He even sneaked in snatches of Numan evergreens ‘Are Friends Electric?’ and ‘Cars’ as well.

Seguing into the ‘Nu Cinematic’ ambient version of VISAGE’s German No1 featuring Payne on violin, there was then the surprise inclusion of the beautiful VISAGE instrumental ‘Whispers’; this was not entirely successful as the monitor problems continued, but it was a brave choice and more than welcome for that very reason.

Erik Stein from CULT WITH NO NAME joined the ensemble for ‘Ballet Dancer’ and ‘Love Is Coming My Way’, his voice more than complimenting the two synth heavy tunes before the video playback section. Featuring the lead vocals of Andy Huntley, Midge Ure, Emily Kavanaugh and Tony Hadley, such was his enthusiasm, Egan couldn’t resist joining in on the mic. But Egan got his turn on lead when he morphed into an MC for ‘Wonderwerke’, adding a “was ist das?” snarl shaped by his inimitable London swagger.

Closing the main set with ‘Thank You’, Egan’s vocodered list of musical heroes over layers of sweeping synths even prompted him to walk into the audience to encourage their additional robotised contributions.

The following day began with artists and journalists being given an informal tour of Düsseldorf by Rudi Esch. The landmarks included Düsseldorf HBF where KRAFTWERK had their iconic monochromatic photo on Gleis 17 taken and the entrance to the former Kling Klang studios.

Among those present were JOHN FOXX and MARSHEAUX, with one particularly memorable moment taking place outside Der Ratinger Hof, when Foxx held court as he chatted about working with Conny Plank on ‘Systems Of Romance’.

Appropriately, formal second day proceedings began with the showing of ‘Keine Atempause – Düsseldorf, Der Ratinger Hof und Die Neue Musik’, a film about the city’s music scene followed by a panel Q&A.

But afterwards, a familiar character from Berlin reappeared. The scheduled speaker MARTYN WARE had unfortunately been taken ill, so MARK REEDER kindly stepped in with an interview in English conducted by ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK; this chat differed from the day before, focussing on Reeder’s own music career and his long association with NEW ORDER.

Interviewed by German journalist Ecki Stieg, JOHN FOXX gave a marvellously eloquent talk covering his entire career. Working with Brian Eno on the first ULTRAVOX! album, the one-time ROXY MUSIC synthesist told Foxx it was important to keep a space at the end of an album to make a new song out of nothing; that nothing of course became ‘My Sex’. Reflecting on the recording of ‘Systems Of Romance’ to applause from the attentive audience, Foxx also declared Conny Plank as the most important record producer since George Martin.

Despite the innovation of his debut solo album ‘Metamatic’, Foxx moved away from pure electronics due to criticism that his music was cold.

At the time he thought “Maybe I’ve done the wrong thing… it made me afraid of my own music in a way… I’ve never been any good at judging the quality of what I do, I like it but don’t know if it’s any good or not!” – this led to the more band oriented sound of the follow-up ‘The Garden’ which included the actual ‘Systems Of Romance’ song.

Talking about his third solo album ‘The Golden Section’, Foxx said “I wanted to combine electronics with psychedelia… I think I failed because I tried to fit too many favourite things together. It’s always a mistake, it’s like having a meal with all your favourite food, you have fish and pudding and cake and soup and it’s not good! You might love them all, but if you put them on the same plate… but it was out of enthusiasm so I can forgive my younger self for making mistakes like that!”

Post-punk balladeers CULT WITH NO NAME and their inherent laid-back atmospheres provided the perfect transition into the evening’s programme of live music. While many of CULT WITH NO NAME’s songs are piano based, it’s when they mix in some uptempo electronic tension that things get really interesting. This was exemplified by ‘Rosabelle Believe’, a new song featuring Steven Brown of cult art rockers TUXEDOMOON. Also including the best known number ‘Breathing’, those still recovering from the techno and deep house barrage at Time Warp on the night before would have found this set most welcoming.

Premiered in 2014 at London’s South Bank, JOHN FOXX and STEVE D’AGOSTINO supported by visual artist KARBORN gave an assured performance of ‘Evidence Of Time Travel’, “a unique investigation of the terrors and pleasures of temporal displacement. A sinister sonic architecture of drum-machine-music and analogue synthesizers”.

KARBORN’s cut-up images and filmed segments complimented the stark and stoic soundtrack.

A continually evolving audio / visual experience, the finale of ‘Empty Clothing Blows Across A Beach’ saw Katia Isakoff join the trio on a Moog Theremin.

Locking into a wonderfully trippy improvisation, disturbing schizophrenic voices also reverberated around the enclosure.

The second day concluded with a unique presentation of the silent art movie ‘Nuntius’. Featuring a live improvised soundtrack from Finnish musicians JIMI TENOR and JORI HULKKONEN, the film stars MR NORMALL as its central, alien character. Seemingly manufactured in outer space, MR NORMALL explores the woods, stares intensely and even rides a motorcycle sidecar combination through a tunnel in Helsinki with a Shetland sheepdog named Louis.

The film’s accompanying music ranged from blippy ambient to frantic motorik, with Tenor occasionally taking to a flute while Hulkkonen brought out his portable Trautonium, an electronic instrument with a pressure sensitive glided board and whose conceptual origins date back to 1929.

The whole experience was totally mindbending and when MR NORMALL appeared on stage with Tenor and Hulkkonen, things became even more surreal.

It was fabulous weekend that was a reminder of Düsseldorf’s importance as a centre for art, culture and fashion. With the rising profile of the ELECTRI_CITY_CONFERENCE, the 2017 event will be a must-attend date in next year’s diary.


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its warmest thanks to Rudi Esch and Carsten Siewert

Live performances can be viewed at
http://concert.arte.tv/de/electricity-conference

www.electricity-conference.com/

www.facebook.com/ELECTRICITY.Conference

www.facebook.com/Electri.city.Esch/

www.jorihulkkonen.com/

www.facebook.com/jimitenor/

www.mrnormall.net/

www.metamatic.com/

www.altersonicsound.com/

www.karborn.com/

www.cultwithnoname.com/

http://rustyegan.net/

http://www.electronicmusiclibrary.com/

www.facebook.com/undonikonn/

http://marsheaux.com/

https://twitter.com/theericrandom

http://mute.com/

www.clr.net/

www.facebook.com/markreedermusic/

www.electroniccircus.co.uk/

https://bellerophon-records.com/

www.groenland.com/en/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Markus Luigs, Roger Kamp, Lola Li and Chi Ming Lai
23rd October 2016

MARK REEDER vs ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK in Düsseldorf

mark-reeder-in-dusseldorf2016The 2016 ELECTRI_CITY_CONFERENCE had the bonus of a second MARK REEDER interview conducted by ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK’s Chi Ming Lai.

The scheduled speaker MARTYN WARE had unfortunately been taken ill, so Reeder kindly stepped in. The day before, he had already spoken in his charmingly fluent Mancunian lilted German about ‘B-Movie: Lust & Sound In West Berlin 1979 – 1989’.

In this insightful documentary, he narrates about the music, art and chaos of the divided city before its infamous wall came down. Now best known as a remixer, MARK REEDER relocated to Berlin after he left Manchester in 1978 to explore his passion for German electronic music such as KRAFTWERK, NEU! and TANGERINE DREAM.

His enlightening hour long chat covered topics such as his time as Factory Records German representative, living in Berlin, his MFS trance label and working with acts such as JOHN FOXX, PET SHOP BOYS, DEPECHE MODE, MARSHEAUX, BLANK & JONES, QUEEN OF HEARTS and NEW ORDER.

The discussion formed part of the 2016 ELECTRI_CITY_CONFERENCE’s weekend long programme of talks and live music to celebrate Düsseldorf’s electronic music legacy.

Also participating were DANIEL MILLER, CHRIS LIEBING, JOHN FOXX, STEVE D’AGOSTINO, RUSTY EGAN, CHRIS PAYNE, MARSHEAUX, ERIC RANDOM, JIMI TENOR and JORI HULKKONEN.

As a climax to the 2016 event, JEAN-MICHEL JARRE will be performing in the city on SATURDAY 22ND OCTOBER at the ISS Dome and giving a pre-show talk.


MARK REEDER’s remix collections ‘Five Point One’ and ‘Collaborator’ are released by Kennen and Factory Benelux respectively

‘B-Movie: Lust & Sound In West Berlin 1979 – 1989’ is released by Edel as a DVD and Blu-ray; the soundtrack album is also available as a 2CD, double vinyl LP and download

https://www.facebook.com/markreedermusic

http://www.b-movie-der-film.de/

http://www.electricity-conference.com/de/


Text by Monika Izabela Goss
20th October 2016

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