Neu! (trademarked NEU! in block capitals, German: New!, pronounced [ˈnɔʏ]) was a German krautrock band formed in Düsseldorf in 1971 by Klaus Dinger and Michael Rother, after their split from Kraftwerk. Though Neu! had minimal commercial success during its existence, the band is retrospectively considered one of the founders of krautrock and a significant influence on a variety of subsequent rock, post-punk, and electronic music artists.
(1971–1975) Main career
Neu! was formed in 1971 in Düsseldorf as an offshoot from an early line-up of another seminal krautrock band, Kraftwerk, whose early works were also produced by Conny Plank. The name ("new!") was inspired by the prevalence of the advertising business in Düsseldorf at the time, according to Dinger, who described it as "the strongest word in advertising" and even owned a pro forma advertising agency himself for the purpose of booking studios.
Drummer Klaus Dinger had joined Kraftwerk midway through sessions for their eponymous debut album. Guitarist Michael Rother was then recruited to the Kraftwerk line-up on completion of the album. (Rother had been playing in a local band called The Spirits of Sound, the line-up of which also included drummer Wolfgang Flür, who would himself go on to join Kraftwerk two years later.)
Kraftwerk founder Ralf Hütter left the band at this point and, for six months, Kraftwerk consisted of a trio of Rother, Dinger and Florian Schneider. This line-up played sporadic gigs and made a live appearance on German TV programme Beat Club. Recording sessions at Conny Plank's Windrose studio were unsuccessful (Rother later attributed the failure to "a difference of temperament"). Dinger and Rother parted company from Schneider and began Neu! with Plank. Hütter rejoined Schneider and the pair continued recording the second Kraftwerk album with Plank.
The band's eponymous first album sold very little by mainstream standards (though 30,000 records was a lot for an "underground" band), yet is today considered a masterpiece by many, including influential artists such as David Bowie, Brian Eno, Iggy Pop and Thom Yorke of Radiohead. It included the Motorik benchmark tracks "Hallogallo" and "Negativland" (the band Negativland took their name from this track), and bizarre "songs" like "Sonderangebot".
Their second album, Neu! 2, features some of the earliest examples of musical remixes. The duo, excited about recording another album, decided to expand their limits by purchasing several new instruments. With the money they had left as an advance from the record company, they could only record half an album's worth of material. The company would not increase their advance because the first album did not sell well enough and the label did not see a reason to further finance what was most likely to become a flop. To rectify the lack of material, the band filled the second side with manipulated versions of their already-released single "Neuschnee"/"Super", playing back each song at different speeds and sometimes warbling the music by messing with the tape machine or placing the record off center on the turntable. The songs "Super 16" and "Super 78" (being respectively slowed-down and speeded-up of the prototype punk song "Super") unwittingly became the theme songs to the 1976 martial arts cult classic Master of the Flying Guillotine by Jimmy Wang Yu. This film was later referenced by Quentin Tarantino in Kill Bill Volume 1 by also featuring the track "Super 16".
Dinger and Rother were both very different when they were left to their own devices, and this led to their final album of the 1970s, Neu! '75 being two solo half-albums. Side One was Rother's more ambient productions which were similar to the first album, albeit more keyboard-driven. Side Two (particularly the song "Hero") was acknowledged as important influence by many later involved in the UK's punk rock scene, with Dinger's sneering, barely intelligible vocals searing across a distorted Motorik beat with aggressive single chord guitar pounding.
To aid with performing on the album (and more importantly, live), Hans Lampe and brother Thomas Dinger were enlisted to help execute more music than was possible by two men. Upon its release, and arguably to this day, Neu! '75 is the most diverse record available from the krautrock scene. While this can be seen as a positive point, the differences in musical direction (as well as personal issues) not only isolated the Dinger/Rother duo, it isolated their already small fan base. Neu! broke up after the release of Neu! '75.
Neu! are highly praised in Julian Cope's "Krautrocksampler", along with other krautrock artists such as Kraftwerk and Can, and Cope has also written a song called "Michael Rother" which appears on CD2 of the Deluxe edition of the album Jehovahkill.
(1975–1984) Band inactivity
In 1974, Rother had already collaborated with German electronic duo Cluster, recording as Harmonia an album titled Musik Von Harmonia. In 1975, he recorded a second Harmonia album, Deluxe, and further sessions followed with Brian Eno, which were not released until 1997 as Tracks and Traces. In 1977, Rother started recording as a solo artist. His first three albums; Flammende Herzen (1977), Sterntaler (1978), and Katzenmusik (1979) were recorded with Neu! producer Conny Plank.
Klaus Dinger, his brother Thomas and Hans Lampe formed La Düsseldorf, cited by David Bowie as "the soundtrack of the eighties". The band released three successful albums; La Düsseldorf (1976), "Viva" (1978) and "Individuellos" (1981).
(1985–1986) Aborted comeback
Between October 1985 and April 1986, Dinger and Rother tried to rekindle the flame that was Neu!: by adding more synthesizers and a slightly more commercial aspect to some compositions, the band sounded like a cross between their old selves and the recent new wave groups. Then they were torn apart again by personal and musical issues.
An example of the sharp contrast between Dinger and Rother was evidenced by such tracks as "Crazy", Rother's attempt at pop, and "'86 Commercial Trash", a Dingerian collage of dialogue and sound effects from Germany's television commercials of that year. The work that took place in these sessions would later resurface as Neu! 4 in late 1995.
Dinger and Rother did not work together during the 1990s, and indeed some degree of acrimony existed between them, not least because Dinger had released a couple of old substandard Neu! recordings on the Japanese Captain Trip Records label without Rother's knowledge or consent. In late 1995, this label released the previously mentioned Neu! 4 recordings from the 1985–1986 sessions. It also released Neu! '72 Live in Düsseldorf (recorded on 6 May 1972), which comprised poorly recorded rehearsals for some abortive live shows, but notable for the inclusion of Eberhard Kranemann, who had briefly been in Kraftwerk with Dinger.
A 1999 tribute album, entitled A Homage to Neu! (Cleopatra Records), features covers from artists including the Legendary Pink Dots, Download, Autechre, Dead Voices on Air, Khan, System 7, and James Plotkin, as well as an original track from Rother entitled "Neutronics 98 (A Tribute to Conny Plank)". Plank had died in 1987.
(2001–2008) CD remasters
For many years the acrimony and legal wrangling between Rother and Dinger prevented their reaching agreement over licensing arrangements to make Neu!'s music available on CD. In the ensuing vacuum, illegal and inferior-quality bootleg CDs (mastered from old vinyl records) were distributed by an outfit called Germanofon.
This situation was finally resolved in 2001, when Rother and Dinger put aside their differences and entered a studio to transfer the three Neu! albums to CD, from the original master tapes (reportedly mastering each album three times). These were produced and released by Grönland Records (licensed to the Astralwerks label in the US), packaged with stickers featuring rave reviews by notable artists, including Thom Yorke. Following the release of the first three albums, Dinger and Rother tried but failed to agree on a legal release of Neu! 4. Rother called the failure of those negotiations "unfortunate".
Rother has said that he and Dinger had been considering recording a fifth Neu album, but the idea was aborted after personal disagreements resurfaced between them. Dinger died of heart failure on 21 March 2008. Rother said that he was unaware of Dinger's illness until just before he died.
Rother writes and produces solo albums. Before his death, Dinger was a member of the band La! Neu? - whose name also irritated Rother - as well as collaborating with Miki Yui and band Sub-tle in a project that is unreleased to this date.
(2009-present) Brand Neu!, Neu! '86, Hallogallo 2010
On 25 May 2009, the new record label Feraltone released a compilation CD called Brand Neu! containing tracks by many modern artists who credit Neu! as an influence. Most notably, it featured a track from Michael Rother from the previous Neu! homage album (A Homage to Neu!) and a new track by La Duesseldorf.de, one of Klaus Dinger's final recordings before he died. The compilation features both new and established artists from all around the world including Oasis, Primal Scream, Kasabian, School of Seven Bells, Ciccone Youth (Sonic Youth), Holy Fuck and the young band Pets With Pets from Australia. This was to outline the enormous influence of Neu! which spans multiple decades and countries.
The rights to the Neu! back catalogue are jointly owned by Rother, Dinger's estate and Plank's widow, Christa Fast. Rother worked with them to produce a box set that included all of Neu!'s recordings including material that appeared on the Neu! 4 album (now officially released as Neu! '86). Neu! Vinyl Box was released in May 2010 and Neu! '86 followed as a standalone release later that year. The box set included some of the 'live' recordings from 1972 on a maxi single.
In 2010 Rother teamed up with Steve Shelley (of Sonic Youth) and Aaron Mullan (of Tall Firs) for Hallogallo 2010, a live project to present Neu! music and some new pieces. He has since toured sporadically with the German trio Camera, performing the work of Neu!, Harmonia and his own solo music, occasionally with Dieter Möbius of Cluster.
- The band Negativland is named after a Neu! track, and so is the name of their record label, Seeland.
- A track on The Whitey Album by Sonic Youth side project Ciccone Youth is titled "Two Cool Rock Chicks Listening to Neu!" The Neu! track "Negativland" is audible in the background.
- Former Broadcast member Tim Felton and former Plone member Billy Bainbridge named their project, Seeland, after the Neu! song.
- The Japanese punk/new wave band Polysics have an album entitled Neu!
- Argentina-based band Cassetto is named after the Neu! track.
- English electronic band Death in Vegas have a track on their 2004 album Satan's Circus entitled "Sons of Rother" which features a Motorik-like 4/4 beat and repetitive keyboard chords in the Neu! style.
- Mexican electronic musician Antiguo Autómata Mexicano has a track entitled "Rother, Dinger, You and Me".
- English synthpop band OMD have a song called "4-neu".
- English band Porcupine Tree covered the track "Hallogallo" on their album Insignificance and Neu! are a major influence on Steven Wilson's side project IEM.
- Argentinian band Spike The Mikail Rother Hedgekipper are named after the Neu! band member. Their only album to date is Black Forest Gateau named after a UK Neu! album compilation, and the original LP sleeve is clearly visible on the album cover artwork photo showing a scattering of LPs on a park bench.
- The British post-punk band Neu Electrikk derived their name from having heard the album Neu!
- The British New Wave/synthpop band Ultravox, who cite the Neu! as a major influence, in its early career worked under the name Ultravox!, with the exclamation mark being a reference to the exclamation mark in the Neu! band name.
- The Anglo-French group Stereolab, who cite Neu! as a significant influence, named their debut EP Super 45 and an album track "Peng! 33" in reference to the speed-manipulated tracks included on Neu! 2.
- David Bowie's 1977 album "Heroes", in particular its title track, was directly inspired by the 1975 Neu! song "Hero".
- James May's 'Cars of the People' Series 2, Episode 1 used 1975 Neu! song "Hero" as background music for a race between a British and a German sports car.
- Oasis' 2008 single The Shock of the Lightning was inspired by Neu! and Can.
Probably the most cherished element of the Neu! oeuvre is what is often called the "Motorik" beat (meaning 'motor skill' in German) - although the band themselves did not use this term. Dinger himself later referred to it as the "Apache beat". At least one third of their recorded output is in the Motorik form. Here they deconstruct the traditional rock song format, with its verses and choruses, intros and changes, stripping it down to a single minimalist 4/4 beat, which Dinger repeats continuously throughout the entire track. Neu! were a big influence on the sound of the 1970s band Hawkwind, particularly Simon King and Lemmy's driving Motorik drum and bass double act. The band's 1975 track "Opa Loka" is an homage to Hallogallo. Japanese experimental music group Boredoms cite Neu! as a huge influence on their later sound, evident in their unique application of the radical tape manipulation remix techniques and driving 4/4 rhythms pioneered by Rother and Dinger. Releases such as Super Ae and Super Roots 3 pay clear homage to the classic Neu! sound.
In terms of traditional western and rock music harmonic form, Rother would complement Dinger's rhythm by eschewing chord changes, and instead opting for a harmonic drone – a single chord, layering numerous electric guitar overdubs. Timbral change takes over from harmonic change as the main focus of interest. Conny Plank was renowned as a producer for creating a working environment where musicians could be free to explore such experiments, and also as a master of timbral texture and spatialisation. Many other Neu! tracks are very slow and gentle, sketching out traces of a song in what might be called an ambient style.
- Klaus Dinger – vocals, drums, guitars, keyboards, koto, percussion (1971–1975, 1985–1986; died 2008)
- Michael Rother – guitars, bass guitar, keyboards (1971–1975, 1985–1986)
- Eberhard Kranemann – bass guitar, slide guitar (1972)
- Uli Trepte – bass guitar (1972; died 2009)
- Thomas Dinger – drums (1975; died 2002)
- Hans Lampe – drums (1975)
- Konrad Mathieu – bass guitar (1985–1986)
- Georg Sessenhausen – drums (1985–1986)
All Neu! albums on Brain Records were reissued in 2001 by Astralwerks and Grönland Records. All Neu! albums on Captain Trip Records have at least in part been re-released as part of the 2010 Grönland Records Vinyl Box.
|1973|| Neu! 2
|1975|| Neu! '75
|2010|| Neu! '86
Compilation, out-take and live albums
|1982|| Black Forest Gateau
|In 1984 Brain Records released a double album putting together Neu! and Neu 2 reissued as a double album. Limited edition on see-through vinyl, also available on marbled multi-coloured vinyl.||1995|| Neu! 4
|1996|| Neu! '72 Live in Dusseldorf
|2009|| Avantgarde History
|2010|| Vinyl Box
- 1972 – "Super"/"Neuschnee" (Brain Records)
- 1975 – "Isi"/"After Eight" (United Artists Records)
- 2010 – "Crazy"/"Euphoria" (Grönland Records)
- 2001 – A Homage to Neu! (Cleopatra Records)
- 2009 – Brand Neu!: Tribute to Neu! (Feraltone)
- Martin Charles Strong (2002). The Great Rock Discography. Canongate. p. 687. ISBN 978-1-84195-312-0.
- Kopf, Biba (2001). "Klaus Dinger interview transcript". www.thewire.co.uk. Retrieved 2016-02-05.
- "Klaus Dinger and Neu! and La Düsseldorf and Die Engel des Herrn" - Article from "Real Groove" No 2, Aug. 1996, with personal comments/corrections by Klaus Dinger. Retrieved on October 8, 2007.
- "Michael Rother podcast interview from the Quietus, conducted at All Tomorrow's Parties, May 2008". Retrieved 2008-05-15.
- Website of Dinger's last project, Japandorf: www.japandorf.com
- "Various - Brand Neu! (CD) at Discogs". Discogs.com. 2009-06-05. Retrieved 2016-09-08.
- "Music - Review of Various Artists - Brand Neu!". BBC. 2009-05-11. Retrieved 2016-09-08.
- "Reviews | Brand Neu!". The Quietus. 2009-05-21. Retrieved 2016-09-08.
- Porter, Tom (2008-09-28). "Noel Gallagher on The Shock Of The Lightning: "It's Krautrock" | Oasis Noel Gallagher | Guitar News". MusicRadar. Retrieved 2014-04-19.
- "michaelrother.de - Neu! vinyl box set released on 10 May 2010". michaelrother.de. Retrieved 2010-03-12.
- Neu2010.com (official website)
- La-Duesseldorf.de (official Klaus Dinger website)
- Dingerland.de (previous Klaus Dinger website)
- MichaelRother.de (Michael Rother's official website)