NEU! (German: New!, pronounced [?n??]) was a German band formed by Klaus Dinger and Michael Rother after their split from Kraftwerk in the early 1970s. Though the band had minimal commercial success during its existence, NEU! are retrospectively considered one of the founding fathers of Krautrock and a significant influence on artists including PiL, Joy Division, Brian Eno, David Bowie, Stereolab, Gary Numan, Ultravox, Radiohead, Simple Minds, and much of the current electronic music scene.
The band always wrote their name NEU! in block capitals and with an exclamation mark.
(1971–1975) Main career
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 (recently made available on DVD). Attempted recording sessions at Conny Plank's studio were unsuccessful ("a difference of temperament", Rother was later to remark), and Dinger and Rother parted company from Schneider and began a new project with Plank: NEU! (Schneider rejoined Hütter and the pair continued recording the second Kraftwerk album with Plank.)
Their 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 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 band, excited to record another album, decided to expand their limits by purchasing several 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 anywhere close to well 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". The song "Super 16," unwittingly, became the theme song 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. 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, unintelligible vocals searing across a distorted Motorik beat with aggressive single chord guitar poundings.
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 great 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 subsequently recorded a second Harmonia album, Deluxe, and further sessions followed with Brian Eno, which were not released until 1997 as Tracks and Traces.
(1985–1986) Aborted come-back
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, and undoubtedly 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 resurface in late 1995 as NEU! 4, see below.
Conny Plank died in 1987.
Dinger and Rother did not work together during the 1990s, and indeed some degree of acrimony existed between them, not least due to Dinger releasing 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 above-mentioned NEU! 4 recordings from the 1985–1986 sessions. It also released NEU! '72 Live In Dusseldorf (recorded on May 6, 1972), considered their weakest release, but notable for the inclusion of Eberhard Kranemann, who was involved with NEU! precursors Kraftwerk as well.
A 1999 tribute album, entitled A Homage to NEU! (Cleopatra Records) features covers from artists by bands 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)".
(2001–2008) CD remasters
The rights to the NEU! back-catalogue are jointly owned by Rother, Dinger's estate and Plank's widow, Christa Fast. However, for many years a degree of acrimony and legal wrangling existed between Rother and Dinger and they could not agree on 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 calling themselves 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 then released on the Grönland Records label in the U.K. and 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 entered negotiations to legally reissue Neu 4! Rother has called the failure of those negotiations "unfortunate" but has left open the possibility of at least some NEU! 4 material as well as additional material from the 1985–86 recording sessions.
NEU! did not recorded anything new after NEU! 4. Rother has said that he and Dinger had been considering recording a fifth Neu album, but the idea was aborted after personal problems arose between them. Dinger died of heart failure on March 21, 2008. Rother also said that he was unaware of Dinger's illness until just before Dinger died.
(2009) Brand NEU!
On the 25th of 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.
In interviews conducted summer 2009, Rother announced that he is working on a boxset that will include all of Neu!'s recordings including material that appeared on the NEU! 4 album (which Rother refers to as NEU! '86). "I’m investing a lot of time and effort into the NEU! vinyl boxset, which we hope to release later this year," Rother explains. "It will contain all of NEU!’s recordings, also the ones that were illegally released by my NEU! partner, the late Klaus Dinger, in the Nineties" Plans also are to include a thick booklet filled with rare photos and new text. Rother also mentions word of live recordings appearing in the box set.
- The band Negativland is named after a NEU! track, and so is the name of their record label, Seeland.
- 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 rock'n'roll band Oasis recorded a cover of "Can You See it Now? (I Can See it Now!)" during their sessions for Don't Believe the Truth, which is available on the Japanese edition of the album.
- 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.
Probably the most cherished element of the NEU! oeuvre is what is often called the "Motorik" beat (a portmanteau combining the German words 'Motor' and 'Musik') - 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 bass and drum double act. The band's 1975 track "Opa Loka" is an homage to Hallogallo.
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 (1971–1975, 1985–1986) – vocals, drums, guitars, keyboards.
- Michael Rother (1971–1975, 1985–1986) – vocals, guitars, keyboards.
- Konrad "Conny" Plank – producing, sound-engineering.
- 1972 – Neu! (Brain Records) – studio album.
- 1973 – Neu! 2 (Brain Records) – studio album.
- 1975 – Neu! '75 (Brain Records) – studio album.
- 1995 – Neu! 4 (Captain Trip Records) – studio album.
- 1996 – Neu! '72 Live in Dusseldorf (Captain Trip Records) – rehearsal recording.
- 1972 – Super / Neuschnee (Brain Records)
Biography from Wikipedia