Inspirations of the 1980s
Post-Punk, Industrial and German New Wave:
inspirations of the 1980s

Exactly like Eloy, Nektar und Tangerine Dream in Germany, British bands like Emerson, Lake and Palmer (ELP) or Yes also developed a propensity to the bombastic.

Their symphonic structures, high art virtuoso stylisation, and technological material battles led, by 1976/77 at the latest, to a violent reaction. Punk propagated Riot & Anarchy, simple forms, do-it-yourself structures, breaches of convention and experiments. Set pieces that would be retrieved decades later in the electronic scene. Not only the Detroit techno pioneers’ posture of "underground resistance”, but also numerous references in design and fashion and even the Henry Rollins-like stage show of the Berlin electro-berserker T. Raumschmiere, can be recognised as direct citations of Punk. From the contemporary perspective, the musical revolution of Punk appears to have realised itself above all in the first years of post-punk, from about 1979 to 1983. This New Wave phase drew less on the origins of rock’n’roll than on the art and music of the modern avant garde, on the movements of Dadaism, Constructivism and Expressionism. Out of the milieu of the Punk meeting place at the Düsseldorf bar and disco the Ratinger Hof emerged electronic, danceable New Wave bands like Krupps, the dadaist electro-performers of Der Plan and the duo Deutsch Amerikanische Freundschaft (i.e., German-American Friendship), which, produced by Conny Plank and under the acronym D.A.F., became the first proponents of „electronic body music”(EBM).

Music academy-trained drummer Robert Görl and autodidact Gabi Delgado took the sombre, clangourous visions of Industrial music and transformed them into a hammering, sweating electronic retro-futurism which played with the Eros of the machine, provocative political symbolism, and hard homoerotics.

Hamburg represented rather avant gardist rock concepts, but had an infra-structural influence with the journals Sounds and Aktivisten, the later pop pope Diedrich Diederichsen, and the journalist and label head Alfred Hilsberg, with his productions and his columns in "Neuestes Deutschland" (i.e., "Latest from Germany"). In addition, from the circle round the Dadaist intellectual band Palais Schaumburg came Thomas Fehlmann, one of the major current propagandists for Berlin electronic music. In Berlin in 1980, then still the city of the Wall, the Einstürzende Neubauten was founded, one of the most prominent representatives of the "brilliant amateurs”, as Wolfgang Müllers, the brain behind the grotesque, clangourous concept art trio Die Tödliche Doris (i.e., The Deadly Doris), called them in a collection of texts.

With their noisy, rhythmisised sound collages of scrap metals, cheapo electronics and the screamed, neo-Expressionistic lyrics of front-man Blixa Bargelds, the Einstürzende Neubauten invented a radical form of Industrial music whose combination of archaisms and machines fascinated, particularly in New York and Japan. The influence of the Neubauten on later electronic musicians is apparent especially in the ultra hard Berlin "bretter” techno, whose proponents were frequently socialised in this "School of Noise”. From the Neubauten milieu emerged the women’s trio Malaria whose underground hit Kaltes Klares Wasser (i.e., Cold Clear Water) is still mixed today. The group’s then drummer Gudrun Gut today makes up the Berlin Ocean Club together with Thomas Fehlmann. The progressive impetus of the German New Wave ebbed by 1983/84 at the latest. The record industry marketed the trend with stereotyped copies and so ensured a rapid sell-out of its avant garde ideas, while the financially unstable independent labels could not compete. A sobered-up mood began to spread and a phase of restoration in German music production began.

Music of the future on turntables: germ cells of the techno movement

Only with the establishment of DJs as productive artists did a new quality enter into the music business. Through mix techniques and an unusual selection of music, the erstwhile player of hit records became a new type of musician. For the DJ pioneers of the early 1980s like Klaus Stockhausen of the Hamburg gay club Front, Lupo from P1 in Munich, or the Cologne Soulful-Shack-Team, dates at the recording studio were not a matter-of-course. Yet the following generation soon began to record their own records. Maximilian Lenz, alias Westbam, who began his career as DJ in the Odeon of his hometown of Münster, switched after his move to Berlin to the Metropol on Nollendorfplatz. Here he refined his mix technique of Hi-NRG (high energy), house and New Wave. In 1985, he made his debut with This is not a Boris Becker Song, a sort of preliminary study for his later sampling technique, which began with the triumph of digital music production. The development in the production of instruments (303 Synthesizer, TR 808 Drumcomputer) ensured unprecedented rhythmic and sonic possibilities.

In Frankfurt the trained heating engineer Sven Väth allied himself with DJs Matthias Münzing and Luca Anzilotti, who had already brought out the electro pop hit Where are you now? in their electronic project 16 bit. Together, as OFF, they recorded the internationally successful summer hit Electrica Salsa.

At the same time, the influential record salesman Andreas Thomalla, alias Talla 2XLC, who in 1984 had brought out Tekno Talk under the project name Moskwa TV, experimented at the Frankfurt airport disco Dorian Gray with new party forms. His regular techno club established itself as a supra-regional meeting place for fans of harder electronic sounds; Sven Väth also belonged to its DJ team.

"Techno” was formed as a counter-idea in 1987/88 by the masterminds Derrik May and Juan Atkins in the crisis-shaken American car-manufacturing city of Detroit. British club culture invented an energy-charged party format using the Acid house techno variant developed in Chicago. The international networking of the electronic music scene had begun. In 1988, Westbam (who in the meantime had founded the record label Low Spirit together with Klaus Jankuhn and William Röttger) already organised, at the invitation of the Goethe Institute and jointly with other artists, the music programme in the "Kunstdisco” at the summer Olympics in Seoul – a first taste for him of forthcoming world-wide guest performances.

Back in Germany, the regional scene developed different focal points. Round the Hamburg Reeperbahn, rare grooves and hip hop were played in club format. In the summer of 1988, the Cologne Rave Club established regular Acid nights along with hip hop and house. The UFO-Club became the germ cell of the local techno movement.