Interview with Klaus Dinger by: Michael Dee/ London
for: "POP"/ Stockholm/ Sweden/ Oct. 1998
(This reprint with kind permission. This reprint was once more edited by Klaus Dinger in order to get rid of all mistakes, so...: There might be some minor differences between this text and the version printed (in Swedish language) in the "POP"-magazine.)

"Krautrock is the blackhole of rock music." That headline was used last year in dozens of publications. To the casual observer, it seemed almost as if the daily papers had joined forces with the rock press in order, to once and for all, define the exact nature of Krautrock and its influence on the sprawling history of rock music. Needless to say, hapless hacks were falling over themselves to interview members of Can, Kraftwerk, Amon Düül, Faust and Tangerine Dream.

The curious thing about last year's mediablitz was that one of the most important groups, or rather two groups: NEU! and La Düsseldorf, with Klaus Dinger as common denominator, were conspicuous by their absence.

This wasn't a minor omission. It was like documenting New York rock while leaving out The Velvet Underground, like covering Detroit rock while failing to mention MC5.

What made this omission even more peculiar was the profound influence that NEU! and La Düsseldorf had had on mainly English rock music, from David Bowie's trilogy of Berlin-albums: "Low", "Heroes" and "Lodger", where the NEU!-beat ran like a pulse, to Ultravox, Simple Minds and assorted post-punk groups, then on to Acid House, to Stereolab and Tranquility Base.

But perhaps this was to be expected. Despite having read thousands of magazines over the years, I have never encountered an interview with the members of NEU! and La Düsseldorf. To me, and many others, it seemed that these groups had chosen to engulf themselves in mystery, and communicate with the outside world entirely through their records; as if the records were communiques from their own magical universe, Düsseldorf as seen through a laughing glass.

NEU! was formed by Klaus Dinger and Michael Rother in 1971, emerging from an early line-up of Kraftwerk. Over a course of three albums, they developed a music which stretched from beautiful, minimalistic, trance-like grooves to meditative ambient pieces, which were abstract but still rich and contained extraordinarily wide range of emotions, from a child-like sense of wonder to an almost surreal darkness. And then of course there was the beat, the now classic NEU!-beat, invented by Klaus Dinger, drummer and multi-instrumentalist extraordinaire.

It was essentially a 4/4-beat, the most standard of all rhythms in rock music, but Dinger gave it an entirely new dimension through his approach. Instead of breaking it up, by adding fills or creating tempo changes, he quite simply kept playing it, often creating pieces that would last 10-15 minutes. In Dinger's hands, it was no longer a beat, more like a pulse, a very human pulse, that sounded as if it had gone on since the beginning of time and would continue for all eternity. It was like the rhythm of life itself. Over this beat, the pair constructed simple but beautiful soundscapes with melodies, which were often hinted at rather than played.

Listening to NEU! was a bit like finding yourself in a roadmovie, not an American, but a very European road movie, with a slightly naive outlook, as when a child presses its face to the windscreen and gets lost in dreams about the landscape and the clouds swishing by.

And all of it was packaged by Dinger in his very own version of Pop Art, with NEU! painted on the front of the sleeves, in large bold strokes. And inside the sleeves were the credits, written either in his own handwriting, or banged on an old typewriter, alongside cellotaped polaroids, photobooth photographs or silver stars.

Dinger and Rother went their separate ways after "NEU! 75" and Dinger formed La Düsseldorf, with his brother Thomas and Hans Lampe who had worked as a tape-op with producer Conny Plank. Dinger brought the NEU!-beat with him to La Düsseldorf but the melodies were now allowed to fully take shape. And while NEU!'s music was mainly instrumental, La Düsseldorf's was largely based on songs, with lyrics written by Dinger. Among the songs were "Cha Cha 2000" and "White Overalls", a celebration of the band's own, and highly individual look.

La Düsseldorf disbanded 1983 after their maxi single "Ich liebe dich (Jag älskar dig)", which was released in 1982. Over the last few years, the cult around the two bands, or rather, their records, has grown considerably.

Julian Cope, who in 1995 published the book "Krautrocksampler", appeared for a while to be conducting a one-man promotion campaign for NEU! and appeared on Top of the Pops, wearing a NEU! t-shirt, and I have lost count of the dozens of people that have mentioned them in interviews that I've done over the last few years; Primal Scream, Ride, Midge Ure, Jim Kerr, Flood, Ed Buller, Sonic Youth.

But despite the admiration, none of them seemed to know anything about the groups, apart from what could be gleened from the information on the sleeves.

When I interviewed Ralf Hütter in 1991, I took the opportunity to ask him if he was in touch with any of the NEU!-La Düsseldorf members, but he shook his head, with a rather worried look on his face, as if I had reminded him of a part of Kraftwerk's history that he's rather forget.

A few years later I met Karl Bartos, who by then had left Kraftwerk and formed Electric Music, I once again inquired about the various members but he laughed at the question, commenting that the various members of NEU!-La Düsseldorf had always existed on another planet.

Over the last couple of years, more than a few magazines have tried to interview Klaus Dinger, but according to rumours flying around London, these requests were always met with a blank refusal. "Dinger won't talk to anyone", was the word one the grapevine.

I was therefore not particularly hopeful when last July, I sent a fax to Captain Trip, the Tokyo-based record label which has become an outlet for various Dinger-projects. Two weeks later, however, I received a fax from Düsseldorf, written in Dinger's unmistakeable handwriting. More than six months later, we finally get to talk over the phone.

Michael Dee / POP

Klaus Dinger

I ask him to start at the beginning, and how he got into music in the first place.


I don't come from a particularly musical background. I'm more of a "working class hero", if you know what I mean by that. The music teachers at school were very authoritarian. It was only when I got older that I began to find music interesting again. I started to play drums and joined a school band called The No.

In a photo taken in 1966, The No look like a bohemian art/mod band.


We played our own music but our songs were heavily influenced by the Beatles, The Kinks and The Stones. There was also a splintergroup which played jazz/noise and I remember seeing Florian Schneider in the audience at one of the festivals we played. He had a face I will never forget.

Dinger studied architecture for three years but abandoned his studies to concentrate on a career as a professional musician.


I borrowed money to buy myself a new drumkit and I withdrew for six months in order to practice and become more proficient. After that I joined a band called The Smash. We were a coverband really, but we played live a lot, mostly in southern Germany, so at least I could make a living from playing music. Then in the autumn of 1970, I got a call from Ralf Hütter and I guess you know the rest?

Well, there are several versions of how Klaus Dinger ended up in Kraftwerk, so I ask him to put the record straight.


Kraftwerk were recording their first album but they were having problems with their drummer. Somebody had recommended me to Ralf and he called me up and asked if I was interested. He picked me up the same day and we travelled to the studio where I recorded the drums on side 2. Ralf and Conny Plank, the producer, were very pleased with the results. Florian was away on holiday at the time and when he came back, he didn't like it at all. I recorded the same tracks again and they sounded exactly the same. Florian, however, was very pleased but that's another story, a "Ralf & Florian story".

Dinger joined Kraftwerk on a permanent basis and this new line-up played live extensively until Ralf Hütter suddenly quit.


Yes, in February of 1971 he made decision that he couldn't play anymore and he went off by himself somewhere, isolating himself from the world. Florian and I needed to replace him if we were to continue. We tried several people and had a floating line-up but in the end, Michael Rother was the only one of the replacement candidates that remained.

Kraftwerk now consisted of Florian on flute, electric flute, bass flute and electric violin, Dinger on drums and Michael Rother on guitar, and the group once again returned to a regular schedule of live concerts.


It was a very successful line-up, much more than with Hütter.

And Dinger and Rother gave the music a distinctive flavour of their own. According to some versions, the pair more or less came upon their NEU! music while still in Kraftwerk, by chance and through improvisation, and during an inspired session which took place on live TV. It supposedly happened in June of 1971, on a programme called Beat Club where the Kraftwerk performed "Truckstop Gondolero", eleven minutes of trancelike, intensity, with strong characteristics of classic NEU! tracks such as "Hallogallo". Except it didn't happen quite like that, says Dinger.


The real title was "Rückstoß Gondoliero", not "Truckstop Gondolero" which is how it's referred to everywhere. It's difficult to say when Michael and I found our music but it didn't happen on live TV. It was, however, heavily influenced by the live-concerts we had played with Florian.

The NEU!-beat is sometimes referred to as "the motorik". I ask Dinger if there was a moment of discovery, when he thought "mm, now there's something else entirely".


No, there wasn't a moment when I thought "mm". It was more spontaneous than that, and it had more to do with how the audience reacted when we played live. I have never called the beat "the motorik" myself. That sounds more like a machine and it was very much a human beat. Instead I called it "lange Gerade" or "endlose Gerade". It's a feeling, like a picture, like driving down a long road or lane. it is essentially about life, how you have to keep moving, get on and stay in motion. To be driven by the drive, breaking on through. Since "Néondian" [his solo album, released in 1985], I call the beat "Apache".

The first NEU!-album was recorded over four days, with Conny Plank as producer.


After two days we hadn't recorded anything that we could use. On the third day, we started recording "Negativland", with me playing drums, and Michael playing bass. Then I overdubbed a heavily electrified Japanese banjo and that got the whole record rolling. After that we had a recording approach which consisted of putting down some kind of basic track, and then deciding who was going to play what.

Dinger and Rother were both multi-instrumentalists but they were very different, both as people and as musicians.


Michael was a very good guitarist but a bit on the sweet side. He was also very conventional and traditional in his thinking. He was basically against all the things that made NEU! groundbreaking and revolutionary. In those days I took a lot of LSD and he didn't, and as you can imagine, that made a big difference. We never had any loud arguments but he was always so reluctant, always saying: "Do you really think so?" Conny Plank was invaluable as a mediator. He gave me the freedom to fly high and wild. Michael was also very reluctant about the name. He didn't want to call the project NEU!, but it was perfect to describe our music which really was "new".

The name and the Dinger-designed sleeve must have hit the krautrockscene, which was fairly cosmic, like a bomb. Over a white background, Dinger had painted "NEU!" in big, bold strokes. It looked like home-spun Pop Art or an ironic protest against the consumer society which had emerged in West Germany after the second world war. NEU! was, and still is, the most common slogan in German advertising. It hits you in the eyes everywhere you go.


Yes, it was a protest against the consumer society but also against our "colleagues" on the Krautrock scene who had totally different taste/ styling if any. I was very well informed about Warhol, Pop Art, Contemporary Art. I had always been very visual in my thinking. Also, during that time, I lived in a commune and in order to get the space that we lived in, I set up an advertising agency which existed mainly on paper. Most of the people that I lived with were trying to break into advertising so I was somehow surrounded by this NEU! all the time.

Dinger's ambitions with NEU! weren't the usual run of the mill, i.e., musical and career orientated.


I suppose you could say I "abused" the project to fulfill my romantic dreams. One of the main reasons for NEU!'s existence, at least from my point of view, was a relationship that I had with a Swedish girl. Her name was Anita. I lived for a while in Florian's room in his parents'house after he himself had moved out, and his sister and Anita were best friends and that was how we met. On the first NEU! -album you can hear the sound of a rowing boat. I recorded that sound in the summer of '71, when Anita and I were travelling around Sweden in an old Ford Transit. We were "Im Glück", (in happiness); she is the honey in the song "Lieber Honig".

The first NEU!-album was a fair sized hit in Germany.


It sold about 30,000, which was more than most krautbands.

The follow-up, "NEU! 2", was recorded in Jan.-Feb. 1973 and caused considerable problems for Dinger and Rother. Halfway through the recording they ran out of money. Dinger however, got an idea.


We had recorded a single, "Neuschnee/ Super", but our record company (Brain Records), didn't understand it and didn't want it. Bands on our scene just didn't make singles. When the money ran out, I got the idea of taking the single, play around with it and put the results on side 2 of the album.

"Play around with it" in this case meant that the tracks were put on side 2 at normal speed and also in versions played at 16 and 78 rpm. "Hallo Excentrico" with its crazy, swerwing sound, was created by Dinger by playing "Super" out of center, and by hand. "A Pop Art solution to a Pop problem", in other words?


Of course, and it was absolutely my idea. I came from that world, Pop Art thinking. Michael did not like the idea. These days he claims that everything in NEU! was 50/50. Financially: yes. Creatively: no. He was always very conventional.

NEU!'s third album, "NEU! 75" is by many regarded as their finest. The first side is the more lyrical, with many beautifully constructed layers of simple but effective melodies, melting into each other. Side 2 contains, apart from "E-music", a rhythmic trance-like piece, with swirling guitars and keyboards, and also two tracks, "hero" and "After Eight", which are pure punk, or rather pre-punk, since these tracks were recorded late '74, early '75. I ask Dinger if he had heard The Velvet Underground or The Stooges.


I had heard The Velvets in '69 but The Stooges I still know only by name. The music in those tracks didn't come from other bands though. They came from my own emotions. 1974 was a difficult year. I had started my own record company and had produced a band called Lilac Angels. I pressed to many records and around the same time I also organized two free concerts in Düsseldorf and received no help from the industry or the press. As a result, I went bankrupt, to the tune of 50,000 marks, an enormous sum for me. On the top of that, the relationship with Anita, my honey, ended. So all the emotions that I had about these experiences I put into the music.

On "Hero" Dinger sings "Fuck the business/ Fuck the press". He also sings something like "Going back to Norway". So who went back to Norway?


Anita. Her father was a businessman and he didn't at all like the thought of us being together so he moved the family to Norway in order to split us, which despite my many attempts, it finally did.

I realize the full importance of Anita to Dinger only after the interview, when I receive a 14-page fax from him where he explains how he tried to keep the relatonship going on, how the hope of them being together was translated into the NEU!-beat, indeed was the foundation of it. "Driving on to get that girl!" Though they split up more than twenty years ago, he never forgot her. "She was the love of my life" and throughout his work there are references to her, perhaps most clearly and directly on the track "Jag älskar dig" ('I love You' in Swedish) on "Néondian".

On "NEU! 75" the duo was joined by Klaus' brother Thomas and Hans Lampe, with the pair playing drums on side 2. They also joined Klaus for his next project, La Düsseldorf. According to Klaus there was never really a point when NEU! split.


It was more the case of me and Michael drifting apart. He hated the city life and decided to go and live in the country, while I loved the city.

La Düsseldorf's debut-album, released in 1976, is in many ways a glorious celebration of their beloved city. On the front of the sleeve is a panoramic view of the city's air terminal. On the back, there's a shot of the trio, seen against a gleaming wall of corrugated iron. They all wear big, happy mischievious smiles, as if by adding La in front of Düsseldorf, they had accomplished a Pop Art coup and made the city their very own, laying bare its wonderful secrets and fantastic possibilities. La also sounds more than a little camp.


We felt very glamorous in those days. Düsseldorf is a small city but there's a lot of fashion, many photographers and advertising agencies.

There is an abundance of photos on the inner sleeve of their second album, pictures of the trio in their La Düsseldorf-look. "The three of you must have stopped traffic in those days?"


Oh yes, and we were very conscious of it. The look with the white overalls was an idea that I came up with for NEU! and it can be seen in the only official NEU! publicity shot. The others were a bit hesitant at first but we ended up using it as a uniform in La Düsseldorf. It clicked, it functioned. I realized at a very early stage in my life that I would never be able to afford expensive clothes so I had to create my own style. Besides, I never liked the idea that you could just buy "good taste". I had the same attitude to clothes as to sleeves. They had to be based on cheap things, everyday things.

There are many similarities between NEU! and La Düsseldorf but also many differences.


My projects are always about my own vision but also about the people that I work with, what they can do.

NEU! s music was more geared towards instrumentals, minimal and trance-like, whereas La Düsseldorf´s music was more based on songs, with lyrics and clever melodies by Klaus.


During the recording of NEU! 2" I realized that I had done everything that I could do with drumming. Before the recording of the first La Düsseldorf-album, I spent a lot of time trying to make the music more melodious and I also began to write lyrics. It was a conscious decision on my part. I wanted to be more concrete and to reach more people.

Unlike NEU!, La Düsseldorf really looked like a gang, a heavenly gang.


Yes, we were. We didn't live together but we were always together and we felt the same.

And after "Individuellos" it started to fall apart.


Yes. The problem was "too much, too fast". Big money was coming in and we had no one to advise us on how to handle it. How to handle big money had never been a problem in our family.

When I asked Karl Bartos about NEU! - La Düsseldorf he laughed and said, "I think Klaus went slightly crazy. Michael moved out to the country and became a hippie. And Thomas and Hans vanished off the face of the earth. Gone. In the hazy shade of winter".


I don't know what Bartos meant by that. I've only met him once, at a time when he had realized that he wasn't Kraftwerk. And Thomas and Hans have not entirely vanishe from the face of the earth. We have met many times in court because of the disputes over money... Yes, it's sad. The dispute between me and my brother became a family tragedy. It killed my father. I made up with Thomas about a year ago but sadly not with Hans.

And the disputes do not only concern the back catalogue for La Düsseldorf but also the NEU! - back catalogue. Klaus relates the details of the now many strange turnings in the negotiations for the NEU! - back catalogue.


Polygram tried to release the NEU! - albums on CD without my consent and I managed to win the CD-rights, which they never had in the first place, away from them through a court decision which was groundbreaking.

But there is still no deal between Klaus, Michael and Christa, heir of Conny Plank who died in 1987. Consequently the back catalogue is still waiting for an official CD-release. In its absence, there is a lucrative market which is exploited ruthlessly by bootleggers, operating under the name "Germanofon".


I have tried to trace the bootleggers through my lawyer but the trail leads to a post box in Luxembourgh and no further. That's why I am mad at Julian Cope. He didn't mention in his book that these CDs are bootlegs and that's also why I don't do many interviews because they are almost promotion for the bootlegger's products. I don't know when they will receive an official release. There is so much psychology in this. Right now it seems rather hopeless.

However, over the last few years there have been two official NEU! - CDs...


They are semi-official. Michael is still very angry about them.

...released by Captain Trip. "NEU! 72 live", a rather rough recording before an early tour, and "NEU! 4", with recordings that Klaus and Michael made in 1985-1986. Unlike the original three, "NEU! 4" is hardly the stuff that dreams are made of. Klaus agrees.


I am not very happy with it but the good thing about it is that Michael and I at least did something together again.

And despite the various bizarre turnings in the negotiations, there is a possibility that there will be another NEU! - album.


It has been suggested during the negotiations that we should record a new album. I am keen on the idea. Michael is not. So we'll see. It has also been suggested that the old NEU! - tracks should be remixed which I am absolutely against. There is something deeply unethical and immoral about it.

Despite this, Klaus gave his permission to a remix that appeared three years ago, when Steve Hillage's System 7 based their "Interstate" on a sample of "Hallogallo".


It's a decision that I regret now. You can say that once is never but still. I gave my permission mainly because Steve Hillage wrote me two very nive letters.

Captain Trip is these days the main channel for Dinger's music.


Since "Individuellos" (1980) I refused to appear on TV shows. Since the release of "Néondian" (1985) I'm totally boycotted in the west (Listen to "Pipi AA" and to "America"), and the so-called "Big Five" have branded me as being difficult - which I am.

Apart from the already mentioned NEU! - CDs, the Japanese label has also re-issued "Néondian" and two titles with Die Engel des Herrn, plus three CDs from la! NEU?, his current project, "Düsseldorf", "Zeeland" and "Rembrandt" plus the three La Düsseldorf classics plus Thomas Dinger "Für mich" on CD. Also, released in May was "Cha Cha 2000 live in Tokyo 1996 Vol. 1" and "Die with Dignity: Kraut?". Operating under the banner of "electro hippie punk", la! NEU? takes the Dinger vision into the future, while merging with the musical ambitions of his cohorts, of which three are half his age, and the fifth member, Renate Dinger, is his mother. Some of la! NEU? 's music is sad, gentle and moving. On other tracks, such as "Hero '96", Dinger sounds angrier than ever, and perhaps also more bitter. But hope is always present, not the least in the shape of "Cha Cha 2000", a song first featured on the "Viva" album and which has been reworked on "Néondian", by Die Engel des Herrn and now again by la! NEU?.


I find that people of my own generation haven't got very exciting ideas anymore. In 1994 I felt fairly blocked because of all the things that were going on but then I met new, much younger people to work with. As I had invented two fairly successful names, NEU! and La Düsseldorf, I decided to combine the two, and out came la! NEU?.

Klaus, who is 52, is aware of the impact that his groups have had over the last 20-25 years but hasn't heard half of the bands that have incorporated his ideas into their music. He chooses to take a rather philosophical view on the influence that he's had on Bowie, Ultravox, Stereolab and many others.


I can't say that I mind, as long as people mention where they borrowed their ideas. I haven't heard Stereolab. People often send me CDs and cassettes, but quite frankly I don't listen to them. It seems I am always busy with my own projects. I prefer to listen into myself which is quite difficult in an extremely stressed, tense and chaotic life.


© for all texts and pictures (except where explicitly specified):
Klaus Dinger, Pf 33 01 60, D-40434 Düsseldorf.

Design and layout:
Ralf Gawlista, Pf 25 02 34, D-44740 Bochum.
By the way: Gawl stresses that Klaus Dinger's opinions are not necessarily Gawl's opinions!