by Graham Needham
Die Krupps were formed in 1981 by Jürgen Engler and Ralf Dörper and since then they have gone through five distinctive phases in their career embracing everything from cold experimental works, pure metallic dancefloor beats to guitar laden industrial. Thus in doing this they have picked up many fans along the way and have strived to keep the Krupps work ethic going until finally they reached international acclaim with their "II - The Final Option" album, to the point where many mainstream artists wanted to remix their work. However, all that was to come when the duo had first started out.
Somewhere in Dusseldorf Ralf Dörper had been producing a variety of electronic music singles whereas Jürgen Engler had worked with an early German punk band called Male. It was from these two backgrounds that Die Krupps was formed early in 1981 and joining them were three other people Bernward Malaka, Frank Köllges and Eva Gößling. They recorded an epic thirty minute experiment in rhythmic metal bashing and noise which was split across two sides of a vinyl only album released on the famous German independent label Zickzack.
They had plans to play this material live and to this end Jürgen invented the Stahlophon (Steel-o-phone) an instrument that allowed him to effectively play metal on metal and be able to amplify it more tunefully than just hitting two pieces of metal together. They first played live at Haus Blumenthal, Krefeld in 1981.
Changes were already happening though and when Die Krupps recorded their first 12" single "Wahre Arbeit Wahrer Lohn" (A Fair Day's Pay For A Fair Day's Work) in June 1981 Eva and Frank had already left to be replaced by Ralph Albertini. The changes constituted much more structure and this showed in the music as the single was a big underground dance track based on the idea of a work song from the vast and mighty metal industrial background of the country. Metal, electronics and chants fused to create a rampaging anthem that propelled Die Krupps on their way towards success.
For their next album Ralph Albertini had disappeared as quickly as he had arrived, Bernward Malaka was reinstated and a new member was found in Tina Schnekenburger. However, Die Krupps found the independent nature of Zickzack to be too limiting so they signed a new deal with the German arm of WEA. Die Krupps recorded and released their "Volle Kraft Voraus!" (Full Steam Ahead) album which was to be a more accessible release with it's ten short tracks including the brilliant "Goldfinger" (released as a 7" single) and the original "Wahre Arbeit Wahrer Lohn". Still specifically German, hard and quite un-pop like their material was shunned by those that preferred gentle rhythms and English lyrics including a large proportion of their home people. Things would have to change once again.
Very quickly Ralf Dörper left to form Propaganda who went on to have much success in the UK and Europe on the ZTT label. Meanwhile the new Die Krupps (Bernward having left once more, now to be replaced by Christopher Lietz and Walter Jaeger) had set their sights on England and to do this they took a new approach. Still using their music to signify the relationships of human life, sex and machinery they approached the English dancefloor with metallic rhythms and more importantly, English lyrics. They rerecorded "Goldfinger" in English and their famous "Wahre Arbeit Wahrer Lohn" as "True Work" and released the tracks as a 12" single on Quiet Records in June 1984.
This was to be followed in 1985 by the mini album "Entering The Arena" which took a grandiosely slower operatic stance and although Jürgen's English was not perfect to say the least, it probably made the mechanisations of their work sound even better. They dedicated the album "to all the gladiators who fall in the arena of life". It was perfect timing too with their style of music beginning to influence an array of artists creating mechanical, steel edged dancefloor attacks. However, with just that one mini album Die Krupps disappeared.
Four years passed before Ralf Dörper had eventually been released from his contractual obligations with Propaganda and he met up with Jürgen Engler again with specific intent of reforming Die Krupps. With the other members having gone their separate ways (although Christopher Lietz was to return and help with production or engineering on later projects) the two set about finding a third member. Rüdiger Esch, a bass guitarist, was finally chosen and they all set about working on the return of Die Krupps.
Once more going back to their original "Wahre Arbeit Wahrer Lohn" track they took the essentials and rerecorded it as "The Machineries Of Joy" and to add authenticity to their work they asked a well known band to remix it for them. The epitome of British(!) Germanic beats and thus the obvious artist to take this task on was Nitzer Ebb. Nitzer Ebb remixed the track three times as the 'True Pay Mix', 'Sweet Pain Mix' and the 'Skateboard Mix'. However, at his point things went a little awry. A 12" promo was issued with Die Krupps' own 'Wahre Arbeit Mix' on the A side and backed with the 'Skateboard Mix'. The forthcoming single release was advertised in the UK press as being on 12" vinyl and CD single. The 12" appeared with the 'Wahre Arbeit Mix' on the A side but was backed with the 'True Pay Mix'. It can only be assumed that the 'Sweet Pain Mix' and the 'Skateboard Mix' were to appear on the CD single but this CD never got released in the UK although apparently one exists in Germany on the B.C.M. label (anyone got this and a track listing?). Thus Mute released a second 12" single with the 'Wahre Arbeit Mix' and the 'Sweet Pain Mix' but no 'Skateboard Mix' leaving this latter mix commercially unreleased in the UK if anywhere at all.
Into 1990 Die Krupps actually went back to their roots once more and recorded the much acclaimed "Germaniac" single, once again releasing the single independently only in Germany this time on Strike Back Records. The single was issued as a limited edition 12" and CD single only. The single was huge on the German underground dance scene and Die Krupps were back in favour both in the UK and their homeland Germany. This was the spark to start them recording a new album and to start touring again.
To this end Mute Records' The Grey Area (John McRobbie) requested to release a compilation and through Rough Trade Germany's "Our Choice" it finally got released in August 1991. It was released as a limited edition double clear vinyl 12" set and a compact disc. However, each release contains four tracks that are not on the other so both items are very collectable especially as they both contain an unreleased 'No Human Contact Mix' of "Germaniac".
Moving into 1992 and enlisting Volker Borchert for live drumming they recorded the album "I". Utilising their new three ring (members) triangular logo on a black background and a grey Zeppelin balloon in the foreground the album did extremely well spawning two singles "Metal Machine Music" and "The Power", the latter only released in Germany. Die Krupps were starting to take the heavier approach now and this was highlighted by the seven remixes of the "Metal Machine Music" single where the heavy metal band Accuser guested.
The progression of heavy metallic to heavy metal was beginning to start. More guitars, real drums showed an obvious slant towards the guitar led industrial sound that had recently been made mainstream by acts like Ministry and Nine Inch Nails. Throwing caution to the wind they threw out the drum machine altogether and enlisted the drummer Björn Lücker. Turning their attention to real metal they dug around in the archives and came across old Metallica albums.
Before "I" could slip from fan's thoughts Die Krupps recorded and launched "A Tribute To Metallica" to a strangely wild enthusiasm in Europe. It was a five track mini album of Metallica cover versions and suddenly Die Krupps was a household name in the world of heavy metal. To make this style more permanent they replaced Björn with Darren Minter and to play guitars they took on Lee Altus (who would also find himself helping Jürgen with the writing of new material). With this new momentum and direction they recorded the album "II - The Final Option".
Prior to the album's release Die Krupps offered their fans a taster in the form of the single "Fatherland". This was another homage to their homeland Germany and the single was also another superb Germanic anthem. Heavier and darker it struck all the right chords (and riffs) to nestle nicely between electro-industrial and the more modern guitar industrial. Both sets of fans loved it and bought it. Released on to the back of this rising crest of a wave was the album. And to enlighten their fans as to how the changeover was achieved both the initial copies of the vinyl LP and the compact disc came with a free demo versions album.
Die Krupps were bigger than ever and in the rise to popularity there came an assuredness and more friendships with people in the business. Once the cold, workaholic, dancefloor creators now they were one of the rising stars of industrial. But whereas some artists were alienating their fans by jumping on bandwagons Die Krupps were showing progression in a much more mature way which is one of the reasons why they have become so popular.
More singles followed including "To The Hilt", "Crossfire" and "Bloodsuckers". The "To The Hilt" single offered remixes of the title track and live versions of "The Dawning Of Doom" and "Bloodsuckers". The "Crossfire" single produced a Jim Martin (of Faith No More) remixes of the title track and live versions of "Fatherland" and "Germaniac". Finally the "Bloodsuckers" single offered remixes of the title track by guest artists including members of Biohazard, House Of Pain, Die Ärtze, a mix by Julian Beeston and also unplugged versions of "To The Hilt" and "Fatherland". Collectors should note that the 12" single of "To The Hilt" features different remixes to the CD single release.
The story so far ends on remixes too. The band now had a very high profile in Germany and America including several special appearances on MTV. The "To The Hilt" single even had its video voted best national video by the German audience of MTV (and actually attaining number four overall). After letting several big names remix tracks for the singles taken from "II - The Final Option" the writing core of Die Krupps, Jürgen Engler and Lee Altus, decided that they would open this a little wider offering any big names to remix more material from the album. Jürgen had already decided that a single would not be big enough to release the material so a mini album was planned.
Although several names had already agreed to do remixes, the response actually turned out to be bigger than they had ever expected. In fact the project just got bigger and bigger. Basically they had more bands than tracks. So they allowed people to remix five tracks from the "I" album. In the end some artists were unable to supply remixes due to work commitments or timing constraints. Die Krupps, however, do hope these remixes may one day see the light (two actually did on the "Bloodsuckers" single). The final mix list appears below and in fact that is what the project was named - "The Final Remixes".
As this issue of CyberNoise went to press Die Krupps had just released a new album on the Music For Nations label in the UK.
To The Hilt (Remixed by Erlend Ottem & Jocke Skog of Clawfinger)
Paradise Of Sin (Remixed by Luc Van Acker of Revolting Cocks)
Language Of Reality (Remixed by Charlie Clouser with Mick Cripps)
Fatherland (Remixed by Andrew Eldritch of The Sisters Of Mercy and Rodney Orpheus of The Cassandra Complex)
Worst Case Scenario (Remixed by White Child Rix of Gunshot)
Shellshocked (Remixed by Aaron Aedy of Paradise Lost)
Crossfire (Remixed by Jim Martin of Faith No More)
Bloodsuckers (Remixed by Phillip Boa & M.D. Moses)
Iron Man (Remixed by Sascha of K.M.F.D.M. and Chris Shepherd)
Inside Out (Remixed by Jeff Walker of Carcass)
New Temptation (Remixed by F.M.Einheit of Einstürzende neubauten)
Hi Tech Low Life (Remixed by Julian Beeston and Del Tagg)
The Dawning Of Doom (Remixed by Waltari)
Ministry Of Fear (Remixed by Xanu and The Skin of N-Factor)
Metal Machine Music (Remixed by Rodney Orpheus of The Cassandra Complex)
Rings Of Steel (Remixed by Pro-Pain and Steve Remote)
Billy Graziadel and Evan Seinfeld(of Biohazard) [turned up on the "Bloodsuckers" single]
Daniel B.(of Front 242)
Tommy Victor and J.B.(of Prong)
Billy Milano(of M.O.D.)
Dave Lombardo (ex Slayer)
Bela B. (of Die Ärtze) [turned up on the "Bloodsuckers" single]
Karl Bartos (ex Kraftwerk)
Danny Lohner(of Nine Inch Nails)