Subscriber only: ‘The Genius of Conny Plank’ seven-inch single
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The Genius of Conny Plank
7-inch single featuring 3D anaglyph artwork
HARMONIA ‘NOTRE DAME’
Harmonia were something of a krautrock supergroup, formed when Neu!’s Michael Rother joined forces with Dieter Möebius and Hans-Joachim Roedelius, also known as Cluster. The three musicians, in the mid-1970s hippie spirit and the German affinity for communal rural living, gathered at Cluster’s studio in Forst on the German/Polish border in 1973 and recorded their debut album, ‘Musik Von Harmonia’. It was released in 1974, after which Rother teamed up with Klaus Dinger once more for the third Neu! album, ‘Neu! ‘75’, again produced by Conny Plank. The album marked the end of Neu! for the time being, the fiery Dinger and the more mellow Rother – always a fractious pairing – had exhausted their patience for one another.
Dinger went on to create La Düsseldorf, while Rother, Moebius and Roedelius teamed up again for a second Harmonia album, the luscious ‘Deluxe’. It was recorded with Conny’s mobile gear at Forst, and mixed at his studio in Wolperath over the summer of 1975. If ‘Musik Von Harmonia’ was a beautiful ambient work in the Cluster tradition, ‘Deluxe’ created a delightful blend of their lightness of touch, Rother’s celestial guitar and a pulsing rhythmic heart thanks to that other krautrock drum genius, Mani Neumeier.
‘Deluxe’ is one of the very finest albums of the Conny Plank era of German experimental music. “It’s impossible to say something about Neu!, and Harmonia, without mentioning Conny Plank and his contribution,” says Michael Rother in the new documentary, ‘Conny Plank: The Potential Of Noise’. “There is huge respect worldwide for everything Conny did.”
DAF ‘DER MUSSOLINI’
It’s a testament to Conny Plank’s dedication to sound, in particular to the edges of what people found to be acceptable, that in 1981 he was in the studio with a band from Düsseldorf called DAF, producing their first major label album, ‘Alles Ist Gut’. The sessions would result in a barnstorming stone-cold electronic music classic, the fearsome stomp of ‘Der Mussolini’. After their debut album in 1979, the band decamped to London in 1980. By being based in the musical capital of the world, they hoped they would create some heat. It worked. They caught the attention of Mute’s Daniel Miller, who signed them to the label for the ‘Die Kleinen Und Die Bösen’ album.
In the new documentary, Miller recounts how DAF told him Plank was going to produce the album: “I got a call from Robert Görl, saying, ‘Conny Plank wants to produce our album’,” says Miller. “I said, ‘Very funny!’. He was this mythological figure. I had no money, how are we going to do it? They said ‘Don’t worry, Conny says he can do it in three days’. So I said, ‘Wow, OK, let’s do it!’.” Miller flew to Cologne to see how the sessions were coming along, only to find DAF arguing. “I’d never made an album before and I was sitting next to my hero producer and my band weren’t even in the studio, they were in the house arguing or discussing or whatever they fucking did. Conny said, ‘Don’t worry, it will be fine’.”
Nothing happened for the first two days of the three-day session. Miller was getting frantic, but Plank was calm. As Görl says, “Conny left the musicians to their own devices, and then gave their stuff a boost”. In the event, half the album was recorded at Conny’s, the other half was a live recording. The record was a critical success, and enabled DAF to sign a major label deal with Virgin. Now with a major label budget, who else to get to produce? The great Conny Plank did not disappoint, creating the full-blooded powerhouse sound of DAF. Play loud!