A tribute to the DAF frontman by DEF founder Eric Harle.
“When I heard “Der Mussolini” by Deutsch Amerikanische Freundschaft (aka DAF) in 1981 for the first time it sounded like nothing else I had come across previously or was aware of…
It became my hymn of that time and, despite it’s unique, quite unusual and uncompromising sound, it surprisingly also became a hit in Germany. The song, and the sound of the band, changed the history of music forever. at least for me. There was no Techno, Electro or even the later coined EBM, let alone House music, at the time.
“Alles Ist Gut” was the album that brought the breakthrough for DAF with “der Mussolini”. It’s meaning was twofold with “everything is fine” depicting a more general mood response as well as “everything is good” which was more content descriptive. At the early ‘80s, Disco existed in different forms as the predominant dance music in popular culture and punk had liberated the rock world from the seriousness & pomposity of prog rock.
DAF’s lyrics for “Der Mussolini” effortlessly brought Adolf Hitler and Mussolini, Jesus Christ and Communism to the dance floor juxtaposed with the imperative of Gabi’s orders to dance. Move your hips, clap your hands and move your ass were linked up by the commands of “turn to the right” and turn to the left” to the politics of dancing “the Adolf Hitler” or “Kommunismus” as well as “the Mussolini” and “the Jesus Christus.”
DAF was Punk. Both in their attitude and music; although DAF deliberately avoided the cliched Rock ‘n Roll heritage that besieged most contemporaries and was the predominant source for punk bands of the time. DAF was always unconventional, genre-defining, honest to its origin, yet highly original and, in my opinion, created one of the sparks that paved the way for both Techno and House music.
DAF redefined and reinvented dance music with their “Körpermusik’ (BodyMusic). The music was later coined as EBM (Electronic Body Music) which unfortunately was in years to come taken over by often humourless, predominantly Belgian, American and German producers whose adrenaline was channeled by recalling rock and metal guitar elements into the art form and thus diverting it from it’s original dance and disco roots. The term EBM is therefore not really in the spirit of DAF and their music.
DAF was also political. The band’s name is the adaptation of german political term for the German American relationship formed in the post-Second World War period. It was the strong influence of the American victors of the war into German life and their compassion and support of the German people.
In 1989, I founded Deutsch Englische Freundschaft (DEF) in Manchester, England, a record label that only ever released 5 12”s and shortly after became the Management company of the same name. My longing for the utopian idea of a deep friendship between the 2 nations since the people of my country of birth were often only referenced as “the auldenemy” in my new home country was equally as much part of the inspiration for the name as Gabi & Robert’s socio-political punk art dance project DAF.
Gabi Delgado was the singer and lyricist of DAF. He was a Poet, a Political Provocateur, a Punk but more than anything he was a visionary at that time. He was constantly pushing things forward in a very experimental and open way. Gabi’s quest for progress and change was an inspiration to me. Subsequent work post-DAF led Gabi to jump into the next phase of dance music, into the house and techno sounds of the time with my friend Westbam.
They both started and ran club’s in Berlin and Gabi channeled his creative output into the DAF/DOS project with Votan Wilke. DAF later reunified and released further new music. Paul Lester wrote one of the few english language pieces for The Guardian that captured the artistic significance of DAF for electronic dance music in his Hedonism as Heroism article.
Gabi died unexpectedly of a heart attack on March 22nd 2020 in Spain. He was a major inspiration to me. His spirit and his politics have formed me. His Art has transformed me.
My friend Ecki Stieg transmitted a touching tribute to Gabi on his radio show Grenzwellen.
A Playlist by Eric Harle & DEF