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Deutsch Amerikansiche Freundschaft ("German American Friendship"; most commonly abbreviated to D.A.F.) was founded as a five-piece industrial noise outfit in Düsseldorf in 1978, but ultimately winnowed down to a two-man group consisting of vocalist/lyricist Gabi Delgado and drummer/electronic musician Robert Görl. Their early development is linked to the Düsseldorf based group Der Plan, whose members all played in D.A.F. on its first album, Ein Produkt der DAF, minus Delgado, then a member but absent for these recording sessions. Released on the German AtaTak label in 1979 and later re-issued on Mute, Ein Produkt der D.A.F. heralded the beginning of the German branch of industrial music: the first recordings by Einstürzende Neubauten, made two years later, bear a striking resemblance to it.
By the time Ein Produkt der DAF made its bow, Delgado and Robert Görl had already decided to split off from the larger group, which re-formed as Der Plan without them. For a time, Delgado sang and played near-atonal guitar while Görl played drums and synthesizer, and a gig of this type held in 1979 at the Electric Ballroom in London takes up the second side of their debut LP on Mute, Die Kleinen und die Bösen ("The Small Ones and the Evil Ones.") The first side consists of a studio recording, the last session made by the larger D.A.F. and produced by Conny Planck, who would have a significant impact on their sound in subsequent projects. The anger and ferocity of Die Kleinen und die Bösen was remarkable even in the midst of punk -- German icons were viciously sent up, such as in their rabid cover of "Ich Bin die Fesche Lola" (one of Marlene Dietrich's fetching songs from The Blue Angel). "Die Lüstigen Stiefel Marschiren über Polen," ("The Funny Little Boots Are Marching over Poland') was an angry and hard yet tongue in cheek, atonal disco song about the invasion of Poland by the Nazis; such material was deliberately calculated as offensive in the politically liberal, historically humiliated, terrorist-plagued society current in Germany circa 1980.
By 1980, D.A.F. had settled in London and Delgado had permanently retired his guitar; they signed with Virgin Records who sent them back to Planck to produce their masterpiece Alles Ist Gut, which exploded in the rock underground in the middle of 1981. D.A.F. had narrowed its instrumentation down to just Delgado's voice, Görl's monolithic drums, and a 16-voice sequencer that put out a single repeating pattern for whole songs; in doing so, they had moved out of art-punk and into what they called "Electronic Body Music" or EBM. Planck's crisp production, in addition to some subtle, well-placed effects, produced in Alles Ist Gut an electronic dance album that was state-of-the-art in 1981; "Der Mussolini" became an international hit and a monster in the dance clubs. Delgado's lyrics, equating fascism, religion and dance music, were edgy, his singing both macho and raw. Görl's drumming and sequencing was unrelenting in its funkiness, authority and experimentalism -- though outwardly professing themselves as "apolitical" (nonsense!), D.A.F. were reclaiming Nazi-styled jingoism for the gay German disco clubs, complete with a marching boot beat -- it was politically "wrong," yet irresistible.
Despite their innovations, solid technical ability and raves from the critics, D.A.F. were certainly never ready for prime time. When other artists in the club genre were dancing around the issue of alternative sexuality, D.A.F. was fairly "out" about it -- their album covers were blatantly homoerotic and lyrics often dealt with sadomasochism. While D.A.F.'s big, industrial-inspired dance sound certainly had some measure of commercial potential, the group didn't, and they were way ahead of their time -- too far ahead. Gold und Liebe followed, much in the vein of Alles Ist Gut, though offering some further refinements in terms of sound and style. Some critics argue that Gold und Liebe represents D.A.F.'s "personal best," though Alles Ist Gut is such a defining statement in retrospect it would seem hard to top. With 1982s Gold und Liebe, D.A.F. decided to disband amicably, as the sequencer they used proved too limited to sustain them artistically beyond what they had already done.
For a time, both Delgado and Görl pursued solo careers, which proved a mixed blessing; Görl's weak singing sank his best efforts, whereas Delgado's lone solo outing suffered from equally weak musicianship. In 1985, they temporarily re-formed to record another album of house music, this time in English, 1st Step to Heaven, which disappeared without much fanfare. Although Görl and Delgado kept the door open for more collaboration the opportunity did not arise until 2003, when they recorded "15 Neue D.A.F. Lieder" including "The Sheriff," an anti-George W. Bush song. D.A.F. also played a limited number of festivals in Germany that year, mostly to the embarrassment of the other acts on the festival bill, so intense and timely their performances were. Unfortunately, this did not lead to a full-scale reunion, and in early 2007, Delgado declined to join the group for another round of dates. Delgado was replaced, with his blessing, by another singer, and the band renamed D.A.F. Partei.
Though their impact on the emergent forms of house and techno was huge, D.A.F. has never achieved the recognition they so richly deserve. Nevertheless, for the longest time even Kraftwerk weren't recognized for their contribution to hip-hop, and perhaps ultimately D.A.F. will get their due: they represent one of a very few direct links between avant-garde punk and techno, and flung their lance into the future farther even than Throbbing Gristle. ~ Uncle Dave Lewis