D.A.F. is an influential German electropunk/NDW band from Düsseldorf, formed in 1978 featuring Gabriel "Gabi" Delgado-López (vocals), Robert Görl (drums, percussion, electronic instruments), Kurt "Pyrolator" Dahlke (electronic instruments), Michael Kemner (bass-guitar) and Wolfgang Spelmans (guitar). Kurt Dahlke was replaced by Chrislo Haas (electronic instruments, bass-guitar, saxophone) in 1979.
The name Deutsch-Amerikanische Freundschaft – literally, German-American Friendship – is a satirical reference to the DSF, the East German Deutsch-Sowjetische Freundschaft (German-Soviet Friendship Organization).
D.A.F.'s most famous songs are "Kebabträume" and the grimly sarcastic "Der Mussolini" from the album "Alles ist gut", a pulsing dance song featuring the lyrics "Dance the Mussolini, move your behind, clap your hands, and now the Adolf Hitler, and now the Jesus Christ, and now the communism ...". The song caused a scandal amongst the more humorless elements of German society. There have been rumours that the group's name is really a tribute to the Deutsche Arbeitsfront (a Nazi labour organization); however, D.A.F.'s style is arguably anti-political, possibly even nihilistic, and most of their lyrics concern more physical matters. At best, they are referenced as a punk band advancing into electronic music.
In interviews they claimed to not target anything or anyone specific while creating lyrics to be taken as a parody of words and phrases floating around in the public media. "Sato-Sato" and "Der Mussolini" are both examples of songs written around Delgado-López's fascination with the sound of a particular word. A few months before the 2003 invasion of Iraq D.A.F. released "The Sheriff (An Anti-American Song)" criticizing American imperialism.
The album "Alles ist gut" (Everything is fine) received the German "Schallplattenpreis" award by the "Deutsche Phono-Akademie", an association of the German recording industry.
As their sound crystallized into a more rhythmically intense and minimalistic style, Gabi and Robert ejected the other members, who had become superfluous both musically and in terms of the chemistry within the band. On the later albums recorded by the remaining duo, the arrangements were sparse and heavily electronic, the singing evolved from abstract screams and mumbles to a very direct, rhythmic vocal style, and their live performances were delivered with such intensity that a 1980 concert in Düsseldorf had to be stormed by the police to bring the crowd under control.
The second full length album, Alles ist gut, was recorded entirely by Gabi and Robert working as a duo, and displayed the distinctive D.A.F. formula. Robert played drums — usually fairly simple and relatively unsyncopated patterns, but with simple variations that prevented them sounding robotic — while Gabi sang. The only other instrument used was a Korg MS-20 synthesizer, usually driven by a 16-step analog sequencer. Typically only a single sequencer-driven line would be used for a song, the sequence functioning both as melodic accompaniment and as a bassline. The song Der Mussolini is a perfect example of this. On other songs, such as the title track, certain notes of the sequence were set slightly out of tune. Overall the songs entail a complex tension between the predominantly visceral (the voice), the relentlessly robotic (the 16-step sequences), and the drums, which lie somewhere in between. One song, Der Räuber und der Prinz (The Robber and the Prince), also features a Glockenspiel as a sinister reminder of childhood. This was uncompromisingly minimalist pop. The next two albums, Gold und Liebe (Gold and Love) and Für immer (Forever), continued in the same vein, until, as one British music journalist of the time put it, D.A.F. had exhausted all the possibilities of the 16-step sequencer. These possibilities ranged from something resembling rhythm and blues — you could just about play Der Mussolini as R'n'B if you wanted — to the microtonality of Im Dschungel der Liebe (In the Jungle of Love) (on Für immer) or Knochen auf Knochen (the B-side of the single Sex unter Wasser). These three albums (from Alles ist gut to Für immer) were all produced by Konrad "Conny" Plank, who was renowned for his pioneering work both with minimalist-influenced Krautrock bands and other experimenters in the 1970s, and with electro-pop artists in the 1980s.
After Für immer D.A.F. split up for approximately twenty years, except for a brief reunion in 1985 to record 1st Step to Heaven, their only album in English. During this extensive period their historical importance began to become clearer. Legendary radio DJ John Peel went as far as to call them the Grandfathers of Techno. Both Robert and Gabi had solo musical careers, with Robert becoming a respected techno artist in his own right. Gabi Delgado also recorded two albums as DAF/DOS ('Dos' here referring to the Spanish word for 'two').
When DAF reformed for the 2003 album Fünfzehn neue D.A.F-Lieder (15 New D.A.F-Songs) their style had shifted to a fusion of the classic Plank-produced D.A.F. sound with elements taken from Robert's techno work. The drums were replaced with crisper electronic beats, but the MS-20 and, of course, Gabi's vocals remained in place.
As a lyricist, Gabi's concerns throughout D.A.F.'s recording career have ranged from sardonic reflections on ideology and political violence, to journeys into a very physical, even brutal, sexuality, sometimes related from a child's point of view. Having grown up as the child of working class Spanish immigrants in the Ruhr Valley, and coming of age in the politically polarized era of the German Autumn (his response the left wing extremist terrorism of that time being thematized in the 2003 song "Kinderzimmer (Heldenlied)" ["Childhood Bedroom (Hero Song)"], he was blunt and unromantically detached about social reality in West Germany, and unapologetic about the provocative potential of his songs.
As performers and media personalities D.A.F. were, much like New York's Suicide, forerunners of later 1980s techno-pop duos, such as the Pet Shop Boys and Soft Cell, in that the singer (in this case Gabi) appears relatively extroverted while the one who plays with the electronics (Robert) appears quiet and reserved. Visually, at least from Alles ist gut until 1st Step to Heaven, they cultivated a homoerotic image of black leather, muscles, hairy chests, and sweat. Gabi's hairy chest made a comeback appearance in the 2003 promotional video for Der Sheriff, a song about the George W. Bush administration.