Despite a series of reissues, scoring a Neu! album on vinyl is no easy task. Almost as quickly as they were released, each album by the Krautrock legends has gone out of print on LP, even those re-released in 2001, forcing fans to search far and wide for a copy, and to pay a pretty penny once they find one. However, this will soon change when Neu! release an upcoming five-LP box set that will collect all of the band's previously released material and several unheard recordings.
In a recent interview, the group's sole surviving member Michael Rother broke the news of the box set. "The idea is to release the vinyl box set by the end of this year, but that would mean I can't sleep tonight and for the rest of the year," Rother told Exclaim! "I will do my best, though. I'm serious about that... The idea is to collect all of Neu!'s music, all of the recordings, and to make that available legally for fans. Also, we want to collect texts that have been written about Neu!, photos that haven't been shown of Neu!, to show the bandwidth of Neu!"
Rother went on to explain that the box would feature five LPs, the first three being the albums Neu!, Neu! 2 and Neu! '75. However, the final two records will be the main draw for hardcore followers, who will finally see a proper, legal release of the band's infamous Neu! 4 (or Neu! '86, as Rother prefers to call it) and '72 Live! In Dusseldorf, both of which will be remastered, revamped and include new, previously unheard tracks.
Neu! 4 and '72 Live! were previously released by Rother's late musical partner Klaus Dinger, who put out the records in the late '90s though Japanese label Captain Trip before passing away in 2008. However, neither came with Rother's seal of approval.
"That was a very sad story," Rother says of Neu! 4's illegitimate release. "[Klaus] sent me a congratulatory fax in late 1995 saying, "Congratulations, Neu! 4 will be out in Japan tomorrow." That was very funny because when we stopped working on that project in '86, we sealed the tapes and agreed to meet again at a later time. But, well, things got worse with Klaus.
"Once on his website, he wrote he was proud of taking more than 1,000 LSD trips and definitely some other substances. That put him apart from most people. He was in a different orbit. I must not forget of course to point out that Klaus was a great artist and drummer and collaborator, but he was a very, very difficult person and he grew more difficult over the years, and that culminated in the early '90s."
Rother says he plans to make edits of '72 Live! and to substantially add to and change up Neu! 4. "Klaus added some material that I would have not used," he explains. "The commercial trash for instance, it's not so interesting anymore. It wasn't so interesting in the '80s. And there are some recordings I discovered in my archives that I actually had forgotten, recordings we did in the first studio that we didn't continue working on. So I'm reflecting on many ideas, making changes and listening to that material... I'm also quite optimistic that what I find will find more recognition than the release Klaus did in the '90s with some of that [added] material."
Along with the five LPs, the box set will include a huge vinyl-sized booklet, Rother says, featuring various essay on Neu!, as well as several previously unseen photographs from throughout the group's career. Among those photos, Rother revealed that several will be by Anton Corbijn, the famed photographer who has shot everyone from Tom Waits to U2, Nick Cave and Miles Davis, and directed the Joy Division biopic Control.
"Anton Corbijn did a photo session with Neu! in 2000. Unfortunately, at the time Klaus said no, and we couldn't release the photos. He didn't like them," Rother says. "At the time, Klaus was still quite unhappy and he looked very fierce in some of the photos. I'm just guessing that he was astonished when he saw the photos and that's why he didn't want others to see them. They are interesting photos. One is actually even quite funny, I can tell you, because it was a spontaneous situation where we tried to shake hands but the hands didn't meet. I'm smiling at this and Klaus is looking at the camera with a sly look, and it is funny in a way."
Also, if you prefer more digital musical formats, Rother says the new version of Neu! 4 will likely be released as a single CD and that even more previously unreleased Neu! material may come exclusively as downloads.
Meanwhile, Rother hopes to begin touring again next year and says that several big-name players will likely join him on the road.
"I've already contacted some of my musical friends, especially from the States," he says. "You may know I've been working with John Frusciante [Red Chili Peppers' guitarist], Benjamin Curtis [School of Seven Bells] and Josh Klinghoffer [Beck, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Gnarls Barkley] in recent years. My idea is to do this straight-forward Neu! idea, with strong beats, strong forward movement, crashing guitars and walls of sound on stage. Of course, we'd be doing my version of Neu!, some of the Harmonia tracks that I composed or contributed to in the '70s and some of my solo stuff.
"That is something that would really make me get quite excited. And my friends - Flea would also love to be part of that project - they are all just waiting to hear about the ideas. Doing it really depends on finding a really good festival or doing a good several concerts. It will largely depend on my friends being available."
When asked if he would record with this super-group, Rother replies, "Why not? I mean, it would be a unique opportunity to bring those people together and imagining the power of those three guitars is enough to make me jump around."
As previously reported, Harmonia - the mid-'70s outfit helmed by Rother and Cluster's Hans-Joachim Roedelius and Dieter Moebius - will release their long-lost album with Brian Eno, Tracks and Traces, on October 6 in North American through Grönland Records/High Wire Music.
Stayed tuned for our complete interview with Michael Rother at Exclaim.ca.