DAF/DOS didn’t last much longer, with Wotan Wilke switching to an acting career – highly successful in his native Germany, but out of scope here. The Robert and Gabi line-up reunited in 2003, with the album Fünfzehn neue DAF Lieder. Still using programmed tech-beats rather than live drumming (though the acoustic kit still featured in their live shows), but otherwise the closest either of them have got to their ‘classic’ sound since 1982. It was a well-timed move – the electroclash fad was in full swing, there was an established audience for analog synths, minimal production and sexually-charged vocalists. DAF were never officially part of the electroclash movement – it was simply the right time for one of the influences of the in-vogue sound of the moment to make a comeback.
It was also the year of the US-led invasion of Iraq, unpopular in many countries, particularly in Germany. Many scene bands had much to say on the subject, and DAF didn’t flinch, opening up with Der Sherrif – subtitled “Anti-Amerikanisches Lied”. After several years in the wilderness, Gabi finally brings his ironic social commentary back to the forefront, and not a moment too soon. With Mad Cowboy Disease sweeping America in the early 00s (the sins of Dubya era since sadly pushed to the back of peoples minds after four years of Trump), lines like “Alle müssen respektieren – Was der Sheriff sagt” are unambiguous statements on the manner in which the USA is often able and willing to exploit it’s global power.
The album continues with the concept of each song having a distinct lyrical theme, a refreshing change from the nebulous phrases that marked DAF’s various attempts at out-and-out ‘dance music’. It’s solid musically as well, if a little repetitive in terms of just programming tech loops and letting Gabi vocalise over the top – the one thing that is missing here is the raw energy and experimental spirit that gave their greatest work that certain edge.
Kinderzimmer is the closest they get to their classic proto-EBM sound, the blunt bassline and urgent tone offset by reminiscence about heroes from childhood. As for the more tuneful aspects of the DAF sound, this isn’t heavily played upon, though late-album highlights Algorithmus, Liebezimmer and the catchy-but-too-long closer Ich bin morgen wieder da are at least evidence that even on music this minimally abstract, it’s not a crime to use more that a couple of chords in your harmonic progression.
Singles and Versions: Only one single was released – Der Sherrif. The most notable part of this is the C90 remix by Ronan Harris of VNV Nation. Ronan’s thumping beats and dark Access Virus basslines are a perfect match for one of Gabi’s more commanding vocal takes. Whilst the use of King Futurepop might have been sacrilege to the purist old-schoolers, it still ensured club play from those DJs who otherwise wouldn’t have touched DAF at the time.
This would be the final DAF album. Whilst new songs were written, only one, Du Bist DAF, ever saw release, and then only on a strictly limited basis. If you can’t track down the unbelievably rare 1-track CD single, you’ll have to resort to a stream. It’s a track very much aligned to their early 1980s style, but there’s no real innovation or hook present, so remains a disappointing finale.
DAF continued to tour intermittently throughout the 00s and 10s. At one point in 2007, Gabi was unavailable for live duties, so Robert brought in Thoralf Dietrich of Jäger 90 as substitute front man, playing under the name ‘DAF.Partei’. Given that Jäger 90 are essentially DAF-soundalikes, this is best interpreted as the ultimate case of fanboy ascension. Gabi would rejoin in 2008 with occasional tours and festival appearances thereafter, though we were never certain whether the next tour would be the last.
In the event, they continued to play up until the end of 2019, only for the sad and sudden news of Gabi’s death from a heart attack in March 2020. The story was obviously overshadowed by the rampant COVID-19 pandemic and the resultant lockdowns around the world, but those of us who knew the significance of this project still found time to mark his passing. This highly influential duo was no more.