Trio’s Stephan Remmler on Trio and Error and the creation of the weird worldwide hit “Da Da Da”


By Steve Newton

About this same time last year, creeping up a heat duct from the basement suite below me, would come a tune so queer and bouncy–and sung with such downright foolishness–that I started to wonder if some madman hadn’t holed himself up down there and decided to compose a song so absurd it would drive me–and anyone else within earshot–stark raving loony.

Then I heard it again on the radio, and realized the folks downstairs had just bought the debut album by a German group called Trio, and were hooked on its first single, a tune that would go on to sell over four million copies worldwide.

“It was a half-finished song,” says Trio vocalist/songwriter Stephan Remmler of the weird electronic ditty “Da Da Da”. “And I had been given as a present a little Casio. So with this half-finished song in my mind I started playing around with the Casio. It has some pre-recorded rhythm patterns, and I just pressed Rock I and away it went.”

So that was it? Stephan pressed Rock I and “Da Da Da” was free to creep up heat ducts everywhere and invade people’s normal plane of thought?

Not quite. First, the band acquired the production talents of Klaus Voormann, the graphic artist behind the Beatles’ Revolver jacket and a studio bassman for Lou Reed, Manfred Mann, and the Plastic Ono Band.

“We had been rehearsing at home and having some live appearances and gave our demos to Phonogram Hamburg,” explains Remmler in his clipped English, “and the demos came onto the desk of Klaus, who had a freelance thing going with them. And he loved it–he came to our live shows and he’d sit there all the time in the first row. And the fifth or sixth time we asked him if he wanted to be our producer.”

Trio’s relationship with Voormann turned out so profitable for both sides that he was called upon to produce their new album as well, Trio and Error. And as Remmler points out, his association with the band has become very important to them–encompassing much more than just production.

“He’s very good for us, because he doesn’t talk much. He’s not the producer type who comes in and says, ‘Do this and do that’. It’s all our thing and he doesn’t interfere. He holds hs hand under our backs, and whenever there are questions or doubts we ask Klaus what he thinks.

‘And it has gone far beyond the studio thing. It’s not that we see him in the studio and that’s it. He’s around us all the time. He’s our advisor, and he is always on tour with us as well.”

Remmler, guitarist Kralle “The Claw” Krawinkel, and stand-up drummer Peter Behrens are from the small town of Großenkneten. They’re so proud of the place that they even printed their address and phone number on the cover of the German release of their first album, Da Da Da–The Album.

“We stayed in this little village, and said, ‘We don’t want to be involved in the Hamburg scene or the Berlin scene or the Munich scene–all the capitals. We just do what we three do here in our basement, and that’s it. We don’t care about any trends or nothing. And looking back, I think that’s also part of the success, because that’s what really struck the media people. They had not heard anything like that before.”

And they might not ever again–at least not from anyone but Trio. The weirdness brought forth on Da Da Da–The Album continues on the new Trio and Error, and tracks like Little Richard’s “Tutti Frutti”. It opens with Remmler’s deadpan ‘Bebopalulabalabamboo” and then twists into two minutes of reggae-tinged battiness.

“On the first album we had ‘Ya ya, sitting in the la la, waiting for my ya ya’, and on this one we have ‘Tutti Frutti’. Maybe it will be kind of a tradition that on every album we have one of the goldie oldies. Because that was our entrance to music–Little Richard, Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry and all this. We really love these songs, and we do them as warmups. It really shows where our roots are.”

Trio’s fifties-rocker roots are a little hard to decipher from a song like “Da Da Da”, or even their new single “Anna–Let Me in Let Me Out”, but it’s clear their “Ich lieb den Rock ‘n’ Roll” is a tribute to Berry–his signature rock riffs abound. And in keeping with Trio’s minimalist approach, “The Claw” pulls off a lead solo that’s barely more than one note! Ear your heart out, Van Halen.

Another song on Trio and Error that sounds familiar is “Tooralooralooraloo–Is It Old & Is It New”. I asked Stephan where that one came from.

“It’s just the story of an Irish girlfriend and me. I remembered this Irish song by Bing Crosby [sings] “Tooralooraloora Tooraloorali, that’s an Irish lullaby.” And I’m a very big fan of Bing Crosby and his old movie-type songs.

“So the song was composed on my little rhythm machine, and it was later that Klaus suggested we record it in Los Angeles, because there they have the musicians and the arrangers and singers to actually create this Bing Crosbyish mood.

“Now this is a real story–I always say that because people don’t believe it. We recorded it that year on Christmas Eve in Hollywood and the same studio where Bing Crosby had recorded ‘White Christmas’. And maybe that’s why it turned out so Christmas-like. I mean, it was not intended to be like a Christmas song, but at the end it sounds like one.”

One other song I couldn’t help asking Remmler about is “Dret Mann Im Doppelbett”. And he laughed when I asked him what the title meant.

“I’m very surprised that you don’t understand it because we thought this was kind of international. It means ‘three men in a doublebed’–which is not far from the English, right? This is a little joke of being on tour and the company doesn’t want to pay the hotels so all three of us have to be in one bed.”

Trio are full of “little jokes”–as one listen to their new album proves. But even before you hear it you can see from the back cover that they like to kid around. Because our conversation took place over the phone–Remmler calling from New York–I was curious as to which fellow pictured on the album he was. Was he the guy getting strangled by one of the others?

“No, that’s the drummer. I am the singer with the short hair, and the guy who strangles the drummer is the guitarist. The drummer always is the dumb guy–that’s why he gets strangled. We wrote a song about him actually, but it was covered by somebody else. Maybe you’ve heard it [sings] ‘He’s a maniac, maniac…

In closing I asked Stephan how he would describe the music of Trio. (It beats me trying to figure it out.)

“What we try to do is get down on the essentials, which goes for the lyrics as well. And by this we don’t fulfill the whole picture–we just make it 60, 70 percent. There’s room enough for the listener, on whatever level he is, to put his imagination into the picture and fulfill it to 100 percent.”


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