The pop project Milli Vanilli is celebrating its 35th anniversary this year: How do you feel when listening to the big hits from back then? For many years it was almost impossible or at least very painful for me to watch the old videos and hear the songs . The emotional wounds inflicted on Rob and me by the 1990 scandal were too deep. Since when has this been possible for you again? About 15 years ago, promoters came to me and asked me if I would like to play Milli Vanilli classics like performing "Girl you know it's true" live on stage. At first I rejected them - but then I rediscovered the songs, put my vocal stamp on them and turned them into my own. This was a very important factor in the healing process.
Were there moments when you were able to fully enjoy the huge success between 1988 and 1990, even though the sword of Damocles was hanging over you? There certainly were in the beginning, because we were starved for love back then! Rob was adopted, lived in an orphanage for four years and I didn't receive much love at home, partly because of my parents' troubled marriage. And suddenly we were catapulted from zero to one hundred into the life of a pop star! The fans screamed our names, we stayed in expensive hotels and attended the most exclusive parties. Of course it was great, very tempting and we enjoyed it!
How did you and Rob deal with the extreme pressure that was on you? Over time, we increasingly sought refuge in wild parties, alcohol and drugs. It was like medicine for us, giving us anesthesia for a few hours and taking some of the weight off our shoulders.
When did Rob and you first realize that they were in a trap? When we signed our contract with Frank Farian, we had no managers or lawyers on our side. And the contract was completely in German. Back then, I didn't speak the language well enough to understand all the details. It was of course a shock when we were told that although we were supposed to be the faces of Milli Vanilli, we weren't allowed to sing. However, the trap was already sprung.
Why didn't you pull the emergency brake immediately? We were young, needed the fee, which was a lot of money for us at the time, and at first it was only about one song. Nobody could have imagined that global hit would follow global hit. And so we were sucked deeper and deeper into the lie construct. We were also incredibly naive and clung to the belief that Frank would perhaps let us sing ourselves. What was your relationship with Frank Farian? At the beginning we were very impressed by his success and the many gold and platinum records in his office impressed. We felt that this man could be the key to our big opportunity and initially even saw Frank as a father figure. Unfortunately, we quickly discovered that he was a malicious "father" who wanted one thing above all: to use us to achieve his goals! Frank was charismatic but also very choleric, tough, merciless! At every moment he made it clear to us that we had to keep our mouths shut and function.Has Farian ever apologized to you?I haven't had contact with him for three decades and I'm sure that to this day he still doesn't know Rob or me is not aware of any guilt at all. He believes he did everything right. So why should he? Do you still have bitter feelings towards him? No, I've put that behind me now. It took me many years to recover mentally. And even though it was really hard for me, I had to learn that I had to forgive him so that I could move on with my life and rebuild my self-confidence. In the 1990 scandal, you were the sole whipping boys...The media condemned us, an pilloried - and everyone else involved like Frank, US producer Clive Davis and the rest of the team took to the bushes. At the time, the narrative spread by the media was that the fans would now hate us. That was particularly painful for us.
How deeply did Rob's death in 1998 affect you?Rob was like a brother and a soul mate to me. And that's why it felt like a part of me had died too. Did you blame yourself for not being able to help him? In the beginning - after I successfully beat my drug addiction - I wanted so much to be able to inspire him to make music again too. But he had lost all his hopes, was deeply hurt and no longer saw a future for himself. Rob was a broken man and died of a broken heart. How did you get out of the emotional low after the end of Milli Vanilli? It was a very long journey for me to become the positive thinking and good believer man, who I am today. I met a lot of great people who inspired me to work hard on myself. Music saved my life! Despite everything that happened, I really wanted to stay true to music because it makes me happy. Rob, on the other hand, had lost himself, continued to hang out with the wrong people and, despite various attempts at rehab, simply couldn't get away from the drugs and his self-destructive lifestyle. Would the Milli Vanilli scandal still be a scandal today, more than 30 years later? Me don't think so! We were crucified for our lipsynching back then - today you're celebrated for it on Instagram and TikTok. Times have totally changed! There are many artists today who look great but can only sing mediocrely or not at all. But modern software makes everything possible, today there is a vocal specialist editor and everyone immediately sounds like angels. Singing playback – it’s common practice. Even recognized music journalists tell me today that what was done to us back then was abhorrent.
The two dancers Fab Morvan and Rob Pilatus were cast as the duo Milli Vanilli by music producer Farnk Farian in 1988. However, the two of them never sang themselves. They moved their lips to playback, the singing was provided by US musician Charles Shaw, among others. The first doubts arose when the playback machine failed at a concert in Bristol, Connecticut in the summer of 1989. When Morvan and Pilatus insisted on singing themselves, Farian dropped the bombshell in the fall of 1990: he revealed that he had hired the two dancers solely because of their looks. It was never the plan for them to sing. Farian told The Washington Post: "It was fantastic new music, people were happy, what's the problem?" The fraud was a huge scandal, especially in the USA. Milli Vanilli had to return her Grammy and fans destroyed her albums.