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The Creator of Milli Vanilli Speaks Out--in His Own Words : Pop music: German producer Frank Farian admits that he should have been more candid about the duo's lip-syncing, but please don't compare him to Saddam Hussein.

December 31, 1990|MARC FISHER | THE WASHINGTON POST

"Sure, for young kids, it's very powerful to hear that the heroes are not on stage but in the studio," he says. "But the kids have to learn, have to open their eyes. We sell illusions and they are not reality. That's a good lesson for every kid to learn."

Others in the music industry admit widespread lip-syncing at concerts, but contend that Milli Vanilli went beyond the pale.

"What Milli Vanilli has done is criminal," Dieter Bohlen, Germany's most successful music producer, told Stern magazine. "You can't play around with teen-agers' dreams. As a teen, I was a total Beatles fan. If someone had told me that Paul McCartney didn't sing himself, my world would have collapsed."

Farian claims to be happy with himself. He has letters from fans who say he was courageous to admit the fraud, which Farian announced only after Rob and Fab forced his hand by demanding a singing role in their next album. "I take the responsibility with pride," he says.

But he finds himself back on the defensive even now, weeks after the initial storm. There are the former employees who say Farian paid them token fees and kept the riches for himself. Farian says the real Milli Vanilli voices got the same standard percentage that Rob and Fab got.

There are the old Boney M singers who left Farian and are now in a messy legal battle over the name of the band. Three original Boney M members who claim the right to keep performing under the name say that Farian is out to destroy their livelihood. They point to a letter warning club owners, deejays and music publications not to hire the "the band illegally using the name Boney M."

A member of the non-Farian Boney M produces a pile of threatening lawyer letters the two sides have exchanged. The singer says the producer has threatened his former employees and is "very revengeful." Farian says only that he owns the rights to the Boney M name and plans to keep a band going under that name.

And there is the Charles Shaw case. Shaw, the rapper on "Girl You Know It's True," tried to blow the whistle a year ago, telling reporters that he sang the song then atop the charts. This fall, Shaw refused all interviews but let it be known through friends that Farian had threatened him and banned him forever from FAR Studios.

"I told Charles, 'You may not tell anyone you rapped,' " Farian says. "But threatening calls, that's something else. That he may not work here anymore, that's my decision. I told Shaw I wouldn't work with him if he said he was the voice of Milli Vanilli."

Farian says he recently settled with Shaw, paying him $155,000. "We shook hands, made a deal, and now he says Frank Farian is a genius again," Farian says, and he laughs. Shaw did not return numerous phone calls.

"Someday we'll be able to laugh about all this," the producer says. "It's a pity that I became recognized this way. My great dream is still to produce for 10 more years and be like Quincy Jones. People are realizing now that the new artists are producers. That's the most important role now."

Farian has to hurry off to finish the remix on "Too Late," a cut on the new album. "It's coming out exactly as it was going to," he says.

But before he goes, he wants to show off the publicity stills for the real Milli Vanilli, three original lead voices and two new singers. One's a woman, Gina Mohammed, an 18-year-old student at a U.S. military high school, who did back-up vocals on the first album.

Another is Ray Horton, 25. He's tall and thin, with thick eyebrows, light eyes, a prominent jaw, cleanshaven, braids down to his chest-- wait, wait, Frank, you haven't. . . .

"It's a wig, just like Rob and Fab. They all really have Afros."

But Frank, won't people think. . . .

"What?" Farian asks. "Why do all you Americans say he looks like Rob? I don't see it. It's just accidental. Coincidence." Frank Farian chuckles as he wanders back into the studio.

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