Enigma - The Answer

by Humphrey Yogart
Music Mag January 1994

When in 1990 a project named Enigma (greek: mystery) entered the top of the charts worldwide with the single Sadeness there were lots of rumours. Eager journalists held Mike Oldfield or Alan Parsons responsible for the musical stroke of genius to combine Gregorian chants with hip hop grooves. A lawsuit brought the answer to light: the producer of Sadeness is nobody else than Michael Cretu and the female voice is the voice of his wife Sandra. Two people from Frankfurt accused Cretu's record company. They saw a plagiarism in Sadeness and wanted to proof that the successful top-producer (7 mil. sold Sandra albums) had stolen the idea. The accuse was unsuccessful but it pushed Enigma: from the following album MCMXC a.D. there were sold 14 mil. units, it went gold and platinum in 25 countries of the world, it is one of the 200 best selling CDs in the USA. An inexplicable phenomenon, a self-seller without promotion. In the United States, Cretu, who was born in Romania, is reputed to be the sound-guru of the new age movement, his music is used to therapy psychic ill people. He can be sure of the approval of his colleagues.

Simply-Red-singer Mick Hucknell, Soul-Lady Tina Turner, or head-of-Genesis Phil Collins would drop everything if the master invited them into his high-tech-studio on the balearian island of Ibiza. But on the successor to MCMXC a.D., called The Cross Of Changes, Cretu again used approved methods. For the single Return To Innocence he engaged the 26 year old singer Andreas Harde from Munich, who just presented his debut album Welcome To The Soul Asylum under his stage-name Angel. Here, Cretu was also sitting on the producer chair.

"I'm an absolute nightowl", says the 36 year old studied musician about the production phase which took seven months. A summer, where he hardly saw the sun, where he just bathed once in one of the both pools at his concealed situated property with an old farmhouse and where the brand-new mountain bike got dusty in the garage. Even Cretu's offshore racing boat didn't leave the Ibizian harbour. A hobby he has in common with another German island inhabitant, namely his producer colleague Frank Farian. Instead, the workaholic was sitting up to 16 hours in front of his three terminals. The computer log of Cretu's sound bridge tells us that recording sessions from 22.00 o'clock up to 11.00 o'clock in the morning were no rare thing. For The Cross Of Changes he listened to hundreds of CDs with chants of different primitive races, sampled, synchronized and catalogued the sounds, before the actual song writing process could start. Due to the unreliable power supply and his unusual working rhythm, the enormous studio complex is supplied by an own generator. If it breaks down, there's automatically another one connected. And if this breaks down too, the sound tinkerer has another half an hour to save the fruits of his labour. High-tech in the middle of a romantic island idyll.

To produce The Cross Of Changes, Michael Cretu refused his first Hollywood contract. The producers of the sex-shocker Sliver featuring cinema beauty Sharon Stone, wanted to engage Cretu, nickname "Curly", for the complete soundtrack. This would have meant half a year living and working in Los Angeles. Cretu regretted and only contributed the track Carly's Song, which is called Age Of Loneliness on the new album. Just a handful of privileged people were allowed to enter his computer controlled cockpit. Cretu's old friend, the Austrian singer and songwriter Peter Cornelius, showed himself in a new light and contributed the brilliant guitar solo to I Love... I'll Kill You. The former Q-singer and co-producer of the Angel album, Jens Gad, is responsible for most of the guitar parts, and in addition to Angel, there were also Sandra and the master himself lending their voices to Enigma. Not only the composition and sound of Cretu's works are interesting, but also the lyrics. In Silent Warrior, Cretu clearly took position against the murderous insanity of colonisation and the combined genocide of the American indians. More romantic however is The Dream Of The Dolphin, an old saying of the shamans telling us that the dolphins have slept away the conquest of the land and envy man for it. This is how scientists explain why dolphins attack creatures of the sea but no humans.

When the married couple Cretu discovered the island on their own five years ago, they actually didn't want to leave the hotel. "The way from the airport to the hotel was so disgusting that I just wanted to lie at the pool," tells Cretu. But as the hire car was already paid, they just travelled around and found the old farm house which is now their place of residence and place of work at the same time. But not enough. In the centre of Ibiza Town the millions weighing pop couple purchased a house classified as a historical monument from the 18th century, which is renovated at the moment. In the basement Cretu established a restaurant with an excellent cuisine. There he likes to invite the local prominent music persons. Stefan Zauner and Aaron Strobel of the "Muenchner Freiheit", Frank Farian and Snap-producer Michael Muenzing, all inhabitants of Ibiza by choice, eat with a good appetite here. And if the boss goes down to the wine-cellar himself, the nights usually get long. "I leave Ibiza only for taxes and for the new video", says Cretu laughing, and then flies to Munich to his tax consultant. For Cretu knows: "If I leave my taxes in Ibiza, Madrid withdraws it all. Therefore the money does not stay on the island." By the way, the video to the new single was shot by cult director Julien Temple (Absolute Beginners) on the Spanish mainland.

Recently, there happened a nice anecdote. Michael Cretu and his manager Jurgen Thurnau found out that they had no contract for years now. They both had forgotten to prolong it. "Usually I don't make much of deals", reveals Cretu. And all this having 1.4 millions advance orders!

Translated by Hartmut Keller.
Reproduced without permission from Music Mag for private and research purposes only.