Camouflage is a German New Wave trio consisting of Marcus Meyn, Heiko Maile and Oliver Kreyssig. Their only Billboard Hot 100 hit was "The Great Commandment" which climbed to #59 in 1988, though it did spend three weeks at #1 on the US dance chart. They also had two additional minor dance hits in 1989.
In 1983, Heiko Maile, Marcus Meyn, Martin Kahling and Oliver Kreyssig, four friends from Bietigheim-Bissingen, Germany, formed the band Licenced Technology. It was short lived, as Martin Kahling left in 1984. Soon after, the remaining three members renamed themselves "Camouflage", inspired by a Yellow Magic Orchestra song of the same name. The three young musicians set up their first studio in the basement of Heiko's parents' house, calling it "Boy's Factory". Their first live gigs at local music clubs soon followed. In 1985, Camouflage recorded two demo tapes at their studio, and the following year, the group won a local radio music contest, after a friend of theirs handed one of the demos in. A small Frankfurt music label, "Westside", showed interest in taking Camouflage on. There, the song "The Great Commandment" was recorded to be presented to bigger music companies. After considering offers from several record companies, Camouflage decided to sign a contract with Metronome.
Working with Axel Henninger, Camouflage re-recorded "The Great Commandment" in Axel's studio in 1987. The single was released in September of that year and rose to number 14 in the German charts. Their follow-up single "Strangers' Thoughts" was released in February 1988, rising to number 20. In March, Voices & Images, Camouflage's debut album, was released. The album topped the US Billboard Dance Charts twice having been played often by small independent radio stations. In New York, Heiko, Oli and Marcus signed a contract with the US label Atlantic that same year, releasing "Voices & Images" and the single "That Smiling Face" for the US market in the fall of 1988. In an old factory loft near their hometown, Heiko, Oli and Marcus set up "Boy's Factory 2", their new studio.
With producer Dan Lacksman of Telex, the band recorded a new album Methods of Silence at Synsound Studio in Brussels that following year. Now left to experiment more freely after the commercial success of their first album, Dan's recording work revealed an interesting mix of digital high-tech and out-dated studio equipment. Single "Love is a Shield" (position 9 in German charts) stayed in the charts for over six months, and the album reached 13. After follow-up single "One Fine Day", the band embarked on their first live concert tour to great financial success.
At the beginning of 1990, Oliver Kreyssig left the band for personal reasons. In October, Heiko and Marcus began work on the third album Meanwhile at the Black Barn Studio in England with producer Colin Thursten (who worked with David Bowie, Talk Talk and Duran Duran). Taking a different path, this album included real drums and conventional musical instruments played by guest musicians. The first single "Heaven (I Want You)" was released in Germany and USA, reaching 57 in their home country. Three months after their second German tour commenced, they released the album's second single, the double-A sided "This Day/Handsome."
Public reception to their change of sound was not without controversy, however. In a 1995 interview, Marcus said "Naturally we would have preferred that things had gone differently. But it was our wish at the time to make this type of record. For that reason the situation was perfectly OK for us. Looking back today, we would have liked to have had better advice at the time, recommending against this drastic stylistic change in our music. But things went the way they did..."
After relocating to Hamburg in 1992, the duo founded their own music publishing company and studio, which saw the release of side project Areu Areu. During this time, they also began recording work for their fourth album. The goal with this album was to incorporate as many electronic influences as possible into their work. Their 1993 lead single "Suspicious Love" received radio air time and got rotation play on MTV, although proving to be only a minor chart placement. For this, the band faulted its record company Metronome for eschewing the band over other clients such as Ace of Base. As a result, "Bodega Bohemia" and the follow-on singles "Close (We Stroke the Flames)" and "Jealousy" were only released in Germany.
The next few years were not happy ones for the band. Heiko and Marcus signed a contract with the organizer of an opera project via mutual friends, but after investing more than a half year, visual concepts and demo recordings to the project, legal disputes between shareholders and organizers prevented any performance from taking place, and ensuing frustrations led the duo to consider leaving the music business entirely.
Fortunately, the manager of the band "Die Fantastischen Vier", Andreas "Bär" Läsker, signalled a desire to work with the band and helped them secure a recording contract with BMG (Germany) in 1994 for a fifth album. As the new contract allowed complete freedom of production, Heiko and Marcus revised music previously written for the failed opera project and added experimental and more creative approaches to the new tracks, even going so far as to write music inspired by science fiction films. However, the new album Spice Crackers, preceded by the single "Bad News" and chased by the single "X-Ray" failed to be a commercial success, and the duo temporarily went separate ways to collaborate on various musical projects such as 1996's various artist compilation CD Treasury in which Camouflage contributed the song "Winter".
In 1997, Sony Music and Polydor released a remix album of past hits called We Stroke The Flames and a limited edition maxi single with previously released mixes of "Suspicious Love", "Handsome", and "Love is a Shield", albeit without input from Heiko and Marcus. However, this promising new contract ended without further releases for reasons not revealed. One good thing did come of this, however. Former band member Oliver Kreyssig, who had remained good friends with Heiko and Marcus, was by this time working with Polydor and helped with the artwork design of the album and single. This was to be his first professional involvement with the band since his departure, and ended with him rejoining the band as an official member in 1999.
Now a trio again, the band began work on a sixth studio album, beginning with the single "Thief". Although it climbed for two weeks in Germany, the future of the new album became uncertain and the band members continued on with their various side projects. In June 2000 Camouflage played their first live gig in many years in Freiberg.
In 2001 Polydor (having ironically just bought the band's former label Metronome) released the compilation best-of album Rewind, for which Camouflage was finally allowed sufficient opportunity for input and song selection ideas. The limited version DVD included all of the video clips from the Metronome and BMG phases of the band's career. That year Polydor also released the single "You Were There" from dance project Resistance D featuring the vocals of Marcus. Its sound was much like that of Camouflage and subsequently caused a significant amount of confusion with fans.
Camouflage had by this time signed a new contract with Virgin Records and was still tentatively working on a sixth album. However, the band determined that in order to justify the release of an album they had to have at least one successful new single to precede it. At the suggestion of Virgin, the band attempted a comeback attempt with the release of a new version of their classic song "The Great Commandment". To avoid rights violations with their previous record company, vocals were also re-recorded. TGC, version 2.0 was produced by the London trio "Toy" with drums by Christian Eigner (who had previously toured with Depeche Mode). TGC 2.0 climbed the charts for three weeks, but only reached #85. The rather disappointing result left little hope for a release of a sixth album with Virgin.
Because of this, the band decided to pursue other options with Polydor, finally culminating in the long delayed Sensor in 2003 - a long path from the 1999 single "Thief" until now. Sensor was produced by Rob Kirawn and Toy in London and Gerret Frerichs in Hamburg. While there wasn't a plan for how Sensor was intended to sound, they felt it was important to emphasize classic Camouflage songwriting strengths and return to an electronic presentation. The first single "Me and You" reached #53 in the German charts, while the album crested at #26. The Sensor tour took the band across Germany and for first time to Russia and other countries. The single "I Can't Feel You" only charted at #75. Meanwhile, Polydor underwent restructuring in the face of a declining recording industry and once again plans were shelved for additional singles or albums. Nevertheless, the band continued writing new songs.