LOS ANGELES, NOV. 20 -- Robert Pilatus and Fabrice Morvan, stripped of its Milli Vanilli name and its Grammy as Best New Artist of 1989, met with reporters today at a boisterous press conference and described how the pop duo made "a pact with the Devil" that made them stars but never allowed them to be singers.

The two said Frank Farian, their German producer, had threatened to withhold their royalties unless they kept up the sham of public appearances as Milli Vanilli even though they never sang a word of any of the songs credited to them.

But Morvan and Pilatus also came to prove they could sing. They could not have picked a more demanding audience.

They brought Seth Riggs, their voice teacher of more than a year, to offer testimony: "When I began to run their scales with them, I discovered that not only could they sing but they could sing a whole half-octave above anything that was required of them."

They showed an excerpt from a video of themselves singing this past weekend in a Hollywood recording studio. They gave out copies of the video and an accompanying audiotape.

But it wasn't enough.

"You lied to us one time -- how do we know you're not lying again?" one reporter called out.

"Sing now!" someone else shouted.

"Sing now!" came a chorus of reporters.

"I think you should go over this tape," Pilatus demurred. "You can take it to a scientist -- "

More protests erupted throughout the room. Pilatus countered that the microphones provided for the press conference at the Ocean Way recording studios weren't good enough. But reporters kept asking, and as the noise level in the room rose, Pilatus sprang to his feet, grabbed a mike and lustily belted out the chorus from the song that launched and then scandalized them: "Girl, you know it's true. Oooh, oooh, oooh, I love yoo-ou ..."

Morvan joined in with the rap on the song, and after a 15-second rendition, the room applauded the impromptu jam session.

Although the duo and their manager, Carsten Heyn, say they pleaded to be able to sing on their own recordings and at their own public appearances, they acknowledge that they gave careful thought to the timing of an announcement of the truth.

In a brief interview after the press conference, Pilatus admitted that the two are in a better position now, financially and promotionally, to risk the revelation.

If he had come forward with the truth any sooner, said Pilatus, the recording industry "would have squashed me. Look, I had to wait until we are big. ... Today maybe with luck we can turn it around. Eight months before, you would not have come to our press conference because Milli Vanilli wasn't big enough."

The performers arrived with the Grammy statuettes they were awarded in February and made a symbolic gesture of returning them, "and we recommend {that the awards go to} our buddies who did the real voices who got seduced like us in Germany. Brad Howell and Johnny Davis are the real singers and I think they should get this Grammy," Pilatus said.

The pair were scornful of a third singer, Charles Shaw, who did the rap on "Girl You Know It's True" and who has said for a long time that he sang on the song. Pilatus does not dispute that but says that because it was only that one song, Shaw "should be very quiet." Pilatus also said, "He is like a little mosquito. He goes on your arm and tries to suck blood out of you."

In fact, no one seems to want the statuettes now. The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, which Monday rescinded the award, doesn't need to have them back. "They said don't give them to any third parties," said the duo's lawyer, Alan Mintz, after the press conference. But Pilatus and Morvan don't want to keep them. "I don't think they're particularly fond memories for us," Mintz surmised.

Pilatus, and Morvan are technically no longer Milli Vanilli, a moniker that Farian created and still controls. They have a new name -- Rob and Fab, the German and the French -- and are contemplating recording offers as well as book deals "about the rise and fall of Milli Vanilli and the secrets of the record industry," said Heyn.

When the two young men, wearing jewelry and bandannas, walked in and took their seats at a table in the front of the room, the press conference opened with shouts of "Which one is which?" It closed with "Is that your real hair?" Pilatus, who did most of the talking, grinned in response to the question about their trademark hair and shrugged with his arms outstretched.

Pilatus managed to hold his own as he was grilled, occasionally with a note of indignation from the questioners, about why the pair hadn't come forward sooner, and on how they expect their fans to react. At one point during the conference, Heyn was quietly served with a class-action suit by a fan from San Diego, who claimed that Milli Vanilli had misrepresented itself to record buyers. (At least two other such suits have been filed.)

"We're really, really sorry about our fans," Pilatus said. "We really love our fans. We just hope that they understand we were just young and we wanted to live the life the American way."

When one reporter said that "the only way you can explain this charade is money," Pilatus shot back, "Do you live in a project? We lived in a project. We had no money. We wanted to be stars. We think we are talented. We love to be onstage. We knew if we didn't accept that {offer} we knew we would still be in Munich. I would still work at the McDonald's."

The pair said that when Farian forbade them to record the second Milli Vanilli album -- in fact, it's already recorded, but Morvan and Pilatus have asked their lawyers to stop it from going into distribution -- they decided to come forward. It was actually Farian who made the initial disclosure at a press conference last week.

Pilatus and Morvan described themselves as poverty-stricken artists who desperately needed the money when they accepted Farian's offer to be the false front of a group he would call Milli Vanilli. "We were young. We were naive," said Morvan.

"Fabrice -- we lived together in a project in Munich," Pilatus said. "We had little to eat, we were starving."

Initially they were each given a check for $4,000. "We did one wrong move in September '88," Pilatus said. "A big guy with a lot of money seduced us. But if Rob and Fab hadn't done that, we would still be in our project, we would still go to the supermarket and steal some food. I tell the young kids, 'Stay away from drugs, get a lawyer if you want to go into this industry. Save all your money. Wash cars, work at McDonald's and get your money to buy a lawyer because I didn't have a lawyer to start, I didn't have a manager.' "

They said they had asked several times to do their own singing at various public appearances, most notably the Grammy Awards show, but were instructed by Arista Records executives not to perform.

Pilatus said emphatically today that Arista executives, including company President Clive Davis, knew that they were lip-syncing other performers' work. Heyn agreed. "I knew that Arista was aware," he said after the press conference. He said that included Davis.

Arista Records released a statement later today saying that its executives "did not know that Rob Pilatus and Fab Morvan did not sing on the Milli Vanilli album, and any assertions to the contrary are false and libelous."

According to attorney Mintz, Farian "had a habit of withholding royalties" until they completed public appearances and the like. Mintz estimates they made more than 100 public appearances. "They probably got some from him in the last few months. He would dribble it out."

Mintz said the duo would sue Farian in German courts, probably in the next week. "A lot of the way he controlled Robert and Fabrice was that he refused to speak to the people who worked with them. I spent a fruitless trip in May in Frankfurt trying to deal with this."

No one will say how much money Morvan and Pilatus -- who share a rented house in the picturesque Beverly Glen area of Los Angeles -- have already made, but according to Mintz, "it's a substandard royalty. {The contract} was nothing that any reputable attorney in the U.S. would let his client sign. They've earned a lot of money, but they haven't gotten it all."