It’s hard to imagine modern music without the influence of German pioneers Kraftwerk. I first saw them in the eighties on BBC tech programme Tomorrow’s World. They kinda freaked me out. I was a young kid. They emulated robots, and their music was similarly future focused. Florian Schneider,who has passed away aged 73, formed the band with Ralph Hutter in 1970. Nothing was ever the same again. Of course, they had previously actually appeared in the 70s, around the time of Autobahn, but I was just a baby then. Compare and contrast below.
Basically, they created techno before it was techno. They made their own instruments, brought a human heartbeat to what could have been cold, clinical music and sounded like nothing that had gone before. They sang about robotic innovation, commerce and the romance of computers, decades before Facetime, or app hook ups were even possible.
There’s a wit there though. Often, they sent robots to press conferences, a sly comment on ‘selling’ music and the nature of celebrity itself. Making themselves into ciphers was as pure an artistic statement as possible.
Hip-hop artists sampled them, Bowie loved them and it was reciprocal, and their music was perfect pop, glacial lullabies and starbound symphonies.
RIP Herr Schneider, you helped to change the world, and we’re forever grateful. In the words of Karl Hyde from Underworld, speaking on 6Music today, “Who knew that four white guys from Germany could be so funky? They had the funk”.