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Holger Czukay

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Holger Czukay
Czukay in 1973
Background information
Birth nameHolger Schüring
Born(1938-03-24)24 March 1938
Free City of Danzig (present-day Gdańsk, Poland)
Died5 September 2017(2017-09-05) (aged 79)
Weilerswist, Germany
Instrument(s)Bass, guitar, keyboards, percussion, drums, vocals, French horn
Years active1968–2017
Spouse(s)Ursula Schüring (m. 1989)

Holger Schüring[1] (24 March 1938 – 5 September 2017),[2] known professionally as Holger Czukay (/ˈʃʊk/),[3] was a German musician best known as a co-founder of the krautrock group Can. Described as "successfully bridg[ing] the gap between pop and the avant-garde",[4] Czukay was also notable for having created early important examples of ambient music, for having explored "world music" well before the term was coined, and for having been a pioneer of sampling.


Czukay was born on 24 March 1938 in the Free City of Danzig (present-day Gdańsk, Poland), from which his family was expelled after World War II. Due to the turmoil of the war, Czukay's primary education was limited. One pivotal early experience, however, was working, when still a teenager, at a radio repair-shop, where he became fond of the aural qualities of radio broadcasts (anticipating his use of shortwave radio broadcasts as musical elements) and became familiar with the rudiments of electrical repair and engineering.[5]

Czukay studied music under Karlheinz Stockhausen from 1963 to 1966[6] and then worked for a while as a music teacher. Initially Czukay had little interest in rock music, but this changed when a student played him the Beatles' 1967 song "I Am the Walrus", a psychedelic rock single with an unusual musical structure and blasts of AM radio noise.[7] This opened his ears to music by rock experimentalists such as The Velvet Underground and Frank Zappa.[7]

Czukay co-founded Can in 1968. He played bass guitar and undertook most of the recording and engineering for the group. Rosko Gee, former bassist of the British band Traffic, joined the band in 1977, with Czukay handling only tapes and sound effects on the album Saw Delight, his final LP with the group before departing for a solo career.[8] Czukay had been sidelined due to creative disputes and his failure to progress as a bassist, admitting his shortcomings on the instrument which he had taken up "almost by default" in the early days of Can.[9]

After his departure from Can, Czukay recorded several albums. One of his trademarks was the use of shortwave radio sounds and his early pioneering of sampling,[10] in those days involving the painstaking cutting and splicing of magnetic tapes. He would tape-record various sounds and snippets from shortwave and incorporate them into his compositions. He also used shortwave as a live, interactive musical instrument (such as on 1991's Radio Wave Surfer), a method of composition he termed "radio painting". Czukay also stated "If you want to make something new, you shouldn't think too far beyond one certain idea".[11]

Czukay collaborated with a considerable number of musicians, notably a series of albums with Jah Wobble and David Sylvian,[6] two younger British musicians who shared his interest in blending pop music with experimental recording and sampling techniques. Other collaborators include U.N.K.L.E., Brian Eno, Eurythmics, and German Neue Deutsche Welle band Trio.[8]

In 2009, after a problematic time with the record company that had been gradually re-releasing his albums on CD, Czukay began a new collaboration with the Claremont 56 record label,[12] releasing vinyl-only remixes of tracks from earlier albums, as well as some new recordings. This approach changed Czukay's plans for his back catalogue, so that the original albums Der Osten ist Rot (1984), Rome Remains Rome (1987) and Moving Pictures (1993) are no longer being reissued (in the case of Moving Pictures, because the master tapes have degraded beyond repair).[13] Instead, most of the tracks are being remade and newly organized as limited edition vinyl releases.

In 2018 it was announced that Czukay's work was being released in a box set, Cinema, including his solo works, collaborations, and unreleased material. It was released in March 2018.[14]

Personal life[edit]

Holger Czukay was married for nearly thirty years to the German painter and singer Ursula Kloss (known professionally as Ursa Major, and later, as U-She), with whom he collaborated on numerous multimedia pieces. Ursula Schüring (as she was called after marrying Holger Schüring under his real name) died on her 55th birthday (28 July 2017) after having been severely debilitated by illness for over a decade.[15][16][17]


On 5 September 2017, Czukay was found dead in his apartment, converted from Can's old studio in Weilerswist, near Cologne.[18] The New York Times reported that he had died on the same day, but the cause of his death was the subject of a police investigation.[2] His death was eventually assumed to have been from natural causes.[19]




  • Biomutanten / Menetekel (as Les Vampyrettes with Conny Plank) (1981)[23]
  • Full Circle (1982)[20] collaboration with Jah Wobble and Jaki Liebezeit (re-issue of a UK-only EP, expanded with two additional tracks)
  • Snake Charmer (1983)[20] EP, collaboration with Jah Wobble, The Edge, and Ben Mandelson
  • Brilliant Trees (1984), with David Sylvian
  • Plight & Premonition (1988, remastered 2018)[20] collaboration with David Sylvian; remixed by Sylvian in 2002 and subsequently released in 2018[24]
  • Flux + Mutability (1989, remastered 2018)[20] collaboration with David Sylvian; reissued combined with Plight & Premonition in 2018
  • Clash (1998, remastered and expanded 2007)[20] collaboration with Dr. Walker
  • The New Millennium (2003)[20] with U-She
  • Daemon In The Bar (2006)[25] with Bob Humid
  • Time and Tide (2001, remastered 2007)[20] with U-She
  • Freemix (2004)[20]
  • 21st Century (2007)[20] with Ursa Major - voice, Drew Kalapach - electronics
  • Ode to Perfume / Fragrance (2009) 10 inch single, limited edition of 500[26]
  • Way to LA (2010)[27] 10 inch single collaboration with Bison and Ursa Major
  • Let's Get Hot / Let's Get Cool (2010)[28] 12 inch single, limited edition of 500 red vinyl and 500 blue vinyl
  • Persian Love (Remix) / My Persian Love (2010)[28] 12 inch single, gold vinyl, limited edition of 1001
  • Dream Again (2010)[28] 10 inch double EP of remixes from The East Is Red and Rome Remains Rome, clear vinyl, limited edition of 666
  • Hit Hit Flop Flop (Remix) / Hey Baba Reebop (2011) 7 inch single, limited edition of 500[21]

With Can[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hoff, Hans (22 March 2008). "Die anarchische Methode: Musiklegende Holger Czukay". Süddeutsche Zeitung (in German). Archived from the original on 8 February 2009. Retrieved 15 May 2014..
  2. ^ a b "Holger Czukay, 79, Influential Rock Experimenter, Is Dead". New York Times. 8 September 2017.
  3. ^ "Can (presented by Holger Czukay)". YouTube. 4 November 2010. Archived from the original on 15 May 2020. Retrieved 6 September 2017..
  4. ^ Ankeny, Jason. "Holger Czukay: Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved 6 July 2011.
  5. ^ England, Phil (1994). "Interview with Holger Czukay". ESTWeb. Retrieved 7 September 2017.
  6. ^ a b "Holger Czukay: Biography & Selected Chronology". Spoon Records. Retrieved 7 September 2017.
  7. ^ a b "Can – publications". Czukay.de. Archived from the original on 21 September 2013. Retrieved 6 July 2011.
  8. ^ a b Wicks, Amanda (6 September 2017). "Can's Holger Czukay Dead at 79". Pitchfork. Retrieved 6 September 2017.
  9. ^ Rob Young, Irmin Schmidt (2018). All Gates Open: The Story of Can. Faber & Faber, ISBN 0-571-31151-2
  10. ^ Leidecker, Jon (28 August 2009). "Variations #3: The Approach". Ràdio Web MACBA. Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona. Retrieved 7 September 2017.
  11. ^ Du Noyer, Paul (2003). The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Music (1st ed.). Fulham, London: Flame Tree Publishing. p. 398. ISBN 1-904041-96-5.
  12. ^ "Czukay News". www.czukay.de. 1 February 2010. Retrieved 7 September 2017.
  13. ^ "Czukay News". www.czukay.de. 1 November 2008. Retrieved 7 September 2017.
  14. ^ "Can co-founder Holger Czukay's solo work collected in posthumous box set Cinema". 16 January 2018. Retrieved 10 April 2018.
  15. ^ "18/1/19 - The Graves of Holger Czukay, U-She and Jaki Liebezeit". 19 January 2019. Retrieved 5 March 2022.
  16. ^ "Brian Eno is MORE DARK THAN SHARK". www.moredarkthanshark.org. Retrieved 5 March 2022.
  17. ^ Zeitung, Süddeutsche (6 September 2017). "Holger Czukay - Nachruf auf Bassist der Band "Can"". Süddeutsche.de (in German). Retrieved 22 January 2024.
  18. ^ Beaumont-Thomas, Ben (6 September 2017). "Holger Czukay, bassist with Can, dies aged 79". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 12 August 2023.
  19. ^ Young, Rob; Schmidt, Irmin (2018). All Gates Open: The Story of Can. Faber and Faber. p. 330. ISBN 978-0-571-31149-1.
  20. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s "Holger Czukay". Allmusic. Retrieved 6 September 2017.
  21. ^ a b "Holger Czukay (Can) / Record Store Day 2015". Bloodontheknobs.com. Retrieved 6 September 2017.
  22. ^ "Holger Czukay – Eleven Years Innerspace". Discogs. 17 June 2015. Retrieved 25 September 2018.
  23. ^ "Les Vampyrettes". Allmusic. Retrieved 6 September 2017.
  24. ^ "Grönland Records Announce Reissue Of Seminal Ambient Records by David Sylvian & Holger Czukay". groenland.com. Retrieved 25 September 2018.
  25. ^ "Daemon in the Bar feat. Holger Czukay". Soundcloud. Retrieved 6 September 2017.
  26. ^ "Holger Czukay – Ode to Perfume/Fragrance". Soundsoftheuniverse.com. Retrieved 6 September 2017.
  27. ^ "Bison at Innerspace". Testpressing.org. Retrieved 6 September 2017.
  28. ^ a b c "Holger Czukay Discography". Discogs.com. Retrieved 6 September 2017.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]