Kraftwerk

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Kraftwerk
KRAFTWERK im Kiew 01.jpg
Kraftwerk performing in Kiev in 2008
Background information
Origin Düsseldorf, North Rhine-Westphalia, West Germany
Genres Electronic, synthpop, krautrock, avant-garde, experimental[1]
Years active 1970–present
Labels Kling Klang, Parlophone, EMI, Astralwerks, Elektra, Warner Bros., Capitol, Vertigo, Philips
Reissues and compilations:
Mute, Cleopatra, Parlophone, Mercury, Fontana
Associated acts Organisation, Neu!
Website www.kraftwerk.com
Members Ralf Hütter
Fritz Hilpert
Henning Schmitz
Falk Grieffenhagen
Past members Florian Schneider
Houschäng Néjadepour
Plato Kostic
Peter Schmidt
Charly Weiss
Thomas Lohmann
Eberhard Kranemann
Andreas Hohmann
Klaus Dinger
Michael Rother
Emil Schult
Wolfgang Flür
Klaus Röder
Karl Bartos
Fernando Abrantes
Stefan Pfaffe

Kraftwerk (German pronunciation: [ˈkʀaftvɛɐk], "power station") are a German electronic music band formed by Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider in 1970 in Düsseldorf, and fronted by them until Schneider's departure in 2008. The signature Kraftwerk sound combines driving, repetitive rhythms with catchy melodies, mainly following a Western Classical style of harmony, with a minimalistic and strictly electronic instrumentation. The group's simplified lyrics are at times sung through a vocoder or generated by computer-speech software. Kraftwerk were one of the first groups to popularize electronic music and are considered pioneers in the field.

In the 1970s and early 1980s, Kraftwerk's distinctive sound was revolutionary, and has had a lasting effect across many genres of modern music.[2][3][4] According to The Observer, "no other band since the Beatles has given so much to pop culture" and a wide range of artists have been influenced by their music and image.[5] In January 2014 the Grammy Academy honored Kraftwerk with a Lifetime Achievement Award.[6]

History[edit]

Formation and early years (1970–1973)[edit]

Florian Schneider (flutes, synthesizers, electro-violin) and Ralf Hütter (electronic organ, synthesizers) met as students at the Robert Schumann Hochschule in Düsseldorf in the late 1960s, participating in the German experimental music and art scene of the time, which the British music press dubbed "krautrock".[7]

The duo had originally performed together in a quintet known as Organisation. This ensemble released one album, Tone Float, issued on RCA Records in the UK, but the group split shortly thereafter.

Early Kraftwerk line-ups from 1970 to 1974 fluctuated, as Hütter and Schneider worked with around a half-dozen other musicians over the course of recording three albums and sporadic live appearances; most notably guitarist Michael Rother and drummer Klaus Dinger, who left to form Neu![7] The only constant figure in these line-ups was Schneider, whose main instrument at the time was the flute; at times also playing violin and guitar, all processed through a varied array of electronic effects. Hütter, who left the band for six months in 1971 to pursue studies in architecture, played synthesizer keyboards (including Farfisa organ and electric piano).

Their first three albums were free-form experimental rock without the pop hooks or the more disciplined song structure of later work. Kraftwerk, released in 1970, and Kraftwerk 2, released in 1972, were mostly exploratory jam music, played on a variety of traditional instruments including guitar, bass, drums, electric organ, flute and violin. Post-production modifications to these recordings were used to distort the sound of the instruments, particularly audio-tape manipulation and multiple dubbings of one instrument on the same track. Both albums are purely instrumental. Live performances from 1972 to 1973 were made as a duo, using a simple beat-box-type electronic drum machine, with preset rhythms taken from an electric organ. These shows were mainly in Germany, with occasional shows in France.[7] Later in 1973, Wolfgang Flür joined the group for rehearsals, and the unit performed as a trio on the television show Aspekte for German television network ZDF.[8]

With Ralf und Florian, released in 1973, Kraftwerk began to move closer to its classic sound, relying more heavily on synthesizers and drum machines. Although almost entirely instrumental, the album marks Kraftwerk's first use of the vocoder, which would in time become one of its musical signatures. Kraftwerk's futuristic and robotic sound was influenced by the 'adrenalized insurgency' of Detroit artists of the late 60's such as MC5 and the Stooges. [9]

The input, expertise, and influence of producer and engineer Konrad "Conny" Plank was highly significant in the early years of Kraftwerk and Plank also worked with many of the other leading German electronic acts of the period, including members of Can, Neu!, Cluster and Harmonia. As a result of his work with Kraftwerk, Plank's studio near Cologne became one of the most sought-after studios in the late 1970s. Plank co-produced the first four Kraftwerk albums.[7]

International breakthrough (1974–1976)[edit]

The release of Autobahn in 1974 saw Kraftwerk moving away from the sound of its earlier albums. Hütter and Schneider had invested in newer technology such as the Minimoog and the EMS Synthi AKS, helping give Kraftwerk a newer, disciplined sound. Autobahn would also be the last album that Conny Plank would engineer. After the commercial success of Autobahn in the USA where it peaked at number 5 in the Billboard top 200,[10] Hütter and Schneider invested money into updating their studio. This meant they no longer had to rely on outside producers. At this time the painter and graphic artist Emil Schult became a regular collaborator working alongside the band. Schult designed artwork in addition to later co-writing lyrics and accompanying the group on tour.[7]

The year 1975 saw a turning point in Kraftwerk's live shows. With financial support from Phonogram in the US, it was able to undertake a multi-date tour to promote the Autobahn album. This tour took them to the US, Canada and the UK for the first time. The tour also saw a new, stable, live line-up in the form of a quartet. Hütter and Schneider both mainly played keyboard parts on synthesizers such as the Minimoog and ARP Odyssey, with Schneider's use of flute diminishing. The pair also sang vocals on stage for the first time, with Schneider also using a vocoder live. Wolfgang Flür and new recruit Karl Bartos performed live on self-made electronic percussions. Bartos also used a Deagan Vibraphone on stage. The Hütter-Schneider-Bartos-Flür formation remained in place until the late 1980s and is now regarded as the classic live line-up of Kraftwerk. Emil Schult generally fulfilled the role of tour manager.[7]

After the 1975 Autobahn tour, Kraftwerk began work on a follow-up album, Radio-Activity (German title: Radio-Aktivität). After further investment in new equipment, the Kling Klang Studio became a fully working recording studio. It was decided that the new album would have a central theme. This theme came from Kraftwerk's shared interest in radio communication, which had become enhanced on their last tour of the United States. While Emil Schult began working on artwork and lyrics for the new album, Kraftwerk began to work on the music. Radio-Activity was less successful in the UK and American markets, but it did open up the European market for Kraftwerk, gaining them a gold disc in France. Kraftwerk produced some promotional videos and performed several European live dates to promote the album. With the release of Autobahn and Radio-Activity, Kraftwerk had left behind its avant-garde experimentations and had moved forward towards electronic pop tunes.[7]

In 1976, Kraftwerk went out on tour in support of the Radio-Activity album. Enthused by the album, British singer David Bowie had invited the band to support him on his Station to Station tour but they declined.[11] Despite some innovations in touring, Kraftwerk took a break from live performances after the Radio-Activity tour of 1976.

Trains, robots and computers (1977–1982)[edit]

After having finished the Radio-Activity tour Kraftwerk began recording Trans-Europe Express (German: Trans-Europa Express) at Kling Klang Studio.[7] Trans-Europe Express was mixed at the Record Plant Studios in Los Angeles. It was around this time that Hütter and Schneider met David Bowie at Kling Klang Studio. A collaboration was mentioned in an interview (Brian Eno) with Hütter, but it never materialised. The release of Trans-Europe Express was marked with an extravagant train journey used as a press conference by EMI France. The album was released in March 1977.[7] The album won a disco award in New York later that year.

In May 1978 Kraftwerk released The Man-Machine (German: Die Mensch Maschine), recorded at the Kling Klang Studio. Due to the complexity of the recording the album was mixed at Studio Rudas in Düsseldorf. The band hired sound engineer Leanard Jackson from Detroit to work together with Joschko Rudas on the final mix of the record. The Man-Machine was the first Kraftwerk album where Karl Bartos was co-credited as songwriter. The cover was produced in black, white and red; the artwork was inspired by Russian artist El Lissitzky and the Suprematism movement. The image of the band on the front cover was photographed by Gunther Frohling. This showed the band dressed in red shirts and black ties. The Man Machine became a success in the UK, peaking at number 9 in the album chart.[12] Kraftwerk would not issue an album for another three years.[7]

In May 1981 Kraftwerk put out Computer World (German: Computerwelt) on EMI records.[7] It was recorded at Kling Klang Studio between 1978 and 1981.[7] A lot of this time was spent modifying the studio so the band could take it on tour with them.[7] Some of the electronic vocals on Computer World were created using a Texas Instruments Language Translator.[13] "Computer Love" was released as a single from the album backed with the Man-Machine track "The Model".[7] Radio DJs were more interested in the B-side so the single was repackaged by EMI and re-released with "The Model" as the A-side. The single reached the number one position in the UK, making "The Model" Kraftwerk's most successful record in the UK.[7] The band's live set focused increasingly on song-based material, with greater use of vocals and the use of sequencing equipment for percussion and musical lines. The approach taken by the group was to use the sequencing equipment interactively, thus allowing room for improvisation. Ironically Kraftwerk did not own a computer at the time of recording Computer World.

Kraftwerk returned to the live scene with the Computer World tour of 1981, where the band effectively packed up its entire Kling Klang studio and took it on the road. The band also developed an increasing use of visual elements in the live shows during this period. This included back-projected slides and films, increasingly synchronised with the music as the technology developed, the use of hand-held miniaturised instruments during the set (for example, during "Pocket Calculator"), and, perhaps most famously, the use of replica mannequins of themselves to perform onstage during the song "The Robots".

Cycling non-stop (1983–1989)[edit]

In 1982 Kraftwerk began to work on a new album that initially had the working title Technicolor but due to trademark issues was changed to Techno Pop. One of the songs from these recording sessions was "Tour de France", which EMI released as a single in 1983. This song was a reflection of the band's new-found obsession for cycling. After the physically demanding Computer World tour, Ralf Hütter had been looking for forms of exercises that fitted in with the image of Kraftwerk; subsequently he encouraged the group to become vegetarians and take up cycling. "Tour de France" included sounds that followed this theme including bicycle chains, gear mechanisms and the breathing of the cyclist. At the time of the single's release Ralf Hütter tried to persuade the rest of the band that they should record a whole album based around cycling. The other members of the band were not convinced, and the theme was left to the single alone.[7] "Tour de France" was released in German and French. The vocals of the song were recorded on the Kling Klang Studio stairs to create the right atmosphere.[7] "Tour de France" was featured in the 1984 film Breakin', showing the influence that Kraftwerk had on black American dance music.[7]

During the recording of "Tour de France", Ralf Hütter was involved in a serious cycling accident.[7] He suffered head injuries and was left in a coma for a few days. During 1983 Wolfgang Flür was beginning to spend less time in the studio. Since the band began using sequencers his role as a drummer was becoming less frequent. He preferred to spend his time travelling with his girlfriend. Flür was also experiencing artistic difficulties with the band. After his final work on the 1986 album Electric Café (a.k.a. Techno Pop) he hardly returned to the Kling Klang Studio.[8] Wolfgang Flür left the band in 1987 and was replaced by Fritz Hilpert.

In the mix (1990–1999)[edit]

After years of withdrawal from live performance Kraftwerk began to tour Europe more frequently again. In February 1990 they played a few secret shows in Italy. Karl Bartos left the band shortly afterwards. The next proper tour was in 1991, for the album The Mix. Hütter and Schneider wished to continue the synth-pop quartet style of presentation, and recruited Fernando Abrantes as a replacement for Bartos. Abrantes left the band shortly after though. In late 1991, long-time Kling Klang Studio sound engineer Henning Schmitz was brought in to finish the remainder of the tour and to complete a new version of the quartet that remained active until 2008. In 1997 they had a famous appearance at dance festival Tribal Gathering held in England.[14] In 1998, the group toured the US and Japan for the first time since 1981, along with shows in Brazil and Argentina. Three new songs were performed during this period, which remain unreleased. Following this trek, the group decided to take another break.[15]

In July 1999 the single "Tour de France" was reissued in Europe by EMI after it had been out of print for several years. It was released for the first time on CD in addition to a repressing of the 12-inch vinyl single. Both versions feature slightly altered artwork that removed the faces of Flür and Bartos from the four-man cycling paceline depicted on the original cover. In 1999 ex-member Flür published his autobiography in Germany, Ich war ein Roboter. Later English-language editions of the book were titled Kraftwerk: I Was a Robot.

The single "Expo 2000" was released in December 1999. The track was remixed and re-released as "Expo Remix" in November 2000.

Touring the globe (2000–2009)[edit]

In Stockholm, February 2004

In August 2003 the band released Tour de France Soundtracks, its first album of new material since 1986's Electric Café. In January and February 2003, prior to the release of the album, the band started the extensive Minimum-Maximum world tour, using four customised Sony VAIO laptop computers, effectively leaving the entire Kling Klang studio at home in Germany. The group also obtained a new set of transparent video panels to replace its four large projection screens. This greatly streamlined the running of all of the group's sequencing, sound-generating, and visual-display software. From this point, the band's equipment increasingly reduced manual playing, replacing it with interactive control of sequencing equipment. Hütter retains the most manual performance, still playing musical lines by hand on a controller keyboard and singing live vocals and having a repeating ostinato. Schneider's live vocoding has been replaced by software-controlled speech-synthesis techniques. In November, the group made a surprising appearance at the MTV European Music Awards in Edinburgh, Scotland, performing "Aerodynamik". The same year a promotional box set entitled 12345678 (subtitled The Catalogue) was issued, with plans for a proper commercial release to follow. The box featured remastered editions of the group's core eight studio albums, from Autobahn to Tour de France Soundtracks. This long-awaited box-set would eventually be released in a different set of remasters in November 2009.

In June 2005 the band's first-ever official live album, Minimum-Maximum, which was compiled from the shows during the band's tour of spring 2004, received extremely positive reviews.[3] The album contained reworked tracks from existing studio albums. This included a track titled "Planet of Visions" that was a reworking of "Expo 2000". In support of this release, Kraftwerk made another quick sweep around the Balkans with dates in Serbia, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Turkey, and Greece. In December, the DVD release of Minimum-Maximum was made available. During 2006, the band performed at festivals in Norway, the Czech Republic, Spain, Belgium and Germany.

In April 2008 the group played three shows in US cities Minneapolis, Milwaukee, and Denver, and was a co-headliner at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. This was their second appearance at the festival since 2004. Further shows were performed in Ireland, Poland, Ukraine, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong and Singapore later that year. The touring quartet consisted of Ralf Hütter, Henning Schmitz, Fritz Hilpert, and video technician Stefan Pfaffe, who became an official member in 2008. Original member Florian Schneider was absent from the lineup. Hütter stated that he was working on other projects.[16] On 21 November, Kraftwerk officially confirmed Florian Schneider's departure from the band.[17] The Independent commented on that incident: "There is something brilliantly Kraftwerkian about the news that Florian Schneider, a founder member of the German electronic pioneers, is leaving the band to pursue a solo career. Many successful bands break up after just a few years. It has apparently taken Schneider and his musical partner, Ralf Hütter, four decades to discover musical differences."[18] Kraftwerk's headline set at Global Gathering in Melbourne, Australia on 22 November was cancelled moments before it was scheduled to begin, due to a Fritz Hilpert heart problem.[19]

In 2009, Kraftwerk performed concerts in Wolfsburg, Germany, Manchester, UK, and Randers, Denmark with special 3D background graphics. Members of the audience were able to watch this multimedia part of the show with 3D glasses, which were given out. During the Manchester concert (part of the 2009 Manchester International Festival)[20] four members of the GB cycling squad (Jason Kenny, Ed Clancy, Jamie Staff and Geraint Thomas) rode around the Velodrome while the band performed "Tour de France".[21] The group also played several festival dates, the last being at the Bestival in September 2009 on the Isle of Wight.[22]

Hütter and Schmitz performing at the 2009 Bestival, Isle of Wight

Kraftwerk finally released The Catalogue box set on 16 November.[23] It is a 12" LP-sized box set containing all eight remastered CDs in cardboard slipcases, as well as LP-sized booklets of photographs and artwork for each individual album.

The Catalogue (2010-present)[edit]

Although not officially confirmed, Ralf Hütter suggested that a second boxed set of their first three experimental albums—Kraftwerk, Kraftwerk 2 and Ralf and Florian—could be on its way, possibly seeing commercial release after their next studio album: "We've just never really taken a look at those albums. They've always been available, but as really bad bootlegs. Now we have more artwork. Emil has researched extra contemporary drawings, graphics, and photographs to go with each album, collections of paintings that we worked with, and drawings that Florian and I did. We took a lot of Polaroids in those days." Kraftwerk also released an iOS app called Kraftwerk Kling Klang Machine.[24] The Lenbach House in Munich exhibited some Kraftwerk 3-D pieces in Autumn 2011. Kraftwerk performed three concerts to open the exhibit.[25]

Kraftwerk played at Ultra Music Festival in Miami on March 23, 2012. The Museum of Modern Art of New York organized an exhibit titled Kraftwerk - Retrospective 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 where the band performed their studio discography from Autobahn to Tour de France over the course of eight days to sell-out crowds. Kraftwerk performed at the No Nukes 2012 Festival in Tokyo, Japan. Kraftwerk were also going to play at the Ultra Music Festival in Warsaw but the event was cancelled, instead Kraftwerk are performing at Way out West in Gothenburg. A limited edition version of the Catalogue box set was made available during the retrospective - restricted to 2000 sets, each box was individually numbered and inverted the colour scheme of the standard box. In December, Kraftwerk stated on their website that they would be playing their Catalogue in Düsseldorf and at London's Tate Modern. Kraftwerk tickets were priced at £60 in London, but fans compared that to the $20 ticket price for tickets at New York's MoMA in 2012, which caused consternation. The demand for the tickets at The Tate was so high that it shut down the website.

In March 2013, the band was not allowed to perform at a music festival in China due to unspecified "political reasons".[26] In an interview in June after performing the eight albums of The Catalogue in Sydney, Ralf Hütter stated: "Now we have finished one to eight, now we can concentrate on number nine."[27] In July, they performed at the 47th Montreux Jazz Festival. The band also played a 3-D concert on 12 July at Scotland's biggest festival T in the Park in Balado,Kinross. As well as 20 July at Latitude Festival in Suffolk, and 21 July at the Longtitude festival at Marlay Park in Dublin.[28]

On November 26, 2013, Kraftwerk announced that they would be bringing their four-night, 3D Catalogue tour to the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles in March 2014.[29]

Kraftwerk performing in front of a 3D video screen at the Riviera Theatre in Chicago on March 27, 2014. L-R: Ralf Hütter, Henning Schmitz, Fritz Hilpert, Falk Grieffenhagen.

In January 2014, Kraftwerk played 4 "3D" concerts over 3 nights at Cirkus in Stockholm, Sweden.

Music[edit]

Kraftwerk are seen as "electro-pop" pioneers.[30] At their beginning, the band was inspired by the avant-garde compositions of Karlheinz Stockhausen. Hütter has also listed the Beach Boys as a major influence.[31]

Kraftwerk's lyrics deal with post-war European urban life and technology—traveling by car on the Autobahn, traveling by train, using home computers, and the like. Usually, the lyrics are very minimal but reveal both an innocent celebration of, and a knowing caution about, the modern world, as well as playing an integral role in the rhythmic structure of the songs. Many of Kraftwerk's songs express the paradoxical nature of modern urban life—a strong sense of alienation existing side-by-side with a celebration of the joys of modern technology.[citation needed]

All of Kraftwerk's albums from Radio-Activity onwards have been released in separate versions: one with German vocals for sale in Germany, Switzerland and Austria and one with English vocals for the rest of the world, with occasional variations in other languages when conceptually appropriate.

Live performance has always played an important part in Kraftwerk's activities. Also, despite its live shows generally being based around formal songs and compositions, live improvisation often plays a noticeable role in its performances. This trait can be traced back to the group's roots in the first experimental krautrock scene of the late 1960s, but, significantly, it has continued to be a part of its playing even as it makes ever greater use of digital and computer-controlled sequencing in its performances. Some of the band's familiar compositions have been observed to have developed from live improvisations at its concerts or sound-checks.[citation needed]

Technological innovations[edit]

Throughout their career, Kraftwerk have pushed the limits of music technology with some notable innovations, such as self-made instruments and custom built devices. The group has always perceived their Kling Klang Studio as a complex music instrument as well as a sound laboratory; Florian Schneider in particular developed a fascination for music technology, with the result that the technical aspects of sound generation and recording gradually became his main fields of activity within the band.[7] Alexei Monroe called Kraftwerk the "first successful artists to incorporate representations of industrial sounds into nonacademic electronic music."[32]

Early 1970s vocoder, custom built for Kraftwerk

Kraftwerk used a custom built Vocoder on their albums Ralf und Florian and Autobahn; the device was constructed by electronic engineers P.Leunig and K.Obermayer of the PTB Braunschweig.[33]

Hütter and Schneider hold a patent for an electronic drum kit with sensor pads, filed in July 1975 and issued in June 1977.[34] It has to be hit with metal sticks which are connected to the device to complete a circuit that triggers analog synthetic percussion sounds.[35] The band first performed in public with this device in 1973, on the television program Aspekte (on the ZDF station) where it was played by Wolfgang Flür.[36] On the Radio-Activity tour in 1976 Kraftwerk tested out an experimental light-beam-activated drum cage allowing Flür to trigger electronic percussion through arm and hand movements. Unfortunately, the device did not work as planned, and it was quickly abandoned.[37] The same year Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider commissioned Bonn-based "Synthesizerstudio Bonn, Matten & Wiechers" to design and build the Synthanorma Sequenzer with Intervallomat, a 4×8 / 2×16 / 1×32 step-sequencer system with some features that commercial products couldn't provide at that time.[34] The music sequencer was used by the band for the first time to control the electronic sources creating the rhythmic sound of the album Trans-Europe Express.[38]

Seclusion[edit]

The band is notoriously reclusive, providing rare and enigmatic interviews, using life-size mannequins and robots to conduct official photo shoots, refusing to accept mail and not allowing visitors at Kling Klang Studio, whose precise location they used to keep secret. Another notable example of this eccentric behavior was reported to Johnny Marr of the Smiths by Karl Bartos, who explained that anyone trying to contact the band for collaboration would be told the studio telephone did not have a ringer, since during recording, the band did not like to hear any kind of noise pollution. Instead, callers were instructed to phone the studio precisely at a certain time, whereupon the phone would be answered by Ralf Hütter, despite never hearing the phone ring.[39] Chris Martin, lead singer of UK group Coldplay, anecdotally recalled, in a late 2007 article in Q about Kraftwerk, the process of requesting permission to use the melody from the track "Computer Love" in its 2005 release "Talk" from its album X&Y. He recalled writing them a letter and sending it through the lawyers of the respective parties and several weeks later receiving an envelope containing a handwritten reply that simply said 'yes'.[40]

Influence on other musicians[edit]

According to music journalist Neil McCormick, Kraftwerk might be "the most influential group in pop history".[30] NME wrote: "The Beatles and Kraftwerk may not have the ring of The Beatles and the Stones, but, nonetheless, these are the two most important bands in music history".[3] Kraftwerk's music has directly influenced all the electronic acts that followed in their wake but also many popular artists from diverse genres of music, including David Bowie and Depeche Mode.

Kraftwerk's musical style and image can be heard and seen in later electronic music successes such as Gary Numan, Ultravox, John Foxx, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, Human League, Depeche Mode, Visage, and Soft Cell, to name a few. Kraftwerk would also go on to influence other forms of music such as hip hop, house, and drum and bass, and they are also regarded as pioneers of the electro genre.[41] Most notably, "Trans Europe Express" and "Numbers" were interpolated into "Planet Rock" by Afrika Bambaataa & The Soul Sonic Force, one of the earliest hip-hop/electro hits. Kraftwerk helped ignite the New York electro-movement.[42] Techno was created by three musicians from Detroit, often referred to as the 'Belleville three' (Juan Atkins, Kevin Saunderson & Derrick May), who fused the repetitive melodies of Kraftwerk with funk rhythms.[43] The Belleville three were heavily influenced by Kraftwerk and their sounds because Kraftwerk's sounds appealed to the middle-class blacks that resided in Detroit during this time. [44] Vince Clarke of Erasure, Yazoo, and Depeche Mode, is also a notable disco and Kraftwerk fan. Daniel Miller, former boss of Mute Records, purchased the vocoder used by Kraftwerk in their early albums, comparing it to owning Jimi Hendrix's guitar.[45] Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys, founding members of OMD, have stated that Kraftwerk was a major reference on their early work,[46] and covered "Neon Lights" on their 1991 album, Sugar Tax.[47] The electronic band Ladytron were inspired by Kraftwerk's song "The Model" when they composed their debut single "He Took Her To a Movie". Richard D James (Aphex Twin), has noted Kraftwerk as one of his biggest influences and called Computer World as a very influential album towards his music and sound.[48] Björk has cited the band as one of her main musical influences.[49] Electronic musician Kompressor has cited Kraftwerk as an influence. The band was also mentioned in the song "Rappers We Crush" by Kompressor and MC Frontalot ("I hurry away, get in my Chrysler. Oh, the dismay!/Someone's replaced all of my Backstreet Boys with Kraftwerk tapes!"). Dr. Alex Paterson of The Orb listed The Man-Machine as one of his 13 most favourite albums of all time.[50] According to NME, Kraftwerk’s pioneering "robot pop" also spawned groups like Prodigy, and Daft Punk.[3]

Kraftwerk inspired many acts from other styles and genres. David Bowie's "V-2 Schneider", from the 1977's "Heroes" album, was a tribute to Florian Schneider.[51] Post-punk bands Joy Division and New Order were heavily influenced by the band. Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis was a fan, and showed his colleagues records that would influence their music. New Order's song "Your Silent Face" has some similarities with "Europe Endless", the first song on Trans-Europe Express, and had a working title of KW1, or Kraftwerk 1. New Order also recorded a song called "Krafty" that appeared as a single and on the album Waiting for the Sirens' Call. New Order also would sample "Uranium" in their 1983 songs "Blue Monday" and "The Beach". Siouxsie and the Banshees recorded a cover of "Hall of Mirrors" on their Through the Looking Glass album. Blondie have admitted on several occasions that Kraftwerk were an important reference for their sound by the time they were working on their third album Parallel Lines. The worldwide smash hit "Heart of Glass" turned radically from an initial reggae-flavoured style to its distinctive electronic sound in order to imitate the technological approach of Kraftwerk's albums and adapt it to a disco concept. In this respect, Blondie's member Chris Stein has stated: "We didn't expect the song to be that big (...) We weren't thinking about selling out, we were thinking about Kraftwerk and Eurodisco".[52] U2 recorded a cover version of "Neon Lights" and included it as the B-side of their 2004 single "Vertigo". The band also performed some Kraftwerk songs as snippets during live shows. U2's frontman Bono also stated he is a huge fan of the German electronic band. Simple Minds recorded a cover of the Kraftwerk track "Neon Lights" and included it on an all-cover tunes album by the same name; they also played it live during their Graffiti Soul tour of 2009. Franz Ferdinand were inspired by Kraftwerk's song "The Model" when writing their song "Walk Away". The similarity is especially heard in the intro of the song.[5]

Members[edit]

Current members
  • Ralf Hütter – lead vocals, vocoder, synthesizers, keyboards, (1970–present) organ, drums and percussion, guitar, bass guitar (1970–1974),
  • Fritz Hilpert – electronic percussion, sound engineering (1987–present)
  • Henning Schmitz – electronic percussion, live keyboards (1991–present), sound engineering (1978–present)
  • Falk Grieffenhagen - live video technician (2013–present)
Former members
  • Florian Schneider – synthesizers, background vocals, vocoder, computer-generated vocals, acoustic and electronic flute,
    live saxophone, percussion, electric guitar, violin (1970–2008)
  • Houschäng Néjadepour – electric guitar (1970)
  • Plato Kostic (a.k.a. Plato Riviera) – bass guitar (1970)
  • Peter Schmidt – drums (1970)
  • Charly Weiss – drums (1970)
  • Thomas Lohmann - drums (1970)
  • Eberhard Kranemann – bass guitar (1970)
  • Andreas Hohmann – drums (1970)
  • Klaus Dinger – drums (1970–1971)
  • Michael Rother – electric guitar (1971)
  • Emil Schult – electric guitar, electronic violin (1973)
  • Wolfgang Flür – electronic percussion (1973–1987)
  • Klaus Röder – electric guitar, electronic violin (1974)
  • Karl Bartos – electronic percussion, live vibraphone, live keyboards (1975–1991)
  • Fernando Abrantes – electronic percussion, synthesizer (1991)
  • Stefan Pfaffe – live video technician (2008–2012)


Discography[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Kraftwerk". Allmusic. Retrieved 11 September 2012. 
  2. ^ Petridis, Alexis. "Desperately Seeking Kraftwerk". The Guardian, 25 July 2003. Retrieved 8-8-2013
  3. ^ a b c d Tony Naylor. "Kraftwerk: Minimum-Maximum Live". NME, June 2, 2005. Retrieved 8-8-2013
  4. ^ Harrington, Richard (27 May 2005). "These Days, Kraftwerk is Packing Light". Washington post. p. WE08. Retrieved 2006-07-06. 
  5. ^ a b Rogers, Jude (27 January 2013). "Why Kraftwerk are still the world's most influential band". The Observer. Retrieved 27 January 2013. 
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Sources[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Tim Barr, "Kraftwerk: From Düsseldorf to the Future" 1998
  • Vanni Neri & Giorgio Campani: "A Short Introduction to Kraftwerk" 2000
  • Albert Koch: "Kraftwerk: The Music Makers" 2002
  • Kraftwerk: "Kraftwerk Photobook" 2005 (included in the Minimum-Maximum Notebook set)
  • Sean Albiez and David Pattie: Kraftwerk: Music Non-Stop 2010
  • David Buckley: Kraftwerk: Publikation 2012
  • Toby Mott: Kraftwerk: 45 RPM 2012

External links[edit]