RIP Florian Schneider-Esleben of Kraftwerk

FlorianWhat can be said about Florian Schneider that won’t have already been said by millions around the world? It’s no exaggeration to say that the group that he founded changed the face of music in ways that we now take for granted. The music that they went on to make broke boundaries, changed preconceptions and influenced untold artists after whilst touching on concepts years or decades ahead of their arrival in our everyday lives with albums like ‘Computer World’. Whether pushing technological boundaries, live performance or their own image as a group, they predicted the future whilst trying to escape their county’s past. Always a reluctant interviewee, rather letting partner Ralf Hutter take on those formalities, Florian often came across as the one with the mischievous twinkle in his eye for a split second when attention was elsewhere. His initial love of the flute was slowly phased out of the group’s sound and speech synthesis became his focus, something that he went on to work with after he left the group in 2008. He was a legendary figure in 20th Century music who’s contribution will never be forgotten.

In 2012 I did a month’s worth of Kraftwerk posts on this site, highlighting the most obscure sleeves, ephemera, video, graphics, reviews and tributes I could find. You can find those posts here.

Later in 2013 I did a ‘Kraftweek’ to celebrate their run of London gigs – find those here.

For all 100+ entries of Kraftwerk-related material on this site – go here.

Florian Autobahn smile

Kraftwerk’s ‘Autobahn’ animation by Roger Mainwood upgraded A/B comparison

Autobahn AB6

Whilst putting together my recent Kraftwerk: Klassics, Kovers & Kurios AV set I’ve been searching for the best quality footage possible for the visuals. One thing that has always alluded me is a decent copy of Roger Mainwood’s trippy video for ‘Autobahn’ that was commissioned by EMI in the late 70’s, originally to be issued on laserdisc. Bad to worse copies have cropped up on YouTube for years, hazy, blurred and cropped, always seemingly encoded from video sources which was the only official release it gained eventually.
Well, I finally bit the bullet and ordered a French DVD compilation of the Halas & Batchelor studio which features a whole host of animations, including the aforementioned Kraftwerk hit. I was expecting a better quality version with un-muddied colours but was blown away by not only the crystal clear clarity of the image (you can see pencil lines on the figures) but also new areas of each frame, much of which had been cropped off when encoded for the web. See above and below for some A/B comparisons of what I’d been missing, the new edition on the right will now be making its way into my future sets for your viewing pleasure.

Autobahn AB9Autobahn AB8Autobahn AB7 Autobahn AB5 Autobahn AB4 Autobahn AB1 Autobahn AB2 Autobahn AB3

Kraftwerk – Klassics, Kovers & Kurios premiere this Saturday

One of the reasons it’s been so quiet on here this year is because I’ve had my head in the video editing suite for this Saturday’s premiere of my new AV show; Kraftwerk: Klassics, Kovers & Kurios. I’ll be taking this up to Manchester for its initial outing, at The Deaf Institute, who have previously hosted my other AV sets (why should London have all the good stuff first?). Tickets are available here

The show (at the moment) is very dance-orientated with the obvious techno, electro styles accompanied by hip hop, samba, breaks, mash ups and maybe a bit of juke if I can make it fit. Above is a tiny excerpt from one track where I got a bit carried away. The show takes the band’s various eras, looks and line ups and combines them into a 60 track, 90 min+ collage of Teutonic Techno, European Electro & Kraut Crunk together with the visual history of the group. I’ve really dug around for old archive for this one, which is hard on the older material as there is so little and in bad quality but I’ve been collecting this stuff since the early ’00s so have a fair bit. Below are some screen grabs of an Italian performance of Pocket Calculator where the cameraman really wanted to know what they were playing.


Kraftwerk covers 12 inch from Sonic Cathedral


Sonic Cathedral will be releasing a very special glow in the dark vinyl 12″ of Kraftwerk covers especially for the Independent Label Market, which takes place at Old Spitalfields Market in London on Saturday, July 23. It comes with a DL card and a badge of the centre label – top of my wants list! Check out this new version of ‘Neonlicht’ by Remover (a new band that is essentially three fifths of Hookworms)

The ‘Kraftwerk? Ja Bitte!’ EP includes the two songs from the long-sold-out 7” they released back in 2013 – Disappears doing ‘Trans Europa Express’ and Cloudland Canyon covering ‘Radioaktivität’ – alongside a raucous reboot of ‘The Robots’ by Californian space-rockers White Manna, which was actually recorded live in soundcheck at Ramsgate Music Hall in September 2014.

Top 10 DJ Food Kraftwerk covers from Tsugi magazine

Back at the end of 2014 the French magazine Tsugi devoted an issue entirely to Kraftwerk. They gave me a 4 page feature where I was asked to choose my top 10 Kraftwerk cover versions and I promised to post an English language version of the text here in the new year. Seeing as the magazine should have been and gone from the shelves by now, here it is.
Tsugi Kraftwerk cover
The questions from Tsugi magazine:

When and how did you discover Kraftwerk ?

When I was 11 in early 1982 ‘The Model’ became a no.1 hit in the UK and I was suddenly aware of this ‘new’ electronic group from Germany in the charts alongside The Human League, Depeche Mode and Gary Numan. As a result EMI reissued most of their back catalogue and I bought Man Machine, Computer World and Trans Europe Express on cassette which I loved.

What do you like in Kraftwerk ?
The melodies first and foremost but also the electronic drums and percussion, I just find the songs very pure, simple and timeless. Plus they were singing about the future, robots, spaceships, computers etc. and that appealed to me rather than love songs at that age even though they wrote those too.

Do you have a special story related to yourself and Kraftwerk ?
I actually first heard them when I was about 5 years old on a tape my dad had recorded from the radio although I didn’t realise it was them until much later. The song was ‘Autobahn’ and I always remember liking it when it came on the tape but was a bit scared of the breakdown part with the motorway sounds as it reminded me of the Cybermen in Dr Who. When I bought the reissues of their albums later on I realised that I already knew ‘Autobahn’ although it was a very edited radio version, not the long LP one.

Why are you so passionate about Krafwerk’s covers ?
Being a fan of the band was difficult because they didn’t release anything new for so long so I began to seek out cover versions as a way to fill the gap they had left. It happens with many artists who don’t release new music regularly these days – Boards of Canada and Aphex Twin are just two examples. Fans show their love of an artist by covering their songs.

Do you think that sometimes covers are better than originals ones ?
Occasionally they can be, when someone takes the song into a new style or territory and these are the ones I primarily look for. I don’t see much point in recreating a techno version of a Kraftwerk song although people have done it very well. For me the most interesting ones are those that transpose the songs into a new style but still retain the essence or ones that take the song to an extreme that becomes comedic.

How many covers have you ?
Of Kraftwerk, probably about 300 but there are many more out there, for every cover I hear and like I probably hear another two techno / electro / house versions that I discard because they are just poor copies of the originals.
Tsugi KraftwerkFoodspread1
What are your 10 favorites cover records and for each, could you explain me why?

Gaudi & Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan – Dil Da Rog Muka Ja Mahi (KKK vol.7)
An Indian version of ‘The Model’ but only just, I’m not sure how I found this, possibly on a now discontinued blog of cover versions of various artists. I think the blogger listed 70 different versions of The Model alone.

Makoto Inoue – Europe Endless/Neon Lights (KKK vol. 1 & 3)
Beautiful Gamelan versions of these rarely covered songs, this cover really takes it to another genre entirely, transposing the melodies to sound like an ancient tribe is playing the songs. Nothing electronic about it at all, in fact a lot of my favourite covers are ones that take Kraftwerk’s songs into other genres of sound altogether.

Das Erste Wiener Gemueseorchester (First Viennese Vegetable Orchestra) – Radio Activity (KKK vol.2)
The whole thing is played on vegetables, I’m not kidding and it’s as mad as it sounds but you can heard the song in amongst all the weird sounds. One of the weirdest Kraftwerk covers I’ve ever heard.

Miladojka Youneed – Pocket Calculator (live) (KKK vol.2)
A rawkus almost country version with saxophone and harmony singing. you can almost see the stetsons on their heads. This sounds as if the group has learnt the song from reading the notes and lyrics in a book but never heard the original but they sound like they’re having such a great time playing it.

Satoru Wono feat. Meiwa Denki – Dentaku (KKK vol.2)
A Japanese version with very busy percussion and woodwind instruments, very odd but works perfectly. The vocals still sound robotic but there are spoken in Japanese making this even more alien, the playing is very mechanical and precise despite the organic sounds of the instruments.

Alenia – Home Computer (KKK vol.4)
Quite a straight electronic version but I brings something to the original I can’t put my finger on, maybe this is one of those covers that makes the song perfect for today’s clubs, it’s a bit heavier than the original but still quirky.

6Blocc – Digits (KKK vol.5)
A very detailed dubstep version that updates ‘Numbers’ for the dance floor, it cleverly re-edits the drums and bassline into a half time skank and just about keeps everything from falling down.

Case Managers – Autobahn (KKK vol.5)
Absolutely bonkers Australian version, sounds like it was recorded live at the BBQ after many beers had been consumed, very funny. The singers (all male) seem to get drunker and drunker as the song progresses, the absolute opposite of what Kraftwerk are on record.

Menschmaschine – Spacelab (KKK vol.8) Beautiful jazz version, just stunning, the whole build up of the intro had me from the first listen and I’d say this is probably one of my favourite Kraftwerk covers ever. In fact I recommend the whole Menschmaschine album of jazz cover versions of Kraftwerk’s music

Scala & Kolacny Brothers – Das Modell (KKK vol.8)
‘The Model’ is the most covered song in the band’s catalogue but this one is by a female choir from Belgium. Again another example of a version where there are no electronics and the song is easily carried by the melody and lyrics across to another genre.

You can find all my Kraftwerk Kover Kollection mixes so far here:

Tsugi KraftwerkFoodspread2

How Kraftwerk changed my life x 20

The Vinyl Factory published this extensive article last Friday about Kraftwerk‘s influence on electronic music and I was asked to contribute. Alongside 19 other artists including Jeff Mills, Kevin Saunderson, OMD, Moire, Malcolm Catto, Goat and more we were asked to pick our favourite release and how it changed our lives. I chose ‘Autobahn’ which, by coincidence, is 40 years old next month apparently. Read the full piece here.

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A Future Past – Kraftwerk Uncovered

I went for a rather unique night out at the Science Museum on Friday, with fellow ‘music enthusiast’ Mark ‘Osymyso’ Nicholson no less. We were there to hear J. Peter Schwalm‘s reinterpretations of Kraftwerk numbers with the group Icebreaker in the IMAX theatre. Being a fan, and also a collector of cover versions of the band, it was a perfect evening out.

Kicking things off was a talk by David Toop, certainly one of my favourite authors where anything musical is concerned, his ‘Ocean of Sound’ is one of the best books I’ve ever read on electronic music. He didn’t dwell on the obvious, and pointed out that so much has already been said about the band that it was pointless to reiterate the carbon copy CV that the music press routinely trot out. Instead he attempted to recontextualise them by asserting that their roots were that of an R&B band. Citing The Isley Brothers as a parallel outfit in a clever, if somewhat unconvincing, set of examples he also made a sonic connection with the earliest incarnation of the band (and their pre-Kraftwerk ensemble, Organisation) and the electric era of Miles Davis‘ career. There were certainly similarities that I’d not considered before with this latter example but I wasn’t totally convinced with the former.

Thinking about it later I deduced that a better pairing might be Frank Zappa with Ralf & Florian – think about this for a moment:

Frank was influenced by classical composers like Boulez as much as the psychedelic rock underground but was never too keen to toe the line and be a part of a movement.
Zappa’s Mother’s of Invention were a rag bag jam band with a rotating line up of players with expert musical chops.
Zappa was a control freak who loved experimenting with the latest technology, quickly manouvering himself into a position with his label where he had full control. His early freak out experiments slowly streamlined into various concept records and, eventually, he went on to have commercial success too.
During the CD boom he went back to old master tapes and re-recorded new versions and parts of old songs with new inventions like drum machines and the Synclavier, replacing the original versions with new ones that he deemed superior (much to his fans’ dismay).
He largely left his past players behind but became a cult figurehead from a musical movement that stretched out to influence new generations after him.

All the above could be applied to Kraftwerk at one time or another – for instance, just substitute Boulez for Stockhausen in the first example and we’re off, but I digress…

In one of the main halls we filtered amongst the exhibits to hear The Balanescu Quartet play some of their versions of the band’s repertoire beneath a hanging bi-plane. As one of the first bands to release a record that heavily played on the fact that they had covered Kraftwerk it was fitting that they were on the bill, playing pitch-perfect versions of The Model, Autobahn and The Robots in a unique setting.

Then it was in to the IMAX theatre for the main event – Icebreaker – a 13 piece with two keyboard players flanking Schwalm in the center. Not as polished as Balanescu but more in keeping with the spirit of the works they were interpreting. They’d chosen an interesting set of pieces, some recognisable, some just reminiscent of – or influenced by – the Kraftwerk originals. It was a treat to hear mostly early to mid 70’s tracks, the sole 80’s inclusion being ‘Home Computer’ at the start. ‘Megahertz’, ‘Tanzmusik’, ‘Hall of Mirrors’ and a beautiful ‘Morgenspaziergang’ from the B side of ‘Autobahn’ were tackled, ending with a ‘driving’ (pun intended) version of the motorway classic which had me lulled into a semi-sleep before kicking in for a motorik finish.

We both really liked it and the performance was heightened by the split screen, black and white films of Sophie Clements and Toby Cornish that accompanied them. My only criticism was that it seemed too short but, altogether, it was a satisfying night out in a different venue, hearing old favourites in new contexts. The band are on tour in the UK in February and I’d recommend checking them out if you have a chance. More info here.


Posted in Event, Kraftwerk. | 1 Comment » |

Kraftwerk and ‘The Cold Wave’ in Sounds 26.11.77

The now defunct weekly UK music paper, Sounds, had a reputation for championing Rock and Heavy Metal above everything else. Writers Garry Bushell and Jon Savage raved and wrote about Oi and Punk respectively but there was more to the paper. 1977: The Queen’s Jubilee and the height of Punk in the media, right? Not by late November in Sounds it wasn’t, this was also the year ‘Trans Europe Express’ was released.

A stark cover featured Ralf Hutter and Florian Schneider photographed on the banks of the Rhine in their hometown of Dusseldorf by Caroline Coon, a two page interview leading the first part of a look at ‘New Musick: The Cold Wave’. Interviews or pieces on Eno, Throbbing Gristle, The Residents and Devo all appear by Savage, Jane Suck and Hal Synthetic (love these writing pseudonyms). Not very Rock or Punk.

Kraftwerk SOUNDS int. 26-11-77

The Kraftwerk interview is fascinating, with Florian almost adding as much as Hutter and the two finishing each other’s sentences. Hutter mentions the term ‘Electronic Body Music’ and they talk about putting together comics detailing the themes of their music, I wonder what happened to them? Karl Bartos and Wolfgang Flur aren’t even mentioned although they do appear in at least one of the photos in the piece. It’s interesting to note that Ralf and Florian picked the journalist up from the airport and showed him about the city before the interview was conducted inside their Kling Klang studios. That certainly wouldn’t happen today. See more photos from the shoot, including a smiling Ralf & Florian that were not featured in the article, here.

*After numerous requests, here’s the piece, hope you can read it*
KWSOUNDS261177pg1KWSOUNDS261177pg2The Eno piece is typical, well… Eno, he talks and talks about his ideas, just as he always does, with his sideways looks at subjects ranging from dub reggae to Eskimos engineering US Air Force jets in Alaska. There’s no attempt at cross examination and the ‘interview’ is distilled from five hours of chat into two Eno’s: the non-musician and the theorist. Along with Throbbing Gristle refusing to issue forth any kind of manifesto but the paper giving their ‘2nd Annual Report’ a 5 star review and a fairly scathing feature on The Residents, it’s an odd collection. The rest of the paper features things like ads for The Damned’s second album, Kiss’ ‘Kiss Alive II’ and the new Rick Wakeman LP, live reviews of The Jam, Richard Hell and Blondie sit with articles on Pub Rock and The Eaters (no, me neither) and a very early Savage Pencil episode of ‘Rock & Roll Zoo’.

Kraftweek 3 – Kraftwerk Kover Kollection 8

Volume 8 already (with enough saved for vol. 9 too)! This hour long mix has a bit of an angle over previous ones as I saved a lot of jazz, acoustic and piano versions for this and left out most of the electronic side.

Save for some timely skits that comment on the ticketing fiascos surrounding recent gigs, most of the music here is more organic than synthetic but shows how easily adaptable the songs are across genres. A Bollywood version ofMan Machine’, ‘The Model’ played on church bells, sung by a choir and covered by comedian Adrian Edmondson are just some of the delights in this edition.

I probably say this every time but this is one of my favourite mixes, it was a bugger to put together but some of the versions are just incredible. ‘Neon Lights’ played on a music box, the jazz versions of ‘Spacelab’, ‘Man Machine’ and ‘The Telephone Call’ by Mensch Maschine and the insane piano version of ‘Electric Café’. Whilst adapting the cover art I did a number of designs and thought it would be fun to see what ‘retro’ and ‘updated’ versions would be like so here’s a Kover cover that conforms to ‘Der Katalog’ too.

Kraftwerk – Der Katalog: Two nights in Dusseldorf

* First off, a disclaimer: despite loving Kraftwerk for the past 30 years I’ve never seen them live.

There are several reasons for this. First off there was ‘The Mix’, which seemed a rather pointless exercise in ‘digitising’ all that had gone before and took a certain something from the originals for me. Then there was Tribal Gathering, I wasn’t there but I’m reliably informed that it was awesome for both the crowd and the group by people who were. I did however catch the radio broadcast of it and was dismayed to hear a 4/4 kick under everything which put me off in much the same way ‘The Mix’ had. They played Brixton Academy in 2004 with my interest at an all time low after the disappointing ‘Tour De France Soundtracks’ LP and I skipped it, thinking it would be a law of diminishing returns, not wanting to be disappointed by former heroes. Again, reports filtered back from friends that it was amazing and I began to kick myself as similar reviews appeared alongside various festival appearances. Next time, I vowed, I would not hesitate.

It’s Wednesday so this must be Dusseldorf. I left London on the Eurostar as most were getting to work, travelled through France to Brussels before changing trains and ending up in Disseldorf, Germany – the home of Kraftwerk. At the hotel I met old friend and Leaf label manager Tony Morley who’d made his own way from Leeds. We’d come this far to see the legend (even if there’s only one of the buggers left) that is Kraftwerk perform our two favourite LPs, ‘The Man Machine‘ and ‘Computer World’ during their eight night residency at the Kunstsammlung NWR/ K20.

After the excitement surrounding a similar happening at MOMA in NYC last year, something few got to see, we both jumped at the chance when it was announced the same would be happening in their hometown. What could be more apt than seeing them in the city where it all started, making an adventure out of it and spending far more money than necessary in the process? Call it a mid-life crisis if you want but something about this made me throw common sense to the wind and do it anyway, it would be cheaper than a Porsche or a mistress I told my wife. The joke was on us though when, a few weeks after spending all morning online securing tickets to the German gigs, the bastards went and announced the same thing was going to happen at the Tate Modern!

No matter, the tickets were bought, we were there, in the freezing snow that would sweep across the channel and cover the UK a few days later, let’s have it Dusseldorf! Except it’s not really that kind of town, and us being nice middle class, middle-aged Brits, weren’t about to go on the rampage – more like a meal, a bit of record shopping and a failed poster theft attempt. Reich ‘n’ Roll! Jumping forward in time we found Aras Schallplatten, a shop we’d seen a film of on the web, except it was in the process of redecorating and all the stock was in the garage. We spent a freezing half hour rooting through the boxes we could get to before the cold (and his exorbitant prices) put us off. Further on we found Slowboy Records which has to have the best kept stock ever, it was like a vinyl museum in there, originals of many classic Krautrock, Punk and Avant Garde records in the kind of condition you can only dream of.

But I digress – arriving at the gig we were given our 3D glasses, in paper slipcases adorned with the date and graphics of the album we were about to attend, I bet eBay is awash with them even now as collectors try to get a full set. Once inside it was all very formal, this being an art gallery, and the merch table was stuffed with variations of Der Katalog in the form of vinyl, CDs, T-shirts and mouse mats! As you can expect the audience was largely 40-something males in various states of bespectacled receding-ness. The joke running around when the Great Tate Ticket Meltdown took place was that it was ‘a group of old men tapping away on their keyboards to buy tickets to watch a group of old men tapping away…’, yeah you get it.

The hall was long and high, the stage at one end and we immediately noticed speakers positioned around all walls, facing into the centre. 3D sounds as well as 3D vision, nice. There couldn’t have been more than 800 people by our estimation either, we’d expected far more – something I think we’ll see a repeat of at the Tate Modern in London. An electronic rumbling had everyone facing the curtain with the four bitmapped figures from the Katalog cover projected on it. After a few minutes a synthetic robot voice slowly intoned, Meine Damen und Herren, Heute Abend, Die Mensch Maschine… Kraftwerk” and there they were, the quartet who now represent the band. Looking as if they were about to deliver speeches behind their own podiums they launched straight into ‘Man Machine’ with El Lissitzky-styled 3D projections that really popped. It should be noted that, for most, Kraftwerk will always be Ralf, Karl, Wolfgang and Florian but members Henning Schmitz and Fritz Hilpert have actually now both been in the group longer than the departed drummers. Each was characteristically non-smiling except for new guy, Falk Grieffenhagen, on the right controlling visuals or sound (or both?), who was smirking like a loon most of the time.

Seeing ‘the band’ these days is an odd one, you’re listening to versions of the songs ‘tidied up’ in a similar way that the sleeve graphics have been slowly shorn of all human personality. Equally the sounds have been replaced and replayed to bring them up to modern production standards but the trained ear can still detect samples of their own originals in the mix, presumably where they couldn’t replicate the sound satisfyingly enough. The very idea that Kraftwerk have to be ‘up to date’ runs counter to all their initial moves and motives, they were well ahead of the pack, one of the most forward thinking groups of the 70’s and early 80’s. But time marches on and the group stalled in the mid 80’s and have virtually stood still ever since. As men trying to emulate machines they gave soul to the sound, but now, sadly, those machines can make the songs as precisely as they always wanted and they’ve sucked that soul right back out again. The resurgence in popularity of the ‘Radio-Activity’ LP in recent years, an album always in the shadow of its predecessor, ‘Autobahn’, and the classic trilogy that followed it, shows that people are keen to embrace the ‘analogue warmth’ that the band once had. Having said that, that’s a personal thing and the sound at the gig was one of the cleanest, clearest I’d ever heard by any band live.

Aside from some of ‘Tour De France Soundtracks’ they’ve been mining the same songs and sounds since 1986 in either remixed, live or remastered releases. And that’s fine, we don’t expect them to catch up, the music is timeless now anyway. To hear it loud, live and played by even one of the original members – Ralf Hutter being the key member in the group’s history no less – is enough. On the second night I had a position near the front, roughly four meters away from him on stage. To see him sing, “Fahren, fahren, fahren, on the Autobahn”, was something that deeply moved me, taking me back to the six year old who heard those words on my dad’s home recorded tape back in the 70’s. That alone was worth the whole trip and that’s what we’re here for – nostalgia. A nostalgia for a band from the past who sing about the future but are now, essentially, playing the retro circuit – albeit one that they have tight control over.

They finish ‘The Man Machine’ album in record time, a truncated ‘Neon Lights’ with some lackluster floating neon lights graphics leaving me disappointed, ‘Spacelab’ a joy to hear but with visuals that were hilariously retro but included one of the best 3D moments of the gig. Immediately the sound of an engine turning over signaled the start of ‘Autobahn’ and the rest of the two hour gig is a near-chronological journey through their back catalogue. I won’t spoil the rest of it apart from to say that some of the visuals worked brilliantly and some were so laughably archaic it shows how far they have stalled visually as well. Of course they’ve had to make imagery for all their songs over the eight nights so some are going suffer more than others but you’d think by now that they’d have a visual live show that befits their legendary status.

*Tony disagrees here: “you know I disagree with you on this. The retro-futurist look they go for – and have always gone for – is a fine line to walk, and I think for the most part they pull it off. They don’t need super-modern graphics for music that’s 30 or 40 years old, and I think updating things like the Neon Lights video for this context is a nice gift for fans. Like everything they do, it seems to me to be very carefully thought through – too carefully perhaps. That’s why we love them, the same reason we love The KLF, for that attention to apparently trivial detail. Kraftwerk always yearned for something that was already in the past (postwar optimism, the beauty of rail travel, manned space flight), even when they were looking into the future, and that’s what gives the music that melancholy edge that others consistently fail to capture. Whether or not you like the stripped down vector graphics of the ‘new’ Mix artwork/video, it works in that context, and I think it’s quite deliberate. Incidentally, I’ve listened to all the albums since I got back, and it’s those melancholy songs that have really hit the spot since the gig – Neon Lights, Hall Of Mirrors, Ohm Sweet Ohm (most of Radioactivity in fact). I think Trans Europe Express is my new favourite album!”

They end with a rocking, pulsating version of ‘Musique Non Stop’ in which each member takes a turn to demonstrate some of their playing skills before taking a bow and leaving the stage. Ralf is the last to leave and, predictably, gets the biggest cheer, the vocal refrain of the song rolling around the walls before the lights go up. This was one of the highlights, each member effectively ‘taking a solo’ and, even though you couldn’t see what they were doing, it was evident they weren’t just miming to a backing track. More of this improv would have elevated the gig even further.

The next night – ‘Computer World’, or ‘Welt’ as we’re getting the German language versions of most tracks at these gigs – is notable in that there seem to be a lot more women, sporting a variety of tattoos, than the day before. The show follows a similar pattern to the previous night, ‘Numbers’ kicked things off and a combined version of ‘Home Computer/It’s More Fun To Compute’ shortened the album down to less than half an hour. During the non-album set they played the WHOLE of ‘The Man Machine’ album with an improved (to my ear) version of ‘Neon Lights’ which managed to take off this time, even though it was still trimmed down from the original length. Seemingly more on form the second night, things were smoother, little touches that they added worked better and ‘Musique Non Stop’ rocked even harder this time. They switched a few tracks around, added ‘Vitamin’ with it’s excellent 3D pill visuals and ended up playing ten minutes longer. One thing was conspicuous by it’s absence on both nights though, well, four things actually, where were the robots? I’d been expecting them at some stage in the concert but no, they didn’t make an appearance ‘in the flesh’, only on the screen, possibly because the stage wasn’t deep enough to accommodate them?

Out of the two nights, the second was definitely the most satisfying and Tony and I decided to wander the streets afterwards to try and find the band’s famous Kling Klang studio on the Mintropstrasse near the train station. Although the band no longer work there the departed Florian Schneider supposedly retained the studio for his own use and a quick look on Google Maps earlier in the afternoon had revealed the building, although all but the ground floor had been blurred out! After zig-zagging through the streets and stopping for a chinese meal nearby we finally found it – a nondescript five story building with a metal shutter taking up most of the ground floor. From the look of the buzzer there were several other businesses occupying the floors, one name plate had been removed, presumably taken as a souvenir by a fan. Someone had also wheat-pasted an image of the four robots circa ‘The Mix’ onto the wall which had been partially torn off.

I’ve never done anything like that before, it was late and dark, a solitary light was on and it looked like nobody was home, not that we would have been let in even if there was. But it was something to stand outside the building where all that great music was created. As we turned to go Tony spotted a familiar sign further down the street, a simple ‘Club’ with an arrow in blue and red neon light. We recognised it immediately as one of the graphics in the ‘Neon Lights’ part of the show, they’d obviously taken inspiration for the song from their slightly seedy surroundings and used it in the visuals. As we walked towards the building we saw that it was a strip club and the lyrics, “we go into a club, and then we start to dance”, from ‘Showroom Dummies’ took on a whole new meaning.

Posted in Gigs, Kraftwerk. | 11 Comments » |

Two new Kraftwerk books

Two new Kraftwerk books are about to hit the shelves. The Vinyl Factory issue a collection of 45 sleeves from around the world in a limited edition book with a 7″ of an interview on Sept 12″ with a free exhibition of the sleeves at The Vinyl Factory Chelsea gallery, 91 Walton Street, London SW1 between Sept 13th and Oct 5th. You can pre-order the book for an eye-watering £80 here.

A new biography is also released this week called ‘Publikation’, written by David Buckley and published by Omnibus Press. It got a good review in the recent issue of Mojo as he seems to have interviewed as many of their close associates and ex-band members as possible. You can buy it now and it’s nice to see that it’s been designed by Malcolm Garrett.

Posted in Books, Kraftwerk, Records. | 1 Comment » |

Kraftwerk Special by Mr Sushi inc. KKK 7.5

I did a mini Kraftwerk Kover Kollection (7.5) mix for Mister Sushi‘s Kraftwerk special radio show a couple of weeks ago.

Here’s some more info on the show:
In May 2012, London Fields Radio returned to multi-arts, multi-venue festival Land of Kings in Dalston to host an evening of pop-up radio with guests and hosts from across the festival line-up. We took over the Print House Gallery until midnight with a special selection of shows.

In this podcast, Nuts N’ Bolts presenter Mister Sushi hosts a one-off show in celebration of our favourite Düsseldorf quartet, Kraftwerk, a band whose influence can be clearly seen across Land of Kings festival this year. He’s joined by DJ, blog and club night Feel My Bicep to talk about how and why their legacy lives on in east London today and he premieres an exclusive mix by DJ Food filled with some of his favourite Kraftwerk covers.

Posted in Kraftwerk, Radio. | 4 Comments » |

Kraftwerk month #31 Kover Kollection 7

To finish the month off here’s something that’s been in the pipeline for over a year – KKK vol.7. This took far too long to do and I completely redid the start three times before I was happy with it.
I already have over three and a half hours worth of tracks mapped out for vol.8, which will concentrate more on piano and jazz versions but I’ll let the dust settle for a bit as you can have too much of something. Thanks for all the suggestions and links to tracks or versions, some of them even made it onto this mix.

A quick word on the multitude of cover versions – the images below are just a few of the whole albums dedicated to Kraftwerk covers available, let alone all the single tracks scattered about various artists’ discographies. Every time I do a Kover Kollection, and use the web to research the tracks I’ve used, I find even more out there.

As with all covers, there are more misses than hits, although the Senor Coconut album does deserve singling out as a work of genius. Another that I recently acquired is the Mencshmachine ‘Hand Werk’ CD from Germany, an excellent album of jazz-based covers with a twist in the tail. Unlisted on the CD, and hidden after 10 minutes of silence once the last track has finished, is one of the most sublime covers I’ve yet to hear – the track ‘Spacelab’ from the ‘Man Machine’ album. It’s not on the web that I can find but the band have several tracks on their soundcloud page and I’ll be putting more of their music into the KKK8 mix, which will be better suited to their sound, more acoustic than electronic.

Before I sign off I’d like to thank everyone who’s logged on, checked out the daily content and listened to the mixes. It seems it all went a bit viral around the third week and made Metafilter, with volume 3 clocking up over 50,000 plays!

Posted in Kraftwerk. | 5 Comments » |

Kraftwerk month #29 Tommy Vance interview & more…

The month is nearly up and there’s still so much that could be posted.

In 1981, BBC Radio 1 DJ Tommy Vance saw Kraftwerk play the opening night of their ‘Computer World’ tour in Manchester, England. Afterwards he interviewed Ralf Hutter for his Friday Rock Show and managed to get quite a revealing response, including some uncharacteristic humour. I’ve edited out the music as tastefully as I can and cleaned up the audio but the quality isn’t great to begin with.

Rare European 7″ sleeves for the singles ‘Kometemelodie 1’ and ‘Kometemelodie 2’.