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Sheet music to play Kraftwerk’s ‘Pocket Calculator’ on a pocket calculator
02:04 pm



In the early 1980s people were very excited about pocket calculators—they were even, famously, available on wristwatches—and the savvy fellows in Kraftwerk spotted an opportunity for their well-nigh parodically impersonal form of music. It could be argued that 1981’s Computer World was Kraftwerk at their very Kraftwerkiest—every single track was about interacting with (or being?) a computer or a calculator, and every last vestige of a pulsating heartbeat and sex and real life you might encounter on the “Autobahn” had been shorn away.

“Pocket Calculator,” the first single off of the album, did fairly well for a Kraftwerk single. It was only Kraftwerk’s third single ever to crack Germany’s Top 100, and for some reason it managed to reach #2 in Italy. (It might have been that Kraftwerk had gone to the trouble to record “Mini Calculatore,” an Italian version of the song.)

The song “Pocket Calculator” actually contains a reference to the fact of calculators being able to play music—the line runs “By pressing down a special key, it plays a little melody.” Kraftwerk had a special version of the Casio VL-80 manufactured as a promotional item. You won’t be surprised to learn that “Taschenrechner” is the German word for “pocket calculator”:

As you can see, the machine itself features a representation of musical notes on the front. The song was actually recorded using a Casio FX-501P, which appears to have been a slightly more robust device.

Kraftwerk was eager for fans to play Kraftwerk hits on their own calculators, so they issued these special instructions—OK, let’s call it “sheet music”—to play not just the new material but also classics like “Trans Europa Express” and “Schaufensterpuppen” on the pictured VL-80.

The notation for “Pocket Calculator” reads:

4599 845887 4599 845887 6
4599 845887 4599 845887 6
44284 44284 44284 44284

In a March 1982 issue of The Face, we find the following:

More after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Iggy Pop and Kraftwerk’s Florian Schneider go shopping for asparagus in the 1970s
12:18 pm


Iggy Pop
Florian Schneider

Kraftwerk was the most important and influential German musical act of the 1970s, and David Bowie and Iggy Pop spent a few years in Berlin in the late 1970s in one of their most productive phases. The two camps never actually worked together, and there’s been no shortage of speculation about that.

For his part, Bowie insisted that Kraftwerk was not a significant influence on his Berlin output. In an interview for Uncut in 1999, Bowie did credit Kraftwerk for directing his attention to Europe, but felt that their methods and aims were sharply different:

My attention had been swung back to Europe with the release of Kraftwerk’s Autobahn in 1974. The preponderance of electronic instruments convinced me that this was an area that I had to investigate a little further.

Much has been made of Kraftwerk’s influence on our Berlin albums. Most of it lazy analyses, I believe. Kraftwerk’s approach to music had in itself little place in my scheme. Theirs was a controlled, robotic, extremely measured series of compositions, almost a parody of minimalism. One had the feeling that Florian and Ralf were completely in charge of their environment, and that their compositions were well prepared and honed before entering the studio. My work tended to expressionist mood pieces, the protagonist (myself) abandoning himself to the zeitgeist (a popular word at the time), with little or no control over his life. The music was spontaneous for the most part and created in the studio.

As David Buckley put it in Publikation, his book on Kraftwerk, “What is known is that the Bowie camp and the Kraftwerk camp were on friendly terms.”

Further evidence of that claim popped up in the well-regarded 2009 documentary on German prog music from the ‘70s, Krautrock: The Rebirth of Germany. Iggy Pop is featured telling a story of going shopping with Florian Schneider and one other member of Kraftwerk. According to Pop, Schneider indicated that it was “asparagus season,” and so he would be visiting the market to “select some asparagus.” Pop responded that he would be happy to join Schneider and told the interviewer that they ended up “having a very nice time.”
More after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Kraftwerk, Throbbing Gristle, Beefheart, The Residents, Sun Ra & more as ‘South Park’ characters
10:10 am


Brian Eno
Sun Ra
South Park

The Residents
If you like your music adventurous, you’ll probably get a huge kick out of Noise Park, a Tumblr that features South Park versions of many avant-garde, experimental, and generally out-there musicians. Whoever is making these charmingly made the decision to follow his or her own esoteric musical tastes, which is a nice way of saying that a good many of the subjects are a bit obscure (Blevin Blectum, Moth Cock, Rotten Milk, etc.), which has the effect of turning it all into an inside inside joke of sorts.

But a lot of the subjects are quite well-known, covering the more cerebral end of the musical spectrum (Kraftwerk, Beefheart, Residents). I spent a fair amount of time trying to come up with a plausibly minimalist South Park episode plot involving Terry Riley, but I failed. Then I switched to Throbbing Gristle and my brain exploded.

Some of the images on the blog are actually reworkings of The Wire magazine covers, which is a good indication of where the tastes run.

Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band

Brian Eno
Lots more after the jump…...

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Florida man changes his name to ‘Kraftwerk’
10:37 am



The competition for the world’s biggest Kraftwerk fan just went up a notch—maybe three notches. A man in Florida posted a Flickr set depicting his own everyday life as a robotic humanoid wearing the red and black uniform that the German quartet donned for the band’s iconic 1978 album The Man-Machine.

The gentleman in the pictures appears to have changed his name to “Kraftwerk” (although the picture of his driver’s license with his new name looks suspiciously ‘Shopped to me). In the pictures he is depicted going record shopping (clutching an LP of his beloved Man-Machine, of course), as well as consuming a chicken salad croissant and a cold brew coffee and even sleeping in his bed (yes, wearing the ridiculous red shirt and black tie under the duvet).

Amazingly, he neither depicts himself using a pocket calculator, nor riding a bicycle. There are also zero traffic cones in the pictures. However, there is an automotive theme to the gallery—he is shown in the driver’s seat of his “truck” and also putting “petrol” (not gas?) in his tank as well as paying for it with a “debit card.” Surely all of that qualifies as some kind of reference to Autobahn?


More pics after the jump….....

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Exiles in Düsseldorf: Austrian TV special on Kraftwerk, 1981
01:51 pm



This documentary appeared on the Austrian TV station ORF in 1981, pretty clearly to coincide with the release of Computer World.

The special mixes Kraftwerk performing in front of an audience, what we would today call “music videos” that use some excellent documentary footage of missile launches and things like that, and footage of Ralf Hütter being interviewed by someone off-camera.

In pure technological mode, Ralf emphasizes the isolation of working so hard on Kraftwerk material in the studio for years on the new album, and is prompted to say a few things about the future of technology, most of which are a bit silly. The interviewer has an Austrian accent.

I’ve supplied a translation below. It’s rough but should give an accurate impression of what was said. I unfortunately couldn’t quite make out the intriguing final question, which has something to do with Kraftwerk entering people’s bloodstreams(?) or something like that. If there are any native German speakers out there reading this, I’d love it if you would chime in below and clarify what he was saying there (or make any other suggestions to the translation).

Ralf: “We are playing the entire Kling Klang Studio in concert. We have all of our instruments, some of which we invented ourselves and built music machines. You can’t just go into a shop and just say, “this thing or that thing.” We had to make it ourselves, and that took a long time. We construct them always ourselves, with the help of another friend, who is a sound engineer or a music engineer, he helps us and we make the whole thing ourselves. It took three years before we were able to play again. In part it is pre-programmed, but on the other hand we have access to the memory of the computer, and we can change it while it’s running. Mostly we make rhythmic programs or also melodic things that run throughout, automated.

Ralf: We feel, for example, lots of streams of energy, that come back to us from people. We are always in the studio, so are concentrating on ourselves more.

Question: Is “Radio-Aktivitat” actually an atomic-power song?
Ralf: Yes, you could definitely say that.

Ralf: Yes, for us it was more a problem of how to make music at all in the Federal Republic of Germany, or so, after the war, where the living music, everyday music had disappeared, had been extinguished. And our generation had to start from scratch, to live somehow in this purely quiet situation, to make music not so much from natural things in the countryside but were influenced more by cities and machines, and reflected those things, and maybe some time passed, the time of so-called pop music, where we had more free time, we took up certain things, more about work processes and big-city situations, display windows and robots.

Question: Is that a form of interpretation, that showroom dummies speak?
Ralf: It’s a part of our existence. We stand around and we put ourselves on display. We are showroom dummies. That is a part of our reality.

Question: How do you see yourselves when you are at work, as musicians or as technicians? 
Ralf: We are music workers. We call ourselves music workers.

Ralf: For ten years we’ve been working together, with this group in Düsseldorf, and outsiders can’t even work with us or speak our language — let’s say, our thoughts, they can’t implement our world of thoughts. So it’s more like an encounter or friendship.

Question: Do you feel yourselves to be somewhat isolated?
Ralf: Yes, we are exiles in Düsseldorf on the Rhine.

More after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
…And here’s that amazing klezmer cover of Kraftwerk you needed in your life
10:16 am


Knoblauch Klezmer Band

Has any other Kraftwerk song been covered as often as The Man Machine’s durably popular “The Model?” Off the top of my head, I know a handful of ukulele versions, a few arrangements for string quartet, and versions by high-profile alt-type bands like Rammstein (awful) and the Cardigans (wonderful). Then there’s the notoriously noisy version on Big Black’s swan song Songs About Fucking, and even a third-wave ska version (awful because third-wave ska).

Despite synth music’s enduring reputation for coldness and sterility, the themes in “The Model” are downright wistful; its melodies recall the mournful strains shared by Europe’s Jewish and Roma musics, which could explain why the song is such a great fit for groups with violins and clarinets. But it’s the song’s simple and abiding charm that accounts for how well it seems to work in literally every genre, from opposite-of-Kraftwerky garage rock primitivism to slick, frosty techno.
Keep reading after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Kraftwerk’s Ralf Hütter loses legal case, accidentally legalizes sampling in Germany
09:15 am



The former co-leader of Kraftwerk (who now leads a Kraftwerk tribute band also called “Kraftwerk”) Ralf Hütter, has bombed spectacularly in his evident quest to become the Lars Ulrich of electronic dance music. He initiated an ultimately unsuccessful legal action against rapper and producer Moses Pelham, who used two seconds of percussion from Kraftwerk’s Trans Europe Express song “Metal on Metal” (not to be confused with Metal on Metal by Anvil) in an arrangement for a 1997 song by Sabrina Setlur.

The verdict given this week, letting Pelham off the hook and recognizing sampling as a creative act in its own right, was the second verdict in the case, and overturns the first. That first verdict, rendered in 2012, asserted that Pelham’s use of the sample was actionable because he had the means to recreate the drum beats himself, which seems utterly bizarre, given that Afrika Bambaataa had to pay Kraftwerk a boatload of money for doing exactly that on “Planet Rock.” (I am not a lawyer, this is not legal advice, blah blah blah blah blah.) Further, Pelham’s lawyer expressed fear that the first verdict could have affected not just sound samples, but the use of photographs in collages and mock-ups, and even some uses of quotations in written works. In that initial verdict, Germany may have effectively outlawed homage, depending on how broadly its conclusion was read.

According to Spin:

…in 2012, Germany’s federal court of justice appeared to agree that it was copyright infringement, citing the fact that Pelham opted to sample despite apparently having the means to record the same sounds himself.

But today, after almost two decades, federal court has now ruled in Pelham’s favor, stating that “the impact on Kraftwerk did not outweigh artistic freedom,” and that ruling against similar artistic interpolations would “practically exclude the creation of pieces of music in a particular style.”

That dull roar you’re hearing in the distance is a legion of troglodyte dullards revving up their invective engines to altogether denounce the practice of sampling in the comments, but fuck them. Collage and pastiche have always been legitimate forms of artistic expression, remix culture is clearly here to stay, and all of our culture is fair game for homage, parody, and commentary. It’s refreshing to see the importance of creative appropriation to modern artistic production—as distinct from mere piracy and plagiarism—legally acknowledged.

That Ralf Hütter of all people filed such a suit to begin with is particularly laughable in its hypocrisy—the sound of an engine revving at the beginning of “Autobahn,” which Hütter long maintained was a field recording of his own car, turns out to have been sampled without acknowledgement from a sound effects collection
More after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Ralf Hütter reviews Kraftwerk’s albums, 2009
10:20 am


Ralf Hütter

In 2009 Uncut magazine managed to get Ralf Hütter of Kraftwerk to go through the entire Kraftwerk discography and comment on the albums one by one. Because of his role in creating these albums it’s a bit silly to call his comments “reviews” but you know, it’s close enough.

When this piece was executed, the split between Hütter and Florian Schneider was quite fresh—Florian had played his last gig with Kraftwerk three years earlier, on November 11, 2006, at Feria de Muestras in Zaragoza, Spain, and the news of Florian’s exit from the band was only a few months old. Uncut addressed the situation in the introduction:

The acrimonious departure last year of Hütter’s fellow Kraftwerk founder, Florian Schneider, is still a sensitive subject. “We haven’t seen him for a long time,” Hütter shrugs. “I cannot speak for my former partner, friend and co-composer, but he always hated touring and concerts.”

Perhaps it was to assuage any doubts people might have about a touring four-piece Kraftwerk with just one member from the classic 1970s/‘80s lineup in it that Hütter chose to discourse so expansively on the legendary band’s illustrious catalog. Uncut skipped a couple of releases, notably Kraftwerk 2, Electric Café, and The Mix, but covered covered the entirety of what they surely saw as the meat of Kraftwerk’s golden period in the late 1970s.

For every album, ranging from 1970’s debut Kraftwerk up to 2003’s Tour De France Soundtracks, I’ve excerpted a paragraph or so from Hütter’s full comments. For the full scoop, by all means check out Uncut’s page or the large-format images of the pages we’ve provided below.

We were finding Kraftwerk, setting up the Kling Klang studio, finding musicians to work with, discovering composition, discovering the German language, human voice, synthetic voice. Me and Florian had our Kling Klang studio since 1970, and before that we had a free-form music group. We used to play at universities or parties or art galleries. And one day we said: OK, there must be a mothership, a laboratory, a studio HQ where we put things together.

We listened to quite a lot of electronic stuff at that time. On the art scene, and on the radio. We were brought up within the kind of classical Beethoven school of music, but we were aware there was a contemporary music scene, and of course a pop and rock scene. But where was our music? Finding our voice, I think that was the use of the tape recorder. So that’s what happened, we tried to forget all the things we knew before. I think our contact to the tape recorder made us use synthetic voices, artificial personalities, all those robotic ideas.

It’s not about cars, it’s about the Autobahn. People forget that. It’s a road where we were travelling all the time: hundreds of thousands of kilometres from university to art galleries, from club to home. We didn’t even have money to stay in hotels so at night we’d be travelling home after playing somewhere. That’s very important, it’s not about cars, it’s about the Autobahn. It’s also a road movie, with a humorous twist.

It’s a science fiction kind of album. Horror and beauty. The concept was infiltration by radio station – which is maybe more dangerous than radioactivity. We worked with tapes, editing pieces, glue. All electronics. And more singing and speaking, like speech symphonies.

It was written in two languages, English and German. Autobahn was just one. It was not a statement, just these lyrics came to our mind—“Radioactivity, is in the air for you and me…” Just ideas coming together, and then anticipating the next album, which was all in two languages, like in films. There were always talks about Kraftwerk working with films, but they didn’t happen – apart from [German director Rainer Werner] Fassbinder, but he used finished pieces of our music in different interpretations in his films. Radio-Activity was a favourite of Fassbinder, he used it in Russian Roulette and in Berlin Alexanderplatz.

Much, much more after the jump….....

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Siouxsie & The Banshees, Kraftwerk, Suzi Quatro, AC/DC & more on German TV show ‘Rockpop’

AC/DC rehersing with Cheap Trick guitarist Rick Nielson for German music TV show
AC/DC jamming with Cheap Trick guitarist Rick Nielson during rehearsals for the German music TV show “‘Rockpop’ in 1979. You can see footage of Cheap Trick on ‘Rockpop,’here.
Today I have the perfect remedy for it sadly being Monday—again!—some incredible footage of bands such as Siouxsie & The Banshees, Kraftwerk, AC/DC, Suzi Quatro, and a number of other notable musical acts performing on German music television’s Rockpop in the late 70s.
Suzi Quatro performing on
Suzi Quatro performing on “Rockpop” in 1979
Rockpop was aired on German public-service television broadcaster, ZDF (Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen) starting in 1978 and running until 1982. The show would feature several performances from its diverse selection of musical guests on each episode. Some even performed live, not just miming along to their tunes, like AC/DC, Suzi Quatro, and Wayne County & the Electric Chairs did in 1979.

I’m especially fond of the clip of Siouxsie & The Banshees performing their 1978 single, “Hong Kong Garden” on Rockpop in 1979 (during which a 22-year-old Siouxsie Sioux does a sweet punk rock aerobic routine on stage) to a virtually motionless, rather serious-looking studio audience. In addition to the bands I’ve already mentioned in this post, I’ve also included clips from Rockpop featuring heavy metal heroes like the Scorpions and Judas Priest because the crystal clear footage (in most cases), is just too good not to share.

AC/DC performing “Highway to Hell” live on ‘Rockpop’ live in September of 1979.
More from ‘Rockpop’ after the jump…

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Father and son cover Kraftwerk’s ‘The Robots’
09:52 am

Pop Culture

The Robots

Okay, we’re going to do some cute here on Dangerous Minds today. Here’s father and son duo, Andrew and Hudson covering Kraftwerk’s “The Robot.” Kudos to dad for turning his son onto the good stuff instead of all the horrible manufactured pop drivel that most kids listen to nowadays. Parenting done right, in my opinion!

via Nerdcore

Previously on Dangerous Minds:
‘Ralf And Florian’: The Kraftwerk sitcom
‘We are the Robots’: German elementary school kids do Kraftwerk
He was a robot: DM catches up with ex-Kraftwerk member Wolfgang Flür
How to dance to Kraftwerk: All you need to know
Kraftwerk sings ‘Pocket Calculator’ in Italian… and several other languages
Shitastic 70s cover versions of hits by Bowie, Blondie, Kraftwerk, Sex Pistols, Kate Bush & more

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
The Vienna Vegetable Orchestra covers Kraftwerk’s ‘Radio-Activity’
11:19 am


Vienna Vegetable Orchestra

Vienna, world capital of classical music and opera, might have more musicians per capita than any other major city. It certainly feels that way when you walk through the city’s bustling 1st district, where a man dressed up as Mozart will offer to thrust a flier for a classical concert into your hand and you’ll probably hear someone practicing the scales through an open window.

If any city were to spawn an ensemble of musicians playing actual music on actual vegetables (and releasing actual records), you’d have to bet on Vienna. And thus we come to the Vienna Vegetable Orchestra, or Das erste Wiener Gemüseorchester. (That word “erste” there means “first,” so technically their name translates as the First Vienna Vegetable Orchestra—the presumed joke being that there ain’t a whole lotta competition for the title, right?)

When the orchestra plays, it uses drums made out of pumpkins and celery roots, carrots become flutes, and they’ve invented a “cucumberphone” that employs a hollowed-out cucumber with a bell pepper at one end and a carrot (serving as a reed) at the other. At the top of this post you’ll see a picture of a man playing a “leek violin,” but how it works is anybody’s guess. There’s a wealth of information about the instruments on the group’s website.

Since every concert concludes with the preparation of a vegetable soup using the instruments that have just been used to produce melodious tones, it belongs to the very concept of the group that much of the effort of each show goes into creating the instruments from scratch, every time. As a matter of fact many of the photos on the group’s website depict the various members in the act of forging the new instruments, as shown below.

The Vienna Vegetable Orchestra was dreamt up by a group of students in 1998 and has released three albums: Gemise (a pun on the word Gemüse—vegetables—I can’t quite parse, it may play on the word mies, which means “lousy, rotten”), Automate, and Onionoise.

The tenth track off of Automate is a cover of Kraftwerk‘s “Radio-Activität,” known to you and me as “Radio-Activity.” Listen below:

More after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
He was a robot: DM catches up with ex-Kraftwerk member Wolfgang Flür
08:49 am


Wolfgang Flür

You know those Pink Floyd laser shows that set trippy visuals to either the entire Dark Side Of The Moon album or to a hodgepodge of greatest hits? Imagine being at one of those, but Roger Waters is there. In fact, he’s not just there, he’s onstage. And not only is he onstage, he’s holding his bass. There are also three other guys there whom you don’t recognize, and they have instruments too—you can’t really tell if anyone’s actually playing the instruments, but you give them the benefit of the doubt that they probably are; anyway, live music is utterly beside the point of the show, you’re really there to be dazzled by the visuals. Now imagine that’s not a Laser Floyd show—imagine that Waters is representing this event as an actual Pink Floyd concert and charging accordingly for tickets, despite the SCREAMING obviousness of the fact that this is in no way the Pink Floyd the world grew to love, and seriously, who the fuck are these old men with the other instruments?

This is not an invented scenario, and it’s not Pink Floyd. I have basically just described a 21st Century Kraftwerk show.

Some of the commentariat will surely howl for my head over that, but whatever. The truth, in retrospect, is obvious: the Kraftwerk that was every bit as important to the development of Western pop music as Elvis, the Beatles and the Ramones has been stone cold dead for at least 25 years. The four-piece lineup that produced the string of five literally world-changing albums from 1975’s Radio-Activity to 1986’s Electric Cafe began to splinter when in 1987 percussionist Wolfgang Flür departed, followed by percussionist Karl Bartos in 1990. Their next album was a 1991 best-of that offered contemporized versions of their classics, but no new compositions, signaling that Kraftwerk were no longer the future, but a holdover to what the future once promised. Both percussionists were replaced on that album,The Mix, by Fritz Hilpert, who remains a member to this day.

Kraftwerk began touring in earnest again in the late 90s, adding sound engineer Henning Schmitz to the lineup, restoring the quartet formation that had figured so importantly in their visual presentation. They FINALLY released new material in 2003—though to consider it entirely new is a stretch, as the album, Tour De France Soundtracks, was built around a re-working of the “Tour De France” single from 20 years earlier (a magnificent song), and it’s their least essential post-Autobahn work. Kraftwerk’s founders and principal songwriters were synthesists Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider (who himself jumped ship in 2008), but the fact that they never recovered artistically after the losses of Flür and Bartos strongly suggests that those percussionists may have been more crucial to the band’s creative nexus than the bossmen were ever willing to say.

If you don’t love this photo I may be incapable of understanding you.

I’m very glad to have seen their 1998 tour, though it was a pretty gimmicky affair; it was crowd-pleasing and great fun, but that was when it really hit me that Kraftwerk had become a nostalgia act packed with placeholder members. Their tours had long deployed stagecraft that was conceptually germane to the band’s obsessions—typically a variation on the theme of artificial humanity, expressed via dummies, automata, computer modeling—but that tour was a backward glance, the presentation of every song adhering strictly to the cover design of whichever album it had come from. Lately, the Hütter-led Kraftwerk cover band also called Kraftwerk has been packing ‘em in on a “3D” tour that is essentially nothing but its visual gimmick. They’re scheduled to perform eight Kraftwerk albums in their entirety in Oslo this summer, with the 3D visuals, which will surely be much more fun to look at than four old men in form-fitting catsuits standing still behind podia.

But as far as music goes, those departed percussionists haven’t simply disappeared, and in fact have had vastly more active release schedules than their ex-bandmates who continued to keep the name “Kraftwerk” going. Bartos collaborated with members of New Order and the Smiths in a project called Electronic, and remained active in the ‘90s with his own project Elecktric Music. His pace has since slowed. In 2003 and 2013 he released albums under his own name, which are quite enjoyable, but VERY throwbacky—the cover art for the most recent, Off the Record, even depicts Bartos as an unmistakably Kraftwerkian mannequin.

Wolfgang Flür has remained an active presence in electronic music as well. In 1993 he founded Yamo, a collaborative project with Düsseldorf electronic experimentalists Mouse on Mars, that released an album, two EPs, and two singles in a concentrated spurt from 1996-98. Since Yamo he’s been DJing and composing, lately doing a multimedia show called MusikSoldat:

Recently, a compilation of Flür’s post-90s music called Eloquence was released. It features solo works and collaborations, including the later Yamo single “I Was a Robot,” the significance of which surely can’t be lost on anyone still reading this. (It was also the title of his autobiography). The comp reveals that though Bartos is probably the most prolific when it comes to releasing, Flür may actually be the most creatively vital Kraftwerk member at work today, and his penchant for collaboration may be key to that. His track with Meat Beat Manifesto’s Jack Danger sounds unmistakably like a combination of that band with Kraftwerk. “Axis of Envy,” his work with Nitzer Ebb’s Bon Harris, unsurprisingly bears strong currents of industrial menace. “Moda Makina,” with Nortec Collective’s Ramón Amezcua, seems like an answer song to Kraftwerk’s much-covered “The Model,” (perhaps a favorite topic of his—there’s also a song called “Cover Girl” that covers similar conceptual territory) but with a Mexican horn section. Farther from his old group than that, I doubt one could get.

Flür talks more than he sings—he’s addressed this himself, saying “Eloquence shows my way of performing most of songs as a story-teller than a vocalist. I slip into roles like an actor inside the song, trying to be the character within the song”—and while that can sometimes be Leonard Cohenishly effective, that’s not always so, and perhaps recognizing this, he turns the vocals over to guests from time to time, as on a Japanese language version of “On The Beam,” sung by Pizzicato Five’s Nomiya Maki.

Flür was gracious enough to answer a few questions in an email exchange.

DM: It seems like a good bit of your output during and since YAMO has been collaborative. I imagine, given your history, that you must be a sought-after collaborator. How do you choose the artists with whom you’ll work?

Wolfgang Flür: It seems so, sought-after, and I’m very happy about this situation. Having so many friends and colleagues in the world is really making me a happy man. Being involved in so many interesting and different projects is something I could not believe twenty years ago. I choose what inspires me what touches my heart and soul. I immediately feel a familiarity when certain things come together.

DM: Does the release of your retrospective herald a new productive phase for you in terms of releasing more of your own compositions?

WF: Of course is it this. I had much fun with all of the ELOQUENCE productions. Next time I maybe call my album “COLLABORATIONS“

DM: Is anything stopping you from forming a new group with Karl Bartos and Florian Schneider? What would that group sound like in 2015?

WF: That’s a question I’m often asked and also this time I answer, I’m open for everything which is fun. Have you watched what Florian is currently in? I’m proud of him and say “chapeau!“:
After the jump, some music…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
High-end plush dolls of Frank Zappa, Robert Smith, Kraftwerk, Jim Jarmusch & more, that you NEED!

Kraftwerk plush dolls by Uriel Valentin
Kraftwerk plush dolls by Uriel Valentin

Uriel Valentin is the talented Argentinian-based doll maker and artist behind a massive line of plush, hand-painted dolls that are about to send you running for your credit card. I often blog about these kinds of collectibles here on Dangerous Minds but didn’t know until today how much I needed a plush Robert Smith doll clad in look-alike pajamas like the ones that he wore in the 1989 video for “Lullaby.” Did you?
Robert Smith of The Cure in his Lullabye pajamas
Robert Smith of The Cure in his “Lullaby” PJs
Frank Zappa plush doll by Uriel Valentin
Frank Zappa in his iconic “PIPCO” shirt.
Among the illustrious and eclectic inhabitants of Valentin’s cool world are plush versions of everyone from famous punks like Elvis Costello, director Jim Jarmusch, Charlotte Gainsbourg (covered in blood clutching the disemboweled fox from Antichrist), Andy Warhol and Jean Basquiat (wearing boxing gloves and attire no less, as in the poster for their 1985 collaboration), Iron Maiden’s “Eddie” (as well as Maiden bassist Steve Harris, squeee!), two delightful versions of Robert Smith of The Cure and every member of fucking KRAFTWERK.

Valentin’s figures stand about fourteen inches tall, are hand-painted and sealed with a transparent acrylic varnish, and have wire inside of them so they are able to be put into posed positions. I’ve included over 40 (!) images of Valentin’s dolls for you to digest after the jump that will run you around $100 (including international shipping). The talented Argentinian also does custom orders (which are $115) - contact him via his Flickr page for more information.
Jim Jarmusch
Jim Jarmusch
Bette Davis and Joan Crawford from the 1962 film, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?
Bette Davis and Joan Crawford from the 1962 film, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?
Hedwig (played by actor James Cameron Mitchell in the film and play Hedwig and the Angry Inch)
Hedwig as played by actor James Cameron Mitchell from Hedwig and the Angry Inch)
Way more of these amazing handmade dolls after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
‘We are the Robots’: German elementary school kids do Kraftwerk
09:02 am


Kids doing weird things

OK. We’re pretty sure that this is the cutest kid-related thing you’ll see all day.

Students at Lemmchen elementary school in Mainz, near Frankfurt, Germany perform Kraftwerk’s classic “Die Roboter,” complete with adorable cardboard robot costumes.

What’s most remarkable about this version, outside of the cute-factor, is the fact that it sounds so totally (perhaps, refreshingly) HUMAN.


Posted by Christopher Bickel | Leave a comment
Krautrock legend Michael Rother talks about the new Harmonia box set, plus exclusive footage!

Of the so-called Krautrock bands, Harmonia’s music is the most beautiful. It often sounds as if they’re playing colored lights rather than musical instruments. As Julian Cope writes of Harmonia’s first album in Krautrocksampler:

Each piece was a short vignette of sound which faded in, filled the room with its unearthly beauty, then left just as quickly.

Formed in 1973 by guitarist Michael Rother, who had founded NEU! after leaving Kraftwerk, and electronic musicians Dieter Moebius and Hans-Joachim Roedelius, who played together as the duo Cluster, Harmonia lived and recorded in a communal setting in the rural town of Forst, where Rother still lives. Brian Eno, who believed Harmonia was “the world’s most important rock band,” traveled to Forst to record with the trio in 1976, after the group had already agreed to break up; he described what he found there as “a small anarchic state.”

Harmonia only released two albums during their brief career, both essential: Musik von Harmonia and Deluxe. Tracks and Traces, the album resulting from Harmonia’s collaboration with Eno, did not come out until 1997; a decade later, the release of Live 1974 brought the total number of Harmonia records to a slim but sturdy four. On October 23, Grönland Records will release Harmonia’s Complete Works, a five-LP box set that supplements all of the above with a new archival release, Documents 1975, a poster, a pop-up, and a booklet with photos from Forst and an enlightening essay by Geeta Dayal.

I spoke with Michael Rother about Harmonia’s remarkable career early one morning in September.

It strikes me that you have a really distinctive guitar tone. I feel like if someone was playing a recording of yours that I’d never heard before, I could identify that it was you. Do you have any insight into how your tone developed?

Of course, this is a compliment. Actually, it should make me happy. It makes me happy—and maybe it’s also true, to a certain degree—but there is no real secret about the guitar. I think it has to do with the way I play guitar.

I used to, in the sixties, when I was still a copyist, a copy guitar player, copying heroes like Harrison, Clapton, Hendrix, Page, and whatever [laughs], I tried to play the rock’n’roll, rock type of guitar. But I stopped that in the late sixties, and the idea was to throw away the fast fingers and concentrate on one note, and then gradually find out what I can express on the guitar without being a copy of someone else.

And, of course, maybe you’re right, the fuzztone is special. I have a fuzz—the original was built for me in the seventies, but not NEU! so, see, it can’t be the only explanation—that was built when I was with Harmonia, by some people in the vicinity, music fans and also musicians. And this guy built a copy of, I think it was a copy of a Big Muff or something like that for me. In recent years, I was lucky that a real audio guru, a real, very talented, experienced studio electrician—electrician, maybe not; like, he knows all about studio technology, and he can build stuff—so I asked him to rebuild that fuzz, and to build it in a slightly smaller case, so that I can carry it around the world. And he laughed when he looked at the original copy from the seventies, and said “Ha, ha! These people have made a mistake!” And I asked him to stick to that mistake, because maybe the mistake is partly responsible for the special sound.

But I think—that is probably one aspect, but the idea behind the guitar playing, how I build up several guitars in one track, I think that’s also a very important factor, creating some individual sound. When I started with NEU! I remember I had this vision of making my guitar sound like an oboe, you know, the wind instrument? Like, fading in? So I had these two volume pedals, and if you listen to tracks like “Neuschnee,” for instance, you hear an example. And by EQing the guitar, and then also, of course, adding delays, et cetera. But the idea of a guitar not sounding like a guitar was something that was, from the beginning, in my head. It was supposed to sound different.

I have to admit that I always pictured Harmonia’s music coming out of the city, in more of a laboratory setting, so I was really surprised to see in the booklet that comes with the box set that it was more of a communal situation with dogs and families… there’s one picture of a guy named Jerry Kilian lying on a couch with a beer bottle underneath. What can you tell me about life at Forst?

That’s an interesting thing, what you say about how you imagine the music to come from the city, because sometimes people say the opposite, and they ask me questions like, “Do you think the music by Harmonia could have been the same if you had, for instance, lived in Berlin, and recorded music in an underground studio without fresh air, without any windows?” Of course, it’s hypothetical; I have no real explanation. But what I try to say to those questions is: I believe that Roedelius, Moebius and I already had some kind of vision for the music which would have been independent of the place where the music is played. But, of course, partly the wonder for this magical place—because it’s not only the communal aspect, it’s also looking out of the window and seeing a river and fields, no human structure in sight, and to have this kind of open space—at least, it was something that appealed to me straight from the beginning, this feeling of being at home, sort of, hasn’t left me since.

You know, I still live here. My studio was the Harmonia studio, where you see the three work spaces of Roedelius, Moebius and mine—I think it’s also in the book—you see the gear set up. That room is still my studio. Of course, it has changed; the gear has changed, and recently, since the arrival of the computer, that has significantly changed again, because I can work, I don’t know, I can work in a closet! [Laughs] All I need is a computer and a guitar, like I work live, you know. That setup which I carry around the world is what I basically need, and of course if I have some more gear, that’s also welcome.

I can’t part with Forst. I used to have a flat; my former partner, she let me use that flat in Hamburg when, in the wintertime, it gets rather dark and gloomy and muddy in Forst, but it’s different from city life, of course. In spring, summer, and also autumn, it’s beautiful. Today, I was up, I went into the toilet and I saw a beautiful sky with fog on the river, and I immediately grabbed my camera. I make photos all the time, because with each light—like daylight, bright sunshine, or dark atmosphere—you always have new impressions of the landscape.

Coming back to your question, apart from the beauty of the landscape, which really impressed me, of course, the thing was the lifestyle of the people and the lifestyle that was possible in this environment, which was, for me, a new experience. I came from Düsseldorf; I’d been living in cities with normal flats, and when I came to Forst, at the time—it’s really a funny anecdote—there was only one tap in the staircase with cold water. There was no sewage, nothing. There was just a pipe going through the wall, and everything went down just outside the house [laughs]. What I’m trying to say is, there was so much freedom to create your own living space, you know? Install heating, install proper sanitary things, and also, something I really enjoyed, I took a sledgehammer and just removed a wall that divided the space I could use, and just took out the wall to have a large room instead of two small ones. Try to do that in a flat in Düsseldorf! [Laughs]

So, the positive side was, we were really free. We could make music whenever we wanted to, nobody complained. We didn’t create much noise, but we had space, very much space to leave our gear. There were other people in Forst with whom we exchanged—like the people you see in the photos, you know, that was the kind of people, musicians came to visit. The basic thing is the freedom, really; it all comes down to the freedom.
The interview continues after the jump, plus the ONLY known footage of Harmonia, a Dangerous Minds exclusive!

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
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