Tag: Karl Bartos (Page 2 of 5)

OMD The Punishment Of Luxury

With ‘English Electric’ in 2013, OMD produced their finest album in thirty years with founder members Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys successfully playing to their strengths.

Utilising McCluskey’s conceptual overview and cryptic lyricism covered in metaphor, coupled to Humphreys’ musical direction and melodic magic, the end result was a work of art to savour with songs like ‘Metroland’ and ‘Kissing The Machine’ fully exploiting their Synth-Werk seeds.

Meanwhile, ‘Dresden’ and ‘Stay With Me’ were fine examples of their respective individual palettes adapted for the greater good of the band. And this was without the magnificence of ‘Our System’, the pastel synthpop of ‘Night Café’ and the passionate glory of ‘Helen Of Troy’.

‘The Punishment Of Luxury’ is OMD’s thirteenth long player and could be considered a natural progression from ‘English Electric’. The album takes its name from an 1891 painting by Giovanni Segantini.

The long player begins with the title track and a mighty electro rhythm section enhanced by a bright infectious melody, robot harmonies and incessant chants. Reflecting on the dilemma of first world problems and its incumbent joyless hedonism, it’s a fabulous opener that captures elements of KRAFTWERK, THE ART OF NOISE and THE PRODIGY.

Using more treated vocals and Vox Humana voice generators, ‘Isotype’ is a blip fest that embraces glitch and techno, with wild siren sounds fluctuating to provide a human counterpoint to their synthesised derivation. A commentary on how society has been going backwards in its communication via emojis, the inspiration comes from the international picture language conceived in 1924.

So far so good with the concepts and the tunes, but two tracks which spring a major surprise are ‘Robot Man’ and ‘Art Eats Art’. Both are fine examples of modern robotic pop which will delight fans of OMD’s more directly electronic work, but perhaps will dismay those hoping for sax solos and an update of ‘If You Leave’.

‘Robot Man’ starts as a tone poem before a huge machine rhythm emerges to shape an electro-funk rumble like a slowed down ‘Warm Leatherette’ reimagined by PRINCE… but then, there’s also more than a resemblance to ‘Fembot’ by ROBYN!

Much weirder, ‘Art Eats Art’ bubbles to a metronomic dance tempo with a chorus of vocoders over an aggressive octave shift. Recalling the work of former Kling Klang incumbent Karl Bartos, despite all the strange noises, this is frantic technopop offset by pretty melodies and shopping list lyrics. But it’s not like how OMD have sounded before, yet it is still retains the essence of their roots.

Taking a Synthanorma sequence set to a 6/8 rhythm and a melody inspired by ‘Forbidden Colours’, ‘What Have We Done’ sees a confident vocal from Paul Humphreys on some passionate Modernen Industrielle Volksmusik that could be seen as a passing observation on the current political climate.

A slow pulsing sequence and real bass guitar combine to form the interlude that is ‘Precision & Decay’, which “from luxury to landfill”, reflects on the disposable nature of the modern world and concludes “there is no such thing as labour saving machinery”.

‘As We Open, So We Close’ is an oddball experience to start with, as glitchy buzzes attach themselves to a disjointed rhythm of claps and backward kicks before everything grows into something more melodic, with a superlative vocal ring to “take me to your fragile place”.

Compared to the some of the other tracks on ‘The Punishment Of Luxury’, ‘Kiss Kiss Kiss Bang Bang Bang’ is almost conventional, but as this is OMD, there’s a twist! Like KRAFTWERK meeting Johan Strauss, the beautiful melodic vibes are interrupted by McCluskey’s scathing expletive laden attacks on Uncle Sam, Mao Tse Tung, Dr Spock and the current political climate; it’s a beautiful electronic lullaby that is a thematic successor to ‘International’.

The excellent ‘One More Time’ is a classic bittersweet OMD stomper, where “everything you gave me didn’t last”. Using electronic percussion as opposed to drum machines, the enticing verse and uplifting bridge are set to a plethora of gorgeous textures and distorted synth just to weird things out. While McCluskey announces “you can break my heart just one more time”, the star again is Humphreys with his crystalline synth sounds laced with portamento bounce.

The thought-provoking intermission of ‘La Mitrailleuse’ is a “grapeshot” collage with militaristic gunshots forming the rhythm track. The unsettling mantra of “bend your body to the will of the machine!” is inversed by a falsettoed cry from McCluskey. A mid-19th Century volley gun, the fact that a Mitrailleuse was difficult to manage, as well as being highly inaccurate, makes this a fine slice of clever social-political commentary.

On the final straight, ‘Ghost Star’ with its wildlife ambience and dramatic VANGELIS-like intro is a sub-six minute number that could be ‘Stanlow’ for the 24th Century. Lovely emotive synthphonic sweeps provide a pretty electronic cascade that is epically European with no pandering to the Yankee Dollar.

Meanwhile, the almost nursery rhyme feel of ‘The View From Here’ is elegiac, with orchestrations and even some guitar sounds.

Mature and reflective with a spirited vocal from McCluskey, this is a classic OMD sad ballad in the vein of ‘All That Glittters’. However, these two closing numbers do not sit as easily with the frenetic statements on the majority of ‘The Punishment of Luxury’. So for that reason, although the album IS strides ahead of ‘History Of Modern’ from 2010, it is maybe not quite as complete as ‘English Electric’ was.

But swathed in detuned synths and attached to a rigid percussive lattice, ‘The Punishment Of Luxury’ is an excellent OMD record with Germany still calling. The solos of Paul Humphreys are certainly something to savour while Andy McCluskey possibly delivers some of his best vocals, as the pair continue to push boundaries with their experimental but tuneful approach.

Compare that to the last three frankly dire DEPECHE MODE albums and OMD now take a two goal lead. Unlike the Basildon mob’s feeble fourteenth album, ‘The Punishment of Luxury’ actually HAS spirit and a sense of adventure, as well as a clever metaphoric narrative reflecting on issues that affect the human condition.

Nearly forty years on, OMD’s breadth of musicality, technological curiosity and lyrical wordplay is still something to be admired and lauded.


‘The Punishment Of Luxury’ is released by White Noise Ltd on 1st September 2017 in CD, CD+DVD, yellow vinyl LP, standard vinyl LP, cassette, digital and super-deluxe book formats from https://omd.pmstores.co/

OMD’s ‘The Punishment Of Luxury’ 2017 tour, Ireland + UK dates with special guests TINY MAGNETIC PETS include:

Dublin Vicar Street (23rd October), Belfast Mandela Hall (24th October), Liverpool Empire (29th October), Bristol Colston Hall (30th October) , Southend Cliffs Pavillion (1st November), Ipswich Regent (2nd November), Cambridge Corn Exchange (3rd November), Leicester De Montfort Hall (5th November), Nottingham Royal Concert Hall (6th November), Sheffield City Hall (7th November), Reading Hexagon (9th November), Southampton Guild Hall (10th November), Guildford G Live (11th November), London Roundhouse (13th November), Bexhill Del La Warr Pavillion (15th November), Manchester Academy (17th November), York Barbican (18th November), Glasgow Royal Concert Hall (19th November), Birmingham Symphony Hall (21st November), Gateshead Sage (22nd November)

European dates with special guests HOLYGRAM include:

Erfut Traum Hits Festival (25th November), Hamburg Grosse Freiheit (26th November), Berlin Huxleys (28th November), Leipzig Haus Auenesse (29th November), Munich Tonhalle (30th November), Offenbach Stadthalle (2nd December), Düsseldorf Mitsubishi Electric Hall (3rd December), Tilburg 013 (5th December), Antwerp De Roma (6th December), Lausanne Les Docks (8th December)

http://www.omd.uk.com/

https://www.facebook.com/omdofficial/

https://twitter.com/OfficialOMD


Text by Chi Ming Lai
30th August 2017, updated 29th August 2018

ELECTRI_CITY – The Düsseldorf School of Electronic Music

OMD’s Andy McCluskey said: “Musically we are much more the sons of Düsseldorf than we are the sons of Liverpool. KRAFTWERK, NEU! and LA DÜSSELDORF were so much more influential on us than THE BEATLES”.

Meanwhile ULTRAVOX’s Chris Cross adds: “Personally I would have loved to have been in a band like LA DÜSSELDORF”

First published in German during the Spring of 2015, Rudi Esch’s ‘ELECTRI_CITY – Elektronische Musik Aus Düsseldorf’ gave a fascinating insider’s account of the Germany’s influential post-war music scene which was centred around the city of Düsseldorf.

The original book spawned an English language edition ‘ELECTRI_CITY – The Düsseldorf School of Electronic Music’, two compilation albums released on Grönland Records and an annual music conference, the third of which will take place on FRIDAY 27TH and SATURDAY 28TH OCTOBER 2017.

Among those performing live will be ANNE CLARK, ROBERT GÖRL, STRÖME, ARCTIC SUNRISEELECTRONIC CIRCUS and KATJA VON KASSEL, while JONATHAN BARNBROOK will be giving a talk entitled ‘Designing Bowie’. In addition, The Electricity Club will be chairing a panel discussion with Zeus B Held and Chris Payne.

Rudi Esch came to prominence as the bassist of industrial trailblazers DIE KRUPPS whom he joined in 1988, but prior to that, he was in DIE ENGEL DES HERRN with the mercurial Klaus Dinger of NEU! and LA DÜSSELDORF fame.

The book takes an unusual format in that it features a series of parabites, pieced together from over fifty exclusive interviews, to tell the story of The Düsseldorf School and its cultural significance.

This makes the text easily digestible and is certainly a preferred layout compared to the more tedious documents that have been published about musik von die Bundesrepublik over the last few years.

Interviewees include Michael Rother, Klaus Dinger, Wolfgang Flür, Daniel Miller, Paul Humphreys, Andy McCluskey, Martyn Ware, Glenn Gregory, Chris Cross, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Giorgio Moroder and Rusty Egan who gives one of the funniest quotes: “To me, the Germans made cars and rockets. Mercedes and Messerschmitt were the names I knew before KRAFTWERK”.

“Düsseldorf is the capital of electronic music” says Esch, as he gives an account of how the Düsseldorf electronic scene developed from 1970 to 1986 with acts like KRAFTWERK, LA DÜSSELDORF, DER PLAN, LIAISONS DANGEREUSES, RIECHMANN, RHEINGOLD, PROPAGANDA, DAF and NEU!

In those early days, the choice of instrumentation was dictated by money. Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider-Esleben both came from affluent millionaire families, with the latter’s father a prominent architect who oversaw the redesign of the Cologne-Bonn Airport.

As expensive as synthesizers were back then, the more avant-garde types tended to prefer EMS equipment as it did not come with a keyboard, while those who liked melody opted for the Minimoog.

KRAFTWERK of course bought both! But as former member Ebehard Kranemann remembers “KRAFTWERK was not about the money, it was about the music”.

And with his Farfisa organ and its preset rhythm accompaniment, Hütter became fascinated with mechanical percussive templates and goaded their then-drummer Klaus Dinger with his proclamation that it was “the fastest drummer in the world”.

Klaus Dinger and Michael Rother were working class boys, which influenced their pursuit of a more organic approach and ultimately led to them flying the KRAFTWERK nest to form NEU! While Rother had the talent and an easy going manner, Dinger had ambition and his forthright tendencies did not win him many friends. “With Klaus, you never knew if he would give you a headbutt or an invitation to dinner…” says Wolfgang Flür, “…all in all, I didn’t like him”.

Dinger was explosive, confrontational and unpredictable. In KRAFTWERK, while Hütter and Schneider had their neon lit signs with their first names in blue, he wanted one with ‘Klaus’ in red! When Colgate offered to pay a substantial amount of money to use LA DÜSSELDORF’s hit ‘Rheinita’ in a TV advert, he declined. There was also the incident of him breaking journalist Konrad Schalensick’s nose following a negative review of their second album ‘Viva’.

The signs were there from the start, with Dinger playing rhythmic guitar alongside Rother’s melodic interplay, not satisfied with just being the drummer. So without Conny Plank to act as buffer and referee, NEU! would never have lasted for three albums. The silent partner in NEU! who recognised talent and created an atmosphere for musicians to experiment, Plank was without doubt a factor in the second side of ‘Neu! 2’ being filled with speeded up and slowed down variations of a previously issued single.

The thorny issue of KRAFTWERK’s treatment of Conny Plank is discussed in the book; “I don’t know where KRAFTWERK would be today if it wasn’t for Conny” says Hans Lampe, assistant to Plank and later to become a member of LA DÜSSELDORF.

However, Plank did accept 5000 Deutschmarks (a lot of money in 1974!) which bought him out of the co-producer credit on ‘Autobahn’ after it was licensed and edited for release by Capitol Records in America.

Another discussion point is Karl Bartos‘ contribution to KRAFTWERK as he wrote many of the melodies as ‘the kraftsman’. According to Michael Mertens of PROPAGANDA who was a conservatoire classmate: “Karl understood that to make popular music, you had to retain some degree of naivety”.

Classical music education played an important role and it appeared in the most unlikely of places. DAF’s Robert Görl had much in common with Karl Bartos and Michael Mertens, although Görl says: “Wir wollten lieber mit Maschinen arbeiten. We always preferred working with machines”.

During the post-punk period, just as Liverpool had Eric’s, Manchester had The Factory and London had The Blitz, Düsseldorf had a creative centre emerge around Die Ratinger Hof.

Affordable synths from Japan such as the Korg MS20 were a game changer for younger bands like DAF and DIE KRUPPS as they found their sound. However, there was an important distinction between synths and keyboards as Kurt Dahlke of DER PLAN and PYROLATOR explains: “I insist that I am never credited as a keyboardist on records. A keyboard player is some kind of all-round entertainer, sat at his keyboard using various presets. I insist on synthesizer”.

While KRAFTWERK were a reaction to the Americanisation of popular culture in Germany, the next generation of more forthright and aggressive acts like DIE KRUPPS and DAF were a reaction to KRAFTWERK.

Jürgen Engler mentions “I hadn’t bought a single KRAFTWERK album” while Gabi Delgado comments that “To me, KRAFTWERK were sounding too boring, too beautiful, too sedate and too sterile” and even adds “Sequencers and Moroder. That was more important for electronic music than the entire legacy of KRAFTWERK, NEU! and LA DÜSSELDORF”.

DAF’s preference for a militaristic aesthetic caused controversy and confused observers, but from the off, they were out to shock. They attracted a following which Gabi Delgado hated; his parents had escaped from the Fascist Franco regime in Spain. However, their early sequencer guru Chrislo Haas was less bothered and flirted with the ideology as a fashion statement.

Their manager Bob Giddens reckons “DAF kind of overdid it later on with their hyper-Germaness” and as they hit the peak of their success, Ralf Dörper reckons they disappeared in a haze of “Sex, drugs and sequencer”. Haas eventually left DAF and went on to form alternative club favourites LIAISONS DANGEREUSES in a charged partnership with Beate Bartel of MANIA D.

Of course, all this is only a small part of the story. The visionaries, technicians and eccentrics who played their part like the late Gunter Körber (A&R for Metronome and Brain Records who later founded the Sky label that issued key albums by Michael Rother and Wolfgang Riechmann), inventor Werner Lambertz and Florian Schneider’s sister Claudia also give their takes on the scene.

The book appropriately ends its coverage in 1986, when KRAFTWERK’s ‘Electric Café’ disappointed many and led to the departure of Messrs Flür, Bartos and eventually Schneider.

But fast forward to 2017 and Düsseldorf has come to terms with one of its biggest cultural exports and is now happy to celebrate the city’s influence on musicians and artists all over the world.

However, the final word has to go to the departed Klaus Dinger: “A lot of people may have helped themselves to the stuff we developed, and then made big bucks abroad. But nevertheless I’d go as far as saying: this was only ever possible in D-U-S, my home town Düsseldorf”.


‘ELECTRI_CITY – The Düsseldorf School of Electronic Music’ is published by Omnibus Press, available via all good book and online retailers

https://www.facebook.com/Electri.city.Esch/

The ELECTRI_CITY_CONFERENCE takes place in Düsseldorf on FRIDAY 27TH and SATURDAY 28TH OCTOBER 2017 featuring ANNE CLARK, ROBERT GÖRL, STRÖME, ARCTIC SUNRISE, ELECTRONIC CIRCUS and KATJA VON KASSEL – for further information, please visit http://www.electricity-conference.com/

Tickets available from https://www.eventbrite.de/e/electri-city-conference-2017-tickets-37245039917

https://www.facebook.com/ELECTRICITY.Conference/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
26th August 2017

RHEINGOLD Im Lauf Der Zeit

Between 1980 to 1984, RHEINGOLD were at the forefront of Die Neue Deutsche Welle, releasing three albums and achieving their first domestic hit ‘3klangsdimensionen’ in 1981.

Led by Bodo Staiger, the band also featured his now-wife Brigitte Staiger and Lothar Manteuffel who later formed ELEKTRIC MUSIC with Karl Bartos in 1992 and more recently, played keyboards with Peter Heppner of WOLFSHEIM Fame.

Although hailing from Düsseldorf like KRAFTWERK, LA DÜSSELDORF and DAF, RHEINGOLD differed by having a distinctive rhythm guitar template and more melodic vocals compared to their contemporaries, despite being electronically driven.

Preferring to sing in their own language, the trio attained other notable hit singles including ‘Fluß’ and ‘Fan Fan Fanatic’, before calling it a day after their third album ‘Distanz’ having never performed live.

Then in 2007, RHEINGOLD made a surprise return with a techno-flavoured tribute album to Die Düsseldorfer Schule entitled ‘Electric City’; it featured cover versions of songs made famous by KRAFTWERK, PROPAGANDA and LA DUSSELDORF among others, as well as some updated versions of their own tunes. This led to the 2010 ‘Best Of’ collection containing more conventionally re-recorded songs from the RHEINGOLD catalogue.

And now comes ‘Im Lauf Der Zeit’, translated as “over time”, a brand new RHEINHOLD album that features a significant number of instrumentals but also lyrics by Karl Bartos, Uli Luciano and Brigitte Staiger alongside music played and produced by Bodo Staiger.

The opening number is the self-explanatory ‘Kraut’, a fine tribute to the 20th Century kosmische music forms that Germany has become famous for. The bouncy ‘Im Lauf der Zeit’ title song, featuring strummed and E-bowed six string, showcases an optimistic demeanour that more than expresses Bobo Staiger’s joy at his musical return.

‘Sehnsucht’ is not a cover of RAMMSTEIN but rich Compurhythm driven pop with ringing rhythm guitar reminiscent of THE CURE and atmospheric synths, while ‘Stromaufwärts’ does as its title suggests and paddles upstream in positivity with lovely backing vocals from Frau Staiger.

In an instrumental homage to the grand synth rock overtures of LA DÜSSELDORF, ‘Theme ’84’ slows down and shortens ‘Cha Cha 2000’. With some surprising fretless bass thrown in for good measure, it just cries Düsseldorf.

Back to vocals with ‘Energie’, RHEINGOLD homage themselves and in particular, ‘3klangsdimensionen’; it was a great and under-appreciated song so why not?

‘Ins Leben Zurück’ is a drum box laden rock ballad and perhaps doesn’t have the appeal of the other songs on the album, but ‘Weißes Licht’ gets things back on track in classic RHEINGOLD style.

Meanwhile, the melodic synth of ‘Paradieshafen’ drives along a beautiful instrumental that imagines a dream collaboration between OMD and Michael Rother before a fourth, more pulsating instrumental in ‘Sternstaub’; using a wholly electronic method of realisation, it closes the rather fine comeback album that is ‘Im Lauf Der Zeit’.

An album that sits well alongside DAS BLAUE PALAIS and their Düsseldorf inspired ‘Welt Am Draht’, this is a welcome return from RHEINGOLD and perhaps evidence that extended musical sabbaticals aren’t necessarily a bad thing.

Das ist gut…


‘Im Lauf Der Zeit’ is released in CD and digital formats by Lucky Bob Records / Soulfood

https://www.facebook.com/Rheingold-156171354461006/

http://3klangrecords.de/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
4th July 2017

Lost Albums: KARL BARTOS Communication

KARL BARTOS CommunicationIt seems strange now, but when ‘Communication’ was released in 2003, it was Karl Bartos’ return to electronica, following the ill-fated guitar driven excursion ‘Electric Music’ of 1998.

‘Communication’ was effectively Herr Bartos’ first solo album after the ELEKTRIC MUSIC project with RHEINGOLD’s Lothar Manteuffel, which had started promisingly in 1993 with the well-received ‘Esperanto’. Frustrated by the drought of new material following ‘Electric Café’, Bartos had generally been seen as a beacon of hope for KRAFTWERK enthusiasts.

But just as ‘Communication hit the shelves, an elephant entered the room in the shape of his former band; they released their first album of new material since 1986 in the shape of ‘Tour De France Soundtracks’.

With Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider finally delivering neu Kling Klang Produkt 2003, fans and press predictably focused their attention on KRAFTWERK. It was a shame because ‘Tour De France Soundtracks’ was rhythmically weak and lacklustre, a sanitised fascmile of the greatness KRAFTWERK had been.

karlbartos_Communication innerMuch better was ‘Communication’, an overlooked collection of fine electronic pop. At the time, Bartos said the album was “about the way images shape our view of the world and how electronic media is going to change the contents of our culture”.

Like ‘Computer World’ before it, the prediction came true. Thus ‘Communication’ is possibly even more relevant today, than it was then.

The album began magnificently with ‘The Camera’, a surefire updating of ‘The Robots’ for the new Millennium.

Certainly Bartos’ trump card compared with his former colleagues at Kling Klang was the ability to retain recognisable classic elements such as the elastic bassline and Polymoog piano signatures, while still thrusting through a vibrant, futuristic outlook.

This template continued “in Bild und Ton” on the much darker ‘I’m The Message’. Powerful and robotic, yet held down by a sinister electro-funk groove, it kicked in a manner that 21st Century KRAFTWERK couldn’t. Some screeching synths and a pulsating hypnotism provided extra tension.

The social commentary of ‘15 Minutes Of Fame’ co-written with electro producer Anthony Rother was Bartos demonstrating his pop nous; for all of KRAFTWERK’s innovations in sound, other than ‘The Model’, they never really did songs. With its octave shifting backbone and melodic patterns, ‘15 Minutes Of Fame’ took its lead from NEW ORDER.

Herr Bartos had publically declared on several occasions that the Mancunians were his favourite band and their more guitar based side came over musically in ‘Life’, possibly an autobiographical statement on him fleeing the Kling Klang nest. Hearing some Hooky bass reimagined on synths made for interesting listening.

KARL BARTOS 2003-Marion von der MehdenWith plenty of vocoder in abundance, ‘Reality’ was more synthetically mechanical and abstract in the vein of a less frantic ‘Overdrive’ from ‘Esperanto’. Meanwhile, ‘Electronic Apeman’ took that template into more robotic pop territory. Using some superb lead synth lines, in hindsight the track wasn’t that far from ‘Nachtfahrt’ on 2013’s ‘Off The Record’, highlighting a spiritual connection between the two long players.

‘Cyberspace’ held a steadier vibe with sombre string tones as a contrast to the largely uptempo nature of ‘Communication’, before it was back to business as usual with the cascading sequences and thrusting schlagzeug of ‘Interview’. Following on, the percussive crash of ‘Ultraviolet’ contained the amusing line “I’ve got to return some video tapes” to time capsule ‘Communication’ as a definite 2003 release!

The ambient tone poem of ‘Another Reality’ acted as an ideal closer to the energetic album, sparingly employing the vocal glitch cut-up techniques Bartos pioneered on ‘Lifestyle’ from ‘Esperanto’.

KARL BARTOS 2003-Marion von der Mehden02Despite the artistic superiority of ‘Communication’ over ‘Tour De France Soundtracks’, the album did not capture wider public appreciation.

While KRAFTWERK gaining all the press and fan attention didn’t help, personnel changes and cost-cutting measures at his then-record label Home, a Sony Music subsidiary, also hindered the promotion and distribution of the album.

With the timely remaster of ‘Communication’, some of Karl Bartos’ best work will hopefully be acknowledged and people will realise how key he has been to the pioneering legacy of his former band.

As the man who co-wrote many of KRAFTWERK’s best known songs such as ‘The Model’, The Robots’, ‘Computer Love’, ‘Pocket Calculator’ and ‘Tour De France’, Karl Bartos deserves greater recognition for his achievements and STILL producing great music.


‘Communication’ is reissued with the bonus track ‘Camera Obscura’ by Trocadero Hamburg on 25th March 2015 in CD, vinyl LP and digital formats, boxed set available from https://www.ghvc-shop.de/detail/karl-bartos-communication-limited-boxset-vorbestellung

http://www.karlbartos.com/

http://trocadero-home.com/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Marion von der Mehden
19th March 2016

WOLFGANG FLÜR Interview

Photo by Anton Corbijn

Photo by Anton Corbijn

Following a sold out appearance at London’s Hoxton Bar and Kitchen in January, electronic pioneer WOLFGANG FLÜR returns to the UK and brings his ‘Musik Soldat’ show to Epic Studios in Norwich on SATURDAY 20TH JUNE 2015 with support from Glasgow’s ANALOG ANGEL.

Herr Flür was one of the first musicians to be widely seen playing a self-built electronic percussion set on German TV Station ZDF when he joined KRAFTWERK in 1973. Together with Ralf Hütter, Florian Schneider and Karl Bartos, they formed what has been universally regarded as the classic line-up of KRAFTWERK. Together with the albums ‘Autobahn’, Radio-Activity’, Trans Europe Express’, ‘The Man Machine’ and ‘Computer World’, the quartet conquered the world with their vision of the future and changed the course of music forever.

However, after a frustrating five year gestation period for the lukewarm ‘Electric Café’ album, Flür left the band in 1987. His many adventures during his time at Kling Klang were documented in his enlightening and entertaining autobiography ‘I Was A Robot’, published in 2000. More of his memories have been recollected in ‘Electri_City-Elektronische_Musik_Aus_Düsseldorf’, the new book by Rüdiger Esch which chronicles the history of the city’s music scene.

Herr Flür’s last full length long player was ‘Time Pie’ issued in 1997 under the moniker of YAMO. While a solo album is currently being completed, some of his recent musical adventures have included ‘Activity Of Sound’ in collaboration with iEUROPEAN and ‘Staying In The Shadow’ with Jack Dangers, formally of MEAT BEAT MANIFESTO.

WOLFGANG FLÜR kindly answered questions put forward to him by The Electricity Club about his upcoming Norwich date at Epic Studios and plans for his forthcoming album…

Photo by Richard Price

Photo by Richard Price

You have said your live appearances are not quite a DJ set but not a concert either. For the uninitiated, how would you describe it?

I show slides, videos, TV-recordings and play my taste of music to them. I’m not a DJ. DJing is another art. I’m an actor. I act my tracks physically by means of dancing, gesture rich movings.

After my show, I’m wet all over in my shirt and trousers and need a shower in my hotel.

Some people might think I’m crazy and I, yes, I am – for music! I cannot stand still with music, that’s my personality, my temperament. I inherited it from my mother.

You’ve described your new composition ‘Cover Girl’ as the sequel to ‘The Model’… what inspired this?

‘Cover Girl’ is indeed Mk II of ‘The Model’. Her story goes on and unfortunately shows her going downhill. She had bad experiences with drugs, alcohol and other things so had to dance in night clubs for earning money at least. A true story, a bad life… that’s sometimes the way how super models are knitting their career. Sindy Gunawan, our dancer in the video, was a former life dancer in my early German shows. Unfortunately she moved back to her homeland Indonesia, even though she was a German born. We had filmed her over the past years pretty often and I cut from such material, her life dance. This film on our current screen has a special paparazzi quality…

The YAMO album ‘Time Pie’ came out in 1997. Why has it taken so long to follow up?

That has to do with Germany, its pop culture and music-industry. In Germany, a pop artist has not that reputation like musicians in England I found out. I simply couldn’t find a fitting record company here. On the other hand, I worked not every day on lyrics, melodies and musical arrangements. I have written a book together with my wife Zuhal on the Germans (‘Neben Mir – Rheinland Grotesken’). A sixteen tales book, very weird stories and I had often been on book readings, instead working in the studio with partner Stefan Lindlahr. He owns a studio in Neunkirchen-Krahwinkel where Conny Plank had his famous place too. Since this year and many collaborations with other international musicians, I have a good and entertaining assortment of songs together for a whole new album. ‘ELOQUENCE’ is its name because of my story teller style inside most of the tracks.

One of your most recent releases has been the superb collaboration with iEUROPEAN called ‘Activity Of Sound’. How did this come about?

I met Sean Baron seven years ago when playing the Tivoli in Dublin. He was filming my show and sent the scenes to my home. Some years later he invited me into his iEUROPEAN project and sent me a soundtrack and some existing lyrics. I recorded those lyrics about sound and what it meant and included into the song. Sean made a final mix after that and it became a new track for iEUROPEAN. My contribution was spoken words only, no melodies or other sound additions from my side.

How does it feel to have electronic music enthusiasts still very happy to meet you, despite you having left KRAFTWERK in 1987?

It’s a totally cheering experience each time I still go on stage with my ‘Musik Soldat’ audio-visual show. I know what it is: I and also Karl represent something to our fans, it’s what they call The Originals. The original members of KRAFTWERK Mk I. We together with Ralf and Florian laid the cornerstone of what is called electro-pop, neue musik.

We are pioneers and went through all thinkable difficulties of former recordings, travels, experiences and friendship. This gives us safety in musical taste and inventive talent, new ideas. Listen to Karl’s ‘Atomium’ for instance. I’m coming up with something new my style in October…

‘Home Computer’ is one of the tracks in your set. Why does this KRAFTWERK track particular still resonate with you?

The funny thing is that we had no home computer when we recorded the song. The song describes the vision of what the humanity can await in the near future of 1978. What I play at the beginning of my show is a dance mix of that song. I like it very much, it has a lightweighted feel to the original and also shows where I come from (starting from ‘Autobahn’), my musical home.

You still have a very strong friendship with Karl Bartos. Have the two of you considered working together musically again?

Yes, often. We were not able to find a musical meetpoint. We developed too different in style and themes after our split from KRAFTWERK. But that’s not a problem between us, we are friends, good friends for a long time, and I appreciate every good advice he gives me. Karl lives in Hamburg since many years. We telephone nearly every week and speak about diverse things. It’s good to have a friend like him with the same musical past and experiences…

What interesting projects are coming up for you? Is there anyone you would like to collaborate with?

I have stopped YAMO as a musical project like for the ‘Time Pie’ album. All what can be brought out will be released from now under my personal name. ‘Eloquence’ for instance will have singers, spoken words, diverse additional musicians. I had much joy with collaborations like Bon Harris from NITZER EBB and Anni Hogan, formally from Marc Almond’s band. I also had a collaboration with Ramon Amezcua of NORTEC COLLECTIVE in Mexico and with Jack Dangers from San Francisco. All such co-ops happened during the last three years.

I’ll meet up with Bono of U2 in New York on 22nd July when he plays the Madison Square Garden. I was told that he’s a big KRAFTWERK fan. Let’s see what comes out of that meeting, I’m open for anything.

Electri_city-cover-JPGOf course, Düsseldorf has a huge musical heritage and you have contributed to Rudi Esch’s book ‘Electri_City – Elektronische Musik Aus Düsseldorf’ while your song ‘I Was A Robot’ is on the accompanying compilation. Why does the city have this marvellous artistic spirit?

Do you believe I would reveal something to you? Listen to ‘I Was A Robot’ when it’s out in England by October and you’ll find out.

Who were your own favourite acts to have emerged from Düsseldorf?

DER PLAN, DAF, MICHAEL ROTHER and NEU!


The Electricity Club gives its grateful thanks to WOLFGANG FLÜR

Special thanks also to Stephen Roper and all at Epic Studios

WOLFGANG Epic StudiosBANNERWOLFGANG FLÜR appears at Epic Studios, 114 Magdalen Street, Norwich, Norfolk NR3 1JD on SATURDAY 20TH JUNE 2015 with support from ANALOG ANGEL. Box Office: 01603 727727

http://www.musiksoldat.de

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Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
2nd June 2015

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