Tag: Ralf Hütter

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

KRAFTWERK Live at the Royal Albert Hall

After the ticketing debacle of the London Tate Modern Turbine Hall shows in 2013, the announcement of what is a pretty extensive tour for KRAFTWERK has now at least given fans of Die Mensch Machine a fighting chance to actually see them live.

The Electricity Club was present at the middle of a trio of Royal Albert Hall dates and after some pretty stringent security / ticketing checks, the team were able to take to their seats with a pair of 3D glasses waiting.

For those that have seen KRAFTWERK over the last few years, their stage set has been paired down extensively and no longer necessitates the band’s Kling Klang studio being carted around with them.

Visually, they now rely on large back projections which have been transformed into a 3D experience. KRAFTWERK opened with a cluster of songs from the seminal ‘Computer World’ album, the traditional “Meine damen und herren…” vocoder intro introducing ‘Numbers’ which itself segued into ‘Computer World’ and then ‘It’s More Fun to Compute’ / ‘Home Computer’.

Visuals from the ‘Minimum Maximum’ tour have been updated in places to maximise the effect of the 3D graphics and with a waveform pulsing in time with the intro, a version of ‘Computer Love’ rounded off the quintet of songs from this period.

Seamlessly mixing elements from the original version and the one on ‘The Mix’, ‘Computer Love’ still remains one of the most beautifully melodic electronic pieces.

With Ralf Hütter playing the main melody part throughout, he was accompanied by an updated higher pitched vocoder adding in the ‘Computer Love’ robot voice.

The next batch of songs that followed were from ‘The Man Machine’, the title track opened this segment of the show and was followed by ‘Spacelab’, which earned one of the biggest cheers of the evening when a rather comical ‘Mars Attacks!’ style spaceship flew over the Houses of Parliament and made a landing outside The Albert Hall on the screen behind.

‘The Model’ remained one of the few tracks in the set not to get extended or updated, such is this piece of electropop perfection; if something isn’t broken, why try to fix it? ‘Neon Lights’ which followed was also pretty faithful to the original album version with its sounds and structure.

‘Autobahn’ featured animated graphics inspired by the album cover, flipping between the Mercedes Benz and the Volkswagen Beetle in an interpretation which was an edited highlights version of the original 22 minute track.

‘Airwaves’ was given an interesting, almost GIORGIO MORODER-style overhaul, with its bassline taking much more prominence and THE BEACH BOYS elements being removed from the original. ‘Radioactivity’ still remains an absolute behemoth of a track, again incorporating elements from its original incarnation alongside the 4/4 kick of ‘The Mix’ re-work. The track took the audience on a rollercoaster ride with visuals to match.

Probably the biggest surprise of the night was an outing for ‘Electric Cafe’ from the much maligned album of the same title, latterly rechristened ‘Technopop’ as part of ‘The Catalogue’ in 2009.

The song itself still sounds like an inferior version of ‘Trans Europe Express’, and was a reminder of the era when the band started to relinquish its influence and dominance over electronic music.

‘Tour de France’ was well represented with the original ‘Etape 1’ featured and then followed by a lengthy version of ‘Etape 2’. After ‘Trans Europe Express’ morphed into ‘Metal on Metal’ and ‘Abzug’ with its monochromatic train visuals, the band took a break, only to return in their robotic guise for ‘The Robots’; another updated track, this time with some updated synth sounds.

The robots themselves have transformed from the “legless” versions from the ‘Minimum Maximum’ tour and now look more like showroom dummies, which was probably the intention!

A second encore followed ending with the customary ‘Boing Boom Tschak!’/ ’Technopop’ / ‘Musique Non Stop’ medley which allowed each member of the band to walk off and take their bow to the audience.

Although predictably there was no new material tonight, it was refreshing to hear many of the tracks being re-werked and this at least showed the band weren’t content to completely rest on their laurels.

It would be very easy to be cynical and criticise the way in which the band has spent the last few years pursuing ‘The Mix’-style updates of their songs rather than creating anything new, but at least the addition of the 3D element and willingness to experiment with the songs has shown that this isn’t just a blatant nostalgia-fest.

What can’t be denied is how influential KRAFTWERK continue to be and tonight’s show demonstrated that they have one hell of a back catalogue and ably reminded the audience of the band’s lasting legacy.


‘3D The Catalogue’ is available in a variety of formats via Parlophone Records

http://www.kraftwerk.com/

https://www.facebook.com/KraftwerkOfficial/

https://twitter.com/kraftwerk

http://www.klingklang.de/


Text by Paul Boddy
Photos by Richard Price
28th June 2017

KRAFTWERK Radio-Aktivität Live in Düsseldorf

KRAFTWERK played an emotional second show as part of their ‘Der Katalog 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8’ residency at Die Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen to an expectant hometown crowd which included PROPAGANDA’s Ralf Dörper and members of DIE KRUPPS.

Most of their Düsseldorf shows sold out within 10 minutes.

And for those who were lucky enough to get their names on the list tonight, Ralf Hütter, Fritz Hilpert (now celebrating his 21st year with KRAFTWERK), Henning Schmitz and new live video technician Falk Grieffenhagen delivered the ‘Radio-Aktivität’ album in full along with other KRAFTWERK favourites in a comprehensive retrospective set.

The Electricity Club’s on-location witness said: “It was a breathtaking moment for a synth music lover like me who was much too young to see them in the earlier days. This was the place to be. It was exactly two hours of synth and 3D joy which started with ‘Die Roboter’. They brought us ‘Radioactivity’ with a tribute to the people of Fukushima, took us on the ‘Autobahn’ in a VW Beetle and rode the ‘Trans Europa Express’ with ‘Das Modell’ and ‘Die Mensch-Maschine’. Via La ‘Tour De France’, they provided with some ‘Vitamin’ pills as well. It was a fantastic gig tonight”.

The ‘Radio-Activity’ album (as it is known in the UK and US) has a special resonance with The Electricity Club as its title track inspired the song from which this website gets its name. OMD’s ‘Electricity’ was written by Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys as a homage to KRAFTWERK and is basically the title composition speeded-up!

Kraftwerk-dusseldorf5It was also the first album to feature the classic line-up of Ralf Hütter, Florian Schneider, Wolfgang Flür and Karl Bartos, names which have gone down in folklore as the godfathers of modern electronic pop music… indeed OMD did another KRAFTWERK tribute entitled ‘RFWK’ for their 2010 comeback album ‘History Of Modern’ and Andy McCluskey described the two combos first personal encounter back in 1981 at the Zeche Club in Bochum as “like meeting your parents”!

‘Radio-Activity’ is also significant as it was KRAFTWERK’s first album with English lyrics and it was their first achieved by wholly electronic means. ‘Autobahn’ may have been the breakthrough LP but that featured guitar, violin and flute! KRAFTWERK’s fifth album saw the debut of a then-new keyboard contraption, the Vako Orchestron which amplified sounds pre-recorded on optical discs instead of tapes like with the Mellotron.

Creating the shimmering choir and string textures that were to become the retro-futuristic blueprint of acts such as OMD, ULTRAVOX and NEW ORDER, the Vako Orchestron complimented Kling Klang’s existing arsenal of Minimoog, ARP Odyssey, EMS Synthi A, Vocoder, Votrax, Farfisa Rhythm 10 and customised electronic percussion kits.

Kraftwerk-dusseldorf13The  concept had originally been themed around radio activity as in broadcasting as opposed to nuclear physics; the hyphen had been added to illustrate the point. But the band courted controversy on the album’s release with a series of promotional photos in atomic power stations. Their ambiguity with regards the politics of this sensitive issue angered the strong Green lobby in Germany and may have even contributed to their lack of popularity at the time in their home country.

However, the ‘Radio-Activity’ song itself was updated for the 1991 album ‘The Mix’ with an overt anti-nuclear message highlighting Tschernobyl, Harrisburgh, Sellafield and Hiroshima. Tonight in Düsseldorf, the recent Fukeshima disaster gave a stark resonance to this still evolving track with a reprise of the additional Japanese lyrics composed for the Tokyo ‘No Nukes’ concert last summer…

The romantic overtones, melodic synthpop, Teutonic tone poems and abstract sound collages of ‘Radio-Activity’ were to prove influential. DAVID BOWIE had it as his pre-show music on the 1976 ‘Station To Station’ tour and it clearly laid some of the groundwork for his legendary ‘Low’ and ‘Heroes’ albums while later in 1983, NEW ORDER sampled ‘Uranium’ for ‘Blue Monday’.

In that same year, OMD borrowed the concept for their now-highly regarded ‘Dazzle Ships’ album. While the ideas were clearly replicating sections of ‘Radio-Activity’ (see ‘The Romance Of The Telescope’ for ‘Radioland’, ‘Radio Waves’ for ‘Airwaves’, ‘Time Zones’ for ‘News’, ‘Telegraph’ for ‘Antenna’ and ‘Radio Prague’ for ‘Intermission’), whereas KRAFTWERK’s gist had been in almost blind praise for technological enhancements and wider communication, OMD’s lyrical focus cast doubt, cynicism and fear.

However, ‘Radio-Aktivität’ (or ‘Radio-Activity’) still remains an under rated triumph. Other than the title track, very few of its songs are cited in most people’s KRAFTWERK Top 10. One case in point is ‘Ohm Sweet Ohm’.

From its steady vocodered intro and classic drifting hook, it builds to a crescendo over the pulsing Minimoog bass and improvised virtuoso section to perhaps be one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever composed! ‘Airwaves’ and its whirring Odysseys over the frantic percussive backbone are a delight while the eerie chill of ‘Radioland’ is short wave experimentation at its best.

Kraftwerk-dusseldorf26The last word has to go to KRAFTWERK’s remaining founder member. As the evening finished with the striking ‘Music Non Stop’, each member departed in turn following their section of improvisation.

To sustained applause, the last man – Ralf Hütter – left the stage. His first and only words to the audience were “Bis morgen”. Or as they say in English “see you tomorrow”… the show will go on.


Setlist:

Kraftwerk-dusseldorf2Die Roboter
Geigerzähler
Radioaktivität
Radioland
Ätherwellen
Sendepause
Nachrichten
Die Stimme Der Energie
Antenne
Radio Sterne
Uran
Kraftwerk-dusseldorf7Transistor
Ohm Sweet Ohm
Autobahn
Trans Europa Express
Abzug
Metall Auf Metall
Spacelab
Das Modell
Die Mensch-Maschine
Nummern
Computerwelt
Kraftwerk-dusseldorf11Heimcomputer
Tour De France
Tour De France Étape 1

Vitamin
Planet Der Visionen

Boing Boom Tschak
Technopop
Music Non Stop


Kraftwerk-dusseldorf14‘Radio-Activity’ is available on Mute/EMI Records

KRAFTWERK play ‘The Catalogue 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8′ at Tate Modern, London from Wednesday 6th February to Thursday 14th February 2013

www.kraftwerk.com/

www.facebook.com/KraftwerkOfficial

https://twitter.com/kraftwerk


Text by Chi Ming Lai
13th January 2013