Kraftwerk’s Florian Schneider dies

Posted on May 6, 2020
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Electronic rock artist and noted “sound fetishist” Florian Schneider has died. The co-founder of Germany’s hugely influential Kraftwerk was 73.

“Kraftwerk co-founder and electric pioneer Ralf Huetter has sent us the very sad news that his friend and companion over many decades Florian Schneider has passed away from a short cancer disease just a few days after his 73rd birthday (in April),” group publisher Warner Music announced May 6.

Kraftwerk, founded by Schneider and Huetter in 1970, is best known for its epic “Autobahn” of 1974, and remains a popular touring act. A private and shadowy figure, Schneider stopped performing with the “robot pop” act in 2006 and left the group soon after. Rumors of his death had circulated earlier in the year.

“Kraftwerk are to contemporary electronic music what the Beatles and the Rolling Stones are to contemporary rock music,” Moby told the New York Times in 2009. David Bowie was an enthusiastic fan, adopting some of the band’s sounds on his album “Low” and naming a song after Schneider.

While electronic music existed as a genre for most of the 20th century, even making occasional appearances in the mainstream, Kraftwerk’s brand of hypnotic industrial atmospherics ultimately mutated (via other artists) into synth pop, trance, house, ambient, techno and EDM. (“Kraftwerk” means “power plant.”) Tangerine Dream found even more success as a fellow traveler hailing from Germany’s experimental music scene.

With its blips, synth-swirls and bop-bop vocal snippets, the 22-minute “Autobahn” offered a virtual journey on Germany’s freeways. Despite the length and electronic foundations, “Autobahn” proved surprisingly breezy and accessible. A radio-friendly edit provided the unlikely hit. Kraftwerk returned to transportation mode in 1983, with cycling fans Schneider and Huetter wheeling out the single “Tour de France.”

While Kraftwerk found only limited success in the United States, its live act, in which the players performed as emotionless humanoids, wormed its way into popular culture via new wave act Devo and performance artists Blue Man Group.

Schneider, son of a famed architect, liked to create his own instruments such as the synthesized-singing Robovox. He played flute, violin and some keyboards, and was dubbed by his partner as a “sound fetishist.” Eventually, Schneider said, “I threw the flute away.” He co-wrote and co-produced almost all of Kraftwerk’s music.

The band recorded its first album in 1970, utilizing the avant-garde and psychedelic sounds found in Krautrock of the day. The group eventually disowned its first three albums, preferring to begin its revisionist discography with 1974’s “Autobahn.”

Key recordings include “Trans-Europe Express” (1977), “The Man-Machine” (1978) and “Computer World” (1981). Kraftwerk was frequently sampled, notably on Afrika Bambaataa’s “Planet Rock,” and Dr. Dre and Jay-Z’s “Under Pressure.”

The band was short-listed for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s class of 2020.

Kraftwerk is currently scheduled for a summer tour in North America.


Report courtesy of Psychedelic Sight


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