General English

Did you know… (part 1 of 3)

Did you know that in the music video for the song Trans Europe Express from 1977 Kraftwerk used excerpts from the film about the German super-train Schienenzeppelin 1930? The rest of the video, stylized in the work of Fritz Lang, was shot at moving from Düsseldorf to neighboring Duisburg train, far from the TEE route.

Did you know that heart beats in a song Elektrokardiogramm is an authentic record of Ralf Huetter`s heart?

Did you know that the song Tour de France is featured with the sound of Ralf Hütter`s breathe? To get tired, the singer ran up the stairs in the building of Kling Klang studio.

Did you know that main theme from Tour de France comes from sonata for flute and piano by German composer Paul Hindemith?

Did you know that the album Die Mensch Maschine was originally to carry the name of the Dynamo? The team gave up with it because the name was associated with the German football club.

Did you know that the cover of Die Mensch Maschine LP was designed by a close associate of the band, artist Emil Schult, using graphics of Karl Klefisch, inspired by the works of prominent Russian artwork, El Lissitzky? On the obverse cover the band placed photo by Günther Fröhling. Characteristic arrangement of the words „machine”, where letters form a vertically the same word, is the inspiration drawn from the cover of the Soviet magazine „Journalist”, which has been recognized by the authorities of the USSR as a hostile for the regime and closed.

Did you know that in a three-dimensional visualization to the song Autobahn the cars are almost identical to the vehicles belonging to Ralf Hütter once and Florian Schneider? Hütter`s grey VW Beetle has plate D KR 70 while Schneider`s black Mercedes D KR 74. Letter D represents Düsseldorf, KR Kraftwerk, 70 is the year 1970 (date of establishment of the band), and 74 is 1974, when the LP Autobahn was released.


10 things you must know about Kraftwerk

1. Where the name Kraftwerk comes from? What does it mean?
Kraftwerk is a German „power station”. The origin of the name explained by leader, Ralf Hütter:
„We had no idea how to call our team. We looked around, looking at stored in an electronic studio machinery. We thought then that if it has nothing to do with music, it looks like a plant or something. We chose the word Kraftwerk, because it underlines our German identity”. The artistic environment of West Germany at the turn of 60s and 70s had a dominant influence of Anglo- American culture. Using English names was in fashion, the use of the name with the German word has been treated by the local bohemia as an expression of a kind of avant-garde, or even madness. The founders of the band, R. Hütter and Florian Schneider – Esleben, notes and comments at the name treated with shrug, not intending to change it.

2. Are Kraftwerk songs sung only in German?
No. The singer R. Hütter sings in German, English , Japanese, Italian, French, Spanish and Portuguese, and Russian and, what is especially nice for us, Polish. Concerts are performed in one of the two leading languages (German or English ), and some of the songs in their course in other languages. We can also hear the songs, which are linguistic mosaic (eg. Nummern, Die Roboter, Technopop)

3. May the members of Kraftwerk be considered a celebrities? Were they heroes of scandals reported in the tabloids?
Members of the band from the moment of its foundation, more than 40 years, protect privacy, so little is known about their lives behind the scenes. Although the band has changed several times, this principle is still valid. Musicians of Kraftwerk define themselves not as artists, but „music workers”, clearly distancing himself from the world of celebrities. Twice, however, did not escape the excessive media interest: wide coverage in Germany rebounded agreement signed by the band and the organizers of the exhibition EXPO in Hanover in 1999. For composing a short jingle exhibition Kraftwerk reportedly pocketed DM 400.000, which public opinion in Germany, considered an exorbitant amount significantly. A year later, former drummer Wolfgang Flur, published the book „Ich war ein Roboter” (I was a robot), describing the many juicy details from the time of his cooperation with Hütter and Schneider. They exceptional reacted indignantly to each other, by bringing the matter to court. Note that the location of the team, Kling Klang studio is closed to the public. There is no signage, business cards, phone numbers in the phone book. However, many fans pilgrimage to a modest yard with Mintropstr. 16 in Düsseldorf effectively able to disturb the peace of neighbors studies. Currently, the seat of Kraftwerk is located on the outskirts of Düsseldorf, in Meerbusch. Of course, it is not marked in any way.  A few townspeople realize that modest bungalow, gray pavilion hides the resources of one of the greatest legends of contemporary music.
Introverted way of life and the creation of Kraftwerk intrigued media. Popularity gained rumor that supposedly quartet musicians do not use the phone, do not have e-mail addresses, or other trappings of technical civilization. This is not true.

4. Is there any concept of the work of Kraftwerk ?
Seemingly not. Each of the Kraftwerk LPs, is about something else: about highway travel, radio stations, railways, computers, or bike race. Kraftwerk reached to different sources of inspiration: European art of the 20s of the last century (Expressionism, Futurism), Krautrock, Bauhaus avant-garde composers (such as Karlheinz Stockhausen). Artists also looked around carefully around, a lot of experience provided them with an industrial landscape of North Rhine – Westphalia, and open the borders of neighboring countries. In this way, forged a distinctive feature of the band: a musical description of the relationship of man and machine. Machines pretend people (Die Mensch Maschine, Die Roboter, Schaufensterpuppen ), sometimes vice versa, people go machine (Boing Boom Tschak). But always cooperate, Kraftwerk is on stage at the same time the musicians and their instruments. Always together and always coordinate.
At the beginning of his work admired Kraftwerk technical advances, today is skeptical of unrestricted development of technology. This is illustrated by the changes, which made the song Kraftwerk Radioaktivität. Hymn to nuclear energy research, 1975 has changed after six years in the protest – song, first endorsed by the dramatic introduction of the consequences of nuclear disasters, and since 2012, also sung in Japanese version Radioaktivität – Houshanou, commemorating the accident at Fukushima.
Hütter, many years taking care of the physical condition vegetarian, the best co-existence of man and machine saw in the cycling. Cyclist and his vehicle form a perfectly harmonized whole, human – machine. Die Mensch Maschine. Cycling expressed his delight at the last, so far, the disc long play Kraftwerk Tour de France.

5. Has Kraftwerk already performed in Poland?
Yes, several times. In the past, however remarkable concerts. For the first time Kraftwerk arrived on the Vistula River in politically hot time, in August 1981, on the occasion of their first world tour. They played 7 concerts . Fans were attracted by the huge banners heralding „Electronic Rock from Germany”. Musicians were sad due to view of the gray streets mired in a crisis state, and delighted by the audience reaction raging. So technologically advanced band Poland has never seen and not heard. Spectators were impressed not only by great music, not only by futuristic luminaire team, but also by the vision of the world. World, where you can enjoy a trip on the highway, cross the borders without any problems, go to Vienna and enjoy a coffee or meet with friends in Paris. Kraftwerk showed Poles a different world, for the people of the free world plain, which was a dream for Poles. Communist propaganda persistently showed western Germans as evil descendants of the Nazis, while for the thousands from the crowd of listeners band Kraftwerk were just nice people, ambassadors else – a better world. German quartet came to Poland at that time, in which Poles needed hope and support, as expressed for example through art. None of the bands performing in Poland in the 80s it was not for the Poles more important than Kraftwerk. At a concert in Warsaw, only a small group of spectators did not participate in the general play, which swept the audience. They were Soviet officers. The rest of the audience was not interested in their grim faces , the Poles preferred to dance with Hutter, singing in Polish, „Jestem operator i mam minikalkulator”. Once again, Kraftwerk came to Polish in 2004, an accident a few weeks after Poland became a member of the European Union. Live in Warsaw , fortunately, was only a musical event, not a political one. Fans were delighted with the quality of sound, this view also shared the band by placing the recordings from Warsaw on live CD Minimum Maximum. Only a few listeners were smiling at the thought that Kraftwerk is in the same Congress Hall, which held Polish Communist Party summits. In 2008, Kraftwerk was the star of the 6th edition of the Sacrum Profanum Festival in Krakow. An excellent background for the music of Kraftwerk was inside industrial conglomerate in Nowa Huta. The unique location of the concert boasted Hütter so much that he did not want to fall apart with Nowa Huta. The last (at this moment, We hope)  Kraftwerk concert in Poland was in Poznan during the Festival of Malta. On Friday, June 28, 2013 Kraftwerk presented the 3D spectacle for the first time in Central Europe.

6. How Kraftwerk`s creativity influenced the sound of modern music ?
Kraftwerk is regarded by audiences and critics as one of the pillars of modern music. OMD, David Bowie, Depeche Mode, Duran Duran, Ultravox, Alan Parson’s Project, Eurythmics, Pet Shop Boys, Gary Numan, Giorgio Moroder, Moby, Bjork, The Chemical Brothers. They were influenced by Kraftwerk, as they admit. List of the names is so substantial and impressive that it is difficult to select from it the most important. Kraftwerk through it`s work also contributed to the creation of entire genres of music such as techno, house , electro pop, new wave, and even hip-hop. Andy McCluskey, the leader of OMD has described in an interview, the heritage of Kraftwerk as the DNA of modern music.

7. Are the members of Kraftwerk musically educated?
Kraftwerk is a group of professionals well prepared for the profession. Ralf Hütter, who is co-founder of the band, studied at the Robert Schumann Conservatory in Düsseldorf and at the Academy of Music in Remscheid improvisation on the piano. Before created Kraftwerk, played the organ in several electronic rock- and-roll bands. Henning Schmitz graduated from the Academy of Music in Düsseldorf. He is a sound engineer and visual technician, and also a lecturer at the Institut Robert Schumann. He owns recording studio located in Cologne. It deals with music production , sound production and mastering. Friedrich „Fritz” Hilpert is a trumpet player, drummer and sound engineer. In the past, he could be also admire as a keyboardist. In addition to the activities in Kraftwerk, Fritz Hilpert creates electronic music as soloist. Falk Grieffenhagen, who is the youngest „acquisition” Kraftwerk is a trained clarinetist, flautist, saxophonist and jazz pianist. Like Schmitz, graduated in Düsseldorf sound engineering and visual techniques. In addition to Kraftwerk he iss a saxophonist in his own jazz quartet. He is also co-author of the wonderful, three-dimensional visualizations.

8. Does Kraftwerk collaborate with other artists ?
Over the years, the ratio of Kraftwerk to the musical collaboration has changed. Initially, the band was oriented strongly individualistic. Back in the seventies, was not to be persuaded to cooperate with such a stars like David Bowie, Iggy Pop and Giorgio Moroder. Duo Bowie – Iggy Pop was, however, noticed by Kraftwerk in one verse of Trans-Europe Express. Popularity and recognition for the achievements of Kraftwerk in the eighties were already commonplace. In the first half of the decade Michael Jackson came with the proposal of cooperation. The quarter remained unmoved. Fama says that Hütter went to the United States at the invitation of the King of Pop, taking the demos in a travel bag, but eventually Jacskon met with refusal. Kraftwerk appreciated French DJ` and producer François Kevorkian. In 1984 band accepted the prepared remix of single Tour de France, who lived to a separately released on 12”. Cooperation with Kevorkian proved to be long-term, because his remixes of Kraftwerk appeared under their own name until 2004. In the meantime, the team has partnered with many musicians of the younger generation. Results were released in 2002 on EP Expo Remix , which included several remixes of the song Expo 2000 . Kraftwerk uses it to this day on stage, combining the particular elements in one song Planet der Visions. An unprecedented event in the history of the band came in 2009. Kraftwerk agreed to a joint mini – tour with a group Radiohead. It is not easy to work with „music workers“. In 2005, the band Coldplay released the single entitled Talk, which became a worldwide hit. This work is somehow encapsulated around the theme of Computerliebe. Coldplay in a special letter to the band, written in German, asked for permission to use this passage. After some time, from Düsseldorf came quite laconic answer in the form of hand- written „Ja”.

9 What is the Kraftwerk’s instrumentarium ?
Kraftwerk has not always played exclusively on electronic instruments. In the early years of the band extensively used stringed instruments. The last time the guitar and flute appeared on the album Autobahn in the title track and the closing Morgenspaziergang. Then F. Schneider, co-founder of Kraftwerk, who left the band four years ago, remade his flute to touchable electronic instrument. For decades the dream of Kraftwerk was unrestricted mobility. Concert performance of electronic music in the seventies and eighties caused a big problem. Mechanical equipment was heavy, large sized and often unreliable. After all, in 1981, Kraftwerk was able to realize a world tour, traveling to the furthest corners of the globe with the entire studio, the modular design allowed for relatively easy, albeit expensive transportation. In interviews from that period Hütter expressed the hope that in the future he will „close all music in a small device”, which lived in 2002. For eleven years, the main carrier of Kraftwerk`s music are four laptops and one collective memory. Built in futuristic-looking and illuminated control consoles, are vital tools for the team. The contents of each of the four desktops visible on stage is different from each other and is dependent on the division of roles in the team. Hütter and Schmitz outside computers have music keyboards, controllers vocoder and a mini – console with touch devices that serve to generate sound effects. Hilpert is using a set of knobs and touch screen plays off the drums and mixing live music while Grieffenhagen is using devices on his desktop to control the parameters of video and lighting. Most of the instrumentation was built to individual Kraftwerk order, therefore in vain to look for it on the shelves of even the best music stores. One of the major technology partners Kraftwerk are laboratories of renowned brands like Sony and Doepfer.

10. Are static poses of members of the band during the concert is just an idea to stand out ?
Absolutely not, but it`s the group`s characteristic. It stems rather from the specific work Kraftwerk on stage. The number of parameters and tools that members of the group must simultaneously control and adapt is so large that it is hard for a living contact with the audience. Rhythmic and tonal precision which Kraftwerk developed over the years and which became his calling card, commits the team to maintain the highest quality of its concerts. For two hours we are watching „music workers” extremely focused on the music and the image coming from the stage to be as near to perfection as possible and properly synchronized.

by Tomasz Wójcik & Jakub Budzyński