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KRAFTWERK-BIO300Kraftwerk are a German electronic music band formed by Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider in 1970 in Düsseldorf, and was fronted by them until Schneider’s departure in 2008. The signature Kraftwerk sound combines driving, repetitive rhythms with catchy melodies, mainly following a Western Classical style of harmony, with a minimalistic and strictly electronic instrumentation. The group’s simplified lyrics are at times sung through a vocoder or generated by computer-speech software. Kraftwerk were one of the first groups to popularize electronic music and are considered pioneers in the field.

In the 1970s and early 1980s, Kraftwerk’s distinctive sound was revolutionary, and has had a lasting effect across many genres of modern music. According to The Observer, “no other band since the Beatles has given so much to pop culture” and a wide range of artists have been influenced by their music and image. In October 2012, Kraftwerk were nominated for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Kraftwerk’s musical style and image can be heard and seen in later electronic music successes such as Gary Numan, Ultravox, John Foxx, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, Human League, Depeche Mode, Visage, and Soft Cell, to name a few. Kraftwerk would also go on to influence other forms of music such as hip hop, house, and drum and bass, and they are also regarded as pioneers of the electro genre. Most notably, “Trans Europe Express” and “Numbers” were interpolated into “Planet Rock” by Afrika Bambaataa & The Soul Sonic Force, one of the earliest hip-hop/electro hits. Techno was created by three musicians from Detroit, often referred to as the ‘Belleville three’ (Juan Atkins, Kevin Saunderson & Derrick May), who fused the repetitive melodies of Kraftwerk with funk rhythms. Vince Clarke of Erasure, Yazoo, and Depeche Mode, is also a notable disco and Kraftwerk fan. Daniel Miller, former boss of Mute Records, purchased the vocoder used by Kraftwerk in their early albums, comparing it to owning Jimi Hendrix’s guitar. Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys, founding members of OMD, have stated that Kraftwerk was a major reference on their early work, and covered “Neon Lights” on their 1991 album, Sugar Tax. The electronic band Ladytron were inspired by Kraftwerk’s song “The Model” when they composed their debut single “He Took Her To a Movie”. Richard D James (Aphex Twin), has noted Kraftwerk as one of his biggest influences and called Computer World as a very influential album towards his music and sound. Björk has cited the band as one of her main musical influences. Electronic musician Kompressor has cited Kraftwerk as an influence. The band was also mentioned in the song “Rappers We Crush” by Kompressor and MC Frontalot (“I hurry away, get in my Chrysler. Oh, the dismay!/Someone’s replaced all of my Backstreet Boys with Kraftwerk tapes!”). Dr. Alex Paterson of The Orb listed The Man-Machine as one of his 13 most favourite albums of all time. According to NME, Kraftwerk’s pioneering “robot pop” also spawned groups like Prodigy, and Daft Punk.

Kraftwerk inspired many acts from other styles and genres. David Bowie’s “V-2 Schneider”, from the 1977’s “Heroes” album, was a tribute to Florian Schneider. Post-punk bands Joy Division and New Order were heavily influenced by the band. Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis was a fan, and showed his colleagues records that would influence their music. New Order’s song “Your Silent Face” has some similarities with “Europe Endless”, the first song on Trans-Europe Express, and had a working title of KW1, or Kraftwerk 1. New Order also recorded a song called “Krafty” that appeared as a single and on the album Waiting for the Sirens’ Call. New Order also would sample “Uranium” in their 1983 songs “Blue Monday” and “The Beach”. Siouxsie and the Banshees recorded a cover of “Hall of Mirrors” on their Through the Looking Glass album. Pop American band Blondie have admitted in several occasions that Kraftwerk were an important reference for their sound by the time they were working on their third album Parallel Lines. Actually, the worldwide smash hit “Heart of glass” turned radically from an initial reggae-flavoured style to its distinctive electronic sound in order to imitate the technological approach of Kraftwerk’s albums and adapt it to a disco concept. In this respect, Blondie’s member Chris Stein has stated: “We didn’t expect the song to be that big (…) We weren’t thinking about selling out, we were thinking about Kraftwerk and Eurodisco”. U2 recorded a cover version of “Neon Lights” and included it as the B-side of their 2004 single “Vertigo”. The band also performed some Kraftwerk songs as snippets during live shows. U2’s frontman Bono also stated he is a huge fan of the German electronic band. Simple Minds recorded a cover of the Kraftwerk track “Neon Lights” and included it on an all-cover tunes album by the same name, they also played it live during their Graffiti Soul tour of 2009. Franz Ferdinand were inspired by Kraftwerk’s song “The Model” when writing their song “Walk Away”. The similarity is especially heard in the intro of the song. German industrial metal band Rammstein also covered a version of “The Model” entitled “Das Modell”, released as a non-album single in 1997.


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september 12th, 2013 at 8:00 am

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