We chewed the white noise with a man who needs little introduction. Ex-Kraftwerk percussionist and solo musician Wolfgang Flür has had a music career so illustrious that he remembers the original SOUNDS! We caught up with him after his sell out show at Manchester Gorilla..
Questions: Mark Stagg / Interview: David Cameron-Pryde
Sounds: Wolfgang! Welcome to Manchester, you’ve visited before? How was the show and what do you think of the city?
WF: I like the city much, I’ve done shows there since 2015. I was also a participant of the “Louder Than Words“ festival 2015 where I introduced the people to my friend’s book ELECTRICITY-DÜSSELDORF. Book reading and discussion in this spooky chic Principle Hotel. My show at the Gorilla Club was outstanding, people couldn’t believe my playlist. I’m always good for surprises…
Sounds: Going back, what can you remember about your earliest musical experiences? Could you give us a favourite record from your youth?
WF: I was 10. Living with my family in Koblenz on River Rhine and River Mosel, where both meet. I was ill, had a high fever. In our Grundig mono-radio I heard a classic program. Khatchaturians Sabre Dance was given. In my fever I saw the howling dervishes riding their horses in the Puszta, rattling their sabres. I loved that music so much that I begged my father to buy me a mono-single from the opus so that I could play it myself as often as I wanted. Very much to the disaster of my both brothers, ha ha ha. This music was an approach to touching loud rhythmic and elegiac music in connection with romantic melodies, a dramatic liaison…
Sounds: There’s an amazing clip on your Facebook page of your early band, The Spirits Of Sound (which included another German music-legend, Michael Rother). You’re being pulled along on a trolley accompanying a girl singer, and you all look quite uncomfortable! Am I correct? What on Earth was going on?
WF: Good question – “what the hell did we do there“? Hmmm – we had an invitation of the German movie director Kurt Hoffman who filmed scenes for “Ein Tag Ist Schöner Als Der Andere“ (one day is nicer than the other), a kitschy teenage love affair film. A girl of a pony farm wanted to become a pop singer. She is driving with us on these trolleys around the area of the Düsseldorf Teenage Fair, singing this song to make the people attentive for the coming movie.
This day was so awkward to us, because we loved to play English pop music more instead of German Schlager. In this case at Teenage Fair we were well paid and we needed the money. We were young, remember? The Spirits Of Sound was a great band to me. Especially because of Michael who later left the band and accompanied Kraftwerk for a short while.
Sounds: Can you tell us a little about your first joining Kraftwerk – your initial impressions?
WF: They had hired me for one of their first TV appearances in the famous culture program ASPEKTE where we played “Tanzmusik“ (dance music) with our self made electric drum-pads-board. Florian and I had excogitated it shortly before we left Düsseldorf in October 1973 to fly Berlin’s ZDF TV studio. I had tinkered the board, it still smelt of Pattex glue. I was a skilled carpenter, a good artisan. Thanks to the internet, someone uploaded the contribution, it can be watched here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UIbSkw4yvec I was a still a hippy then, with my moustache a la Musketeers.
Sounds: You were one of the very first drummers to play an electronic kit. What was that like?
WF: I played our self-made Drum-Pads-Board connected to a transistorised Farfisa Rhythm 10 Beat Box. Playing it made me proud during our first TV appearance. During the performance I had a music historical klick in my brain, noticing that this might be the future of drumming. I also came to the decision to stay as steady member with Ralf and Florian’s group which they had offered me. The board looked like this: (image 1)
Sounds: Kraftwerk were one of the few bands who became successful worldwide even though you maintained a very strong German identity – something that was very unusual at the time. How aware of that were you? Do you think national identity still exists much in popular music, or is it now simply a “global-language”?
WF: Our music and look was not adapted to any other music or image. We created something new, something that should be as self-reliant and unique like the Beach Boys sound and their all American style, but in German! Of course we had the luck that we were give a new music instrument in hands – the Synthesizer, a technical device – by Ralf and Florian’s former co-producer Konrad Plank. With this and some other simple analog equipment we conquered the world and presented us more like technicians instead of musicians. We played DEUTSCHLANDPRÄZISION! (german precision).
Nowadays I cannot detect another German group with such an image we had and the current Kraftwerk mark III still has. I do believe that we are on an international music connection and understanding. For instance I work with artists from all over the world from my home via internet on new songs. It is on hands that my next album has the fitting name “COLLABORATORS“.
This could not happen if we had not such a strong and fast internet as today. We send musical files there and back via attachments. Sounds, samples, whole stems, notes, images, even movies fly there and back many times a day. We discuss music arrangements and sounds via skype, whatsapp or other media. The world shrinks and shrinks. “Global Language“ is a good word for common understanding.
Sounds: Many people think popular music is now no longer as culturally important as it was in the 70s and 80s. What are your feelings about that? Have computers democratised music, and if so, is that a good or bad thing?
WF: The way of music creating has changed and I believe that pop music is still necessary and has impact on thinking and feeling humanity. It depends on who creates. Good lyrics are important, good stories to tell is a talent. Melodies and sounds to create in whatever genre is important. Computers are a helpful tool. Recording programs are a blessing for creatives. On the other hand bad for established recording studios, so far I can see. Computers have not democratised anything, they are just helpers to artists like the inserted programs. Creativity is a talent, a talent which can be very very different and multiple. I cannot see a good or bad rating in such.
This is a preview piece. To read full article please collect you free print copy of SOUNDS Magazine from your local independent record shop from May 12th!.