Florian Schneider, One of the Founders of Kraftwerk, Is Dead at 73

Florian Schneider, One of the Founders of Kraftwerk, Is Dead at 73

Florian Schneider, One of the Founders of Kraftwerk, Is Dead at 73

Florian Schneider, One of the Founders of Kraftwerk, Is Dead at 73

Florian Schneider, one of the founders of Kraftwerk, the German band that revolutionized pop music through its embrace of synthesizers and electronic beats, leading to a broad influence over rock, dance music and hip-hop, has died. He was 73.

In a statement, the group said Mr. Schneider had died from cancer “just a few days” after his birthday, which was April 7.

Founded in Düsseldorf in 1970 by Mr. Schneider and Ralf Hütter, Kraftwerk was first seen as part of the so-called Krautrock genre — a German branch of experimental rock that, among other things, explored extended, repetitive rhythms.

But by the time of Kraftwerk’s album “Autobahn,” released in 1974, it became clear that the group was developing something even more elemental and extreme. The 22-minute title track, which took up the entire first side of the LP, began with a robotic voice intoning “autobahn,” the German word for highway, and continued with buoyant, hypnotic synthesizer sounds that conveyed a sense of gliding through a futuristic landscape.

On later albums, like “Trans-Europe Express” (1977) and “The Man-Machine” (1978), Mr. Schneider and Mr. Hütter — joined by musicians including Karl Bartos and Wolfgang Flür — developed their ideas further. They created a catchy and provocative version of electronic pop and toyed with concepts of the role of human beings in an increasingly mechanized society.

Mr. Schneider and Mr. Hütter both played keyboards — in the early days, Mr. Schneider also played the flute — and produced the group’s albums at Klang Klang, Kraftwerk’s studio in Düsseldorf. They characterized the group as a “multimedia project” rather than simply a band.

“The whole complex we use,” Mr. Schneider told the rock critic Lester Bangs in a 1975 interview, referring to the studio, “can be regarded as one machine, even though it is divided into different pieces.” Mr. Bangs assumed that Mr. Schneider and Mr. Hütter considered themselves just part of the machine.

In concert, they would mime their performances at machines that simply played prerecorded tracks, and sometimes the human musicians would exit the stage entirely, replaced by rudimentary robot effigies that “performed” in their place.

While early rock critics were often baffled by Kraftwerk, the group’s influence had started to become clear by the mid-1970s. David Bowie named the track “V-2 Schneider,” from his 1977 album “Heroes,” in tribute to Mr. Schneider, and the two acts were mutually appreciative.

In 1982, Kraftwerk became part of the bedrock of early hip-hop when Afrika Bambaataa and his group Soul Sonic Force recreated the beat to Kraftwerk’s song “Trans-Europe Express” on “Planet Rock.”

Mr. Hütter usually spoke for the group in interviews, with Mr. Schneider sitting quietly by. “Florian is a sound fetishist,” Mr. Hütter told the British music magazine Mojo in 2005. “I am not so much, I’m maybe more a word fetishist.”

“These roles are not an obligation,” he added. “They have just developed over the years as our preferences.”

Kraftwerk has been nominated for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame six times — including for the most recent class — but has yet to be inducted. The group was given a lifetime achievement award at the Grammys in 2014.

Mr. Schneider left Kraftwerk in 2008 and did not participate in later tours, including a 2012 series of performances at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. In February, the group announced plans for a “3-D” tour of North America to celebrate its 50th anniversary.

A complete obituary will be published shortly.


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