To say Kraftwerk are a band of few words is kinda like saying they're a band of few sounds -- both would be right and both would be wrong. Both would also be a compliment.
Why? Well, in the first place, Kraftwerk (that is, co-founder Ralf Hütter) rarely grants interviews. In the second, their music is about as sparse as can be.
Nevertheless during Asheville's much-lauded Moogfest, one of the men behind the myth and the legend, which is more than a lot responsible for what we hear right this minute, came out from behind the curtain, if only to prove he's both a wizard and a true star -- and not a robot after all.
Since the highly-influential sound of Kraftwerk has been the subject of most interviewers' interviews, we here at Crossfade decided to start with art. Here's what Herr Hütter had to say.
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Kraftwerk at Moogfest 2014.
Photo by Jeffrey Delannoy
Crossfade: If you had to choose, would it be Otto Dix, George Grosz, or Max Beckmann?
That's a difficult decision. They're all from the same era; so-called Social painters, so...
Did you like the Weimar era?
Oh, of course.
But you don't have a favorite?
Not really. They're all important.
Perhaps a little further back, say, Caspar David Friedrich?
Also, sure, because he's very visual. I studied architecture for a time.
Yes, and then we went into music, and, as you know, we come from the late-'60s art scene in Dusseldorf, with our friend Sigmar Polke -- who's got his first retrospective at MOMA now -- so we were hanging out.
Was Joseph Beuys there too?
Yeah. Emil Schult was also there helping us write lyrics for Autobahn and doing our record covers, and he was a link between [Gerhard] Richter and Polke. We were playing the galleries and we'd go out to discos and so that was the Dusseldorf scene in late '60s, where we started.
That's also where our visual connotation comes from, because we create the images; we don't hire an outside artist or work with somebody else. It's all in house.
Speaking of in house, I was front row, stage right, last night where I could seriously consider the elements of each track -- you spend some time on each sound, don't you?
Of course. Kling Klang, our studio, is named for the German verb klingen, which is sounding, and klang, which is the sound. So, yin and yang, kling klang. It's also the type of sound that we prefer, metallic and soft at the same time: kling klang sound.
Herr Hütter and crew at Ultra 2012.
Photo by Ian Witlen
So super-sparse is not only intentional -- it's essential?
Yes, the idea is to play as little notes as possible.
Do you still have fun out there on stage?
Oh, yes! We've been touring the West Coast; we did the Gehry [Disney Hall]; one album per show. And next, we do Vienna's Burgtheater, which is the oldest German-language theater in the world, and there we will also do an album per show.
Wow! How large is your crew?
Just 13 people.
But 13 knowledgeable people, no?
Yes, very knowledgeable people.
Not like it used to be, I imagine?
No, not at all. It got to a point where we couldn't fly anymore, because the equipment was so heavy and fragile.
So the digital age has freed you?
It has. We can go everywhere. And we are.
Before you leave, may I ask you what influence Moog has had on your music?
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We met him when we were recording a TV show in Los Angeles back in '75 and Mr. Moog was there. We used a monophonic Minimoog -- we didn't have the budget for the larger one -- but he, of course, knew that already. What he didn't know was that meeting the machine's inventor was one of the true highlights of our lives.
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