Kraftwerk on Cycling, 3D, ‘Spiritual Connection’ to Detroit
Kraftwerk, originally formed in Germany in 1968, is one of electronic music’s most legendary groups, a band that can lay claim to playing a role in the development of techno, industrial and hip-hop. Nearly 50 years later, Kraftwerk is still going strong; an ambitious “3D tour” of North America kicks off September 16th. For Kraftwerk’s lead singer and keyboardist, Ralf Hütter, the journey never gets boring. “Sometimes there’s different traffic on the autobahn,” he says. “It’s all real. That’s what makes it interesting. Our compositions are like minimalistic film scripts or theater scripts. We can work with this; it’s never going to be the same. It changes over the years.”
During a rare interview with Hütter — the sole remaining original member of Kraftwerk; his longtime partner, Florian Schneider, left the group in 2008 — we covered a wide array of subjects, from new album projects and reissues to Kraftwerk’s favorite sport (cycling) and their longtime love of Detroit.
One city that really sticks out on your upcoming U.S. tour itinerary is Detroit, which has a storied alliance with Kraftwerk. You haven’t played Detroit in 10 years.
We’ve been to Detroit several times with our friends, [Detroit techno DJs and producers] Juan Atkins and Derrick May, visiting some clubs and some locations over the past many years ago…
There’s quite a techno connection, Kraftwerk to Detroit. Maybe you know that photograph of the robots in front of the theater — that’s the State Theatre in Detroit. The industrial sound of Motor City and Kraftwerk on the autobahn, there’s a spiritual connection. Automatic rhythms, robotic work, robotic music — all kinds of fantasies are going on.
I was struck, the first time I went to Detroit, at how much they love Kraftwerk. It’s almost a religion there.
Yes, in the very early days, the [Detroit radio DJ] Electrifyin’ Mojo played our music, the Computer World album, on radio. Our music wasn’t always played on radio; it was not so popular, apart from Autobahn in the 1970s. In the late Seventies it started again in Detroit. So there’s this spiritual connection. We feel very strongly the energy and always have tried to come back and perform there. Maybe we can arrange with our friends some after-hours locations or parties. We’ll see what we can do.
Can we get an update on when the new Kraftwerk album is coming out?
We are working since all these performances at MoMA in 2012 — and then we played the Düsseldorf Kunstsammlung in the winter and Tate Modern in London, and other art museums around the world, and some interesting locations like the Sydney Opera House and Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, where we did our performances in 3D. We translated our performances to 3D, and in surround sound, kind of like 3D sound. We’ve been doing this and working on a Blu-Ray to make this available. It should be coming out in the late fall. We’ve put a lot of work into all the images, transforming from our Kling Klang archives into 3D format and arranging it synchronized with the music, so it’s quite a lot of production. We’re quite a small team of musicians, technicians, computer programmers here at Kling Klang Studios; we do everything ourselves. That’s what we’ve been working in, and still are. When we travel to America, we’ll hopefully be finished with this work.
Is Florian consulting at all with the new project?
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