A conversation with Ralf Hutter of KRAFTWERK (May, 2005)


Above: Folk musicians touring the European countryside by bicycle. Photograph Roger-Viollet /Rex Features

The following was originally published in the LAWeekly on June 2, 2005…

Man-Machines of Loving Grace
by Jay Babcock

I like to think (and
the sooner the better!)
of a cybernetic meadow
where mammals and computers
live together in mutually
programming harmony
like pure water
touching clear sky.

—from “All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace” by Richard Brautigan

Next Tuesday, German electronic-music pioneers Kraftwerk will perform in Los Angeles for the first time since their now-legendary show at the Hollywood Palladium in 1996. That concert drew an appreciative, astoundingly diverse cross-genre audience: indie-rock nerds and art-school casualties, computer-programming geeks and hip-hop heads, synth freaks and industrial goths, every laptop musician west of the Colorado and — oh yes! — breakdancers. Machines, it seems, had succeeded in uniting humans.

It’s impossible to overstate Kraftwerk’s influence on pop music and culture over the last 30 years, from new wave to hip-hop, electronica to (yawn) Coldplay (who use the riff from “Computer Love” on their new song, “Talk”). We all know Kraftwerk songs — odes to transportation like “Autobahn” and “Trans-Europe Express,” future/now manifestoes like “Man/Machine” and “The Robots” — but it’s in the live context, where the songs are joined to specially designed graphics, that Kraftwerk achieves a purity of all-encompassing vision that secular music rarely touches. It’s all about rapture, and an interaction with — or longing for — a relationship with something other than human.

On the telephone, Ralf Hutter — co-founder of Kraftwerk with Florian Schneider, and now approaching 60 years of age — is helpful and deliberate, like a professor pleased to have a visitor who’s interested in his research on an obscure subject.

Q: There’s a bumper sticker that says “Drum machines have no soul.” Do you think that is true?

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from Big O Zine:

ROIO of the Week [Recordings of Indeterminate Origin]

K4: Bremen Radio 1971 [SEIDR 026]
Live at Gondel Kino, Bremen, Germany, June 25, 1971.

“There isn’t any extra information about this unofficial release either in the liner notes or on the interweb thing – however, as you listen it becomes obvious that this is indeed a recording of the rather short-lived lineup of Kraftwerk that includes Michael Rother and Klaus Dinger in its ranks! That’s right – Neu! as part of Kraftwerk!!!

“It’s basically a whole CD of extended “side-long” jams in the style of the first Kraftwerk albums performed in front of a small but enthusiastic audience and broadcast on Bremen Radio in 1971. The members of Neu! really take a forward role here, with Rother’s guitar driving things for most of the time and sounding quite rocking, with glimpses of his future soaring melodic sound in the extended jam passages. The guitar and drums are backed up by synth and I believe organ bass, with notable exceptions of flute taking the forefront on the great version of Ruckzack (from the first Kraftwerk LP) and is it distorted electric violin on K4? Maybe just Rother taking a violin bow to his guitar strings! Proto-Kraftwerk and proto-Neu! It’s exciting stuff, and on top of that the sound quality is excellent – a professional radio recording.

“How has this recording not become better known over the past 35 years since it was made?! I don’t know. It appears to be a newly released CDR edition with good-quality (but privately printed) packaging. Maybe it has stayed in the Radio Bremen archives until now? If you’re sceptical about the authenticity I’m sure a listen will persuade you… and hearing someone in the crowd shout “Michael!” in the last second of the recording is the icing on the cake.” – Little Bear [who shared the recording on the internet]

This isn’t the motorik, some might even say monotonous, electronic sound of Kraftwerk. Early Kraftwerk were more experimental with sounds and effects – not quite dance music.
– The Little Chicken

Click on the highlighted tracks to download the MP3s (these are high quality, stereo MP3s – sample rate of 192 kibit/s). As far as we can ascertain none of the tracks have been officially released.

Track 01 Heavy Metal Kids (07:54)

Track 02 K1 (15:39)

Track 03 K2 (Ruckzuck) (19:20)

Track 04 K3 (15:19)

Track 05 K4 (11:30)


Ralf Hutter [organ]
Florian Schneider [woodwind]
Michael Rother
Klaus Dinger

A+ Stereo Soundboard Recording taken from a recently issued R.O.I.O.