Kraftwerk are the foundation upon which all synthesizer-based rock and electronic dance music is built. Founded in Düsseldorf in 1970 by Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider, the group was part of a new wave of musicians in Germany exploring the intersection of rock & roll and the avant-garde. Working from their self-made Kling Klang Studio they conceived and produced all the band’s music. After three early experimental releases, their fourth album Autobahn (1974) established the beginning of something new. The 22-minute title track took the listener on an electronic musical journey and represented an innovative use of technology through its amalgamation of synthesizers, vocals and vocoders, traditional instrumentation, and elaborate multitrack recording. Kraftwerk’s 1977 album Trans-Europe Express established their presentation as a synthesized quartet, and the title track featured some of the funkiest grooves and synthetic sounds ever put on wax. New York City’s burgeoning hip-hop community quickly latched on to the album, and DJ Afrika Bambaataa based his hip-hop classic “Planet Rock” (1982) on Kraftwerk’s melodies beats.
The following years secured Kraftwerk’s place as both musical innovators and master songwriters. The albums The Man-Machine (1978), Computer World (1981) and Techno Pop (1986) demonstrated Kraftwerk’s prescient powers of prediction, presenting a future founded in technological innovations years before it was a reality. The band established the blueprint for modern electronic music (including Chicago house and Detroit techno) – without them it simply would not exist. Kraftwerk have been sampled widely, from New Order’s use of “Uranium” in their masterpiece “Blue Monday,” to artists as varied as JAY-Z, “Always Be My Sunshine,” and Coldplay, “Talk.”
Kraftwerk’s influence can be heard in the work of David Bowie and Brian Eno, the synth-pop of Depeche Mode, the electronic-rock integration of U2, the “robot rock” of Daft Punk, the production techniques of Kanye West, and in countless EDM and dubstep artists. Kraftwerk are entirely unique – they have produced Number One chart success with their song “The Model,” and were invited to perform for a series of multi-media 3-D performances of their catalogue albums 12345678 at the Museum of Modern Art NYC and the Tate Modern London with their famous robots in recognition of their contributions to avant-garde art. Kraftwerk have been, and will always be, “Music Non-Stop.”
Selected discography: “Ruckzuck,” Kraftwerk (1970) • “Tanzmusik,” Ralf und Florian (1973) • “Autobahn,” Autobahn (1974) • “Showroom Dummies,” “Trans-Europe Express,” Trans-Europe Express (1977) • “The Robots,” “Neon Lights,” The Man-Machine (1978) • “Pocket Calculator,” “Computer Love,” Computer World (1981) • “Techno Pop,” “Musique Non-Stop,” Electric Café (1986) • “Radioactivity,” The Mix (1991) • “Aéro Dynamik,” “Tour de France,” Tour de France Soundtracks (2003)
Inductees: Ralf Hütter, Florian Schneider, Karl Bartos, Wolfgang Flür
Influences: The Beach Boys, The Velvet Underground, Karlheinz Stockhausen
Legacies: David Bowie, Depeche Mode, Daft Punk
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