This band changed the face of music, and have had a hand in the development of everything.
The German pronunciation of their name is - ˈkʀaftvɛɐk, "power station".
They were formed in 1970 by Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider, out of Düsseldorf, and fronted by them until Schneider's left during 2008.
The sound they are best known for, combines driving, repetitive rhythms with catchy melodies, mainly following a Western classical style of harmony, with a minimalistic and strictly electronic instrumentation.
The group also uses very simple lyrics, which at times are recorded through a vocoder, and sometimes originated from computer-speech software.
Kraftwerk were one of the first ever groups to popularise electronic music and are thought of as pioneers.
During the 1970s/early 1980s, their unique sound was highly revolutionary, and has caused a long lasting effect over countless genres of contemporary music, including;- Electronic Dance Music, Synthpop, Industrial, Techno, Trance, Avant-Garde and many others.
According to The Observer, "no other band since the Beatles has given so much to pop culture" and a wide range of artists have been influenced by their music and image.
In January 2014 the Grammy Academy honored Kraftwerk with their Lifetime Achievement Award.
According to music journalist Neil McCormick, Kraftwerk might be "the most influential group in pop history".
Kraftwerk's musical style and image can be heard and seen in later electronic music successes such as Gary Numan, Ultravox, John Foxx, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, Human League, Depeche Mode, Visage, and Soft Cell.
Kraftwerk helped ignite the New York electro-movement.
Techno was created by three musicians from Detroit, often referred to as the 'Belleville three' (Juan Atkins, Kevin Saunderson & Derrick May), who fused the repetitive melodies of Kraftwerk with Funk rhythms. The Belleville three were heavily influenced by Kraftwerk and their sounds because Kraftwerk's sounds appealed to the middle-class blacks residing in Detroit at this time.
Daniel Miller, former boss of Mute Records, purchased the vocoder used by Kraftwerk in their early albums, comparing it to owning Jimi Hendrix's guitar.
Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys, founding members of OMD, have stated that Kraftwerk was a major reference on their early work, and covered "Neon Lights" on the 1991 album, Sugar Tax.
The electronic band Ladytron were inspired by Kraftwerk's song "The Model" when they composed their debut single "He Took Her To a Movie". Richard D James (Aphex Twin), has noted Kraftwerk as one of his biggest influences and called Computer World as a very influential album towards his music and sound.
Björk has cited the band as one of her main musical influences.
Electronic musician Kompressor has cited Kraftwerk as an influence. The band was also mentioned in the song "Rappers We Crush" by Kompressor and MC Frontalot ("I hurry away, get in my Chrysler. Oh, the dismay!/Someone's replaced all of my Backstreet Boys with Kraftwerk tapes!"). Dr. Alex Paterson of the Orb listed The Man-Machine as one of his 13 most favourite albums of all time.
According to NME, Kraftwerk’s pioneering "robot pop" also spawned groups like Prodigy, and Daft Punk.
Kraftwerk inspired many acts from other styles and genres. David Bowie's "V-2 Schneider", from the 1977's Heroes album, was a tribute to Florian Schneider.
Post Punk bands Joy Division and New Order were heavily influenced by the band. Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis was a fan, and showed his colleagues records that would influence their music. New Order's song "Your Silent Face" has some similarities with "Europe Endless", the first song on Trans-Europe Express, and had a working title of "KW1", or "Kraftwerk 1". New Order also recorded a song called "Krafty" that appeared as a single and on the album Waiting for the Sirens' Call. New Order also would sample "Uranium" in its 1983 songs "Blue Monday" and "The Beach". Siouxsie & the Banshees recorded a cover of "Hall of Mirrors" on their Through the Looking Glass album. Members of Blondie have admitted on several occasions that Kraftwerk were an important reference for their sound by the time they were working on their third album Parallel Lines. The worldwide hit "Heart of Glass" turned radically from an initial Reggae-flavoured style to its distinctive electronic sound in order to imitate the technological approach of Kraftwerk's albums and adapt it to a disco concept. In this respect, Blondie's Chris Stein has stated: "We didn't expect the song to be that big (...) We weren't thinking about selling out. We were thinking about Kraftwerk and Eurodisco".
U2 recorded a cover version of "Neon Lights" and included it as the B-side of their 2004 single "Vertigo". LCD Soundsystem sampled and built a song entirely around the Kraftwerk single 'Robots'. The band also performed some Kraftwerk songs as snippets during live shows. U2's frontman Bono also stated he is a huge fan of the German electronic band.
Simple Minds recorded a cover of the Kraftwerk track "Neon Lights" and included it on an all-cover tunes album by the same name; they also played it live during their Graffiti Soul tour of 2009. Early in their career the song "Real to Real" from their 1979 album Real to Real Cacophony bore a close resemblance to "Radioactivity".
Franz Ferdinand were inspired by Kraftwerk's song "The Model" when writing their song "Walk Away". The similarity is especially heard in the intro of the song.
Selected Album List
1) Kraftwerk (1970)
2) Kraftwerk 2 (1972)
3) Ralf and Florian (1973)
4) Autobahn (1974)
5) Radio-Activity (1975)
6) Trans-Europe Express (1977)
7) The Man-Machine (1978)
8) Computer World (1981)
9) Electric Café (1986; name changed to Techno Pop in 2009)
10) Tour de France Soundtracks (2003)
Members Name Check
- Ralf Hütter – lead vocals, vocoder, synthesizers, keyboards (1970–present), organ, drums and percussion, bass guitar, guitar (1970–1974)
- Fritz Hilpert – electronic percussion (1987–present)
- Henning Schmitz – electronic percussion, live keyboards (1991–present)
- Falk Grieffenhagen – live video technician (2013–present)
- Florian Schneider – synthesizers, background vocals, vocoder, computer-generated vocals, acoustic and electronic flute, live saxophone, percussion, electric guitar, violin (1970–2008)
- Houschäng Néjadepour – electric guitar (1970–71)
- Plato Kostic (a.k.a. Plato Riviera) – bass guitar (1970)
- Peter Schmidt – drums (1970)
- Karl "Charly" Weiss – drums (1970, died 2009)
- Thomas Lohmann - drums (1970)
- Andreas Hohmann – drums (1970)
- Eberhard Kranemann – bass guitar (1970–71)
- Klaus Dinger – drums (1970–1971, died 2008)
- Michael Rother – electric guitar (1971)
- Emil Schult – electric guitar, electronic violin (1973)
- Wolfgang Flür – electronic percussion (1973–1987)
- Klaus Röder – electric guitar, electronic violin (1974)
- Karl Bartos – electronic percussion, live vibraphone, live keyboards (1975–1991)
- Fernando Abrantes – electronic percussion, synthesizer (1991)
- Stefan Pfaffe – live video technician (2008–2013)