Florian Schneider, co-founding member of Germany’s electronic music group Kraftwerk, has died at the age of 73. A representative for the group said Schneider had been battling cancer.
Schneider founded Kraftwerk alongside Ralf Hütter in 1970, after meeting at the Academy of Arts in Remscheid in Düsseldorf. The pair were part of Germany’s experimental music underground scene, initially playing together as members of a group called Organisation. However, after Schneider became interested in synthesizers, the duo began recording music under the name Kraftwerk.
Their initial two studio albums — Kraftwerk and Kraftwerk 2 — consisted of free-form experimental recordings, created using guitar, bass, drums, organ, flute, and violin, and later distorted with audio-tape manipulation and multiple dubbings. In 1973, after Wolfgang Flür joined the group, Kraftwerk began experimenting more with synthesizer and drum machines, culminating in release of Ralf und Florian.
Kraftwerk achieved mainstream success with 1974’s Autobahn and its 1975-follow-up, Radio-Activity, boasting a refined electronic sound made using new music tech including the Minimoog and the EMS Synthi AKS. At the same time, the band began staging innovative live shows featuring an expanded touring lineup, matching costumes, light shows, and live vocals sung with the use of a vocoder.
Subsequent albums including 1977’s Trans-Europe Express and 1978’s The Man-Machine cemented Kraftwerk’s status as one of the defining groups of their generation, and attracted the attention of fellow music legend like David Bowie and Brian Eno. Bowie was especially smitten with Kraftwerk, calling them his favorite group in a 1976 interview with Rolling Stone. He later re-located to Germany in order to fully immerse himself in the country’s electronic music scene, leading to the recording of his Berlin Trilogy of albums. Bowie’s 1977 album “Heroes” even contained a track named after Schneider.
Numerous other musicians have cited Kraftwerk as a major influence on their own music, including Joy Division, New Order, Depeche Mode, Gary Numan, Björk, and Daft Punk. The group was also famously parodied in The Big Lebowski.
After four decades as an active member, Schneider left Kraftwerk in 2008, citing a desire to no longer tour. In 2015, Schneider put out his own solo music, teaming with producer Dan Lacksman on a release called “Stop Plastic Pollution”. Speaking on the environmentally-conscious track, he said it was inspired by “taking a swim in the ocean at the coasts of Ghana, watching fishermen catch nothing but plastic garbage in their nets”.
Listen to a selection of Kraftwerk’s notable works below, and see tributes to Schneider from Thomas Dolby, Giorgio Moroder, Nigel Godrich, OMD, and more on the next page.
Another of my great heroes gone https://t.co/3ElmWlRKZR
— Thomas Dolby (@ThomasDolby) May 6, 2020
We are absolutely devastated to learn that one of our heroes Florian Schneider has passed away. pic.twitter.com/Y2dnYfxkj8
— Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (@OfficialOMD) May 6, 2020
What a week… now the great Florian Schneider… feeling an era passhttps://t.co/hsmc8elsuF
— nigel godrich 🌈 (@nigelgod) May 6, 2020
R.I.P. Florian Schneider. Outside of the Beatles, Kraftwerk is the most influential band ever. There's no "Planet Rock" without them. They influenced Bowie's Berlin trilogy. "Blue Monday" by New Order samples them. They're the root of contemporary electronic music
— Cadence Weapon (@cadenceweapon) May 6, 2020
Hard to overstate the influence of Kraftwerk on all music that followed them. RIP Florian Schneider, you changed everything.https://t.co/FL7SQq09zt
— Dave Depper (@davedepper) May 6, 2020
To say he was massively influential and changed the very sound of music, is somehow still a understatement. RIP, Florian Schneider, founder member of Kraftwerk. https://t.co/YAeV9VMlER
— edgarwright (@edgarwright) May 6, 2020
Damn. Without Kraftwerk there would be no Art Lord and the Self-Portraits, thus no Future Islands.
Kraftwerk was the crux of our musical friendship and beginnings. We wanted to be just like them. And so we were. RIP Florian, a true Lord of Art. https://t.co/zmPROZlIQJ
— Future Islands (@futureislands) May 6, 2020
RIP Florian Schneider. You changed music forever.https://t.co/mZUR33cbqr
— Ninja Tune (@ninjatune) May 6, 2020
R.I.P to the extraordinary Florian Schneider of @kraftwerk.
A true innovator and pioneer of electronic music, whose music and influence will live on forever. 🙏 pic.twitter.com/Fw0yu4lx9q
— Defected Records (@DefectedRecords) May 6, 2020
— richard chartier (@3particles) May 6, 2020
Such an important influence upon so much of the music we know, from Bowie, to electronica, much of the 80s and beyond into modern techno and rap, Florian Schneider was forging a new Metropolis of music for us all to live in. RIP #FlorianSchneider #Kraftwerk pic.twitter.com/y2nXuAY66e
— Gary Kemp (@garyjkemp) May 6, 2020
Very sad to hear of the passing of Florian Schneider, co-founder of one of the greatest groups of all time, Kraftwerk. RIP https://t.co/cVfEZKrYW8
— JG Thirlwell (@jgthirlwell) May 6, 2020
Quoting Florian Schneider would be a disservice to his legacy and the intent of his work. The music says it all. Every single note. pic.twitter.com/s2Bs1lmepy
— Ghostly (@ghostly) May 6, 2020
Hearing some info that Florian Schneider has passed away. Very sad if true. Major influence. pic.twitter.com/V6BL9wVDyw
— Mark Farina (@djmarkfarina) May 6, 2020
what would electronic music be without Kraftwerk? R.I.P Florian Schneider-Esleben
— nina kraviz (@NinaKraviz) May 6, 2020