Karl Bartos: ‘Kraftwerk turned into the dehumanisation of music’ | Music & More Latest News – it short

When a teenage Karl Bartos instructed his dad and mom that he wished to dedicate his life to music, his father was so livid that he kicked his son’s acoustic guitar to items.

After listening to the Beatles at 12, one thing had woke up in him – “I wanted to feel like how they sounded,” he says – and so he endured previous that smashed guitar. Tripping on LSD listening to Hendrix was one other portal. “The music spoke to me in all the world’s languages at once,” he recollects in his memoir. “I understood its message down to the very last frequency. Never before had the essence of music been as clear.”

The memoir, The Sound of the Machine: My Life in Kraftwerk and Beyond, is an extremely detailed guide about Bartos’s life: from these pivotal childhood moments, years spent at the Robert Schumann Conservatory in Dusseldorf the place he studied percussion, by means of to his time in what is taken into account the traditional Kraftwerk line-up – Bartos, Ralf Hütter, Florian Schneider, Wolfgang Flür – wherein he performed from 1974 till 1990.

Kraftwerk had been in search of a percussionist for some dwell dates and Bartos was really helpful by his professor. Being summoned to their notorious and secretive Kling Klang Studio, he instantly clicked with Hütter and Schneider. “We were attracted to each other and it just felt pure,” he recollects. “I knew from the first meeting it was something very special.”

Kraftwerk performing in Brussels in 1981. L-R:Ralf Hütter, Karl Bartos, Wolfgang Flür, Florian Schneider.
Kraftwerk performing in Brussels in 1981. L-R:
Ralf Hütter, Karl Bartos, Wolfgang Flür, Florian Schneider.
Photograph: Gie Knaeps/Getty Images

Bartos becoming a member of coincided with the launch of Autobahn, a report – particularly its title monitor – usually thought-about a benchmark for modernity in pop music, with its pulsing groove stretching out into the future. Work quickly commenced on idea album Radio-Activity, and Bartos turned extra of an embedded member, contributor and co-writer. The subsequent albums Trans-Europe Express, The Man-Machine and Computer World (1977-1981) are an immaculate, peerless run of information that shimmer and glisten with metallic sparkle; equal components meticulous pop and futuristic sci-fi soundscapes, they turned the blueprint for digital pop in the ensuing decade. Bartos says Kraftwerk’s mission was to take a position expertise with humanity, to make it “feel-able and visible – and this was different to all the electronic pop music which was inspired by us. They just treated the electronic equipment like a guitar; they just played songs in the tradition of English pop music. But Kraftwerk remained different because we wanted to make people aware of technique.”

Not solely had been the band climbing constant inventive peaks in the studio however their dynamic was at its most pleasant and sociable. Some had been dwelling collectively in a spot that housed what Bartos describes as “legendary parties”, although he gained’t be drawn on juicy particulars. For these we should as an alternative flip to Flür’s memoir I Was A Robot. “A Super 8 projector would be playing sex films on to the wall next to the bathtub,” he wrote. “Everything would be covered in bubble bath and red wine, and candlelight would dimly illuminate the sweaty scene. These parties were like Sodom and Gomorrah.” It appears at odds with such a mysterious and secretive band who had been experimenting with utilizing robotic aliases – and Bartos’s guide performs to sort by focusing intensely on working strategies, inventive course of and expertise.

In 1981 they efficiently toured – regardless of their tools weighing seven tonnes – and had a UK No 1 the subsequent yr with The Model. They had been at their inventive and business zenith, with Bartos writing that Computer World “was our most successful attempt at translating the dialect of the man-machine metaphor into music”, however Kraftwerk wouldn’t carry out dwell for practically a decade as they disappeared into the studio. “We slept over the whole 80s,” Bartos says. “It really was a dramatically huge mistake.”

The subsequent album, 1986’s Electric Café, was a drastic shift. “The problem started when the computer arrived in the studio,” says Bartos. “A computer has nothing to do with creativity, it’s just a tool, but we outsourced creativity to the computer. We forgot about the centre of what we were. We lost our physical feeling, no longer looking each other in the eye, only staring at the monitor. At the time, I thought innovation and progress were synonyms. I can’t be so sure anymore.”

It seems this member of a bunch who heralded a brand new period of futuristic technology-heavy music is one thing of a techno-sceptic, however Bartos stresses that the period most individuals affiliate as peak Kraftwerk was produced by a largely analogue band. They had been pushing the limits of primitive expertise to its absolute restrict, and for Bartos, these limitations sparked innovation. But when offered with infinite choices, there wasn’t something to rub up towards, solely a limitless horizon. “We stopped being creative because we were solving problems,” he says.

The tempo of work slowed considerably. Hütter’s new obsession with biking turned a precedence and studio classes had been usually just a few half-hearted hours in the night. Plus, that they had develop into obsessive about different folks’s information, often taking journeys to discos to play early mixes of their tracks to see how they sounded towards recent cuts of the day. They started to chase the zeitgeist slightly than setting it. Upon listening to New Order’s Blue Monday, they had been so impressed they sought out its sound engineer, Michael Johnson, and flew to the UK to have him combine Tour de France – a standalone single from 1983 – however selected by no means to launch that model.

“Things started to look more and more desolate,” Bartos says. “Instead of remembering how our most authentic, and successful, music had been made, we fixed our gaze on the mass-market music zeitgeist. But comparing our own ideas to other people’s work was anti-creative and counterproductive. We became music designers, manufacturing consumer music oriented only towards winning against other contestants. Our imagination lost its autonomy. It seemed like we’d forgotten how our music had come about in the first place.”

Flür misplaced endurance and left to pursue furniture-making and Bartos ready an exit too, with mounting points round songwriting credit and funds, in addition to a refusal to tour, additionally being a difficulty. “It was a complete nightmare,” he says of that point. Although typical of Hütter and Schneider’s indifferent method at this level, there was little in the approach of response or drama when he did lastly go away in 1990.

It started a interval wherein he felt “very low” however he quickly began to work with Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark’s Andy McCluskey, writing songs collectively, in addition to collaborating with Bernard Sumner and Johnny Marr’s facet mission Electronic on their second album. “They saved my life,” he displays. “Because I knew I was not alone.”

Karl Bartos performing in 2014.
Karl Bartos performing in 2014. Photograph: Frank Hoensch/Redferns/Getty Images

McCluskey recollects Bartos expressing an curiosity in working collectively as being like “one of the12 disciples inviting you to join their gang.” Bartos even had a serving to hand in McCluskey creating lady band Atomic Kitten. “I was going to retire but I was conceited enough to think I could still write songs,” McCluskey recollects. “Karl said, ‘don’t just give them to the publishing company because they’ll mess you around and you’ll be a songwriting whore’. He said, ‘why don’t you create a vehicle for your songs?’ So I’ve always delighted in saying to people: ‘yeah, Kraftwerk created Atomic Kitten.’” Bartos additionally launched two albums as Elektric Music in the Nineteen Nineties, earlier than releasing two solo albums in 2003 and 2013. Kraftwerk, in the meantime, had a stellar return to recording with Tour De France Soundtracks in 2003, and – now with Hütter the solely unique member – have lengthy toured a 3D dwell present.

Reflecting on Kraftwerk immediately, he doesn’t come throughout as bitter, extra disenchanted at what may have been, lamenting wasted time, inventive vitality and the decade-shaped gap the place they might have been electrifying audiences with prescient but era-defining music. That mentioned, he doesn’t have a lot time for the way Kraftwerk continued to evolve. “Society has turned into a conveyor belt,” he says. “You put in resources, you turn it into a consumer product, you earn money and … rubbish. This is what happened to Kraftwerk. They turned into the dehumanisation of music.”

Although he nonetheless deeply loves his time in the traditional analogue period of the band. “I loved being a man-machine,” he says. “But we just lost the man.”

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