One of the most important figures in modern music, Florian Schneider, has sadly passed away. Martin Gore of Depeche Mode cited Kraftwerk as “the Godfathers of electronic music”, journalist Neil McCormick said they might be “the most influential group in pop history”, and Bowie even named a song after Schneider (V-2 Schneider on ‘Heroes’). His passing had me reminiscing on the impact Kraftwerk and Schneider had on modern music. I’m sure as time passes obituaries to this man will pour out in their masses, as so often happens when an icon of Schneider’s calibre passes. For what it’s worth, here’s my take.
Florian Schneider transformed the way people created music. What can only be described as a laboratory of sound, with Schneider embodying the mad scientist, the Kling Klang Studio was the birthplace of an array of new musical sounds that remain timeless and mesmerizing to this day. Quite literally building a living instrument in the studio, Schneider’s work with a synthesiser and vocoder was groundbreaking to put it lightly.
These sounds have been sampled or emulated by such a wide range of artists across genres, it is truly impossible to comprehend. All you have to do is go through Kraftwerk’s 10-page ‘WhoSampled’ to get an idea of their reach. Hip-hop and electro-funk mogul Afrika Bambaataa sampled Kraftwerk in his well-known tune Planet Rock. Post-punk bands like Joy Division and New Order cite them as heavy influences too, with New Order’s iconic track ‘Blue Monday’ sampling Uranium by Kraftwerk. Timbaland’s Bounce (yes that tune that’s on Step-Up 2, don’t hate my pop culture knowledge) samples Tour De France. Even Coldplay used one of their songs for christ sake. Not to mention bands and artists like Human League, Bjork, Prodigy, Daft Punk, U2, LCD Soundsytem amongst countless others all cite Kraftwerk as heavy influences.
Make no mistake, this band, and in extension Schneider, should be considered the bedrock that modern music has been built on. It is so sad to see another incredible talent leave us. RIP Florian Schneider.