Here’s a new interview with Karl Bartos where he discusses everything from vintage machines to his latest album:
Never meet your heroes, or so the old maxim goes, but FM is delighted to report that our recent encounter with bona fide Electronic music legend Karl Bartos put paid to the notion that meeting one’s heroes is inevitably doomed to end in disappointment. In the flesh, Bartos is a charming, erudite man with a philosophical take on Electronic music that reflects itself in the pristine synthesized contours of the music contained on his latest LP, Off The Record.
From his time as a member of seminal German Electro Pop purveyors Kraftwerk, through his consequent Electrik Music project and collaborations with Bernard Sumner and Johnny Marr on their Electronic albums, Bartos has been a key figure in the synthesised music story. Off The Record, released in March, saw Bartos revisit his ‘secret acoustic diary’ of musical sketches and ideas built up during his Kraftwerk days and fashion them into an album that manages to simultaneously sound contemporary and timeless. With trademark vocoded vocals to the fore and his keen ear for a digital melody line still intact, we met with Bartos for a whistle-stop tour of the gear he employs to such stellar effect in his ergonomic Hamburg nerve centre.
How did you set about the Herculean task of trawling through your digital media archive to begin creating Off The Record?
“Well, I’m over it now but it was a hell of a job! There were tons of cassettes, 1/4″ tapes and various other stuff. I moved my archive when we went from Düsseldorf to Hamburg and there was boxes and boxes of it and various rooms full of it along with old synthesizers. I always avoided going through the archive to put things in order until Gunther from Bureau B [Bartos' German record label] said, ‘Karl, do you have any old recordings?’ I refused initially but finally gave in… I’d always wanted to do it, and knew I had to, but it took me several weeks and the sound quality was rotten with many tapes broken. Eventually, I managed to get most of it into the computer. I saw that everything was dated 1977, 1978, etc, and I thought, ‘That’s a diary. An acoustic diary.’ So I made it a concept. You do that kind of thing but usually just inside your brain – you refer to the things you’ve done before. It’s the way we organise our brains. I also had to write about the concept and where the songs came from.”
Were you quite meticulous about correctly marking or naming ideas back in the days when you were building your archive?
“You do what you do. I’d come up with a name, ‘Neon Piano’ or whatever, and I’d sometimes write the date. Sometimes not. Most cassettes had a name or a date on them. I also found a lot of stuff on Zip and Jaz drives but even some of those were damaged or didn’t work. Between all the different media I pretty much managed to retrieve everything eventually, though.”
Were there a lot of nice surprises?
“It was all such a surprise and funny to hear a song I’d done without a trace of emotion sitting beside something like Computer World [Kraftwerk, 1981]. It made me feel a little sentimental at times. Once I had them in order, it was easy for me to collate and collage them.”
Your first computer set-up was the IBM XT running Voyetra Plus sequencing software. That must have felt like going supersonic after using tape?
“It was a real revelation. We were recording Electric Café [Kraftwerk, 1986] at Kling Klang [the band's private studio originally located in Düsseldorf, Germany], then we took it over to Right Track Studio in New York where François Kevorkian and Fred Maher introduced me to the Voyetra Plus software he had running on a laptop.
Whatever you do today – you must listen to this machine – awesome sounds !!!!
…from Medic Modules
CV Out, Gate Out, Clock In, Clock Thru, Reset In.
Each step also has a unique Function control. Each step can be turned off, skipped, repeated or set as a reset point.
Proper video coming soon…
more info: http://www.medicmodules.com
Ralf gave one of his rare interviews when on tour in Australia:
The Catalogue has been more than just a tour, though. Hütter also suggests that it’s drawn a line under the band’s past.
“Now this is done, one to eight,” he smiles. “Now we can concentrate on number nine.”
So the long-awaited – and much discussed – new Kraftwerk album, the first in a decade, is definitely on its way?
Is there a timeline? Hütter smiles broadly.
“Of course. It’s music non stop!”
Excerpt from the interview:
“Nowadays basically Kraftwerk is a space lab: we can land anywhere as long as we have the projectors and the screens.” Ralf Hütter, Kraftwerk’s co-founder and sole remaining original member, is welcoming me into his dressing room at the Sydney Opera House on the eve of the band’s final two performances of their eight show series based around 2009’s box set, The Catalogue.
It would be easy to assume that the man behind such cold, precise music would be standoffish in person, yet Hütter is a genial host. His eyes sparkle as he speaks, even as he pauses to find the exact right English word to explain his artistic philosophies. He also looks a good decade and a half younger than his 66 years – a testament to his band’s long-time advocacy of cycling, which inspired the 2003 Tour de France Soundtracks.
Tour de France is the most recent album featured in both box set and show, which cover the bands eight album output. Performing in just a handful of other cities – New York, London, their hometown of Dusseldorf – each album, from 1974′s Autobahn onwards, has been presented from start to finish and accompanied by with eye-popping 3D projections and surround sound. The response has been rapturous.
Background video description:
Most of my small keyboards are from Casio. But I do have a Collection of small Yamaha keyboards too. Here I use some of them to play the Classic Kraftwerk song “Computer Love”.
You might notice that on the PC-100 keyboard the notes doesn’t seem to match the keys I am playing. The reason is that I had to use the transpose knob to be able to get the notes as high as I wanted them. So on this particular keyboard I am playing in another key than on the others.
Historical interviews with the most famous electro musicians in the world have appeared in a new eBook.
The Electro Legend Interviews features interviews conducted over the past 20 years and taken from the archives of Computer Music and Future Music magazine.
Revealing their music-making techniques and inspirations are: Aphex Twin, Gary Numan, The Prodigy’s Liam Howlett, Vince Clarke, Kraftwerk’s Wolfgang Flür, Moby, Hot Chip, Alec Empire and Ultravox’s Midge Ure.
Available for just £2.99, the book sheds light on The Prodigy’s place in the early rave scene, with Liam Howlett explaining in a 1993 interview that”When rave dies there are always going to be people who will still want to dance, so as long as we keep coming out with original songs we’ll still be around…”
Meanwhile, Gary Numan discusses his classic Replicas album. Addressing the cover art, he says: “The character on the cover is called a Machman – he’s looking out on the world, looking out at the park. Outside of the park, there’s a man in a grey coat and a grey hat, which was a ghost I saw when I was much younger…”
Elsewhere reclusive genius Aphex Twin gives one of his only ever interviews. “If you plan to be good at anything, it has to happen using your own ideas. It’s inevitable. It’s exactly like natural selection,” he muses.
Speaking exclusively about the early days of Kraftwerk, WolfgangFlür comments: “We were young, shy and childish! We loved to construct things and we never thought we would get famous from that.”
The book also features Vince Clarke revealing his computer music-making secrets. “Once you’ve got the hang of the computer and the software,” he says, “then you’ve still got to write the songs…”
And discussing the history of Ultravox, Midge Ure reveals that: “In those early days, a lot of musicians saw synths as electronic guitars. We just started going bang-bang-bang. Suddenly, you got this blast of unearthly noise and it changed the musical landscape.”
Perhaps one of the best unknown covers of Kraftwerk’s 1977 classic Europe Endless by Italian maestro Laso67. https://www.youtube.com/user/laso67
Steve Strange parody – Some scenes from Visage’s videos re-en-visage-d, very clever. ”Imitation is the greatest form of flattery” (even when it’s ‘dressed up’) – remade scenes have come from Visage/Fade to Grey …Visage/Visage……any more spotted let me know
Hardrock Striker – Underpass. – john foxx cover
No copyright infringement intended.
It’s not quite like the original, neither is not intentend to be.
Sequenced parts sequenced on Cubase 5 then audio mixdown passed to Roland SP-404
Main sounds played:
Sampled parts: Initial intro part using free samples to recreate an ambience
Brass lead: Yamaha AN1x
Lead: Roland V-Synth V2
Strings: Akai Miniak
Lead vocal + keyboard played part: Shure Mic, Kurzweil PC3 triggering Korg Microkorg vocoder
Hamburg, St. Pauli, Reeperbahn — one of these nights in late summer…
Along with the first neon lights and impressions of the city we’re about to hear an enchanting melody, reminiscent of a German Volkslied. Somehow the melody seems to encapsulate time by bringing back memories and evoking expectations at once. Why is that so?
Cut. We see Karl Bartos walking down the Große Freiheit, a busy side street off the Reeperbahn. Coming from Indra, passing by Kaiserkeller and Star-Club. Those were the venues where it all began, where all the famous bands and artists from the early 60s had played, including the Beatles.
The melody fades away and Karl sings the first verse: “I’m on my way — got the world at my feet / But I wish I could remix my life to another beat”
Approaching the Reeperbahn Karl makes a left, heading past the Davidwache police station and further down the road to the Panopticum. Bang! Without warning he finds himself in front of a huge billboard on the wall with a well-known face looking back at him: Herr Karl, his legendary showroom dummy doppelgänger from his former life. And in a flashback he visualizes his countless roles and transformations:
– as a photographer, probably right from a shooting with a model — THE model
– the robot appears in a spin
– here’s a scene from the TEE film — see the trenchcoat?
– next is the Tour de France outfit — for safety reasons he’s wearing a bicycle helmet, of course
Cut. In a rush Karl writes down the arpeggio melody and before too long the doppelgänger is raising his voice: “Every single day I am here to let you know / Whatever happens to you I won’t let go, I won’t let go”
Cut. Press conference. All cameras capture Herr Karl, his alter ego. The tension is rising and we see the flashlights reflecting in the golden records on the wall, just like crossfire. Standing at the microphones he has nothing to say, not a single word. But throughout the scene he acts without a trace of emotion and looks incredibly cool.
As the music evolves Karl replies to the doppelgänger: “I’m so glad to know that you care about your family / Don’t you call me eccentric but you kill me, you kill me”
Suddenly he turns around and walks to the wings. During his walk off — coming from nowhere — someone counts down 4 — 3 — 2 — 1 and here’s another flashback sequence of the famous showroom dummy:
– a vocal session
– his Tour de France outfit still looks great
– “You’re so close but far away” — The Telephone Call comes to mind
– reading “Melody Maker”
– a vinyl record recalls some wicked electro sounds
– he discovers himself in the looking glass
– dress code: red shirt, black tie
– enjoying an abstract film by Oskar Fischinger
– the super 8-camera is gonna be his best friend
– finally, with a glass of champagne, you can almost hear him say: “Get on with your life”
Cut. Back on the Reeperbahn Karl gets on the bus, in the distance we see the big wheel of the fairground, shining so bright. And on his way home, he thinks to himself: I knew it all along, the perception of music always includes the past, the present and the future.
Written, performed and produced by Karl Bartos
Recorded, mixed and mastered by Mathias Black
Published by Electric Music
(P)+(C) 2013 Bureau B under licence from Karl Bartos
LC 13875. BB080
“Without A Trace Of Emotion” is taken from the new Karl Bartos album “Off The Record” — out now! Further details: www.karlbartos.com
Metroland is a synth-pop band from Belgium making music, heavily inspired by bands like Kraftwerk, Komputer, OMD, Orbital, Marsheaux and many others. Their 2012 debut album “Mind The Gap” (GAP001) was hailed worldwide due to its original vintage electronic sound, mixed with up tempo sequences and paced bass sounds. Metroland came in touch with OMD singer Andy McCluskey in April 2012 when he fell in love with the Düsseldorfer influences from Metroland. The chance a band like OMD making a song about Metroland, coincidentally the name of the Belgian band, simply had to result in a mix-treatment by Metroland in their very particular style. Yet, with very much respect for the original OMD version.
This Metroland video, which is an unofficial OMD video, accompanies the full length version of the remix represents a journey through the typical 19th century English landscape around greater London up until London as we know it today. The viewer can discover numerous historical artefacts linked to the original Metro-land incorporating the OMD artwork for their latest album “English Electric. All of this is gently dipped in a sauce of psychedelic and joyful moving images, mingled with synthetic vintage electronics.
“We both hate those darn f*cked up club mixes where you can barely recognize something of the original. We started all from scratch. So, every sequence and bass line, melody was played a-new (we did not have a MIDI file), and we searched for new sounds. In the end, it became a more orchestral mix spiced up with the typical bass sounds from METROLAND, along with our famous layered sequences.”
Karl Bartos, former member of electronic pioneers Kraftwerk and Elektric Music, was on BBC 6 Music yesterday speaking to Mark Radcliffe and Stuart Maconie about his recent album, Off The Record.
Comprising material from his Kraftwerk days right up to the present, the album takes in a range of influences and emotions in an attempt, says Bartos, to cover the whole “European landscape”. Amongst discussing British weather and northern soul, when asked about his Kraftwerk roots and the influence it has on his solo work, Bartos said: “I’m not trying to get away [from being that guy], but I am ambivalent.”