From the hall of mirrors – Long lost Japanese interview with Florian Schneider


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As the modern saga of Kraftwerk continues in various spectacular venues around the world it is sometimes interesting to discover gems of the past. A great example is this interview with Florian Schneider done with a Japanese magazine at the time when all four robots were still touring the world and biking the streets of Düsseldorf.

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This interview can be traced back to the Kraftwerk fan club “Electric Café” where this intriguing story unfolds:

The tape version that hit the electriccafe.info came via Paul Wilkinson who explained elsewhere on the forum where he got it from, which is also very interesting:

“I received this tape from a friend of mine in Japan called Yoshinori Sunahara in 1995, who works in the music industry in Tokyo. He sent me a parcel of his own music and also this tape which had “Florian’s interview 1988 Japanese music magazine” written on it. That was all the information that I have on it except that I believe that its very genuine and that it was somehow given with a/to a magazine. I still have all his letters and in one of them he explains that he went to Düsseldorf at some point where he knocked on Kling Klang’s door and Fritz answered and signed his records that he had with him and apparently saw or went into (don’t know which) a hallway where there is or was a large painting of the Electric Cafe sleeve. If you want to check any of his work as he is rather famous in Japan check out his former group called Denki Groove or his solo album called ‘Crossover’ where I do guest vocals on a cover version of the Rah Band’s song ‘Clouds Across The Moon’.”

In 1988 Japanese magazine “Silverstar Club” sent Florian Schneider of Kraftwerk a tape with questions for an interview. Florian returned it with answers in tweaked voices, and the interview was published in a written format. Ten years later (1998) this recording was released as an extra together with a magazine.

The last sentence sampled in Japanese: “WATASHI NO DENWABANGOU WA HIMIchiteimimi [HIMITSU] DESU.”means “My telephone number is secret.”!

And for those of you who for any reason are not that all to familar with the background of Florian here´s a quick recap:

Florian Schneider-Esleben founded Kraftwerk with Ralf Hütter in 1970. They met in 1968 while studying at the Academy of Arts in Remscheid, then at the Robert Schumann Hochschule in Düsseldorf. They played improvisational music together in the ensemble Organisation. Before meeting Hütter, Schneider had played with Eberhard Kranemann in the group Pissoff from 1967 to 1968. From 1968 to 1969, Schneider played flute, with Ralf Hütter on Hammond organ, Eberhard Kranemann on bass and Paul Lovens on drums.

Originally Schneider’s main instrument was the flute, which he would treat using electronic effects, including tape echo, ring modulation, use of pitch-to-voltage converter, fuzz and wah-wah, allowing him to use his flute as a bass instrument. He also played violin (similarly treated), electric guitar(including slide guitar), and made use of synthesizers (both as a melodic instrument and as a sound processor). Later he also created his own electronic flute instrument. After the release of their 1974 album, Autobahn, his use of acoustic instruments diminished.

Schneider, speaking in 1991, said: “I had studied seriously up to a certain level, then I found it boring; I looked for other things, I found that the flute was too limiting… Soon I bought a microphone, then loudspeakers, then an echo, then a synthesizer. Much later I threw the flute away; it was a sort of process.” Although he has limited keyboard technique, and is a trained flautist, he apparently preferred to trigger the synth sounds through a keyboard in the group’s 1975, 1976 and 1981 concerts (later, developments in sequencing limited the need for hands-on playing).

Schneider’s approach is concentrated on sound design (in an interview in 2005, Hütter called him a “sound fetishist”) and vocoding/speech-synthesis. One patented implementation of the latter was christened the Robovox, a distinctive feature of the Kraftwerk sound. Hütter said of Schneider’s approach:

He is a sound perfectionist, so, if the sound isn’t up to a certain standard, he doesn’t want to do it. With electronic music there’s no necessity ever to leave the studio. You could keep making records and sending them out. Why put so much energy into travel, spending time in airports, in waiting halls, in backstage areas, being like an animal, just for two hours of a concert? But now, with the Kling Klang studio on tour with us, we work in the afternoon, we do soundchecks, we compose, we put down new ideas and computer graphics. There’s always so much to do, and we do make progress.[5]

Schneider is also known for his comical, enigmatic interviews, although he has only seldom given permission to be interviewed