Writing exclusively for Uncut, Neu!’s Michael Rother – also briefly of Kraftwerk – remembers Florian Schneider and his “thoroughly exciting” musical vision.
“The news of Florian Schneider’s passing hit me like a blow. Even though we hadn’t met or spoken for many years, he was always firmly in my mind as one of the most important musical figures of my life. In the late ’60s, we were both pupils at the same school in Düsseldorf (Rethel Gymnasium), and I noticed this guy with an awkward way of walking who played flute in the classical orchestra. He was obviously different from all the other pupils, an outsider.
“We didn’t talk then, but in early 1971, when I was serving time in a mental hospital as a conscientious objector and feeling very lonely with my wish of creating a new music that was not based on Anglo-American rock/pop roots and structures, coincidence led me to a studio in Düsseldorf where some film music was to be recorded. The name of the band working in that studio was Kraftwerk.
“I didn’t know the band and thought the name rather silly but the musicians Ralf Hütter, with whom I jammed there, and Florian Schneider, who only listened to our session, changed my world. Shortly after this first meeting, Florian called me and invited me to join Kraftwerk and to play some concerts.
“Florian had a unique metal construction onstage on which he assembled his effect units and a mixer. He played an electrified violin which he ran through a fuzz box and a wah-wah pedal, and a flute which he treated with delay and a unit that changed the pitch to one octave down. Especially this flute, and the way Florian played it like a crazy fast-forward bass, was thoroughly exciting and unheard before. Unfortunately, the sound engineers who did the recordings at Beat Club (TV) and Radio Bremen didn’t understand that Florian’s contributions to our sound were much more interesting and vital than my guitar playing, and so they put Florian too low in the audio mix.
“The trio with Florian, Klaus Dinger on drums and myself on guitar only lasted for 5 or 6 months but I remember some truly exciting concerts, and everything that followed in my musical life had a connection to this beginning with Ralf and Florian. After we separated in July 1971, Klaus and I continued as a duo (Neu!) and Florian got back together with Ralf Hütter.
“We met again in 1974 when I played Harmonia’s first album to Ralf and Florian. I remember being happy that they were impressed. Florian called me later in 1974 and asked whether I’d be interested in joining them for a Kraftwerk tour (Autobahn) but at that time I was happily working with Harmonia and also Neu!, and therefore declined the offer.
“In later years, the music of Kraftwerk always stayed on my horizon although I didn’t put the records on at home myself. Friends of mine who were big fans of Kraftwerk played them, and until today, I admire the reduction and clarity in their music. Florian and his ideas will stay with me and the many musicians he influenced.”