Wolfgang Flür talks Kraftwerk at Ditto Campfire

Wolfgang Flür held the audience spellbound at Ditto Campfire in London, with anecdotes from Kraftwerk days, tips for songwriting, and some of his new music. Electronic musicians at the packed out event included Neil Arthur from Blancmange, and Jon Fugler from Fluke, and it proved to be a great night. Wolfgang played percussion in Kraftwerk from 1973-1986, has written a book called ‘I Was A Robot’, and has a music project called Yamo, as well as DJ-ing and working on collaborations.

Wolfgang Flür

Kraftwerk’s early instruments

When Wolfgang first started playing with Kraftwerk they were still using Farfisa organs, and he revealed he was on a less than impressive drum kit which he didn’t want to play on a TV show they were booked for.

I was playing a broken drum kit, a kids’ drum kit. I thought ‘I can’t go with this to a TV studio’.

Then I found a rhythm box. I put glittering plastic on so it looked like an instrument. The cameraman was zooming in on my instrument - it looked futuristic. That’s modern I want to do this more!

The technology developed and developed. Sometimes people laughed about it. I had to use a pedal sometimes, you had to really concentrate.

Synth sound and bad press

Kraftwerk are now seen as icons, pioneers of a new sound, but they didn’t go down so well in Germany in the 70s.

We were four scientists presenting music. It was so catchy, the analogue sound of the synthesisers at that time. We had really bad press in Germany. ‘This will never be successful’. They said ‘it’s shit, cold, they are robots, this has no chance’. I have that article in my home!

Yet Wolfgang also found more traditional instruments had an impact on him.

When I heard church organs - I got shivers all over my body until the tears came.

The band’s style was certainly at odds with the denim and long hair aesthetic among other electronic bands and audiences of the time.

I’ve never worn blue jeans in my whole life! We cut our hair shorter and shorter, we were exotic, people liked it.

Drums disaster in Liverpool

Kraftwerk are known for experimenting with new technology and Wolfgang told the story of his drums disaster at the Empire Theatre in Liverpool in the mid 70s. Their show pulled a very small audience - he said Wings were playing another venue the same night - and he was due to use an exciting new ‘drum cage’. At Campfire he demonstrated some of the hand moves he was going to use with the light beams, to trigger electronic percussion sounds.

We played Radioactivity, there were not many people there. I had my real drum kit, and the cage we constructed from chrome and aluminium - a cube, I could stand in the middle. The shit was that it didn’t work in Liverpool! I stood on stage, the light beam came on me, the sweat was running over my body, it was really awful I didn’t know what to say!

The show did inspire a certain Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark though.

They saw Kraftwerk and we met afterwards. They said ‘that’s really great, we are going to throw away our guitars and get synthesisers’!

Wolfgang Flür demos some Kraftwerk moves Terry Tyldesley

The importance of melody

Kraftwerk may be famous for their electronic sound and pioneering use of technology, but Wolfgang reminded the audience that melody was a key part of their success, and he feels it is something that is often lacking in current releases.

One of the most helpful things in our music was the melody. The melody keeps things in the head and the heart and is often missing in music. It is very important you get touched and connected.

Wolfgang’s own connection with the band though, began to fade in the 80s.

After the peak of 81 it became cold. I went less and less to the studio, and I started with furniture design. I didn’t do music straight away as it would be too influenced by Kraftwerk. I had to find other ways, I did it by writing.

I say to young artists if you write the lyrics, the melody will come on its own.

EDM and new sounds

Wolfgang has collaborated with artists such as Nitzer Ebb’s Bon Harris on new tracks including ‘Axis of Envy’ for the Shadow Bureau project. His spoken word vocals about greed are pretty epic! Bon introduced him to EDM too.

We went to a concert and I thought ‘that was EDM that was brutal’!

He sent me a track and I thought what shall we do with that? He suggested vocals - I’m not a singer. I do lyrics more, and I spoke the lyrics.

Wolfgang also played the audience ‘Golden Light’, a track with composer, producer and multi-instrumentalist Anni Hogan who has worked with artists such as Marc Almond, and was at the Campfire event. Again Wolfgang contributed lyrics and vocals.

A recent EP release is iEuropean - Activity of Sound, a collaboration with Seán Barron (Empire State Human), available on Bandcamp, and Wolfgang is planning more releases this year.