The Human Machine

It’s taken me a few weeks to collect my thoughts on Kraftwerk’s genius Florian Schneider. His death was announced on May 6, citing cancer as the cause. On that day, I exercised in the morning while listening to The Mix without knowing anything about the sad news. It was probably my unconscious needing his music.

I was really shocked to learn he was gone. He wasn’t in the band anymore, but his legacy was unquestionable. I started thinking about the first time I ever heard of Kraftwerk. That would have to be because of Depeche Mode, my absolute favourite band in the world. In previous years, I was obsessed with the Mode’s musical influences. I was curious to know who inspired them to compose the way they did in their early stages. In different interviews, they always talked about Kraftwerk.

At some point, I was going to listen to this German group and see how much of their sound was adapted into the Mode’s style. However, I kept forgetting to look them up. One day, I watched Depeche Mode: The Dark Progression, an unauthorized documentary on their music. The content of this video eventually led to talking about Kraftwerk, and I remember Autobahn playing on the background while the narrator spoke. As soon as I heard that melody, I thought “it all makes sense now.”

After watching that documentary, I stopped procrastinating and started listening to Kraftwerk. Little by little, I acquired their albums and the music became more and more intriguing to me. They are, without a doubt, the foundation of synth-pop, techno, hip-hop, and electronica. The New York Times described the band as “the Beatles of electronic dance music.” Whoa.

According to The Guardian, Schneider declared in 1975 that Kraftwerk wasn’t a band. In his own words:

It’s a concept – ‘Die Mensch-Maschine’, the human machine. We are not the band. (…) Kraftwerk is a vehicle for our ideas.

Their concept lives on in this day and age.

In 2015, I saw the band live almost by accident. I had no idea they would be touring the city where I currently live. A month before the concert, I found a magazine that featured Kraftwerk on the cover. It was rare to see something like that, and of course I started reading it. At the very bottom of the article, the writer included the date of the concert and the venue, which was at a walking distance from the placed I lived in at the time. I was meant to go. It was a surreal experience, and it didn’t matter that I spent an arm and a leg on this t-shirt. Really, you don’t want to know how much I paid for it.

I can’t stop watching this short clip. These were the original band members, Schneider included, performing Pocket Calculator. Although their moves are robotic, and the song itself is all about pressing keys to play a little melody, I find interesting how comfortable they were with the audience so close to them. Schneider even lets a fan play with his calculator.

RIP Florian Schneider (1947-2020).

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