Artist News

Kraftwerk’s Florian Schneider dies

By | Published on Thursday 7 May 2020


Kraftwerk co-founder Florian Schneider has died, aged 73, following a short time being treated for cancer. Although only announced yesterday, it has now been confirmed that he actually died last week and was buried at a private ceremony.

Born in 1947, Schneider began playing in bands as a student in the 60s – his first band calling themselves Pissoff. In 1970 he formed Kraftwerk with Ralf Hütter, initially with a regularly changing line-up of other members.

The duo were influenced by the West German art rock scene of the time – jokingly/offensively dubbed ‘krautrock’ in the UK – with Schneider primarily playing flute, although he also used violins, guitars and synthesisers on their early records. Over time, they gravitated more to electronic instruments, developing what would now be recognised as the Kraftwerk sound.

Their first commercial success came with fourth album ‘Autobahn’, their first to fully embrace that repetitive electronic sound. Side one of the album on vinyl was taken up by the 23 minute title track, designed to evoke the feeling of travelling on a German motorway. The LP enjoyed particular success in the UK, where it went to number four in the album chart.

Four years later, in 1978, they released their seventh album, ‘The Man-Machine’, which has gone on to be their best known. Featuring the song ‘The Model’, it was not initially as successful as ‘Autobahn’, but its popularity and influence has only grown with time. By this point in their career, their music was wholly electronic, them having ditched the remaining light use of acoustic instruments after ‘Autobahn’.

In 2003, they released their first album in seventeen years, ‘Tour De France Soundtracks’, which was written to commemorate the centenary of the French cycle race. The group continued to tour, but in 2008 Schneider left the group with no clear reason given. A year later, Hütter told The Guardian that Schneider had “not really [been] involved in Kraftwerk for many, many years”.

After leaving the group, Schneider – already fairly private – largely withdrew from public life. However, he did return in 2015 with new track ‘Stop Plastic Pollution’ as part of a campaign to highlight the issue of plastic pollution in the ocean. Speaking to Dazed at the time, he said that he had been inspired to make that track by “taking a swim in the ocean at the coasts of Ghana, watching fishermen catch nothing but plastic garbage in their nets”.