Kraftwerk co-founder Florian Schneider-Esleben dies at 73

Citing fellow group founder Ralf Huetter, the band’s record label said that Schneider-Esleben had been suffering from cancer, German news agency dpa reported.

SHARE Kraftwerk co-founder Florian Schneider-Esleben dies at 73
Kraftwerk performs at Royal Festival Hall in London in 2004.

Kraftwerk performs at Royal Festival Hall in London in 2004.

Peter Boettcher

BERLIN — Florian Schneider-Esleben, who helped pioneer electronic music as the co-founder of Kraftwerk and influenced genres ranging from disco to synth pop, has died at age 73.

Citing fellow group founder Ralf Huetter, Sony announced that Schneider-Esleben had been suffering from cancer, German news agency dpa reported. Schneider-Esleben and Huetter met while both were students at the Academy of Arts in Remscheid. They started working together in 1968, and two years later founded the Kling-Klang-Studio in Duesseldorf and launched Kraftwerk.

“From the beginning, we had a concept of electronic folk music. It’s a kind of anticipatory music, looking ahead to the age of the computer,” Huetter told the German broadcaster Deutsche Welle in 2014.

They rarely spoke to reporters and their individual names were largely unknown to the general public, but few groups were as important in shaping the sounds of popular music over the past half century. Just as their sensibility anticipated the computer age, their immersion in drum machines, synthesizers and other electronic instruments would be echoed in countless songs, whether in pop hits like Blondie’s “Heart of Glass” and Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love” or in the music of Depeche Mode, Bjork and David Bowie, who named one of his songs “V-2 Schneider.”

“EVERY modern musician owes something to this man’s vision,” the Cure’s Lol Tolhurst tweeted Wednesday.

Kraftwerk albums included the breakthrough release “Autobahn,” “Radio-Activity,” “Trans-Europe Express,” “The Man-Machine” and “Tour de France.” The German group won a Grammy award for lifetime achievement in 2014, when it was praised for creating some of the most “influential work in our musical history.”

Schneider-Esleben was the son of modernist architect Paul Schneider-Esleben and spent much of his childhood in Duesseldorf. Both he and Huetter were already working in avant-garde and experimental music when they met. In a 2005 interview with MOJO magazine, Huetter described him as a “sound perfectionist.”

“So, if the sound isn’t up to a certain standard, he doesn’t want to do it,” he said. “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?”

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