though Kraftwerk have sold more than 150.000 records in Germany alone, very
little in known about them in the Vaterland. They don't do interviews, one
is told, and they hardly do any concerts either because apparently they
don't really need the money. Four weeks ago, however, when their latest
album Autobahn looked like becoming a huge hit in the States they did decide
to go on the road over there and that's where they are now. The album has
been at number five there - quite an achievement for a German band.
took a phone call to producer Conny Plank who resides in a little village
outside Cologne to lift this veil of secrecy. "I didn't
even know that Autobahn was released as a single," were his first
words upon being told that in England, too, Kraftwerk had scored a hit.
Naturally he's most pleased but adds that one should really listen to the
album to get an idea of what it's all about - namely driving along the Autobahn,
the German motorways which seem never ending as you look ahead, that dull
grey stripe with a white line in the middle, the green verge to your left
and right, the boredom that every long distance driver experiences. Kraftwerk
have translated these visual images into sound.
was the Chicago boss of Phonogram who cut the track down to three minutes,"
explains Plank. "It was purely meant for radio promotion
in the States but we were rather pleased when we heard it, that's exactly
how we would have done it." He emphasizes the word "we".
"I'm just the co-producer," he explains.
"I firmly believe in getting the group equally involved in the production
of their record." Conny Plank works with a number of German groups
like, for example Neu!, he runs his own studio in the village of Seelscheid
but his major interest has always been in Kraftwerk.
was in 69 that he discovered them in a club in Düsseldorf when they
were a five-piece group called Organisation. That year he produced their
first album "Tone Float", but it was too bizarre for the German
record companies and consequently it was only ever released by RCA in England.
A year later the group split. Florian Schneider-Esleben who plays flute,
synthesizer and all sorts of synthetic rhythm instruments, and Ralf Hütter,
Moog synthesizer and keyboards, emerged under the new name of Kraftwerk.
are the nucleus of the band," Plank explains. "And
they add various other musicians from time to time. For the present American
tour they engaged drummers. In the past they have also used flute and violin
players but in the studio they prefer laying all the music down themselves."
Altogether they do prefer to work in the studio. Autobahn is their fourth
album but its astonishing international success might change the attitude
of Florian Schneider - Esleben and Ralf Hutter. "There's
no plan for any further tours yet, we'll have to see how they feel when
they return from the States." Says Plank.
to Margot Sonnendecker - England
by Simon Dell - Glasgow - Scotland