Der Spiegel - Ralf Hütter - July 2003
(English Version)
see too german , french and spanish versions
Der Spiegel: Mr.Hütter, due to classic electropop-hits like "Autobahn" and "The Robots", Kraftwerk is the most influential german band. Is it possible, that glory paralysed you so much, needing 16 years to releases a new album, whose titel just remembers to an old Kraftwerk track?
Ralf Hütter: Do you believe, we're gonna walk the whole day around, and gonna knock us fill with enthusiasm on our shoulders? Nonsense - we are quiet normal music workers and are full employed with Kraftwerk in our little studio in Düsseldorf. And there is no 4 year or 20 year plan. The last time we released less, but if necessary, we could increase our speed every time.
Der Spiegel: Your new album's titel is "Tour the France Soundtracks", your famous older composition "Tour de France" is one of the basics of this album. What are the sources of your passion for cycling?
Ralf Hütter: Everyone of us four (-funny!-) is cycling and drove some stages. Cycling is movement and freedom, sitting an a bicycle you feel free, a little bit autonomic. Like our music it is related to concentration and speed, and our yearning to reach new limits. Also cycling gives us a long respiration and helps us, to fight against the destroying power of the music business. Dont forget: we are here for 33 years now.
Der Spiegel: Were you influenced by the 100th Tour de France anniversary, to release your new work just now?
Ralf Hütter: The idea for the album came to us 20 years ago. At that time, we wrote it as a script for a film. But it didn't click for us until last year, when we gave the concerts in Paris and when our robots were exhibited in the museum there. Then could we bring our plans to an end.
Der Spiegel: Are you gonna watch the Tour live?
Ralf Hütter: The organzation of Societé du Tour de France, invited us to view from helicopter and car.
Der Spiegel: Are you disturb, that Kraftwerk musicians such as sport athlets are described as human machines?
Ralf Hütter: The important is: we are talking about man machines and not about machine man. It is the harmony which is necessary for a lithely sense of being. The frenchman claim, then you can't feel the pedals.
Der Spiegel: You play your songs always live in concerts. Are you angry, that a lot of people think, electronic music just tootles simply with a push on a button out of the machines?
Ralf Hütter: I hope that this mistaken belief now is enlightened. In the seventies, we had our first first big success, there were a lot of reproaches like: Kraftwerk is existing of primitively button pusher. We disputed this in our scripts: In "Pocket Calculator" we said: "Und wenn ich diese Taste drück, spielt er ein kleines Musikstück." The supporter of such named "handmade" music always forget, that the handmade music too is a result of creative constructed instruments and most needs electricity.
Der Spiegel: What is fascinating in technique?
Ralf Hütter: Machines always are seemed badly. We never thought so. Together, we work with machines. Between the machines and us there is a fellowship.
Der Spiegel: A companionship with machines?
Ralf Hütter: We play the machines and the machines play us. That is real. When we leave the concertstage, the machines continue. That thought inspired us to develop the robots. We wanted fungibility, division of labor, reproduction, automatism and similar ideas.
Der Spiegel: Is it a victory for you that today successfully musicians play electronics which you have done in the seventhies?
Ralf Hütter: Today you have much possibilities which we dreamed once upon a time when we started. Then, computers were big cabinets. Today everything fits in a laptop, you can comfortably travel the world with.
Der Spiegel: How can we imagine the work in the legendary "Kling Klang Studio", which is rumoured, that there is no telephon and no fax?
Ralf Hütter: It's now for 33 years our electronic laboratory, our work needs concentration. We are seven days a week in the studio. We start late in the afternoon and end late in the evening. We introduced a 168 hour week for us.
Der Spiegel: And do you spend the whole time in your studio just for music?
Ralf Hütter: No. We develop concepts, formuls and thinking models. We don't spend our time on making 20 versions of a song only to leave 19 in the closet. We work target related. What we are starting we release. Our storage is empty.
Der Spiegel: Despite of full respect, in foreign countries, Kraftwerk is seemed as a typical german band, dissociate, cold, perfectly and very effectively. What is typical german for Kraftwerk in your opinion?
Ralf Hütter: Of course we are a result of Federal Republic of Germany and the post-war- culture, but it is more related to european identity. When we started at the end of the sixties, our abandonment was to create a new language. European writers and picturemakers tried similar.
Der Spiegel: With the album "Autobahn" in 1975 you arrived in the front rows of USA billboard. Are you surprised, that from the beginning the USA black music scene were very excited for the sounds of Kraftwerk?
Ralf Hütter: No. We have always believed that machines have a spirit, and that has a lot to do with soul and black music . But we was astonished, as we met in the middle of the seventies in America´s discotheques and clubs black DJs who mixed with two record players neverending tracks of "Trans Europe Express".
Der Spiegel: How have you handled the magic art, to be famous with Kraftwerk, but to be namelessly as a person?
Ralf Hütter: We never be compatible with a scenery. I think we are respected like scientists, dentist and clerks. For that what we are: music workers.
Interview to Christoph Dallach
Translation to english by Reiner Röbisch - Bobingen - Germany


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Updated: January 28, 2011