Kraftwerk (I Was A Robot) By: Wolfgang Flür…Waiting Over A Decade Pays Off

I have waited to read this book for over a decade. It was one of those books I always wanted to read but was never able to find. A few weeks ago while visiting a local bookstore in Seattle I came across a used copy. My boyish delight was instant. I felt like a kid who had just received a much wanted bicycle on Christmas.

I just couldn’t put this book down. I read it from cover to cover in just a few days. The sign of a good book, for me, is when I just don’t want the story to end. Couldn’t Wolfgang have made this a trilogy, perhaps!? What I would give to spend an afternoon in Dusseldorf talking to Wolfgang about his recollections and his point of view on life in this era. Reading this biography was perhaps one of the most enlightening books I have read from a member of a band.

In the first chapters of the book, Flür points out that he would not be talking about synthesizers, oscillators, LFO’s or things like modulation, etc. Nonetheless, I believe he does a stellar job of describing the electronics used by Kraftwerk during his time in the company of the other robots. He even does a good job of highlighting some details of the Kling Klang studio. From the Bonn (Matten & Wiechers) custom made analog sequencers, EMU Emulators, Synclaviers and the early synthesizers used, you’ll find plenty of this within the pages. He even points out that they didn’t have much more than a Moog Minimoog and an ARP Odyssey for their first albums. They relied more on their creativity to achieve results, not just technology.

I found it particularly fascinating to learn about the custom drum pad he says he created in the early 1970’s. If he is correct, then perhaps he should be cited as a pioneer of circuit bent instruments.

There were moments in the book where he becomes greatly endearing to me. I am fascinated by analog sequencers. Though for Flür it was the start of a change in his value as a drummer. The dawn of machine controlled sound is where I take my early inspirations from. Yet, here he reminds me of what many of the musicians I knew growing up in Las Vegas must’ve experienced when they were replaced by MIDI sequencers and ROM based synthesizers.

In the book he reminds us that he is a romantic. Though, I would argue he is also a sentimentalist. He describes Germany with such a passion, to almost make me envious of his experiences. There is also clever humor throughout the book too. His narrative throughout the book is engaging and entertaining.

I have read reviews where people say he seems bitter of his time with Kraftwerk. However, I never got this impression while reading it. Does he come across as feeling betrayed and disillusioned by some of his former band-mates at times? Of course he does. This is a normal reaction and proves that he is more than just a Man synced with a machine. Still, despite this focus by critics, I never built up any animosity about Ralf Hütter or Florian Schneider. Maybe one day in my lifetime the other robots will disconnect from the machines and share with us their views.

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