Alexis Taylor on Kraftwerk

Words by Alexis Taylor

I think there are a few pop records that will always be important to me—and, in certain instances, an artist’s or band’s whole oeuvre: Prince, up until about 1993, The Beach Boys, and pretty much everything Kraftwerk have done. I’ve seen Kraftwerk three times—quite late in their career but certainly some of the best concerts I’ve ever seen. The first was at Brixton Academy around 2003, with tracks from Tour de France Soundtracks making up the bulk of the show, and then the rest being “greatest hits”. This was also really the beginning of the amazing visuals, and the whole synchronization of the videos with the music. It was a simple, colorful experience, and it was really powerful.

 

I think Kraftwerk’s combination of lyrics and music is endlessly brilliant. There are so few words and so many repeating phrases, that anybody can connect to it. They treat their videos like a part of the entire presentation, while I would say Hot Chip is first and foremost about music with video being kind of an afterthought. Visual ideas get attached to what we do after the music, which I think sometimes produces a kind of awkwardness to what we do onstage. There are times that I wish we would always work with a single visual artist or video director, in order to have, like, a fancier stage show. But then I think that it’s better the way we have it now because most of the music I really like has nothing to do with any stage show. Actually, it can be really frustrating if the visuals get in the way of the music. Kraftwerk excluded.

 

Of course there’s also a connection because we’ve recently worked with Conny Plank’s equipment. [laughing] I would like to add, however, that we chose to work with the engineer who owns Plank’s mixing board more because of his skills than equipment. But I can’t deny that it was a selling point. I like a lot of the records that Conny Plank worked on, and I like the fact that he hand made this desk and there are only two of them in existence. But nobody will listen to our album and go, “Ah, that’s Conny Plank’s desk!” Honestly, I think Kraftwerk and Hot Chip are pretty far away from each other in many key respects. Most of the stuff we do involves some sort of hand played ethnic percussion, combined with programmed drum parts. There’s an anti-quantization and raggedness in Hot Chip that exists less in Kraftwerk . . . at least to my ear.~ Photo: Max Dax

 

Earlier this year we where reporting from the Kraftwerk Retrospective 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 at New York’s MoMa, where we collected a lot of interesting takes on the legendary techno innovators from the likes of Juan Atkins, Afrika Bambaataa, Klaus Biesenbach and more — read them here. ~

This text appeared first in Electronic Beats Magazine N° 30 (2012). Read the full issue on issuu.com: