When Lester Bangs interviewed Kraftwerk

Posted by

It was 1975. Latest issue of Creem Magazine has inside an interview between two legends: Lester Bangs, largely considered the greatest rock critic America ever had, and Kraftwerk, who in those years were revolutioning common musical imaginary, something that soon will give the official start to electronic music. An interview that today we read again, with renewed pleasure. An example of journalism that nowadays cannot take place again. First, because today there is no longer Lester Bangs or anyone like him (and even if there was, he would write for Pitchfork as freelancer, being read by all the people online in that week, then getting forgotten after some months). And second, because today there are no longer revolutions like the one made by Kraftwerk (and probably there won’t be even in the future).

Below you can find an excerpt of the interview, something that can give you an idea of how their strong and visionary personalities interact together. Because the real journalism is not about describing the music or giving judgements, it’s about enriching the listener’s experience with stories that can make it more fascinating. True stories, imaginary ones? Never mind. The only thing that matters is triggering the passion.

Lester Bangs

In the beginning there was feedback: the machines speaking on their own, answering their supposed masters with shrieks ot misalliance. Gradually, the humans learned to control the feedback, or thought they did, and the next step was the introduction of more highly refined forms of distortion and antificial sound, in the form of the synthesizer, which the human beings also sought to control.

In the music of Kraftwerk, and bands like them present and to come, we see at last the fitting culmination of this revolution, as the machines not merely overpower and play the human beings but absorb them, until the scientist and his technology, having developed a higher consciousness of its own, are one and the same.

Kraftwerk, whose name means power plant, have a word for this ecstatic congress: Menschmaschine, which translates as “man-machine.” I am conversing with Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider, coleaders of Kraftwerk….

“I think the synthesizer is very responsive to a person,” says Ralf, whose boyish visage is somewhat less severe than that of Florian, who looks, as a friend put it, “like he could build a computer or push a button and blow up half the world with the same amount of emotion.” “lt’s referred to as cold machinery,” Ralf continues, “but as soon as you put a different person in the synthesizer, it’s very responsive to the different vibrations. l think it’s much more sensitive than a traditional instrument like a guitar.

I asked Hütter if a synthesizer could tell what kind of person you are and he replied: “Yes. lt’s like an acoustic mirror.” I remarked that the next logical step would be for the machines to play you. He nodded: “Yes. We do this. lt’s like a robot thing, when it gets up to a certain stage. lt starts playing…it’s no longer you and I, it’s lt. Not all machines have this consciousness, however. Some machines are just limited to onepiece of work, but complex machines…

“The whole complex we use,” continues Florian, referring to the Equipment and headquarters in…Düsseldorf, “can be regarded as one machine, even though it is divided into different pieces.” Induding, of course, the human beings within….

I told them that I considered their music rather anti-emotional, and Florian quietly and patiently explained that “,emotion’ is a strange word. There is a cold emotion and other emotion, both equally valid. lt’s not body emotion, it’s mental emotion. We like to ignore the audience while we play, and take all our concentration into the music. We are very much interested in origin of music. the source of music. The pure sound is something we would very much like to achieve.”

You can read the full interview on BigShot Magazine.

Comment