Last night Wolfgang Flür entertained a packed house at the monthly Campfire (http://www.playworks.tv/campfire/) event in London. The audience – which included luminaries like Neil Arthur of Blancmange, Jon Fugler of Fluke and Kermit, formerly of the Ruthless Rap Assassins and, of course, Black Grape – lapped up the wide-ranging discussion of Wolfgang’s career both in and out of Kraftwerk. In the Q&A session Kermit asked Wolfgang to expand on the negative press Kraftwerk got in their early days. “They said we would never be popular!” Wolfgang told Kermit. “They said that we didn’t stand a chance, that we were idiots! Until we went to America, and then they said that they knew all along that we were the future.”
Wolfgang also gave a dramatic re-enactment of the night in Liverpool in the 1970s when Kraftwerk were opening their show with their new innovation, the ‘drum cage’.
“We were alway thinking of things to make us different, and that were fun,” he explained (perhaps surprisingly the theme of Kraftwerk having fun was often mentioned). “So we came up with the idea of a cage with built-in photoelectric cells, and I would break the beam with my hands and trigger the various drum parts. Sometimes,” he added, “it worked…” It failed at the Liverpool show, and the next day the reviews asked what Wolfang was doing in the spotlight, waving his arms around. “Perhaps he was directing the traffic?” they suggested.
Before Wolfgang took to the stage, a large screen showed snapshots and videos from Wolfgang’s personal collection, creating a digital scrapbook of images from Kraftwerk tours of the 1970s and 1980s, and of his post-Kraftwerk adventures. One video he was keen to tell Electronic Sound about featured a visit he made to the International School in Köln (Cologne) last year, where a friend of his, Rob Keane, teaches and had put together a band of youngsters to play a selection of Kraftwerk cover versions. The tiny drummer, Daniel Cremer, steals the show for us, and the traffic cones and red shirts nicely top off a 13-minute set which kicks off with ‘The Telephone Call’ and takes in a neatly edited ‘Autobahn’, as well as ‘Radioactivity’, ‘Trans Europe Express’ and ‘Computer Love’. That they hold it together in the blistering heat, and under the gaze of a former member of the band they’re emulating is pretty impressive.