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Kraftwerk Co-Founder Florian Schneider Dead at 73

Influential keyboardist and electronic music pioneer dies following short battle with cancer

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Daniel Kreps May 06, 2020

Florian Schneider from Kraftwerk performs live on stage in Germany in 1971. Photo: Ellen Poppinga - K&K/Redferns/Getty Images

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Florian Schneider, co-founder and keyboardist of the influential German electronic music group Kraftwerk, has died at the age of 73.

“Kraftwerk co-founder and electro pioneer Ralf Hütter has sent us the very sad news that his friend and companion over many decades. Florian Schneider has passed away from a short cancer disease just a few days after his 73rd birthday,” the band said in a statement.

“In the year 1968 Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider started their artistic and musical collaboration. In 1970 they founded their electronic Kling Klang studio in Düsseldorf and started the multi-media project Kraftwerk. All the Kraftwerk catalogue albums were conceived and produced there.”

Formed by Schneider and Ralf Hütter in the late Sixties, Kraftwerk’s pioneering use of keyboards and synthesizers would later inspire artists in all genres of the musical spectrum, from rock and electronic music to hip-hop and pop.

While undergoing numerous lineup changes over Seventies and Eighties, the partnership of Schneider and Hütter remained the group’s creative backbone. The duo recorded three albums alongside famed Krautrock producer Conny Plank — 1970’s Kraftwerk, 1971’s Kraftwerk 2 and 1973’s Ralf und Florian — but Kraftwerk considered their 1974 album Autobahn to be the true start of their famed catalogue, which earned the group a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2014.

On Autobahn, Schneider and Hütter solidified the Kraftwerk sound: Hypnotically looping and repetitive beats and synths and vocoded vocals to create boundless soundscapes that, like in the case of the influential title track, could span the entire side of a record.

Now joined by Karl Bartos and Wolfgang Flur on electronic percussion, with their Kling Klang studio in Dusseldorf their official outpost, Kraftwerk next released 1975’s Radio-Activity and 1977’s Trans-Europe Express; the latter album, inspired by David Bowie’s 1976 LP Station to Station, would foster a mutual admiration between the two artists, with Bowie’s Heroes track “V-2 Schneider” an ode to the Kraftwerk keyboardist.

While Hütter was the voice and mouthpiece of Kraftwerk, the notoriously press-shy Schneider — the son of the architect Paul Schneider-Esleben, who designed Germany’s Bonn Airport — is credited with navigating the band toward its boundary-pushing limits. “Florian is a sound fetishist. I am not so much, I’m maybe more a word fetishist,” Hütter told Mojo in 2005. “These roles are not an obligation, they have just developed over the years as our preferences.”

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