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The art of German electronic music innovators Kraftwerk

Technology catches up with German band Kraftwerk's brand of trailblazing electronic music

Published on Apr 18, 2013 4:00 PM

Retro-futuristic German electronic music innovators Kraftwerk do not do band portraits. Instead, they get mannequins or robots to pose for photo shoots or act as them in their music videos.

Explaining this quirky practice, 66-year-old band head honcho Ralf Hutter says in German-accented English: "Well, for photography, we do them with robots because they have the patience to do photo shoots. We don't have the time. The robots are very patient and they can do the work much better than us because we are working on the music."

He should give the band more credit - they have more patience than they think. After all, they did wait decades for technology to catch up with their creative ideas.

Ahead of their time back in the 1970s when they started, Hutter says that technology is finally in step with the band's music and visual ideas in recent years, hence their series of recent retrospective gigs coupled with 3-D technology.

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Background story

“The robots are very patient and they can do the work much better than us because we are working on the music.”

Ralf Hutter on Kraftwerk using mannequins or robots to pose for photo shoots or act as the band in music videos

Book it

Mosaic: Kraftwerk 3-D

Where: Esplanade Theatre

When: Next Thursday, 8pm

Admission: $58, $88, $118, $148 and $188 from Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to

Impact On 5 Acts

Techno artist Moby once told The New York Times that "Kraftwerk are to contemporary electronic music what the Beatles and The Rolling Stones are to contemporary rock music". British newspaper The Telegraph goes further, calling the German act "the most influential group in pop history".

Life! lists five top acts who owe their music to the German quartet.

1 Afrika Bambaataa

American hip-hop DJ and pioneer Afrika Bambaataa's groundbreaking 1982 single, Planet Rock, has melodies based on Kraftwerk's Trans-Europe Express (1977) and Numbers (1981). Planet Rock is now credited as being an instrumental track in the evolution of hip-hop while at the same time planting the seeds for a new genre, electro.

2 Depeche Mode

Guitarist and songwriter for the popular British electronic pop band Martin Gore regards Kraftwerk as the "godfathers of electronic music" and hails RadioActivity (1975), Trans-Europe Express (1977) and The Man-Machine (1978) as still sounding modern today. Depeche Mode have also sampled Kraftwerk's music in two of their songs, Dream On (2001) and the live version of Everything Counts (1983).

3 Joy Division/New OrderThe late Joy

Division singer Ian Curtis was such a big fan of Kraftwerk that he would play Trans-Europe Express over the PA system before every gig. After he died, the rest of the British band formed New Order, which sampled Kraftwerk song Uranium (1975) in their 1983 breakthrough hit, Blue Monday.

4 Coldplay

The frontman of British super band Coldplay, Chris Martin, infamously wrote a letter in German to Kraftwerk asking for permission to use the melody from Computer Love for their 2005 single, Talk. He received a reply in the form of a handwritten note that had only one word - "yes".

5 David Bowie

The release of Kraftwerk's Autobahn in 1974 inspired British singer David Bowie to move from Los Angeles to Berlin and explore electronic music, giving rise to three of his most distinctive albums dubbed collectively as the Berlin trilogy - Low (1977), Heroes (1977) and Lodger (1979). He also named a song, V-2 Schneider (1977), after Kraftwerk co-founder Florian Schneider.