robot no more


By: Johan Carlsson
Published: November 7, 2006


In electronic music, hardly any band is as legendary as Kraftwerk. Thus it was very exciting for me to meet Wolfgang Flür, the defected drummer. Release has previously interviewed Ralf Hütter (1991) and Karl Bartos (1994). So one can say we're working our way through the member list - at Kraftwerk speed.

I sat down with Wolfgang Flür at the suitably futuristic Clarion hotel in Stockholm, and he was, of course, a nice, well dressed man in black clothes. A nice chap that was easy to talk to, even though the language barrier was apparent at times. That is how it should be though; a former Kraftwerkian really should have a heavy German accent. Flür's current project is Yamo, and a new album is in the making.

Background check
Wolfgang Flür, born in 1947, was a member of Kraftwerk between 1973 and 1987. He built and played the electronic drums, and left because he thought the band had stagnated; he wanted to move on.

Prior to my meeting with Wolfgang the record company said that I should under no circumstances mention or talk about Kraftwerk. He would only like to talk about his current projects. Of course it took Wolfgang less than five minutes to start talking about Kraftwerk, all by himself! I gladly followed his lead.

Wolfgang, third gentleman from the left.

First off though, let’s take a look at his current activities. Wolfgang and his musical partner Stefan Plank are currently working on a second Yamo album called “Eloquence”, a follow-up to 1997:s "Time Pie".

What's the sound of the new album?

– It’s very orientated on the lyrics. And very pop style, more than the first album “Time Pie”. And I want to show that there is also more smile on my side, and a louder Wolfgang than the whispering Wolfgang. “Time Pie” was a bit like electronic lounge music… Sort of.

Minimalistic perhaps?

– No, this is the opposite, maximalistic! I’m a Rheinland guy, and the Rheinland guys and girls are very maximalistic. It’s not the intellectual style, it’s pop music with a focus on future and humanism, which are things I like to write about. No more machines, no more computers, no more man machines and robots. That is my past, I have learned very much from it, but now is the time for my own project, Wolfgang explains.

When he’s not in the studio making new Yamo tracks, he travels around with his Yamo Spectacle project, which is a multimedia event with book readings, music with dancers, films, projections and such. This should be interesting to see, but they rarely play outside Germany. He’s also busy DJ-ing, together with a female dancer. In fact, he premiered a new Yamo track called “Cover Girl” in Leeds in August this year. The track apparently can be seen as a sequel to “The Model”!

There is also a possibility for Wolfgang to be involved with the new Mobile Homes album in some way, or perhaps the side project Sapporo ’72. Or it might be that he makes a remix for Mobile Homes singer Hans Erkendal’s daughter’s band West End Girls. Nothing is written in stone.

From "Computer World".

Robot no more
A couple of years ago, Wolfgang wrote a book about his time in Kraftwerk. It’s of course called “I Was a Robot”, and it’s a compelling read, very open and sometimes private. At the time of writing, the book still hasn’t got a Swedish release, but it’s available in English at good book stores. What many people don’t know though is that Wolfgang recorded a single to go with the book, to raise interest. Like the book, it’s called “I Was a Robot”, but it’s pretty hard to get hold of.

– In Kraftwerk I was a robot. That’s an expression about that time, but I have later realised it was my real position. This is why I wrote the book. Ten years after I left Kraftwerk I had the distance from it to see what happened. Especially what happened to me. What is left of me, of my talent, my way as a musician.

Wolfgang continues:

– I grew more and more, I changed really fast, and faster than Kraftwerk. They stayed the same, playing around the world. They conserved the music, they did it better and better, but all the time the same tracks. That made me a bit sad, in the end of the eighties, and especially in the nineties. There were always rumours that a new album would come. But it never came.

Happy fellas.

The fountain of youth
Instead Wolfgang noticed that there were many younger bands that made progress, so he became friends with some of them instead. He had a lot of offers for collaborations, but he thought he was too old. Right now his working partner is 15 years younger than him though.

– It works if people just want it to work, if the souls and the hearts are tuned in on the same channel. I mean this music thing, it keeps me young. Especially if I’m with younger people.

– I’m working on the second album, and searching for a new record company, because I did the mistake of signing my first album to the same label as Kraftwerk. You can imagine what came out of that… It was the most horrific thing that could happen to a musician. They bought me and they locked it away, because it became political, and nothing worse can happen to a musician!

It was released though, just not promoted very well. He did try to shop it around to other labels, and make a re-launch of Yamo, but all the other labels thought it was a flop. Since nothing ever happened with it, and they didn’t know the inside politics of it, maybe you can’t blame them.

– The whole music market is so difficult for musicians and composers today, that I can only recommend searching for an independent label. Small, but with heart, visions and ideas.

Enjoy the silence
Do you still listen to electronic music?

– Well, not for entertainment. I like silence. I’ve been asked “what’s your favourite sound?” and I say “calmness”. When I was younger I liked loudness, disco, with the tinnitus in my ear, wake up, disco again, studio, always loud. Today I listen to music just as a creator. I think it depends on that, getting older and getting into your own creative process. Away from Kraftwerk I mean. This is more like analyzing music, how I can do this better, or that better. I listen to the music of friends of course, comparing and learning, stealing. This is important, but if I have some space off, which is not often at the moment, then I need calmness, for thinking and for feeling. I’m a dreamer. Must be a dreamer.

As an artist, it’s almost your job to dream.

– Yes, well, I don’t find it a job… Since my birth that’s been a problem. My family always told me that I had to be wake up. “Wolfgang, where are you, are you daydreaming again? Do something useful instead!” My parents do not come from the artistic side, and didn’t like dreamers in their family. My brothers were completely different, and my parents always said “can you not once be like your brothers?”.

– It’s a big deal for me, that I didn’t have the support from my parents. Instead it was the opposite. They put big stones in my way. Today I understand it better, it was not war against Wolfgang, they wanted to do it right, but they didn’t understand my soul. I was so different.

It seems to me during this pretty personal interview that being free of Kraftwerk is very important for Wolfgang, as he voluntarily brought that subject up. The book “I Was a Robot” also deals with this, so let’s hope that the Yamo project finally finds a home so he can create and continue to build his own thing.