Stephan Plank – Resetting The Preset


Not many people get to say their dad was a “super-producer”, but in the case of Stephan Plank, son of Conny Plank, it turns out to be true.


Who Is Conny Plank?

While “super-producer” might seem a rather nebulous term to apply to someone, it’s hard to think of a better-fitting way to describe Conny Plank, considering that musicians from around the world to record with him at his abode in Germany, where he had his studio for many years. 


Many might call Rick Rubin, or Mutt Lange, two of rock’s big super-producers. Producers like Timbaland or Dr. Dre may have been referred to in such a way as well.  Of course, what makes each of these producers “super” is different from one another, as they all have their fortes.

Conny Plank, and his motives for making music at the time that he was fervently doing so, are altogether different again from all the rest. 

Conny, in his own way, is surely in the same stratum of certain legendary names in the music business, except he is less associated with mainstream music, never aiming for fame and glory so much as experimentation and purity of sound, so he has, as a result of not playing “the game”, a bit more mystique surrounding him, and credibility as an artist for endless miles.


In his home studio, Conny recorded some of the most sonically expressive, idiosyncratic, and experimental recordings ever to be pressed to vinyl, including many great krautrock albums by the likes of Neu!, Kraftwerk, Guru Guru, Night Sun, Can, and many more, some of whom were native to Germany.

Here’s an example of one of the many ground-breaking albums that Conny worked on, by Cluster (formerly Kluster).  It is but one in an long lineage of albums with Conny Plank’s unique stamp of sonic engineering wizardry.

In addition to having a big impact on Krautrock and rock in general, Conny Plank was responsible for some of the earliest “ambient” albums (before the term was coined for such music) as Cluster & Eno, Kraftwerk’s Autobahn, and his wife Christa Fast even sang on Music For Airports by Eno, which could be considered one of the first, if not “the” first, album of this kind.

Conny recorded with many musicians who made their way to his studio from all corners of the globe, and then, from there, these musicians went on to have a deep and lasting impact on music and future musicians.  

I’m referring to the likes of Devo in their early years, as well as the Eurythmics, Ultravox, Killing Joke, The Meteors, Kraan, Hunters & Collectors, A Flock of Seagulls, and dozens more artists, some more obscure, some more well-known.

One might wonder how Conny Plank was able to have such a prolific output for so many years and still manage to capture so much lightning in a bottle.  To many, it is still somewhat of a mystery, and understandably so.

The recording of various artists went on until Conny’s untimely death in 1987 of laryngeal cancer.

Conny’s Son, Stephan Plank

While Conny lived, he worked tirelessly with band after band at his home studio, while his wife and only son watched him work, and provided a home life, if a somewhat unconventional one.

stephan plank

His son, Stephan, grew up in an atmosphere both strange and interesting, making playmates out of some of the odd house guests who would arrive, stay a while, and then eventually leave, perhaps never to return.

When Conny died suddenly in December of 1987, it was difficult for anyone to process; most of all his family, who was used to Conny being a rather indomitable spirit.  Now he was gone.

Stephan was barely a teenager when Conny died, and so it took him a long time to process his death, and reach any kind of closure.  

Indeed, it wasn’t until his 40’s that Stephan finally had the urge to look back at who Conny was, and make sense of his legacy as a creative force in the music industry.

This reflection lead him to the creation of his own documentary, called The Potential of Noise, which features interviews with a slew of musicians who knew Conny best, from working with him in the studio.  

Here’s a trailer for the documentary, The Potential of Noise.

I caught up with Stephan on October 1st, 2019, to ask him questions about the documentary, his father and his music, and what his life his like now.


YC: Why did you make this documentary?

SP: In a sense, I was liberating myself of my father.  I was 13 when my father died, and I grew up in the music industry.  My mother then continued renting out the studio, and soon people were approaching me saying, “You’re the son of Conny, wow!”  and I would think to myself, “…but I don’t know what he did.  How should I reply to this?” 

In a way, I made this film to clear this up this mystery, and give myself a chance to talk about it, and also reach a better understanding of my father.

YC: Did you know about his impact at that time?

SP: I suspected the impact.  Growing up in the studio, all the people knowing about it…for me, it was not knowing what a producer did and how he worked that bugged me.”


YC: So you didn’t really know this – the extent of Conny’s influence – until you started making the documentary?

SP: Yes and no, growing up in the studio, I had seen how producers worked with different bands, but i didn’t know how Conny worked with bands and how he liberated their thinking.  The interesting thing about the work of my father was that he did a lot of “first” albums, so he was an integral part in constituting the bands avatars or egos where his own ego became fused with the bands’ ego.

YC: Were musicians and bands just randomly coming to his studio, or did he somehow advertise for musicians to come to see him?

SP: His records were his calling cards.  Lots of people at this time who were looking for a producer, would look at their record collection, and see that Conny had made many of their favourite albums, so they would come because of this.

YC: Was this localized to your area of Germany or were people coming from all over the world?

SP: Everywhere.  For instance, Devo from America, Hunters & Collectors from Australia, and many others from around the world…they would hear something like Kraftwerk and Neu! and they wanted to come see him and learn his methods. 

He was a lightning rod for bands who wanted to approach music differently.  For instance, Devo first wanted to work with David Bowie, and then Brian Eno, who was a friend and frequent collaborator with Conny, so he brought Devo with him to visit Conny. 

Ultimately, Brian Eno was thinking to shape Devo to be a little more pretty-sounding, but when Devo realized that Conny was like-minded to them in terms of anti-melody and embracing noise, they decided to work with him instead.

YC: How did Conny come to know Brian Eno?

SP: This was through Neu! that he met Brian, who came to our farmhouse to work on Music For Airports, which featured my mom singing some of the vocals on that album. 

YC: All this happened obviously after Brian Eno’s Roxy Music days, but how was the connection made?

SP: Brian Eno heard Conny’s work through Neu!’s first album, which had an appeal to many British musicians.  Some of these new Krautrock sounds that my dad was making were very interesting to many British musicians who were looking for a new type of sound at this time. 

These Krautrock albums weren’t about “hit” singles, but more about a new mentality towards music.  For instance, Michael Rother was in Kraftwerk and Neu!, and collaborated with Cluster, which lead him to Eno, and Music for Airports.


YC: There was not much like Eno’s Music For Airports at the time, really, right? This was a truly groundbreaking album.

SP: If anyone should be found guilty of launching “ambient” music, it should be Brian Eno and Michael Rother.

YC: Did you or do you now listen to any ambient music yourself?

SP: I listened to a lot of it growing up, and I think it’s very interesting to see how it all started.  My father was born in 1940 and he grew up in the time of the 2nd World War. 

He grew up in Kaiserslautern, or K-town, and this was a place which featured a lot of troop entertainment.  My father was friends with a couple of G.I.’s so they’d take him to see some of this entertainment.  There is a term in German – “icht”  – and he said he was icht when he listened to this troop entertainment.

YC: So he appreciated this type of music a great deal.

SP: Yes, a lot. He loved big band music like Duke Ellington. There is actually a story about Duke Ellington involving my father, where Duke Ellington came to Cologne to do a concert, and he needed a rehearsal space, and my dad didn’t have his recording studio at the time (because he wasn’t yet a sound engineer), but he was working in one. 

He asked the studio owner if he could have the Duke come to the studio and rehearse. Conny happened to be able to record this session, and then when Duke finished, he asked my father if he could hear the recording he made of his band, and when he heard it, he told him that he was doing “good sound” and that he liked what he heard. 

This was the point where my father heard his hero say he was doing a good job, and then he felt like he could be a sound engineer – this encounter boosted his confidence.  I wasn’t sure i this was a tall tale or not, because these things can be exaggerated, but then I went through the archive of our studio, and I found the Duke Ellington tape, which I then made into a vinyl release, and this is now available.

YC: When was this released?

SP: 4 years ago now. 

YC: Did it see a big release?

SP: We released it worldwide, but the audience for obscure Duke Ellington releases now is a very specific group of music fans.  Some people have even called me to tell me jokingly that Duke Ellington sounds even a bit Kraut-y on this release.

YC: Is there any truth to that?  Does it sound sort of Kraut-y?

SP: I can’t hear it, but I like the idea.

YC: This would have been at the beginning of Conny’s career, and the end of Duke’s?

SP: Yes.  This was recorded July 9th, 1970.  Now it is available on Spotify.

YC: Ok, well I’ll have to check that out.  So, once the studio became active and Conny had gone into the business of sound engineering more officially, at this point you were just there running around, being a kid.  Did you think the environment you lived in was normal?

SP: Everything your parents do seems normal to you, because at first you have nothing to compare it to.  For me, these slightly strange guests being around all the time was normal to me.  And, as musicians are, they were very playful people, so they made good playmates for me.

YC: And these musicians would stay there for days, or weeks, while your dad worked in his studio?

SP: Yes, he worked constantly.


YC: Did you see him much?

SP: Well, he was right next door, but it was clear that this is where the big boys played.  You have to realize, this was a time before digital looping was possible. 

So they had to use tape loops, so they’d be setting up microphone stands all over the studio, which was very interesting-looking to a 5-year-old.  So I wasn’t allowed to touch anything, or their work could be destroyed.  Therefore, I wasn’t allowed in very often, or very rarely.

YC: At what point did you realize what was going on in there?

SP: Between 10-12 years old, I started to understand the concept of work.  But there was no time to really ask my dad about the finer details of his work. 

At that time, it just made more sense for him to focus on his work, rather than explain everything to me.  I was aware that something interesting was happening, and I was aware that people wanted to meet my father, or to see some of the famous musicians who came there, like the Eurythmics, and to get their autograph.  To me these were just normal people working with my father, not stars.

Conny Plank

YC: Were you an only child?

SP: Yes.

YC: So were you very well-behaved then, or more of a brat?

SP: I was basically a brat.  I was fighting for the attention of my parents. By the time I was becoming a teenager, although we did not know it, my father had cancer, and would die soon.  He died December 6, 1987. 

At the start of 1987, around Easter holidays, we went with the Eurythmics to records their Japan Live tour.  I was taken along, because my father was very aware that his time with his family was becoming limited.  Still, he was working like a madman.

YC: At what point did you realize he was nearing the end of his life?

SP: My parents were optimistic until the last second.  I remember I was with some friends, because my father with in the hospital again, and on that Sunday I got a call saying my father had died, and so I came to the hospital to see my mother and brother.  It was horrible.


YC: What happened next?

SP: My mother continued to rent out the home studio, and musicians continued to come there to record.  It was a nice place, and had a lot of analog gear, and so it was still very attractive to musicians to come there. 

Recording studios can often be a stressful place for musicians, because they may have gotten a record deal, and suddenly the pressure is on to make their greatest music in a limited amount of time.  In other words, they would feel like the meter was running.  

My father and my mother together built this place to ease musicians of this feeling.  It wasn’t a fancy place.  It appeared a little bit squalid, but this was by design, because it would release some of the musicians’ tensions about being in a studio in the first place. 

And then, musicians could let go and really inhabit the music they were making.

YC: Was Conny a fan of live-off-the-floor recording?  Is that the scenario musicians were in at his studio?

SP: Conny was a fan of live recording, and he had some movable walls on wheels which he could turn and move so musicians could see each other.  He was also very adamant that bands recorded their first version of a song live. 

They could do overdubs after, but the live feeling had to be captured.  And he was very avid about sound quality.  There was a particular way the my father liked the cords in his studio, to be the exact right length with no cable wasted or lying on the floor tangled up.


YC: He was just very organized with his cables?

SP: This was the magic of my father, the way he made the musicians less aware of the recording process just by arranging the cables in a particular way.  My father’s goal was to help musicians to let go during their performance, and then he would catch these results, and he made it all seem easy.

YC: I guess Conny was always listening and tuned to the music even if the band didn’t think he was?

SP: Yes, Conny seemed relaxed and the band would also be relaxed, but if he heard a synthesizer reach a point where he knew it was the perfect tone for the song, he would stop the band and tell them to make sure to leave that synth at that setting, because he knew it sounded great. 

He would say “Stop, don’t touch the knob again.  You are precisely at the hot moment!”  In other words, he could always recognize when the band was at the peak of their performance. 

He wasn’t trying to force them to get there, but when they got there, he knew.  If a band was not getting better as they continued, he knew they’d reached their peak at that point. 

He was simply good at hearing when a band was playing their best, or if something special was happening. 

Conny Plank, Dieter Moebius and Mani Neumeier at Conny's studio, 1982

YC: So he didn’t intimidate anyone like some producers might?

SP: My father was a little bit like a psychologist, who would ask you questions, and then not tell you anything.  He was able to get a band to think about a concept, and then they would get ideas based on what he said. 

He didn’t need to tell them anything, just get them thinking about things they weren’t thinking about before.  This way, they could conceive an original idea.

YC: Was he trying to guide them, or manoeuvre these bands?

SP: He wasn’t trying to control them.  He was just trying to get them to think about what they might want to become, but he didn’t tell them what was, because he himself didn’t know. 

YC: Would you say most bands liked his methods as a producer?  Were there any bands who didn’t appreciate his methods and left the studio?

SP: Most bands did like his methods, and after his death, he became more of a superhero of german production, and so it was hard to find anyone who would say anything remotely negative about him. 

This is why I was thankful to Holger Czukay, who told me “Well, he probably wasn’t the perfect father…”  Most people treated him, in the interviews, in a very reverent way, but Holger had the guts to just say exactly what he thought, the way he experienced it.

YC: Why did Holger do that?

SP: Well, Can and Holger were all about authenticity, and Holger realized who was asking him, and to be true, he had to say it like he felt it.  He was afraid of nothing, basically, and you learn to live with the consequences.

YC: Did he witness it personally or was he just speculating?

SP: Holger just saw that it was him and my father, and then me and my mother.  He knew the band was disturbing family time, but he also knew he wanted to do it because it was so much fun.

YC: How are you now with work?  Has any of your father’s famous work ethic affected how you approach work?

SP: I feel like my parents gave me a gift.  We all seem to rebel against our parents in some way, and luckily, I am able to rebel by reading night time stories to my daughters every night.

stephan plank 2

YC: So you are reacting to your parents mistakes in some way?

SP: Yes, I feel like we all, as parents, try to not make the same mistakes as our parents, but mistakes are unavoidable, so even if we avoid some of their mistakes, we will make new, original mistakes. 

YC: Are there any qualities of your father you feel like you do exhibit?

SP: Well, I am still quite obsessive, especially with my work, but the fun thing about making this film was to see how my father became almost a spiritual father to some of these bands, because whereas their parents may no have been pleased that they were pursuing music as a career, my father was always very supportive, telling them how amazing he thought they were. 

He said “Let’s make this great!” and they would accept him as a father figure.  Whodini came to see my father from New York, and they met him, and they met me, and they told me they felt like I was their little brother.  So, in a way, the interaction at the studio was one big family.

YC: Was there ever any band that your father didn’t particularly want to work with?

SP: He refused to work with U2. 

YC: Why, because he didn’t like their music?

SP: My father said that he worked best as a medium between the artist and the tape.  And he wouldn’t know what kind of consciousness he’d have to transfer with Mr. Bono.

YC: What does this mean?

SP: I can only say his words, I don’t know.  I just think it’s interesting he called him Mr. Bono. 

YC: Well it sounds like maybe your father couldn’t relate to the way that U2 approached him?

SP: Maybe.

YC: Conny obviously had his own specific tastes when it came to sounds he liked, and he also helped to define certain tastes as well.

SP: Yes, and when he died, his life’s work was not compromised.  He never reached a stage where he had to make recordings to make ends meet.  He was 47 when he died, so this was early enough that he had yet to make any compromises.

YC: Basically it’s fair to say everything was going well and then he met an untimely end due to unexpected health issues.

SP: Yes. Conny is a bit of a mystery because most producers focus on one particular sound, but Conny’s favourite flavour was innovation, and he was thinking in terms of “If this is innovative, I will do it…”

YC: What became of all of his gear, like that mixing desk he made?

conny plank mixing desk

SP: It’s in London, and still earning its money at the moment.  The last Franz Ferdinand and Hot Chip albums were recorded with it, so it’s still in use, with Dave Allan.  I had the choice to put it in a museum, or I could give it to someone to work with it.  So I chose to find someone who would use it.

YC: Was it a sentimental thing to have to take the rest of his studio apart?

SP: It was done out of need.  When Conny died, we were 4 million euros in debt, and, in 2005, when my mother fell ill, we were 400 000 euros in debt.  She somehow managed to fall out of the German health care system, so I had to pay for fixing her brain tumour in cash. 

So things needed to be sold, and it eventually was mostly sold.  There’s a shop in Hamburg, Germany, and it still has some of my dad’s gear, including our Hammond B5.  Sometimes people want to buy it, and I will talk to them.  If they are good people, I will sell it to them. 

My father was never the sum of his equipment, but he was the sum of the ideas he planted in other musicians minds, which means he’s still out there in a way. I think that today my father’s idea of a nice setup might be a nice laptop, and some good converters. 

He’d probably travel with a flight case.  He might even have been glad to get rid of the studio eventually, because, to be honest, maintaining all of that analog gear can be a pain in the ass.  You constantly need to tinker with it to keep it running.

YC: Like you said, he was into innovation, so he probably would have embraced phones and computers fully.

SP: My dad was really into technology, and he bought the first Macintosh computer available. 

He bought it under the impression that he could record a musician in New York, and the quality would be good, which obviously wasn’t the case, but at that stage, people told him it would be possible. He was really on the cutting edge, always curious about it. 

He had the first emulator, and he always said stuff like “Reset The Preset”  to get the machines to go to the fringe places, the red part of the meter so it would groan a little bit.  What happens when you get to the place where they’re not supposed to be.


YC: What would he think of the crappy production work out there today?

SP: He always liked well-produced music, and hated badly made music.  I think the ratio of good to badly produced music has always been about the same.

YC: So he wasn’t really a snob then?

SP: No, not at all.  There a german tradition called Karneval which is 4 weeks before easter.  It’s a very christian / catholic thing, where everyone dresses funny and gets blind drunk.

There is a certain kind of music which goes with it.  Very basic, in a good way. Conny loved the authenticity of it.  He recorded Bläck Fööss, who only did carnival music.  He really loved this music.

YC: It sounds like German party music… like polka?

SP: Yes. He loved the identity-finding moments, and he liked Europe a lot – the idea of it.  Many bands from Europe would come to him and try to record something in English, and he would try to encourage them to sing in their own language. 

These bands give identity to a whole country.  When my dad had bands recording at our home, we would sit down to eat dinner, and I remember one of the sins was when a band said they wanted to sound like another band.  This was not cool.  My dad would say you are not born to be a copy.

YC: What would your dad do if a band really wanted to sound like another band in the studio while they were recording?

SP: Conny was very good at figuring out if a band wanted to sound like another band before they came in, and then pre-emptively not work with them.  His goal was originality over anything else.

YC: Yes, which is why I like many of the bands your father had worked with – so many original bands.  I was surprised at how many of these exceptional bands there were, when I saw the documentary you made.

SP: As a producer, Conny was very ego-less.  Many producers have their particular flavour that they give to a band.  Conny was called “Mr. Sound”, because his flavour was that the band sound like the band. 

He said that every band gets the sound they deserve.  My father really loved Prince, and his album Dirty Mind, and one of the musicians who came to the studio said he wanted to sound like Prince. 

So my father said, if you want to sound like Prince, you need to sing like Prince.  This musician really couldn’t pull of Prince.

YC: What is your job now?

SP: I do management for Nina Hagen and I’m making 2 more films.  One is a documentary called The Truth About The Truth. 

YC: Sounds cryptic, what’s it about?

SP: In your brain you have two buckets, one which holds information and one which holds truth.  There’s a switch in your brain that decides where it goes.  If the info gets into the truth bucket, we’ll be able to debate about it.  I want to make a documentary about this mechanism that decides this.

YC: How’d you think of this idea?

SP: There’s a german word “zeitgeist”.  In a way, this idea has been explored a lot already.  Ad companies think they know how to implant the truth in someone’s mind, and I think that it’s interesting to make people more aware that someone is trying to do this.  

I am working with Reto Caduff again, and we are currently gathering funds to help make the movie happen. I also have a start up company that I co founded called Re2you and we are trying to liberate people from technology, since Google and Apple sit on top of all the ecosystems.  So we want to emancipate people from this.

YC: All that sounds good and I look forward to seeing the new films when they arrive.  Thanks for chatting with me!

SP: Thank you!


Thanks for reading, if you have any comments or questions, pose them below!  

West German Underground – A Brief History of Krautrock

krautrock band

Sauerkraut (literally “sour herb” or “sour leaf”) is a salty cabbage dish from Germany that’s really quite delicious. It’s often eaten with mashed potatoes and ham or sausages. From this popular cabbage dish, the term “kraut” arose as a slang word for a German person, usually in a derogatory sense.

The term “Deutsch-Rock” (German Rock) was used until 1973 for the rock groups coming out of West Germany.

But in the early 1970s, the British music magazine known as Melody Maker coined the term “krautrock”.

It was first used more to ridicule or make fun of the bands, but as krautrock caught on in Britain the term lost any negative or mocking connotations it once had, though many German “krautrock” bands still rejected the name.

It is thought that krautrock was more of a British phenomenon that focused on how the music was received in Britain, rather than how the West German music scene felt about the music.

Characteristics of Krautrock

Krautrock may sometimes be referred to as “Kosmische Musik” (meaning Cosmic Music), which suits its sound in my opinion, because there are aspects of this music that feel otherworldly, like they can’t have been composed here on Earth by other humans.

There are elements of the unexpected – it is unpredictable, slightly strange, a little bit out there. I think it’s also interesting to note that the word “komisch” means strange in German, which is not a far cry from “kosmische”.  You could always call the music space-y, and that would fit as well.

night sky

But what does Krautrock mean, musically speaking?  It is, essentially, a genre of experimental rock which pulls from psychedelic rock, funk, jazz, avant-garde, and electronic music.

It arose from West Germany in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The genre deliberately tries to distance itself from the American rhythm and blues genre and instead draws on German influences, while still keeping a distinct rock rhythm.

A band member of the popular krautrock band Faust stated that they tried to forget everything typical of the rock and roll genre, including the three-cord pattern and the usual lyrics. They wanted something totally different.

Here’s a little taste of Faust…

Krautrock is a very experimental genre, breaking out of old, tried-and-true habits and delving into the untouched, the unthought of, the new and strange.

A 4/4 rhythm known as “motorik” is common of the krautrock genre. Motorik means “motor skills” in German. This drum pattern was pioneered by Jaki Liebezeit, drummer of the popular krautrock band Can, and was also used early on by the band Neu!.

The motorik 4/4 beat was later used by many other krautrock bands.

Early Beginnings

In the 1960’s, the hippie movement and political activism that was rampant in North America and Europe demanded a new type of music.

Avant-garde music was emerging, droning on with ambient synthesizers and other psychedelic sounds. This genre of music largely inspired the krautrock movement.

In 1968 in the city of Essen, a rock festival took place, and this was one of the first places that krautrock was performed and heard.

From here on, the krautrock genre took hold and many bands began producing music with this spacey, ambient and electronic sound.

A Closer Look at the Pioneering Bands

Let’s take a look at Can, one of the pioneering bands of krautrock. Can was formed by two students of the famous and praised composer Karlheinz Stockhausen.

Stockhausen was called one of the most influential and also controversial composers of the 20th century. He was well educated in music, having attend the University of Cologne and the University of Bonn.

He was known for his influential compositions, his work with electronic music and his theories.


Evidently, his students learned a lot from his unique teachings, and went on to form the krautrock band Can, which was using techniques that were, at the time, very new and unheard of.

It is one thing to see a new genre of music after it has been invented and think, “that doesn’t seem so hard to come up with, the idea was sitting right in front of them”, but it is another thing entirely to create a new genre from thin air.

Of course, Can was not the only band pioneering the krautrock genre, but they certainly had a big hand in it.

Can band photo

For a super detailed history of Can, go here

Can was formed in 1968 in Cologne. The band mainly consisted of four members: Holger Czukay on bass and Irmin Schmidt on keyboard (the two members who studied under Stockhausen and formed the band), Jaki Liebezeit on drums (from whom the motorik beat originated) and Michael Karoli on guitar.

The group did not have one permanent singer, but rather many temporary ones.

Tago Mago album cover

Schmidt, the band’s keyboardist, had been heavily influenced by avant-garde musicians such as Terry Riley, Steve Reich and La Monte Young on a trip he took to New York.

From this, he began to see the new and different possibilities of rock music. In 1968 the band released their first album “Monster Movie” with vocals by Malcolm Mooney.

Then in 1971, they released another revolutionary and unconventional album, “Tago Mago” with vocals by Damo Suzuki. “Tago Mago” was a very influential album, featuring great tracks such as the dreamy “Paperhouse” and the hypnotic “Oh Yeah”.  Have a listen to the song “Paperhouse” below.


Another band that helped lay the groundwork for krautrock was the band Neu! (meaning “New”).

If you’re wondering why the band was named “new!”, it was inspired by the rise of advertising in the bigger German cities at the time, and “new” was one of the most powerful words for selling different things to the public.

Neu! was formed in 1971 in Düsseldorf by Klaus Dinger and Michael Rother. Dinger and Rother were two former members of the popular band Kraftwerk in its earliest days, but left to start Neu!.

Although Neu! had less commercial success than Can, it was still a pioneer of krautrock and inspired many punk, rock and electronic bands in the years that followed.

The band’s first album, entitled “Neu!”, was released in 1972 and sold 30 000 copies, which was not very much when compared to mainstream competitors, but a decent amount when considered that they were an underground, off-beat band.

This album has come to be praised by many big names in music such as David Bowie, Brian Eno and Iggy Pop. Songs like “Hallogallo” demonstrated the quintessential motorik beat.

During the production of their second album, Neu! 2, Rother and Dinger began to run out of money. Therefore, on the second side of their album, they simply remixed and played with their already recorded single “Super”, sometimes slowing it down, sometimes speeding it up, and manipulating it in other ways.

The song “Super 16”, one of the manipulated versions of the original song, was used in Quentin Tarantino’s movie Kill Bill Volume 1.

The duo Dinger and Rother were quite different from each other. In their third album, “Neu! ‘75”, they decided to each pursue their own personal style, making half the album a solo album for Dinger, and half the album a solo album for Rother.

This album is seen as a very diverse krautrock album. After its release, the duo split up and went their separate ways.


As mentioned before, Dinger and Rother were originally in the band Kraftwerk in its early days, before leaving to form Neu!. Kraftwerk was another influential band of electronic music.

It was formed in Düsseldorf in 1970 by Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider. The band experimented with krautrock in its early days, featuring instruments such as the synthesizer, drum machines and self-made instruments.

Kraftwerk really helped to popularize the lesser-known krautrock genre and make it available to a wider audience.


They released three albums in the early 1970s: “Kraftwerk” in 1970, “Kraftwerk 2” in 1972 and “Ralf und Florian” in 1973. They performed as a duo during the years of 1972-1973, as their lineup was not steady.

In 1974, they had commercial success with their hit album “Autobahn”, which they were able to tour with the financial help of Phonogram Inc.

After this tour, they began working on their next album which was released in October of 1975, entitled “Radio-Aktivität”, or “Radio-Activity” in English. Kraftwerk is still active in 2018, working on new projects.

You can listen to the album “Autobahn” below.


Lastly, we’ll take a look at Faust, who we gave a sample of near the top of the article.

Faust is a band named after the protagonist of a classic German tale. Faust was a popular band that was formed in 1971 in Wümme. Faust paved the way for many other krautrock bands. Although their debut album had poor sales, it did attract a small but loyal fan base, and was praised for its innovation. Their second album, “So Far”, did better than the first and was one of the albums that made krautrock accessible internationally. Here is the title track from that album.

Some other notable krautrock bands include Tangerine Dream, Embryo, Cosmic Jokers and Cluster, among many others.

The Influence of Krautrock

Krautrock had a considerable influence on many genres, including electronic, post-punk, rock and British new wave. A notable musician who was inspired by the krautrock scene was David Bowie.

Bowie, who began living in Berlin in 1976, later created the “Berlin Trilogy”, a sequence of three albums, “Low”, “Heroes” and “Lodger” as a tribute to the music scene he experienced in Berlin, which included krautrock and kosmiche musik.


Krautrock, while it may have been named so as a mockery at first, has actually become a highly influential and fascinating genre. It features cosmic, dreamy and ambient sounds and often uses the 4/4 motorik rhythm.

I think the krautrock genre is commendable in its non-conformity and innovation of the rock genre.

Can (Band) History, Some Analysis, and Discography

History of Can (as in the band)

Founders and the artistic core of the band Can were the keyboard player Irmin Schmidt and the bassist Holger Czukay. Both had studied composition with Karlheinz Stockhausen at the Musikhochschule in Cologne .

can german band

In early 1968, they gathered together musicians with contrasting musical backgrounds, forming an experimental musical collective.

David C. Johnson was, at that time, a lecturer for electronic music. Free jazz came from the drummer Jaki Liebezeit, who had previously worked with Manfred Schoof.

Guitarist Michael Karoli still sought musical identity. At first, the band called themselves Inner Space. From a concert of June 1968, the singles Agilok & Blubbo (July 1968) and Kamasutra (November 1968) were released.

From 1968, the band first rehearsed at Nörvenich Castle, where they met in June 1968 for a jam session with the personnel of Karoli, Czukay, Schmidt, Liebeszeit and Johnson.

They were supplemented by Manfred “Manni” Löhne (vocals, percussion, flute).

This jam session was published in 1984 as the bootleg Prehistoric Future, which was published in limited editions of 2,000 copies and contained samples of the student unrest at the Sorbonne in Paris.

From 1968 to 1973

In November, 1968, Can recorded the soundtrack to the Kinofilm, Kama Sutra – Completion of Love, which came out on June 5, 1969 in theaters.

The first LP Monster Movie was created on July 25, 1969 in Nörvenich Castle and includes spontaneous compositions.

Only 500 copies of the first edition were sold in two weeks. From the end of the year, the band renounced the “The” in their name and now called themselves simply Can.

monster movie the can

At concerts, Malcolm Mooney was also struck by these performances in a negative way. On the advice of his psychiatrist he returned a little later to the United States, due to Can’s avante-garde-ness getting the better of him.

This was followed by the LPs Soundtracks (recorded from November 1969 to August 1970) and Tago Mago (November 1970 to February 1971), also recorded in Nörvenich.

Soundtracks included a compilation of film music from the last five films, for which Can was responsible as composer.


Between 1971 and 1978, eight studio albums were created. The first LP from the new recording studio was Ege Bamyasi (December 1971 to June 1972), followed by Future Days (released in August 1973).

At the suggestion of Conny Plank, René Tinner took over the role of sound engineer from 1973 onwards, and in 1978 he continued the studio as a CAN studio.

In September 1973, Damo Suzuki left the band.

From 1974 to 1977

The LP Future Days Limited Edition (1974) was only planned with an edition of 15,000 copies, but was expanded to the Unlimited Edition in 1976 and contained unpublished titles.

This was followed by the LPs Soon Over Babaluma (August 1974), Landed (February to April 1975).

The double-LP Unlimited Edition (March 1976) was an extended version of the LP Limited Edition and included recordings between September 1968 and September 1974, Flow Motion (June 1976) and Saw Delight (January 1977).

From 1978 onwards

After the sessions on LP Can in February 1978, the group eventually broke up. In the same year, Karoli left the band. In 1980, Schmidt moved with his family to Provence.

Subsequent performances took place under the name Can Solo-Projects with individual former band members.

On 18 June 2012, the CD Can – The Lost Tapes was released with missing recordings of about 30 hours of playing time. They were found when the Can studio “Inner Space” was disbanded in November 2007 and re-built in Gronau (Westf.)

By the Rock’n’popmuseum. Jaki love died on 22 January 2017 at the age of 78 years at a lung inflammation. On September 5, 2017, Holger Czukay was found dead in his home in Weilerswist.

can the lost tapes

Movie Music – Spoon – Singles

To a larger audience, the band became known through film music, such as Tom Toelle’s television movie The Million Play, broadcast on 18 October 1970. On the LP Can Soundtracks, titles from the films Girls with Violence (Germany’s premiere on 19 February 1970), Deadlock (October 15, 1970) and Cream – Schwabing Report (August 27, 1971).

As of September 24, 1975, the Crimean Eurogang ran with the Can-Single Hunters and Collectors (from LP Landed ).

The single I Want More (from the LP Flow Motion ) came in August 1976 in the British charts down to 26th place, the only British chart listing the group.


The band was very well known in Great Britain despite the restrained sales figures. The first tour through England took place as of April 28, 1972, beginning in London and ending on May 8, 1972 in Colchester; Since then, they have regularly appeared here.

An extensive tour of England started on 16 February 1973 and ended only after four weeks on 18 March 1973. On 9 August 1971 they were at the Beat-Club in front of the cameras.

Can gave on 3 February 1972 a concert in the sold out Cologne sports hall, which was recorded by the WDR television and broadcast on 25 September 1975 in WDR 3. The last performance took place in May 1977 in Portugal.

Some Analysis As Promised

Can put into their live playing the nature of the interplay and in the production method experimental accents, which deviated significantly from the conventional rock music. Repetitive passages, strong improvisational passages in jazz rock and free jazz became their hallmark.

Can was neither a commercial rock band nor a formation attributable to the mainstream of rock music. The music style of the band did not fit into the marketing scheme of most record companies, so the group initially found it hard to find a record company. This was the reason why the band had to change the record label so often.

Only in May 1975 did they receive a record contract with EMI, Can’s recording habits led to the accumulation of unpublished recordings, which then came to the market only years later. In 2003, Can received the German music award Echo for lifetime achievement.

From the outset, Can was beyond the tradition of rock ‘n’ roll , due to the fact that two of their musicians (Czukay and Schmidt) came from the classical music scene around Karlheinz Stockhausen.

A colleague from Stockhausen, the composer, flutist and live electronicsian David Johnson, was one of the founders of Can.

The only one who could have had experience in rock music at the time of the founding was the young guitarist Karoli, who had already played in different beat groups. In addition, the drummer Liebezeit, who had previously occupied himself with jazz and for a time with free jazz (for example, in the quintet by Manfred Schoof), brought a further contrast into the “musical community” which mainly focused on the opening days improvised music.

Another influence, which shaped all members of the formation, was world music and folklore from all parts of the world.

In the course of their work new influences such as disco, but also technical innovations were added, whereby their sound picture gradually changed.

These constant changes and the peculiar views of collaboration in the collective led to changes of occupation, although the core was always preserved.

Their decisive contribution to the history of music lies in the fact that, like hardly any other band, they developed an aesthetics of repetitive sound compositions independent of the classical song structure.

Influence on other bands

On his album Graduation (2007, Roc-A-Fella Records ) Kanye West uses a sample from Sing Swan Song for Drunk and Hot Girls.

The experiment composer Karlheinz Essl created with Father Earth, the 2007 on its publication SNDT®X, a tribute to Can, which refers to Mother Sky from the LP Soundtracks.

In an interview with The Quietus of 2011, Geoff Barrow of Portishead describes the enormous influence of Can on his creative work: “Can are my favourite and most inspirational band ever, I think. I heard this in the early nineties on the radio, thinking they were the best new band ever. Melodically, sonically and rhythmically this is experimentation with songs.”

Stephen Malkmus, the former singer and guitarist of Pavement, who worked with this band as well as with the Jicks an intensive Can reception, together with members of the band Von Spar 2012, covered the entire Can album Ege Bamyasi at the Cologne Weekend Festival and released the recording 2013 as Can’s Ege Bamyasi.

In June 2015, the magazine Rolling Stone chose the album Future Days in the top eight of the 50 best progressive rock albums of all time.





  • August 1969 Monster Movie
  • September 1970 Soundtracks
  • February 1971 Tago Mago Double LP
  • June 1972 Ege Bamyasi
  • August 1973 Future Days
  • November 1974 Soon Over Babaluma
  • September 1975 Landed
  • October 1976 Flow Motion
  • March 1977 Saw Delight
  • July 1978 Out of Reach
  • July 1979 Can Re-release Inner Space
  • September 1989 Rite Time


  • July, 1968 Agilok & Blubbo / Camera Song
  • November 1968 Kama Sutra / I’m Hiding My Nightingale
  • December 1969 Soul Desert / She Brings The Rain
  • December 1971 Spoon / Shikako Maru Ten
  • 1972 I’m So Green / Mushroom
  • 1972 Vitamin C / I’m So Green
  • August 1973 Moonshake / Future Days
  • 1974 Dizzy Dizzy / Splash
  • September 1975 Hunters & Collectors / Vernal Equinox
  • August 1976 I Want More / … And More
  • 1976 Silent Night / Cascade Waltz
  • January 1977 Do not Say No / Return
  • January 1978 Can-Can / Can Be
  • August 1990 Hoolah Hoolah (double-mix) / Hoolah Hoolah (sun electric mix)

Compilations and Live Recordings

  • 1974 limited edition Collection of rarities 1968-1974
  • March 1976 Unlimited Edition Collection of rarities 1968-1974
  • 1976 opener Compilation of LP material 1972-1974
  • 1978 Cannibalism Compilation of LP material 1969-1974
  • 1981 Delay 1968 Collection of rarities and outtakes 1968
  • 1984 Prehistoric Future The very first session at Nörvenich Castle June 1968
  • 1993 Anthology Compilation of LP and soundtrack material 1968-1991
  • 1995 The Peel Sessions Collection of BBC recordings 1973-1976
  • 1997 Radio Waves Rarities and live recordings
  • 1997 Sacrilege Tribute double album with remixes and covers
  • 1999 Can Live Collection of live recordings 1972-1977
  • June 2012 The Lost Tapes Unpublished studio and live recordings 1968-1977
  • 2017 The Singles compilation


  • Mother Sky Berlin (Waldbühne, 1971)
  • University of Essex (Colchester, May 8, 1972)
  • Horror Trip in the Paper House (Cologne, February 3, 1973)
  • Live at Paris Olympia (Paris, 1973)
  • Live at Sussex University (Brighton, November 1975)
  • Live at Stuttgart (October 31, 1975)
  • Live at Hanover (November 4, 1976)
  • London and Grenoble Live (1976)
  • Germany 1976 Vol. 1 (Hanover, April 11, 1976)
  • Great Britain 1977 Vol. 2 (Aston, March 4, 1977)
  • Radio Waves (Sonic Records, 1997): Live recordings and rarities 1969-1972
  • Zhengzheng Rikang (2006, recordings from 1968/1969)


  • Hermann Haring: Rock from Germany / West – From the Rattles to Nena: Two decades of Heimatklang. Rowohlt, Reinbek near Hamburg 1984
  • Pascal Bussy / Andy Hall: The Can Book. SAF Publishing, 1989
  • Hildegard Schmidt / Wolfkampmann: Can Box: Book. Medium Music Books, 1998
  • Julian Cope : Krautrocksampler. One Head’s Guide to the Great Cosmic Music. Werner Pieper’s Media Experiments, 1996
  • Robert von Zahn: Irmin Schmidt, Holger Czukay, Jaki Love time: CAN. DuMont, Cologne 2006
  • Wagner, Christoph (2013): Sound of revolt: the magical years of the West German music underground, Mainz and others: Schott.
  • Alexander Simmeth: Krautrock transnational. The Re-invention of Pop Music in the FRG, 1968-1978, Transcript Verlag, Bielefeld 2016, ISBN 978-3-8376-3424-2