Karl Bartos: ‘Kraftwerk turned into the dehumanisation of music’

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"Karl Bartos: ‘Kraftwerk turned into the dehumanisation of music.’" The Guardian on line, 3 August 2022, Interview by Daniel Dylan Wray:[1]

Logline or lede: "As the band’s drummer he [Karl Bartos] co-created some of history’s greatest albums – but then the machines took over. As he publishes his memoir he explains how their computer world crashed[.]"

Notes for Kraftwerk's history (sic on lack of italics for album titles),

Bartos joining coincided with the release of Autobahn, a record – specifically its title track – often considered a benchmark for modernity in pop music, with its pulsing groove stretching out into the future. Work soon commenced on concept album Radio-Activity, and Bartos became more of an embedded member, contributor and co-writer. The subsequent albums Trans-Europe Express, The Man-Machine and Computer World (1977-1981) are an immaculate, peerless run of records [...]; equal parts meticulous pop and futuristic sci-fi soundscapes, they became the blueprint for electronic pop in the ensuing decade. Bartos says Kraftwerk’s mission was to invest technology with humanity, to make it “feel-able and visible -- and this was different to all the electronic pop music which was inspired by us. They just treated the electronic equipment like a guitar; they just played songs in the tradition of English pop music. But Kraftwerk remained different because we wanted to make people aware of technique.”

Interestingly for Bartos and Kraftwerk are definite limits on at least Bartos's technophilia and the degree to which (as this account plausibly suggests) much of Kraftwerk's work was relatively low-tech:

The next album, 1986’s Electric Café, was a drastic shift. “The problem started when the computer arrived in the studio,” says Bartos. “A computer has nothing to do with creativity, it’s just a tool, but we outsourced creativity to the computer. We forgot about the centre of what we were. We lost our physical feeling, no longer looking each other in the eye, only staring at the monitor. At the time, I thought innovation and progress were synonyms. I can’t be so sure anymore.”

It turns out this member of a group who heralded a new era of futuristic technology-heavy music is something of a techno-sceptic, but Bartos stresses that the era most people associate as peak Kraftwerk was produced by a largely analogue band. They were pushing the limits of primitive technology to its absolute limit, and for Bartos, these limitations sparked innovation. But when presented with endless options, there wasn’t anything to rub up against, only a limitless horizon. “We stopped being creative because we were solving problems,” he says.

RDE, finishing, 3Aug22