Episode 14: COMPUTER WORLD

computerworld

COMPUTER WORLD – Kraftwerk – Warner Bros. Records – 1981

If you imagine a Venn diagram of musical genres, you may not immediately think of Kraftwerk being the common ground for artists creating and performing pop-rock, funk, soul, and hip-hop. Yet, there in the middle, connecting them all, is that small electronic band from Düsseldorf: four men who blurred the line between human capability and digital precision.

Ironically, the band that would go on to inspire musicians from all genres never aspired to make names for themselves individually. Seeking only to expand the scope of musical technology and to comment on a changing world, Kraftwerk’s music grew to be so profound that they came to be known as the “Beatles of electronic music.”

At the onset of accessible computer technology in the early ‘80s, Kraftwerk released Computer World. Listening to it today, in our society so inundated with all things digital, it is impossible not to marvel at what a harbinger it was of things to come. In this episode, we are joined by Kid Ginseng, DJ and head of New York electro-funk label Kraftjerkz, and lifelong Kraftwerk listener. Our discussion is a deep-dive into their background and influence, highlighting an artist who is continuing Kraftwerk’s legacy today.

Listen to Computer World: iTunes | Spotify | YouTube

Subscribe on iTunes

(ps — while you’re there, please rate and review us in the iTunes store so more people can discover us and we can all be friends who talk about music together!) 

Episode notes and postscript corrections

  • First and foremost, a special thank you to our first guest, Kid Ginseng. If you dig electro music and turntablism, or just want something different and funky to dance to, check out the albums he releases from his label Kraftjerkz.
  • We love old music, but we love new music, too, and with our special guest episodes, we’ll be bridging the gap between the two. As we’ve said before — you have to know where you came from to know where you’re going.
  • “Numbers” is a template for current electro beats. Listen to the track here for an idea of what that sounds like.
  • If you don’t have Planet Rock,” then you probably aren’t a good DJ. Just saying.
    • Peep our further reading section for more info about how revolutionary “Planet Rock” was in the hip-hop scene.
    • Hit up our Spotify playlist to hear some of the similar tracks, like “Cosmic Cars,” and pick out the connections.
  • No, really, Kraftwerk used Texas Instruments tools to create music. Way better than hacking your TI-83 to play some off-brand version of Super Mario Brothers in calc class. Not that we did that in high school. Of course we didn’t do that.
  • Kraftwerk probably predicted the nightmare that is online dating and the rise of Tinder, which is pretty pre-woke.
  • Talk about the double-edged sword of technology with us for a second. Yes, technology makes the creative process of making music accessible and open to innovation for almost anyone — good. But, it makes creating music accessible for almost anyone i.e. people don’t necessarily need skills anymore because they can rely on a machine to do it all for them — bad.
  • Kraftwerk was woke — they only used state of the art technology and recorded in the best of the best studios.
  • It feels partially quaint and partially eerie how accurate and prophetic a concept album about the rise of home computing made in the early ‘80s was, doesn’t it? 
  • Read more here about how they began incorporating sequencing on their Man-Machine album.
  • Emil Schult is a lowkey BAMF.
  • No, really, Kraftwerk stans cycling pretty hard.
  • Debate: Is Kraftwerk funky?
  • Hello, fellow millennials! That Coldplay song you love so much is actually built out of Kraftwerk’s melody on “Computer Love.” One good thing: they actually got permission before they used it, which apparently was an issue with people sampling Kraftwerk before.
    • Ugh. We hate lists so much sometimes, but here’s what Pitchfork had to say about “Computer Love” in their 200 Best Songs of the ‘80s list (scroll to number 53). It’s a pretty good blurb.
  • Late ‘90s/early 2000s electroclash takes a huge page out of Kraftwerk’s book — peep our Spotify playlist for some examples.
  • Sorry for talking about LCD Soundsystem again (but not really because it’s relevant).
  • Johnny Rotten + Kraftwerk = World Destruction.
  • Okay, but really. Sofia Coppola cannot curate a bad soundtrack, and the impeccable Marie Antoinette soundtrack is no exception to this opinion.
    • Aphex Twin draws inspiration and samples from Kraftwerk so often — again, hit up our master playlist to listen to some examples.
  • Here are two brief lists of notable times Kraftwerk was sampled: in hip-hop and from Computer World in general.
  • Hi! Do you have opinions about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? We would love to opine with you! Get at us on Facebook, on Twitter, or over email, if you have a taste for salt.

Album credits:
Ralf Hütter – album concept, artwork reconstruction, cover, electronics, keyboards, mixing, Orchestron, production, recording, Synthanorma Sequenzer, synthesiser, vocoder, voice
Florian Schneider – album concept, cover, electronics, mixing, production, recording, speech synthesis, synthesiser, vocoder
Karl Bartos – electronic percussion
Emil Schult – cover

Further watching: 
Kraftwerk: Pop Art documentary | 2013
Kraftwerk & the The Electronic Revolution | 2013
“Computer World” live at the Tate Modern | 2013

Further reading: 
The 50 Greatest Hip-Hop Songs of All Time | Rolling Stone (December 2012) 
Sound Machine: How did a pop band end up in a museum? | The New Yorker (April 2012)
Kraftwerk Day Five: 1981 ‘Computer World’ Invents Electronic Funk | Rolling Stone (April 2012)
Who Knew That Robots Were Funky? | The New York Times (December 2009)
Kraftwerk: I Was a Robot | 2017
Kraftwerk: Man, Machine and Music | 2001

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s