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.
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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.
- The latest — Machine Funk Is Our Game (Kraftjerkz 029) — is New York electro with a European twist, featuring machine-funk tracks from impressive artists like Alonzo, Dmitry Distant and Starpliktuve, Chase Smith, and Kid Ginseng himself.
- If you’re in New York: You can grab the LP at Halcyon in Brooklyn anytime, and you can come out to the upcoming Krafterjerkz label night party in Bushwick on August 23. (You know we’ll be there).
- If you’re not in New York: Hey wow there’s this cool thing called the internet! You’re on it right now! You can do a lot of stuff on the internet, including shopping! That means that you can easily order a copy of 029 on Halcyon’s website, and also hit up Kraftjerkz’s official site, Soundcloud handle, and Facebook page for more updates and music.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Like this time.
- And the time they designed a bike for the Tour de France.
- And the time they opened the Tour de France.
- And, oh yeah, the time they made an entire concept album about the Tour de France.
- Debate: Is Kraftwerk funky?
- Here’s that “funk for the Facebook generation” bit.
- And here’s that Robert Christgau review of Computer World that argues otherwise.
- 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.
- 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).
- James Murphy stans classic rock and krautrock and Kraftwerk, so this isn’t much of a surprise.
- Listen for Kraftwerk samples on songs like “Disco Infiltrator” and “Get Innocuous.”
- 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.
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
Kraftwerk: Pop Art documentary | 2013
Kraftwerk & the The Electronic Revolution | 2013
“Computer World” live at the Tate Modern | 2013
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