In Memoriam: Kraftwerk Co-Founder Florian Schneider (1947-2020)

May 6, 2020
In Memoriam: Kraftwerk Co-Founder Florian Schneider (1947-2020)

Kraftwerk (Schneider in front)

Florian Schneider, co-founder and keyboardist in the trailblazing electronic music band Kraftwerk, has passed away from cancer at the age of 73.

“Kraftwerk co-founder and electro pioneer Ralf Hütter has sent us the very sad news that his friend and companion over many decades. Florian Schneider has passed away from a short cancer disease just a few days after his 73rd birthday,” the band said in a statement.

Schneider and Hütter met in 1968 at the Academy of Arts in Düsseldorf, Germany. The duo formed Kraftwerk in 1970 and initially were part of the krautrock movement in West Germany, experimenting with electronic sounds and psychedelic music. By the mid-seventies, the band fully embraced electronic music; they soon became some of the most important innovators of the genre.

Some of the band’s most important and successful records include 1974’s Autobahn, Trans-Europe Express (1977) and The Man-Machine (1978). Autobahn received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Grammys in 2014.

The band was self-described as “robot pop,” which made heavy use of synthesizers. Their commitment to the prevalence of these electronic instruments was influential not just in the sphere of electronic music itself, but also all across the pop, rock and psychedelic genres.

Schneider was born in Öhningen, Germany in 1947. His first instrument was flute, and on Kraftwerk’s earlier records, Schneider would employ electronic effects, including wah-wah, fuzz and tape echo, to create new sounds from the instrument. “I had studied seriously up to a certain level, then I found it boring. I looked for other things, I found that the flute was too limiting,” he said in 1991. “Soon I bought a microphone, then loudspeakers, then an echo, then a synthesizer. Much later I threw the flute away; it was a sort of process.”

After moving on from the flute, Schneider went deeper into developing new electronic sounds. In a 2005 interview with MOJO Magazine, Hütter described Schneider as a “sound perfectionist.” “If the sound isn’t up to a certain standard, he doesn’t want to do it,” Hütter said.

In 2008, Schneider left Kraftwerk, though his final live appearance with the group was in 2006. While the band underwent numerous lineup changes throughout their still-ongoing career, it was Schneider and Hütter’s creative partnership that always served as the foundation of the band; Hütter was the spokesperson and de facto frontman, and Schneider was the electronic scientist that pushed the boundaries of sound and music to new levels.

Watch the band perform “The Robots” live in 1978 below.