I’ve set myself a task this year: to finish reading all the books that I’ve begun reading over the past few years. It’s a terrible habit of mine. I get excited about reading something, get about 50-or-so pages in, then get distracted by something newer and shinier. So I’ve built the partially-read books into a pile (about 70 cm high), and I’m gonna work my way through them. This is quite a challenge, as that’s about the same amount of books I’d normally read in a year. And it assumes I won’t buy other books or read the books that I’ve not even started yet (a similarly sized pile).
The first of the half-read pile I re-read last week was I Was A Robot by Wolfgang Flür. I initially began reading that about four years ago, and put it down cos it was incredibly boring. Boring boring boring. As boring as Driftwood by Travis. As boring as the Merchant Ivory film Howard’s End. And on picking it up again, it hadn’t got any more interesting in the intervening years. One would’ve thought a book by an ex-member of Kraftwerk would be one of the most interesting books I could possibly read, but no. I don’t know whether it’s all the legal stuff he went through with Ralf and Florian (who apparently wanted parts of the book removed) or whether he should just stick to tapping electronic drums instead of typewriters.
It was all a tad underwhelming. Perhaps, though, it’s a good thing not to know too much behind-the-scenes stuff about Kraftwerk. Perhaps Kraftwerk is best left being four robots beavering away for years and years in a studio in Düsseldorf. There’s something pure and lovely about the lack of sleeve notes, or website information, or DVD extras in the Kraftwerk Welt.
While I’m on the subject, that Minimum-Maximum DVD is ace. Here’s something that should be boring, but isn’t. Four blokes stood still for two hours with films behind them that, on the whole, are no more complex that animated gifs. There’s only a couple of moments in live DVDs/videos that I’ve ever seen that are genuinely excited.
One is the beginning of the AC/DC Live At Donnington DVD where the camera is behind the stage and you see Angus come out onto a podium above the drummer and begin playing the twiddly diddly bit at the start of Thunderstruck in front of a sea of pale denim.
The other is on this Kraftwerk DVD, when they’re playing Numbers and they’re fiddling with the computer-y voices that read out ‘eins zwei drei vier fünf sechs sieben acht’ bits. Not sure why that’s so exciting, but it is.
An aside: Minimum-Maximum is the first live concert film I’ve seen where you can see how many people have camera phones. Weird to think that not too long ago security dudes would be confiscating all cameras. Now they’re powerless. Hurrah.
I guess long-time FFF visitors might know how I like Kraftwerk a lot. Indeed, part of the appeal of moving to Germany was that Kraftwerk come from here. Not a particularly good motive, but there you go. And when I arrived, I’d not really learnt many German words. In fact, my knowledge of German was virtually entirely based on Kraftwerk lyrics. I couldn’t ask for a courgette in a grocery store but I could tell the shop assistant that I was a musician with a pocket calculator in my hand.
And I mentioned this very briefly before (back in the days when the front page of Flip Flop Flyin’ existed as a proto-weblog rather than the rather dry update list it has become over the past year): I met a member of Kraftwerk once. It was a meeting that, for the weeks after it happened, I winced every time I thought about it. I made a fool of myself.
It was in the German town of Oberhausen at their short film festival where the video I’d made for Giardini di Mirò was nominated for an award. Karl Bartos, ex-Kraftwerk member, was one of the judges. I didn’t win, sniff, but all the nominees got to go to the aftershow dinner thingy. Those of us who hadn’t won went there first and sat around one table; the winners, organisers and judges all sat around another table. I wasn’t feeling too well that evening, and not to put too finer point on it, needed the toilet quite badly. All through the awards thingy, I was trying to keep my, err, wind in. So by the time I got to the dinner thing I was full of gas. So full, in fact, that I decided I had to nip back to the hotel to relieve myself.
Once back at the dinner, I was giddy with joy: wind-free and in the same room as One Of Kraftwerk. So I began to drink. And drink. And drink. Slowly getting closer to the moment when I would say something to a man who’s creative output I’ve enjoyed immensely. Finally, as I was preparing to leave, I was drunk enough to say something. I mumbled something about loving his music, thrust my hand into his surprisingly un-robot-like and quite podgy hand and shook it. He looked at me blankly and didn’t really say much. Deathly silence. I let go of his hand and retreated, feeling the sensible brain cells kicking the shit out of my drunk brain cells for being so stupid.
Anyway, my liking of Kraftwerk is very noticable on Flip Flop Flyin’. I’ll leave you with a handy bunch of links to all the Kraftwerk related stuff I’ve done:
Minipop 1: Die Mensch Maschine
Minipop 2: Expo 2000
Minipop 3: The Mix
Minipop 4: Trans Europa Express
FFF Boy’s Tour de Berlin
FFF Boy and Billy pretending to be Kraftwerk
Kraftwerk visit my old kitchen Flipcam
The Kraftwerk Kam
Ralf meets Florian
Bob’s electronic performance
My drawing for the Observer Music Magazine advert
My ‘cover’ for shift.jp.org
Episode 5 of Valley Of The Cnuties