Flip Flop Flying

Books and Kraftwerk

with 17 comments

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

Written by Craig

February 13th, 2006 at 2:19 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

17 Responses to 'Books and Kraftwerk'

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  1. I must admit the flipcam is new to me (sorry); but that’s actually great: “new” fff-stuff while craig’s reading.

    Have you finished reading the book yet???


    13 Feb 06 at 15:12

  2. I should follow your lead on the finishing up of books partially started. I have the same habit. I wonder if I could get through them in a year?

    Oh, and you really didn’t make a fool of yourself when meeting one Kraftwer member…take it from someone who has made a terrible fool of herself on a regular basis for years…



    13 Feb 06 at 16:02

  3. I do that book thing too. I love getting new books. And if I don’t love it straight away when I’m reading it then it takes quite a lot to persevere.

    I don’t think I have ever heard anything by Kraftwerk. Am I still allowed to read your blog?!

  4. We all do that book thing. Brave plan Craig! But it’ll take the possibility to dump the crap from you – I wonder if that is outwighed by the “getting to the most wonderful page 167 sentence” feeling. Anf how often have you been disappointed by an ending?

    Being the devout Craig follower I am (a bit obsessive this blog reading) I’d be curious to see all the titles of your book tower (anyone seconds that?) or of the ones you don’t read until next year, but bought?

    And Tori! Teh valley of the cnuties episode is a real good example – start with that!




    13 Feb 06 at 19:00

  5. b7b: Yes, I finished it. It didn’t get any better.
    Becki: I found putting them in a pile, so far at least, has spurred me on to finish them.
    Tori: Alex is right, it’s a good place to start.
    Alex: Here, to relieve you of your curiosity, is a photo of the books in question. The pile on the left is the not-even-started pile. On the right, the read-a-bit-already pile, plus a couple of books I’ve bought in the last few weeks.


    13 Feb 06 at 19:25

  6. Naaw, that Kraftwerk bloke was probably as shy as you were. You know – everybody knows the monkey but the monkey just wants to hide.

    I suppose the book-reading-procrastination is a deeply human virtue. My flat can be taken for a library/studio but I haven’t read more than, say, 20% of the books. In my mind there is a mantra “one day…. one day…”

    Oh, and the FlipCam was new to me too! The other stuff was a sweet stroll down memory lane… ;)


    13 Feb 06 at 20:02

  7. craig! planet simpson!!!

    you know you want to…

    (or is it that boring?)


    13 Feb 06 at 21:45

  8. I’m about a third of the way through that one. Deffo gonna be one of the next few that I get to finishing, I think.


    13 Feb 06 at 21:53

  9. Have you seen the Bill Bailey DVD part Troll? The end of the show is rounded off with Bill doing a Kraftwerk pastiche with 3 other comedy types. He does a Kraftwerk version of the Hokie-Kokie (spelling?!). Lovely stuff.


    14 Feb 06 at 12:08

  10. The last year or two has definitely seen a massive increase in the number of unfinished books on my shelves. Maybe it’s the MTV generation reduced attention span factor kicking in. Prior to this affliction I managed to read a few of the books in your stack, and think you’ll probably be able to get past the point of put-it-down-ness with ‘In Cold Blood’ once you get into it (especially if you want to see the ‘Capote’ film). I thought Catch 22 was fab in my teens, but wouldn’t want to read it now. Dostoyevsky is excellent, but a hard slog, and are you really ever going to crack the cover of War & Peace?
    I’d move the Paul Morley book to the top of the pile, if they were my piles. ( Saw him last week performing with his band Infantjoy – he paced around reading incomprehensible stuff about Eric Satie from a clip-board, to a techno-ambient backing. V Funny).


    14 Feb 06 at 12:32

  11. Almond: Yes, I saw that. Very amusing.
    Anon: Talking of cracking covers: I have a bit of a thing about not breaking the spines of books. I tend to read them in an uncomfortable way so that they stay nice and pristine. It’s stupid, but I can’t help myself.


    14 Feb 06 at 12:33

  12. I loved ‘I Was A Robot’, because Flur was so clearly insane. Here he is, the drummer in the band that is really taking the lead in electronic music, and it doesn’t register with him that he has become superfluous when they say he’s not needed in the studio for month after month. When it finally clicks he’s bitter.

    Then again, he’s bitter that Ralf and Florian were given Rolex watches when he wasn’t.

    I have to say though, the Jury’s still out on the Maximum-Minimum dvd for me. We saw them do the tour four times over the last couple of years and they were always incredible. But considering their perfectionism in sound quality etc, the dvd seems a little bit bland in comparison. Nothing beats the Man machine opening, though.


    14 Feb 06 at 13:38

  13. Ha ha – I do that with books too! Mine all look new and I get really annoyed if I lend a book to someone and they come back all battered. Where’s the respect?

  14. I don´t agree with the book thing. For me there are two kinds of books: the ones you can´t put down until you finish them, and the ones who for a reason or another stop being interesting and leave your world before you notice. I finish those that stick and I find it totally OK to leave them there… why waste our precious times with stories that does did not pull, when there´s so many good ones out there that work…? Anyway, just my humble opinion.


    21 Feb 06 at 22:32

  15. I partly agree, but there’ve been several occasions where I’ve re-picked up books and really enjoyed them. Currently reading a book that I kinda lost interest in cos there was some technical stuff that I didn’t quite understand, but having once I got past that chapter, I’ve begun to really really enjoy it. There are deffo a few in that pile, though, that may well end up just being chucked in the bin.


    21 Feb 06 at 22:38

  16. Re: KW

    Exactly the same thing happened to me during my encounter with KRAFTWERK here in mexico city… I was so excited and happy than I was drinking… rather than taking notes, I even had my recorder thing w me and did not even use it, when I could have secretely pushed the rec button even tho I think that is an illegal manouver, who cares, this was the best souvenir…my evening with krfatwerk could have remained documented forever… we tlaked the whole night, but I cant remember much… just a glimpse… i was bugging Florian, I was tellin hin, Can I call you Flo?

    I spok to Ralf whos is kind an dnice just liek you would imagine he woulñd be, we spoke in trhe german language, which made them happy menshcen cos i told them the ponly reason I learnt is because of them! we talked about his daughter and about his trip to Mexico, he loves my country for its landscapes, my country loves him for his soundscapes.



    21 Feb 06 at 22:46

  17. Craig, I am going to make a fool of myself if I ever meet you and am too nervous to say something sensible. Just look out for that Dutch girl with sweaty palms and a nervous smile who makes herself scarce immediately after mumbling something about ‘artist’ and ‘brilliant’ and ‘refreshing’.


    22 Feb 06 at 14:08

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