Florian Schneider, founding member of Kraftwerk, has died at age 73 due to complications from cancer.
The news arrived via a statement from his brother obtained by the BBC. In 1970, Florian Schneider-Esleben, alongside Ralf Hütter, founded the band Kraftwerk. The duo met two years prior at the Robert Schumann Hochschule in Düsseldorf, a music studies university where they formed their improvisational krautrock band Organisation. Upon the group’s inception, Schneider mostly played the flute, later constructing his own electronic flute and later mostly abandoning acoustics all together.
“I had studied (the flute) 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 told Pascal Bussey in 1993. “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.”
Though he left the group in 2008, Schneider was a key member for all of Kraftwerk’s most influential work including 1974’s Autobahn, 1977’s Trans-Europe Express and 1978’s The Man Machine. After his leave, he continued to use the group’s Kling-Klang Studio for sound design purposes, releasing a song titled “Stop Plastic Pollution” alongside Dans Lacksman for conservation group Parley for Oceans.
Kraftwerk’s influence on popular music is undeniable, becoming a blueprint for synthpop, EDM, and post-punk alike. The group had a large influence on Bowie’s “Berlin Era”: Bowie later named his instrumental track for “Heroes” after Schneider. Many artists have already expressed appreciation for Schneider after his passing. Martyn Ware (Human League, Heaven 17) said in a tweet, “The Future, The Human League, B.E.F. and Heaven 17 would never have existed without Florian Schneider and Kraftwerk.” Akiko Yano (Yellow Magic Orchestra), DJ Nina Kraviz, and director duo the Safdie Brothers (Uncut Gems) also expressed their thanks for Schneider’s influence: