Michael Rother

Michael Carl Rother was born in 1950, in Hamburg, West Germany.
"The first music I heard as a small child came from my mother playing the piano at home. She had a classical training and her favourite composer was Frédéric Chopin. Around the age of 8 or 9 I got in touch with Rock-n-Roll music which my brother who is 10 years older than I am put on at home when he had parties: Elvis Presley, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Fats Domino and the likes. When we moved to Karachi, Pakistan, in 1960 the local music totally fascinated me. Individual musicians and bands played on the streets an endless stream of rhythms and melodies, very hypnotic and exciting. All of these early impressions and influences are deep inside my feelings about music. Amongst my favourite music these days is certain central European classical music (J.S. Bach, W.A. Mozart, F. Chopin), the rough excitement and fast-forward surge of Rock-n-Roll (especially by Little Richard) but I will forever be attracted in a very emotional way by classical Indian and Pakistan music (for instance by the Ali Brothers Salamat and Nazakat). My brother brought a few singles along when he came to visit us in Karachi
and guitar music especially appealed to me. I even tried to modify a local instrument we bought in Pakistan (in Germany it is known as Japan banjo) into a guitar so that I could play along to “Apache”."
"When my parents and I returned to Germany (Düsseldorf ) in 1963 a new pop music was in the air. German radio wasn´t playing our kind of music in the 1960s. My friends at school and I enthusiastically discussed the music program that could be heard on the British Forces station BFBS. I was thrilled by the music of British bands like The Kinks, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Yardbirds and many, many more. I saw The Pretty Things play in Dublin in 1965 and I still remember how much they impressed me. I bought a guitar and at the age of 15 joined a band called Spirits of Sound (SoS) which in the beginning consisted only of classmates and other slightly older pupils from my school.

Michael describes the difference between the old and new in Germany during the 1960s.
"Speaking for myself I´d say that there were parents, teachers and political figures who were willing to accept the changes taking place in our society or equally felt the need for great changes, for liberation from the authoritarian structures left over from Nazi times and the conservative climate which was the post-war reaction to the chaos and trauma of the Second World War and its devastations. I remember some very “progressive”, modern thinking adults who supported SoS and were clearly influenced by the hippie movement and new art. At school there was a mixture of “progressive” and “old-fashioned/reactionary” teachers."
"In the mid-60s many very conservative figures were still around in politics and media in Germany who dreaded the unrest caused by students in Berlin, Paris and elsewhere. At the time I was too young to understand (or even be interested) in the sociological and economic aspects connected to the happenings but looking back its easier to see that economic prosperity resulting from the Wirtschaftswunder paved the way for the next generation´s demand for political changes."

After settling in Düsseldorf, Michael's first band was Spirits of Sound, with Wolfgang Riechmann and Wolfgang Flür/
"In the beginning (1965/66) Spirits of Sound was a pure cover band. We had no intention of adding own ideas to the music of our heroes. We admired those bands and wanted to sound just like them. I learned the basics of guitar playing by imitating guitar heroes like George Harrison and later Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Jimi Hendrix etc. I had no classical training and even steered away from musical education as much as I could. After a few years SoS became bolder and we added our own ideas,
interpreting the original ideas ever more freely. This movement towards the development of an individual artistic handwriting/personality went parallel to our growing awareness of political and sociological problems. The Vietnam war and the struggles in the US (Martin Luther King/civil rights movement, Black Panther Party) were in our discussions. At the end of the 60s I refused the draft to serve in the army and instead worked (as Conscientious Objector) in a mental hospital near Düsseldorf. The psychological forces determining our feelings and actions interested me to the point that I started to study psychology in 1971/1972, first in Cologne and then in Düsseldorf. However, my love for music was way too strong and it became clear that I had to follow that path. At that time I stopped listening to other music in order to minimize influences by other musicians. The idea was to develop my individual musical personality as the logical extension to an independent mind. The driving force was the
spirit of freedom."
"When I met Ralph Hütter, Florian Schneider and Klaus Dinger in early 1971 it was so surprising for me to find someone like Ralph Hütter who had an idea of melody and harmony very similar to mine. No words were needed for us to click in improvisation. Before this chance meeting I felt very alone with my musical ideas and hadn´t heard about Kraftwerk. This was a collective of artists with the clear intention of leaving trodden ground behind and of shaping a new musical identity. Ralph, Florian and Klaus were inspiring artists. We shared the determination to sound different from everyone else. From what little I heard of other German bands only Can really impressed me, especially Jaki Liebezeit, their amazing
drummer. I left Spirits of Sound in early 1971 and joined Kraftwerk. Wolfgang Flür, the last drummer in Spirits of Sound, was to join Kraftwerk a few years later. Our last singer, Wolfgang Riechmann, joined
other Düsseldorf bands and recorded his first solo album in 1978 but he was sadly killed by strangers a few weeks before his album came out."

In closing, Michael adds his summation of the diverse music during the progressive era.
Most if not all German musicians of my age in the late 60s and early 70s were exposed to the same revolutionary ideas and the spirit of freedom these dramatic changes brought to our lives via politics and art but their responses reflected their musical preferences and their artistic talent which is the reason why such a bandwidth of very different music originated from that era.