Florian Schneider, 7 April 1947 - [before]6 May 2020
Florian Schneider-Esleben founded Kraftwerk with Ralf Hütter in 1970. They met in 1968 while studying at the Academy of Arts in Remscheid, then at the Robert Schumann Hochschule in Düsseldorf. They played improvisational music together in the ensemble Organisation. Before meeting Hütter, Schneider had played with Eberhard Kranemann in the group Pissoff from 1967 to 1968. From 1968 to 1969, Schneider played flute, with Hütter on Hammond organ, Kranemann on bass and Paul Lovens on drums.
Originally, Schneider's main instrument was the flute, which he would treat using electronic effects, including tape echo, ring modulation, pitch-to-voltage converters, fuzz and wah-wah, allowing him to use his flute as a bass instrument. He also played violin (similarly treated), electric guitar (including slide guitar), and made use of synthesizers (both as a melodic instrument and as a sound processor). Later, he also created his own electronic flute instrument. After the release of Kraftwerk's 1974 album, Autobahn, his use of acoustic instruments diminished.
Schneider, speaking in 1991, said: "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... 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." Although he has limited keyboard technique, he apparently preferred to trigger the synth sounds through a keyboard in the group's 1975, 1976 and 1981 concerts (later, developments in sequencing limited the need for hands-on playing).
Schneider's approach was concentrated on sound design (in an interview in 2005, Hütter called him a "sound fetishist") and vocoding/speech-synthesis. One patented implementation of the latter was christened the Robovox, a distinctive feature of the Kraftwerk sound. Hütter said of Schneider's approach:
He is a sound perfectionist, so, if the sound isn’t up to a certain standard, he doesn’t want to do it. With electronic music there’s no necessity ever to leave the studio. You could keep making records and sending them out. Why put so much energy into travel, spending time in airports, in waiting halls, in backstage areas, being like an animal, just for two hours of a concert? But now, with the Kling Klang studio on tour with us, we work in the afternoon, we do soundchecks, we compose, we put down new ideas and computer graphics. There’s always so much to do, and we do make progress.
Schneider was also known for his comical, enigmatic interviews, although he only seldom gave permission to be interviewed.
Minimum-Maximum Live 2005 (full concert - 2:01:29)