What other musicians deserve a biography

Musician Karl Bartos on his biography "Kraftwerk is the shadow that follows me"

Karl Bartos in conversation with Martin Böttcher

The German musician Karl Bartos. From 1975 to 1991 he was a member of the Kraftwerk band. (Patrick Beerhorst)

Anyone who has ever played in one of the most influential bands in the world doesn't just throw this past overboard. Even if it is painful. Karl Bartos' autobiography is therefore also a piece of coming to terms with the past.

Hütter, Schneider, Bartos, Flür - fans know immediately: This is the classic line-up of the German Überband Kraftwerk. Now there are only Ralf Hütter left. Karl Bartos and Wolfgang Flür have not been part of Kraftwerk for decades.

Karl Bartos has now written his autobiography: "The sound of the machine". In it, the 65-year-old musician remembers his life in great detail - and without any bitterness - and, of course, of his time with Kraftwerk. Encounters with Kraftwerk founder Ralf Hütter have become rare, says Karl Bartos:

"Every now and then we see each other by chance. And then we shake hands. But actually we have drifted apart. A long time ago, more than 20 years."

Cover of the "Kraftwerk" album "Die Mensch-Maschine" (imago stock & people / Schöning)

From 1975 to 1991 Karl Bartos played at Kraftwerk. At that time the band wrote music history. In his biography, Karl Bartos also wants to put his role in the creative process in perspective. Because on the record "Die Mensch-Maschine" from 1978 the name of Karl Bartos and his colleague Wolfgang Flür appeared. In the catalog of the great re-release, however, these names have been deleted.

"Today it seems as if Kraftwerk no longer wants to have anything to do with the creation of music. But the creation of music took place in the second half of the 1970s. And the authors are called Hütter, Schneider, Bartos, Schools. "

Subjective look at the history of music

Karl Bartos therefore wants to take a look at a piece of music history in his autobiography:

"For more than 40 years there has been a certain reality that is told by Kraftwerk. And I also had reason to write my autobiography for this reason. Because I wanted to retell the story of how our music came about. I think there is a lot lost."

Still, Bartos doesn't look back bitterly. He also makes no claim to objectivity.

"I would put it like this: There is no compilation of facts that can be viewed objectively. Everything is subjective. And that is what Orwell's sentence means: Reality takes place in my head is just the one I tried to portray in my book. "

"I was constantly compared to Kraftwerk"

In 1991 Karl Bartos left the band. There is a good reason why he only published his biography at the age of 65.

"I tried to wait a long time. To take a step back and look at the whole picture. Because for the past 25 years I was asked about the Kraftwerk group. I was constantly compared to it. When I was teaching at the UdK, I strictly refused to hold seminars on Kraftwerk. That is of course the shadow that runs after me. But there is nothing I can do about it. "

In contrast to bands that were formed because musicians friends got together, Kraftwerk's collaboration has always been based on a kind of business model. So was Karl Bartos an employee in a band?

"That is a fundamental mistake. We were never employees of the Kraftwerk group. I was always a freelance music entrepreneur and my client was Kraftwerk. We then billed them. Or of course I was involved in the license as a writer and as a member of the band . We were never employed. "

Since leaving the band, Karl Bartos has only attended a Kraftwerk concert once.

"What is happening today was basically what we or my two colleagues were against: They never wanted to play live. We spent the 80s almost exclusively in the studio. Only at the beginning did this legendary 80-city tour. And after that, playing live was actually no longer popular. Because of course the sound carriers also generated sales. Nowadays, Kraftwerk plays live because money can only be earned there. "

Karl Bartos: The sound of the machine
Eichborn, 605 pages, hardcover, 26 euros