Backstage with Kraftwerk

We are the robots

SCENE: A backstage dressing room inside an internationally famous arts venue in a European capital city. The walls are bare brick or raw concrete. A plain white desk sits in the centre, with a single plain white plastic chair. On the desk there is a single small tablet computer, which bleeps occasionally. The four members of Kraftwerk - RALF HÜTTER, FRITZ HILPERT, HENNING SCHMITZ, and newcomer FALK GRIEFFENHAGEN - walk in, one after the other. They have just finished a live show. Last to enter is RALF HÜTTER. He looks at the others.

RALF HÜTTER: That was not a bad show. It was adequate.

THE OTHER THREE (in unison): Thank you Ralf.

RALF: I have one or two comments, however.

FRITZ HILPERT: I am sorry, Ralf.

RALF (one eyebrow raised): What for?

FRITZ: I think I might have ... danced a little bit. During "Boing Boom Tschack."

RALF (a tiny wry smile): Yes. Yes you did, didn't you? That was unfortunate.

HENNING SCHMITZ: He moved his whole leg. I saw him.

(FRITZ shoots a black look at HENNING.)

RALF: We can overlook this regrettable bodily movement. This time. But please be more careful in future, Fritz.

FRITZ: Yes Ralf.

RALF: Perhaps, because you are a relative newcomer, you have not yet taken on board all of the Kraftwerk rules.

FRITZ: I've been playing with you since 1987.

RALF: Yes. As I say, a relative newcomer.

(FRITZ twitches.)

RALF: It is important that we maintain our brand identity. Don't you think?

FRITZ: Yes Ralf.

(HENNING sniggers behind his hand. RALF turns to face him.)

RALF: My comments were not related to Fritz's unfortunate movements while we were on stage, Henning. They have more to do with your own conduct.

(HENNING goes pale.)

HENNING: I... what...

RALF: Did you not notice your error?

(HENNING shakes his head. FRITZ sniggers behind his hand.)

RALF: There was a moment during "Computerworld" - perhaps you missed it?

HENNING: I... I was concentrating on my performance, Ralf.

RALF: I noticed it. I'm sure Fritz did. Didn't you, Fritz?

(FRITZ nods his head vigorously.)

FRITZ: He "beeped" when he should have "biiped."

(RALF turns his head to HENNING. HENNING blinks.)

RALF: It's true. You made a "beep" sound when you should have made a "biip."

HENNING: Ah, yes. Well, it was a harmless mistake. I'm sure no-one noticed--

RALF: What did you say?

(HENNING flaps his mouth up and down but says nothing.)

RALF (stepping closer, eyes bulging): We are Kraftwerk. Our audience comprises Kraftwerk fans. Do you not understand the significance of this?

FRITZ (Smugger than smug): I don't think he does.


RALF: They know every single little bleep. Every deep and diip and doop. They know everything. We cannot afford to make the tiniest error.

HENNING: It wasn't an error. It was artistic expression--

RALF: Artistic expression? We are Kraftwerk! We go beyond mere art!

FRITZ: It's true. We no longer need to release music because our music has become art, then transcended it.

RALF (Relaxing a little): Well, that and the difficulty we have in writing new songs.

FRITZ: I wrote one the other day. It was about driving a car through a city.

HENNING: Yes, and I wrote a new one a few weeks ago. The one about sitting down in an airport.

FRITZ: And there was that one that Henning and I wrote together, the one about cycling past an airport.

HENNING: Yes, and there was another one that--

RALF: Enough, gentlemen. Those were all interesting contributions. However, I don't think they meet the required standard.

HENNING: Standard? Standard?

RALF: Kling Klang Studios is not Stock Aitken and bloody Waterman, you know. We have to take things at the correct pace. We cannot afford to overburden our fans.

HENNING: We've overburdened them with enough live shows and remix albums. I think most of them could manage another 20 Euros or so on a new album. Of actual new songs.

FRITZ: I thought of a new one in the shower this morning. It's about growing up in a family of cyclists who live near a computer factory. Every morning they cycle to a nearby modernist bridge and look down on the factory robots working to build computer products. It has a chorus that goes "Bleepy blooop da da da bliiip-bit booooop."

HENNING: That sounds very good. I like the bit about cycling. I, too, thought of a new song just before we went on stage this evening. It was about a team of robot cyclists who drive along a motorway. Through the window, they see some models, and stop to admire them. Later, they are politely moved on by the traffic police.

FRITZ: I like the sound of that. That sounds like an excellent Kraftwerk song. Don't you think, Ralf? We should record that one.

RALF: Not yet. All in good time.

FALK GRIEFFENHAGEN: Can I go now? I have arranged to go for a bike ride with some friends.

(18th April 2013)