“I was so sad to hear of Florian Schneider’s death. My earliest memory of Kraftwerk was being given an LP by Ian Curtis. He gave me ‘Autobahn’ and then later ‘Trans Europe Express’. I was absolutely mesmerised by both. Ian suggested that every time Joy Division go on stage, we should do so to ‘Trans Europe Express’. We did that from our first show, until nearly our last.
“Ian’s musical education was fantastic. He taught us about everything from The Doors to Can. He put these artists in front of Barney [Sumner, bandmate] and I and they became so important to us. Joy Division were very tied to Kraftwerk, but it wasn’t until we got to New Order and were able to afford the toys that our primary source of inspiration became, ‘Let’s rip off Kraftwerk’. Their music was beguilingly simple, but impossible to replicate.
“You never knew Kraftwerk individually. I know that they’ve had their problems as a group, in the way that all of us have, but I like the way they always seemed to this one tight, closed unit. Ian always modelled what he wanted Joy Division like from an attitude point of view on Kraftwerk, without a shadow of a doubt. When everyone was trying to turn us into ‘Ian Curtis And Joy Division’, he would say, ‘No no, we need to be like Kraftwerk – it’s all of us, together’. That was the image that I bought into. I still don’t know which of them did what. I think there’s a strength, an honesty and a respect in that.
“Kraftwerk were such a huge influence on us, both musically and stylistically. Ian was so in awe of the way that they dressed and the way they acted as well as their music. It was the perfect triangle. If you listen to a lot of music now, you hear Kraftwerk’s influence completely. It’s funny, because I remember seeing Kraftwerk when acid house first hit and it was the first time I didn’t enjoy it, because I was begging for a 4/4 beat. I remember thinking, ‘What have you become, Hooky?’
“They were streets ahead of anybody else, even from an electronic point of view. They were making their own sequencers years before anyone else. I remember seeing them at Manchester’s Free Trade Hall on the tour where they didn’t appear on stage. It was amazing to sit in a sold-out venue, watching four mannequins and have them get away with it because the music was so wonderful. They had a quadraphonic P.A. in the Free Trade Hall, and that was something else that we ripped off in New Order as soon as we were able.
“I’ve never met them. The last gig they played with Florian was at a festival in Spain in 2006, and we were playing too (as was Snoop Dogg). Barney was a little worse for wear, shall we say. He was very merry indeed and desperate to go and talk to Kraftwerk. My wife always tells me off for passing up the opportunity, but he went into their dressing room and was so fucking off his head that they asked him to leave! In a funny way, it’s probably for the best I didn’t go.”
“We were in the same hotel as Kraftwerk. I remember being in the queue to check in and looking at Florian Schneider and the way he was dressed in this futuristic nylon suit. I was thinking, ‘You’re off duty, mate, and taking it too far’. But I didn’t speak. I wouldn’t have known what to say to someone who has inspired me so much. It’s the saddest thing in the world that he’d died. Last week Dave Greenfield from The Stranglers died, too. They were another band I’d watch as a kid, wishing and hoping that I’d be in their position one day. These things make you feel very mortal.”
As told to Andrew Trendell