You’ve been burning the ears of your mates about the summer you’ve spent in Europe’s Techno Mecca while traveling to and from festivals and possibly island hopping in ‘Beefa. The cradle of club culture. The middle earth of blown ear drums and ‘alt-enlightenment’. You may have become a Goth during your time forcing down Burgermesiter and (severely fucking hungover) trips to Yaam. But if you’re ever looking to party in Deutschland’s true electronic music capital leave the comfort of Berlin’s seedy underbelly behind. Hop on the Autobahn and drive 6 hours west to a city on the bank of the river Rhine. The spiritual reside of your inner moth, freak, and outcast is not Berlin – It’s Düsseldorf.
With a population roughly 5 times smaller and with a constant focus from media and party throwers / goers on Berlin’s almost mythical party scene, the legacy Düsseldorf’s importance to electronic music continues to be overlooked . In 2017 the people who talk about the city are the types who study high art, fashion, sculpture, history and theatre and while these are all noble pursuits, clubbers should recognise how important Düsseldorf is to the scene we all know and love.
Alas, how influential can one small city be? – Very fucking influential as it turns out. While it was producing influential acts such as La Düsseldorf, DAF and Neu!, and becoming the epicentre of ‘Motorik’ in the 1970s (a drum beat created by Jaki Liebezeit and Klaus Dinger considered to be influential in electronic music’s 4/4 time signature), the night scene of Germany’s 7th city would spark the collaboration of arguably the most influential pioneers of contemporary electronic music…
In 1969, at a crossroads between electronic instruments’ infancy and the creation of hip hop, the city would play host to a meeting between Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider that would lead to the formation of Kraftwerk. Often referred to as “Post-Krautrock”, the band would quickly move away from their experimental rock and roll roots. In its place they began to use (then) brand new technology manufactured by Robert Moog, and would begin recording in the infamous Kling Klang Studio in Mintropstrasse, Düsseldorf. Kling Klan would become arguably the single most influential building in electronic music history providing a recording and rehearsal space for what would become Kraftwerk’s international breakthrough album Autobahn (1974). A Minimoog, ARP Odyssey synth, and EMS step sequencer feature heavily throughout and are widely credited for Kraftwek’s legendary ‘stiff’ sound – a sound that remains a corner stone of club music today.
A year later when recording Radio-Activity the band ditched their guitars and went fully electronic adding more Vocoders and the influential Vako Orchestron keyboard. As if in an instant, all forms of modern day electronic music were born!
It’s difficult to overstate how influential Kraftwerk have been on electronic music in all its forms, and how influential Düsseldorf has been on Kraftwerk. The scene in the 70s was a creative brewing pot, the likes of which is rarely seen. Added to this, Düsseldorf’s small size made it far easier for musicians and other artists to meet and collaborate.
Today, as the eyes and ears of the world flock to Berlin, the spirit of Düsseldorf as a safe space for artists and creators is carried through in a small number of bars and nightclubs all drawing on the inspiration of the city’s under-appreciated past: The Salon de Amateurs was described by Resident Advisor as Germany’s ‘Post-Kraut Haçienda’ and Kiesgrube is set to host shows by The Martinez Brothers, Dixon, Âme, and Seth Troxler in celebration of their 20th year in operation, and Kunstakademie continue to flirt with the city’s love of experimental music.
50 years after Düsseldorf created its own musical eco-system it continues to remain overlooked by Europe’s club scene. Perhaps the city doesn’t want the attention, maybe it never did. Whether we flock to Düsseldorf to create a new European clubbing capital in the city that created it all, is up for discussion. Whether or not it should be more widely acknowledged isn’t. For those of you looking for more on the city, take a read of Rudi Esch’s book Electri_City: The Dusseldorf School of Electronic Music here
Editor: James Kenny