MICHEL GAUBERT PAYS TRIBUTE TO KRAFTWERK
Fashion’s favorite DJ-producer sounds off on Kraftwerk, who recently lost their co-founder Florian Schneider.
For our latest issue, we asked Michel Gaubert to sound off on robo-pop pioneers Kraftwerk. Though timed to the band’s 50th anniversary, Gaubert’s tribute takes on unexpected resonance in light of co-founder Florian Schneider’s passing this week. Here, he recalls their most indelible moments in the club and on the runway.
I remember my first time seeing Kraftwerk perfectly: It was September of 1981, at Espace Cardin, Pierre Cardin’s venue in Paris. It wasn’t a large crowd so I was very close to the stage, and I was [in awe] of the band’s robotic movements. They didn’t have the actual robots with them [as they did in their 1978 music video, “The Robots”], but it was super impressive to see all of their precision. I liked the fact that it was mechanical and very futuristic— quintessentially German.
Soon after seeing Kraftwerk in Paris, I was out one night in New York, at the Paradise Garage. I saw all of these [American] kids dancing to “Numbers.” Which was crazy to see, because the lyrics of that song are entirely in German. But that didn’t matter: The kids were getting down on the sound.
It was the beginning of a type of music in America—not even electro, necessarily. [On “Planet Rock,” for example], the rapper Afrika Bambaataa took inspiration from Kraftwerk. From then on, their style of beats could be heard throughout hip-hop. To me, Kraftwerk is the perfect example of a crossover: They’re able to travel from one world to another, but always with a theme that’s been pushed to the maximum. That is probably why the band has been so influential in fashion. And what [motivated] me to include them in the soundtrack for two fashion shows one season: Sacai and Chanel, [Fall 2017]. That year, Chanel simulated a rocket launch [at the Grand Palais]; I thought “Radioactivity,” which was a mega-big hit for Kraftwerk [in 1976], was a good laboratory-like accompaniment to that out-of-this-world set.
[A great example] of their influence is, of course, Raf Simons’s [Fall/Winter 1998] show, which I saw. The models wore red shirts and black ties, just like the classic Kraftwerk “robots.” I love when fashion takes inspiration from music—it really adds another dimension to both of the [creators’] legacies. And Raf’s Kraftwerk-inspired collection was great, too; I’d wear it today, if I could.