The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website

Baker's Dozen

No Music: A Baker’s Dozen with Alva Noto
Ollie Zhang , February 21st, 2018 10:30

From Laurie Anderson’s United States Live to Meredith Monk’s Dolmen Music, Carsten Nicolai tells Mollie Zhang about 13 records that shaped his musical backbone. Photo by Andrey Bold


Afrika Bambaataa & The Soul Sonic Force - Planet Rock
I almost mentioned Kraftwerk on this list, but I felt like Planet Rock had a stronger impact on me during this period. This one arrived not as a record, but as a movie - for some reason, we could see Beat Street in movie theatres in East Germany. Maybe an official thought that it was important anti-culture in the US where the black community was developing strategies against capitalism, or something.

Of course these songs were connected to electro, and of course, they used this Kraftwerk beat. I doubt they ever asked Kraftwerk if they could use the material. Regardless, it became this cultural moment. I was fascinated by graffiti, by breakdance and by how hip hop was a music style and a dance style; there was a community behind it! I thought this was fantastic. If new musical styles appear not just as songs, but as a whole culture which is really lived by a community, it feels more real. This had a huge impact on me, and still does.

What was it like to hear Kraftwerk reimagined and reworked like that?

To be honest, and I’m sorry to say this, but I found it more radical. Kraftwerk was still a bit too German for me. Being German, I wasn’t so interested in this stereotype of technology-oriented efficiency. I found this kind of fusion far more interesting, and maybe afterwards, it also became historically interesting, too. White people have always been stealing from black music, as we hear with any genre of pop music. This marked an interesting feedback loop, historically. The music industry was very driven by white people exploiting black culture - I’m sorry to put it into these terms. I thought Planet Rock evidenced an interesting feedback system, which is essentially what music is. It is always a feedback system, and only when this feedback system is alive, then music is interesting.