(Short answer: no, they aren’t.)

So, the thing about Amsterdam’s Paradiso is, there are balconies. And the thing about being in a balcony above Kraftwerk is, their once-secret live rig for their 3D show is now fully exposed.

The next question: what’s happening?

I have been squinting at this live video for some time, and I’m not sure. Some things are obvious: definitely MK I Maschine drum machine controllers from Native Instruments, definitely a MIDI keyboard for the odd solo, fairly certain I also spot a Novation ReMOTE ZeRO SL controller (encoders and faders and red lights) and the display for Steinberg’s Cubase which appears to hold backing tracks.

Someone is reading … well, something. It appears to be an iPad UI, maybe, pre-iOS 7. It involves text. Is it an email?

What’s happening musically and extra-musically here? I could say more, but I think it’s time to crowd-source CDM Nation’s incredible eagle eyes and superior technical knowledge. Let us know what you think (I’m also getting some feedback via social media), and perhaps we can arrive at a final conclusion.

See the images below. To me, the most interesting thing is that there’s an iOS-style app launch screen inside the display that previously had the text. That suggests maybe there’s some solution for seeing the iPad screen larger – possibly an AirPlay display or something like that. Or, that’s an iOS Simulator, and Kraftwerk are showing up all of us not by checking email during a live set, but by doing app development during a live set.

I hate to burst anyone’s Kraftwerk-hating bubble here, but I personally think it’s a set list or lyrics. Wait – scratch that. It might be more embarrassing to learn Kraftwerk can’t remember their own lyrics than it would be that they’re checking email while they play. (Seriously, guys, the words are “Tour de France, Tour de France.” You made it really easy on yourselves.)

Discuss.

iosscreen

kraftwerktext

Via FAZE in Germany, who complain about the ticket prices, etc. (Come on, what did you expect, a wailing drum solo? They’re Kraftwerk. I would assume I might pay 50€ to watch them check their email while standing up and dazzling me with a 3D show with a Volkswagen.)

Kraftwerk-Leak – von sich selbst gelangweilt?

“von sich selbst gelangweilt?” – they’re asking, essentially, “what, are you boring yourself?” … but it sounds somehow far crueler in German.

Willy Billiams shot the video on YouTube, you rule-breaker, you.

UK’s Electronic Sound provides English-language commentary.

Thank you, Настенька Иванова, for sending this my way.

Update: I’m poking some fun at Kraftwerk, of course – I mean, it’s a bit hard not to, with a band this legendary.

But closer examination reveals in fact a lot of what’s going on. Part of the value of this to me is that the band has been secretive about their live performance and tech. That’s their prerogative – but part of our job is to inquire into what’s really happening. And unlike a magic trick, I don’t think that technical knowledge of a performance has any impact on your enjoyment. (Music isn’t a trick.)

Sequencer.de ran a story on this back when it surfaced at the end of January – while CDM was too busy digging out from the NAMM show (and CTM Festival and the events we were running there).

More details:
Numark Orbit controller
Novation Remote SL Mk2 Zero (I could see it was a ZeRO, but not the mk2 – this is clearer)
Doepfer ribbon controller
Lemur on iPad

I am really fairly certain that software is Cubase. TouchOSC is in there, too, though the Sequencer.de article doesn’t mention it.

See the story:
KRAFTWERK – 2015 CONTROLLER CHECK

Also, I think it’s interesting that lay people immediately fixated on the “email checking” when you have four pedestals crammed with controllers. This is actually a complex rig with a lot of live elements, which you might actually not know watching the show – because of the aloof stage presence of the band.

Others have confirmed that each member divides responsibilities, and in this case, you’re looking at Falk who runs visuals. It’s not clear why he’s typing text into a text window on an iPad; it may be some communication window as some have speculated. Or maybe he’s working on his novel. It’s probably the least important detail in this video, though – mostly what you see in his machine is the preview of the video system.

Overall, I’m impressed with their rig. In a sense, it’s a shame they haven’t talked about it – not that they need to brag about gear, but there’s a misunderstanding that Kraftwerk are playing live. And conversely, a lot of “live” acts are often doing nothing.

  • Christopher Hunter

    My understanding is that one of them is working lights and screens, you may be seeing communication with front of house. Since their songs are localized in several languages, lyrics aren’t out off the question either.

    Though, in electronic music this is like the magician revealing tricks.

    • Bobby A

      I think this is the best theory. It looks like that text scrolls up a couple times similar to how a chat window would. I think it’s some kind of communications

  • Christopher Hunter

    My understanding is that one of them is working lights and screens, you may be seeing communication with front of house. Since their songs are localized in several languages, lyrics aren’t out off the question either.

    Though, in electronic music this is like the magician revealing tricks.

    • Bobby A

      I think this is the best theory. It looks like that text scrolls up a couple times similar to how a chat window would. I think it’s some kind of communications

  • It looks like they have computers (or just screens?) embedded in those cases. I also saw a QuNeo being used by the video guy (the one who’s browsing the web during the show).

    • Evolve

      Since it’s the video guy, the chances of him having some scripting are much higher.

      • It doesn’t look like a script, though… seems this really was just a fluke.

        But there are a lot of other details here in this video.

    • He seems to be using a Max patch in the not-iPad screen.

  • It looks like they have computers (or just screens?) embedded in those cases. I also saw a QuNeo being used by the video guy (the one who’s browsing the web during the show).

    • Evolve

      Since it’s the video guy, the chances of him having some scripting are much higher.

      • It doesn’t look like a script, though… seems this really was just a fluke.

        But there are a lot of other details here in this video.

    • He seems to be using a Max patch in the not-iPad screen.

  • mercury

    One of them looks like they are using Touchable or Touchosc, one of those iPad integration apps, can’t remember which one. Also, this shows why they are still ahead of their game. 99% of today’s million dollar DJs are not playing anything live outside of a Traktor set. This is pretty impressive. Says alot that they are using relatively cheap gear to do most of this. Ironically, while everyone is farting with modulars, they are using a Zero SL MKII, Maschine, iPad apps, and Cubase…all relatively affordable stuff!

    • Yep, absolutely! Hey, they’re typically the right tools for the job…

      • mercury

        It was lemur, you are correct!

        True Peter, but I’m impressed that these geezers are using these tools for live work, incorporating an amazing visual show and that the young guys are pressing play – you would think it would be the other way around! I have alot of respect for these dudes.

    • I’m pretty confident it is lemur, based on the UI (faders)

    • ElectroB

      Yes, it is ironic watching an old school electronic band playing with completely up-to-date tools while everyone else is going crazy about “retro”. 🙂

      As for the setup, you’re right, looks pretty much custom made, a bunch of tablet computers and (according to comments below) Lemur, and midi controllers stitched together. Pretty cool.

      • coco

        I don’t agree. They’re playing back music that was made using the retro machines everyone is currently craving. The up-to-date tools are playback machines, not sound sources.

        • ElectroB

          No, the up-to-date tools are live controllers and even a couple of MIDI keyboards. Of course they’ve sampled their old sounds, but I’m sure some software synths are also being used. Anyway, the point is they didn’t stick to playing analogue machines, and they’ve created a fully digital setup that allows them, among other things, to manipulate images and sounds at the same time in a concert setting.

    • The surreal McCoy

      Well, they have or – at least had – the expensive gear at home. I find it quite disappointing that there’s not a single synth to be seen here. All controllers, controlling samplers behind the curtain.

  • mercury

    One of them looks like they are using Touchable or Touchosc, one of those iPad integration apps, can’t remember which one. Also, this shows why they are still ahead of their game. 99% of today’s million dollar DJs are not playing anything live outside of a Traktor set. This is pretty impressive. Says alot that they are using relatively cheap gear to do most of this. Ironically, while everyone is farting with modulars, they are using a Zero SL MKII, Maschine, iPad apps, and Cubase…all relatively affordable stuff!

    • Yep, absolutely! Hey, they’re typically the right tools for the job…

      • mercury

        It was lemur, you are correct!

        True Peter, but I’m impressed that these geezers are using these tools for live work, incorporating an amazing visual show and that the young guys are pressing play – you would think it would be the other way around! I have alot of respect for these dudes.

    • I’m pretty confident it is lemur, based on the UI (faders)

    • ElectroB

      Yes, it is ironic watching an old school electronic band playing with completely up-to-date tools while everyone else is going crazy about “retro”. 🙂

      As for the setup, you’re right, looks pretty much custom made, a bunch of tablet computers and (according to comments below) Lemur, and midi controllers stitched together. A Frankenstein setup. Pretty cool.

      • coco

        I don’t agree. They’re playing back music that was made using the retro machines everyone is currently craving. The up-to-date tools are playback machines, not sound sources.

        • ElectroB

          No, the up-to-date tools are live controllers and even a couple of MIDI keyboards. Of course they’ve sampled their old sounds, but I’m almost sure some software synths are also being used. Anyway, the point is they didn’t stick to playing analogue machines, and they’ve created a fully digital setup that allows them, among other things, to manipulate images and sounds at the same time in a concert setting.

    • The surreal McCoy

      Well, they have or – at least had – the expensive gear at home. I find it quite disappointing that there’s not a single synth to be seen here. All controllers, controlling samplers behind the curtain.

  • veneman
    • Ah, that’s great. Smart commentary, better pictures.

      • Christopher Hunter

        I agree with your edit- consider that Kraftwerk used to need to build their own instruments to serve some of the functions they wanted (the most obvious being their old tea-tray drums and the “pocket calculators,”) and it must get bothersome for them to always need to describe their gear. It may be a lot more software now, but it’s not much different.

  • veneman
    • Ah, that’s great. Smart commentary, better pictures.

      • Christopher Hunter

        I agree with your edit- consider that Kraftwerk used to need to build their own instruments to serve some of the functions they wanted (the most obvious being their old tea-tray drums and the “pocket calculators,”) and it must get bothersome for them to always need to describe their gear. It may be a lot more software now, but it’s not much different.

  • Salman Bakht

    Here’s a page about equipment used by Kraftwerk at different times. http://kraftwerkfaq.hu/equipment.html#equipment

    There are a few clearer (off-stage) pics of the equipment in case you want to compare.

  • Here’s a page about equipment used by Kraftwerk at different times. http://kraftwerkfaq.hu/equipment.html#equipment

    There are a few clearer (off-stage) pics of the equipment in case you want to compare.

  • Ryan Challinor

    That’s a Contour ShuttlePRO V.2 next to the touchscreen: http://www.amazon.com/Contour-Design-ShuttlePRO-CONTOUR-DESIGN/dp/B00027X2YM

  • Ryan Challinor

    That’s a Contour ShuttlePRO V.2 next to the touchscreen: http://www.amazon.com/Contour-Design-ShuttlePRO-CONTOUR-DESIGN/dp/B00027X2YM

  • kopfschmerzen

    calm down people he is just making some toast, damnit,,,

  • kopfschmerzen

    calm down people he is just making some toast, damnit,,,

  • Klemen Verdnik

    Ah, reminds me of a 9gag post I did a while back: http://9gag.com/gag/4451595

  • Klemen Verdnik

    Ah, reminds me of a 9gag post I did a while back: http://9gag.com/gag/4451595

  • Raffa van der Koont

    Why no just ask Kraftwerk for a proper full and frank interview instead of, you know just making shit up and writing these lame click bait stories.

    • Duh

      Because they haven’t done an interview since the 80s.

      • Raffa van der Koont

        Ralph did one last year, http://cultmontreal.com/2014/03/kraftwerk/. There are many other ones too over the years.

        You may not get the whole group, but its still better than the second hand or made rubbish spouted by many bloggers

  • Raffa van der Koont

    Why no just ask Kraftwerk for a proper full and frank interview instead of, you know just making shit up and writing these lame click bait stories.

    • Duh

      Because they haven’t done an interview since the 80s.

      • Raffa van der Koont

        Ralph did one last year, http://cultmontreal.com/2014/03/kraftwerk/. There are many other ones too over the years.

        You may not get the whole group, but its still better than the second hand or made rubbish spouted by many bloggers

  • Genjutsushi

    There’s a video on computer music I think that talks you through how one of the big djs plays live… Can’t remember which one. He has a messenger app open the whole time to communicate with the FOH mixer and his VJ. Could be similar

  • Genjutsushi

    There’s a video on computer music I think that talks you through how one of the big djs plays live… Can’t remember which one. He has a messenger app open the whole time to communicate with the FOH mixer and his VJ. Could be similar

  • ElectroB

    “not that they need to brag about gear, but there’s a misunderstanding that Kraftwerk are playing live. And conversely, a lot of “live” acts are often doing nothing.”

    Yes. Very much so.

  • ElectroB

    “not that they need to brag about gear, but there’s a misunderstanding that Kraftwerk are playing live. And conversely, a lot of “live” acts are often doing nothing.”

    Yes. Very much so.

  • Jonathan Kraut
  • Jonathan Kraut
  • pinta_vodki

    He’s obviously reading classic pieces of iOS 6 music app coverage on CDM, Peter!

  • pinta_vodki

    He’s obviously reading classic pieces of iOS 6 music app coverage on CDM, Peter!

  • aaron

    “I think it’s interesting that lay people immediately fixated on the “email checking” when you have four pedestals crammed with controllers”

    …maybe because you put it in the title? just a guess.

    • The email thing has been going on in quite a few forums and comments sections all over the place, way before Peter wrote this blog piece.

  • Guest

    “I think it’s interesting that lay people immediately fixated on the “email checking” when you have four pedestals crammed with controllers”

    …maybe because you put it in the title? just a guess.

    • The email thing has been going on in quite a few forums and comments sections all over the place, way before Peter wrote this blog piece.

  • aaron

    I do see quite alot of live playing / triggering going on though. Much more than many acts..

    • aaron

      …at the same time, the Andy Fletcher comparison did crack me up 🙂

  • aaron

    I do see quite alot of live playing / triggering going on though. Much more than many acts..

    • aaron

      …at the same time, the Andy Fletcher comparison did crack me up 🙂

  • Robin Parmar

    “Kraftwerk are showing up all of us not by checking email during a live set, but by doing app development during a live set.” Win.

  • Robin Parmar

    “Kraftwerk are showing up all of us not by checking email during a live set, but by doing app development during a live set.” Win.

  • phil

    I got to chat to them a few years ago now as I was supporting them for a tour they did. Cubase was the sequencer of choice when I asked the question.

  • phil

    I got to chat to them a few years ago now as I was supporting them for a tour they did. Cubase was the sequencer of choice when I asked the question.

  • Jere Käpyaho

    “…there’s an iOS-style app launch screen inside the display that previously had the text” — to me it looks like a Safari window, and he’s just checking out the online documentation of some iOS app, and it has some screenshots to illustrate. You know, it could be a little hectic there on stage when you realise that the track is soon going to sound pretty lame if you don’t solve the problem real quick… Kraftwerk are really dedicated to their craft, and it would be absurd to require that every note of their complex music be played live. They set the parts in motion, and then modify it significantly on stage. Between shows they refine the arrangements around the central core of a track. You can hear the changes if you compare the live recordings from various shows over the years. It’s much more than playback.

  • Jere Käpyaho

    “…there’s an iOS-style app launch screen inside the display that previously had the text” — to me it looks like a Safari window, and he’s just checking out the online documentation of some iOS app, and it has some screenshots to illustrate. You know, it could be a little hectic there on stage when you realise that the track is soon going to sound pretty lame if you don’t solve the problem real quick… Kraftwerk are really dedicated to their craft, and it would be absurd to require that every note of their complex music be played live. They set the parts in motion, and then modify it significantly on stage. Between shows they refine the arrangements around the central core of a track. You can hear the changes if you compare the live recordings from various shows over the years. It’s much more than playback.

  • razk

    I’d rather inteprete this like : look what we could do with stuff that we have right in fron of us..

  • razk

    I’d rather inteprete this like : look what we could do with stuff that we have right in fron of us..

  • Kevin Moabyte Hackett

    They earned the right to do what they want in my book, but I doubt they are checking email. I’d bet its a communication window with front/back of house. They have stood the test of time and the migration their sound from one generation of technology to the next, a couple times now, is impressive in itself.

  • Kevin Moabyte Hackett

    They earned the right to do what they want in my book, but I doubt they are checking email. I’d bet its a communication window with front/back of house. They have stood the test of time and the migration their sound from one generation of technology to the next, a couple times now, is impressive in itself.

  • Neil

    I wonder, how are they syncing the Cubases? Or is it running on one PC with multiple monitors?

  • Neil

    I wonder, how are they syncing the Cubases? Or is it running on one PC with multiple monitors?

  • I have just seen them live in Copenhagen this Friday, playing the Trans Europa Express album as part of their Catalogue 3D show full-week residency at Koncerthuset. It was an impressive 2.15 hours live set (well, except for Die Roboter during the encore, which they usually “let” play and have their robot dummies on stage), where you could see them not only play keyboards (Ralf Hütter does play melodies, chords, stabs, pads and triggers his vocoder harmonies all the time during the gig), trigger all sorts of samples and arpeggios, run filters, delays and all sorts of other effects manually (not least heavily using the ribbon band as an instrument, really). You could also see them moving, looking at the audience and at each other, and even smiling – in a way that clearly gave me the impression that they actually enjoy playing these shows.

    I saw them about ten years ago, when their stage appearance was basically with the same pedestals, but four laptop screens. They would not move at all (not even padding their feet to the rhythm), and it felt much more like they were checking those infamous emails.

    This time, I had a similar view on their live rig, because I was sitting on a balcony too, very similar to those videos that have recently caused quite a buzz, apparently. It was very clear that all four were heavily involved in playing the music to an extent that leaves many an electronic music artist to shame.

    But, at the end of the day, I think that anyone who would complain about paying for a concert ticket to see Kraftwerk and moan that they would not “do” anything on stage, has completely missed the point. Kraftwerk was never about doing anything on stage. If they had the technology back in the 70s, they would certainly not have brought all those Moogs and ARPs on stage and they would neither have played them “live”. Kraftwerk is and always has been a conceptual art installation. They just happened to craft the most wicked beats and wonderfully melancholic pop melodies, which have certainly helped bringing them to the mainstream’s attention. But they could have done without all that, for sure.

  • I have just seen them live in Copenhagen this Friday, playing the Trans Europa Express album as part of their Catalogue 3D show full-week residency at Koncerthuset. It was an impressive 2.15 hours live set (well, except for Die Roboter during the encore, which they usually “let” play and have their robot dummies on stage), where you could see them not only play keyboards (Ralf Hütter does play melodies, chords, stabs, pads and triggers his vocoder harmonies all the time during the gig), trigger all sorts of samples and arpeggios, run filters, delays and all sorts of other effects manually (not least heavily using the ribbon band as an instrument, really). You could also see them moving, looking at the audience and at each other, and even smiling – in a way that clearly gave me the impression that they actually enjoy playing these shows.

    I saw them about ten years ago, when their stage appearance was basically with the same pedestals, but four laptop screens. They would not move at all (not even padding their feet to the rhythm), and it felt much more like they were checking those infamous emails.

    This time, I had a similar view on their live rig, because I was sitting on a balcony too, very similar to those videos that have recently caused quite a buzz, apparently. It was very clear that all four were heavily involved in playing the music to an extent that leaves many an electronic music artist to shame.

    But, at the end of the day, I think that anyone who would complain about paying for a concert ticket to see Kraftwerk and moan that they would not “do” anything on stage, has completely missed the point. Kraftwerk was never about doing anything on stage. If they had the technology back in the 70s, they would certainly not have brought all those Moogs and ARPs on stage and they would neither have played them “live”. Kraftwerk is and always has been a conceptual art installation. They just happened to craft the most wicked beats and wonderfully melancholic pop melodies, which have certainly helped bringing them to the mainstream’s attention. But they could have done without all that, for sure.

  • disqus_lQdbINTxbJ

    I was at one of the Paris shows, on the balcony, and they were clearly working, playing or triggering everything AFAIK

  • disqus_lQdbINTxbJ

    I was at one of the Paris shows, on the balcony, and they were clearly working, playing or triggering everything AFAIK

  • look at this video with the room lights lit

    http://youtu.be/7qpO7uLqLQQ

  • look at this video with the room lights lit

    http://youtu.be/7qpO7uLqLQQ

  • Fergus Waveforms

    The monitors used by the video guy appear to be Blackmagic Design https://www.blackmagicdesign.com/products

  • Fergus Waveforms

    The monitors used by the video guy appear to be Blackmagic Design https://www.blackmagicdesign.com/products

  • poopoo

    I saw the Karftwerk 3d show in Singapore. One of the computers crashed half way through and we got to see the Windows 7 on the enormous screen for a few moments. The music went on but it took while before the video was up and running again. Nice to see that sort shit happens regardless of budget.

  • poopoo

    I saw the Karftwerk 3d show in Singapore. One of the computers crashed half way through and we got to see the Windows 7 on the enormous screen for a few moments. The music went on but it took while before the video was up and running again. Nice to see that sort shit happens regardless of budget.

  • Malcolm Scott

    He’s verifying the wire transfer from the gig.

  • Malcolm Scott

    He’s verifying the wire transfer from the gig.

  • SonOfTheIsles

    Surely Kraftwerk only need a single on/off switch to begin the loop.

    They can then walk off stage and return for the curtain call.

  • Manuel

    I actually took this photo at one of their 2009 concerts where they had a technical problem and one of their screens got displayed instead of the song visuals. Maybe someone can make sense of it. The angle is unfortunate and it’s hard to see much. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/a271c1cb51f45a4029c12f7a6ce73ad10abb1db37817b25101950567375e5f7e.jpg

    • Dan Carlson

      I see Windows XP 🙂

      But otherwise it looks like Cubase or some other kind of multitrack audio or video editing/playback software

  • Eric Barker

    As per the lyrics on screen, considering a substantial part of their “vocals” are various kinds of Text-to-Speech programs, it would be more surprising if they DIDN’T have their lyrics up on a screen somewhere. I’ve always wondered how they cued the vocals in time with the music, which they often manipulate and introduce stutters and glitches. It likely flows on screen and they cue individual lines or words.

    BTW: There has been a lot of controversy over the proposed Zappa hologram tour. One day I seriously hope there’s a Kraftwerk hologram tour. Nothing would be more perfect!