Florian Schneider-Esleben (born 7 April 1947, Öhningen, Germany – died 21 April 2020, Düsseldorf, Germany) was one of the founding members of the German electronic music group Kraftwerk, taking his role with the band until his departure in November 2008.
Florian Schneider-Esleben founded Kraftwerk with Ralf Hütter in 1970. They met in 1968 while studying at the Academy of Arts in Remscheid, then at the Robert Schumann Hochschule in Düsseldorf. They played improvisational music together in the ensemble Organisation. Before meeting Hütter, Schneider had played with Eberhard Kranemann in the group Pissoff from 1967 to 1968. From 1968 to 1969, Schneider played flute, with Ralf Hütter on Hammond organ, Eberhard Kranemann on bass and Paul Lovens on drums.
Originally Schneider's main instrument was the flute, which he would treat using electronic effects, including tape echo, ring modulation, use of pitch-to-voltage converter, fuzz and wah-wah, allowing him to use his flute as a bass instrument. He also played violin (similarly treated), electric guitar (including slide guitar), and made use of synthesizers (both as a melodic instrument and as a sound processor). Later he also created his own electronic flute instrument. After the release of their 1974 album, Autobahn, his use of acoustic instruments diminished.
David Bowie titled his "Heroes" instrumental track "V-2 Schneider" after Schneider, and was heavily influenced by Kraftwerk's sound during his "Berlin period" in the late 1970s.
Schneider, speaking in 1991, said: "I had studied seriously up to a certain level, then I found it boring; I looked for other things, I found that the flute was too limiting... Soon I bought a microphone, then loudspeakers, then an echo, then a synthesizer. Much later I threw the flute away; it was a sort of process. Although he has limited keyboard technique, and is a trained flutist, he apparently preferred to trigger the synth sounds through a keyboard in the group's 1975, 1976 and 1981 concerts (later, developments in sequencing limited the need for hands-on playing).
Schneider's approach was concentrated on sound design (in an interview in 2005, Hütter called him a "sound fetishist") and vocoding/speech-synthesis. One patented implementation of the latter was christened the Robovox, a distinctive feature of the Kraftwerk sound. Hütter said of Schneider's approach:
"He is a sound perfectionist, so, if the sound isn’t up to a certain standard, he doesn’t want to do it. With electronic music there’s no necessity ever to leave the studio. You could keep making records and sending them out. Why put so much energy into travel, spending time in airports, in waiting halls, in backstage areas, being like an animal, just for two hours of a concert? But now, with the Kling Klang studio on tour with us, we work in the afternoon, we do soundchecks, we compose, we put down new ideas and computer graphics. There’s always so much to do, and we do make progress."
Schneider was also known for his comical, enigmatic interviews, although he had only seldom given permission to be interviewed.
In 2015 Schneider and Dan Lacksman with help of Uwe Schmidt released an electronic ode, "Stop Plastic Pollution", for ocean environment conservation as part of a campaign "Parley for the Oceans".
Departure from Kraftwerk
Schneider did not perform on any of the dates of the Kraftwerk 2008 world tour (his last performance with the band was November 2006 in Spain). His position onstage was filled by Stefan Pfaffe, an associate working for the band as a video technician. According to a close associate of the group, Schneider left Kraftwerk on 21 November 2008.
Schneider lived in Meerbusch-Büderich near Düsseldorf, although he had a house in Florence, Italy. He had a daughter named Lisa. He was the son of architect Paul Schneider-Esleben and Eva Maria Esleben. His father designed Cologne Airport and several other influential buildings. Schneider died from cancer on 21 April 2020 at the age of 73, having suffered from the illness for a short time.
- With Organisation
- Tone Float (1969)
- With Kraftwerk
- Kraftwerk (1970)
- Kraftwerk 2 (1972)
- Ralf und Florian (1973)
- Autobahn (1974)
- Radio-Activity (1975)
- Trans-Europe Express (1977)
- The Man Machine (1978)
- Computer World (1981)
- Electric Café/Techno Pop (1986)
- The Mix (1991)
- Tour de France Soundtracks (2003)