The word ‘motorik’, which literally means ‘motor skill’ in German, was originally coined by journalists to describe the minimal yet propulsive four four beat that underpinned a surprisingly small amount of leftfield German rock music from the early 70s. It was a hallmark of Klaus Dinger’s drumming for Neu!, although he rejected the term, preferring to call the rhythm the ‘Apache beat’. This metronomic approach could be heard bubbling through in Kraftwerk’s ‘Ruckzuck’, and early Can fare such as the blistering ‘Mother Sky’ and ‘Father Cannot Yell’ but was cemented as we know it now by Neu!
This beat has retrospectively come to be seen as the war drum of modernity; the pulse pushing music and the listener into the future. It is often associated – with good reason – with the great transport networks of Germany, the railway lines and the autobahns. In fact the rhythm even mimics that of a car speeding along the open road or a train clattering along the rails: fast, measured, travel never ending across Europe endless. It was the rock beat stripped back to a glittering chassis. It was the minimalist framework on which subtle improvisation could take place.
Of course, when I had the temerity to say all this to former member of Kraftwerk and Neu! guitarist, Michael Rother, he laughed and said that in fact the inspiration for this measured German rock beat had come from something altogether less mechanistic and more fluid: a game of five-a-side football including himself, Klaus Dinger and Ralf Hutter.
As a bonus to fans we’ve invited Michael Rother on stage to take part in a Q and A discussing the motorik beat, hallogallo, Harmonia and Neu!.
Hosted by The Quietus
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