Jaki Liebezeit: Can drummer dies aged 78

Jaki LiebezeitImage copyright
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Jaki Liebezeit pioneered the drumming style known as “motorik”

Jaki Liebezeit, the drummer and co-founder of pioneering German band Can, died on Sunday at the age of 78.

“It is with great sadness we have to announce that Jaki passed away this morning from sudden pneumonia,” said a statement on Can’s Facebook page.

“He fell asleep peacefully, surrounded by his loved ones. We will miss him hugely.”

Can were revered as pioneers of the Krautrock movement, which blended rock, electronic and world music.

Liebezeit was credited with inventing the band’s name, which stood for “communism, anarchism, nihilism”.

Throughout several line-up changes he was a constant, playing on all of the band’s albums, including Tago Mago, Ege Bamyasi and Future Days.

Although they were prolific, releasing up to three albums a year in the 1970s, they were destined to be a cult band – influencing the likes of Roxy Music, Julian Cope, The Flaming Lips and The Horrors.

They scored an unexpected UK hit with I Want More, which reached number 26 in 1976 and earned the band their sole appearance on Top Of The Pops.

“We were trying to find our own way,” said Liebezeit of Can and fellow Krautrock bands like Neu! and Kraftwerk. “We thought like artists.

“Imagine a painter saying I can’t suddenly paint like Andy Warhol or like Jackson Pollock, so I have to find something else, something original. It takes a while, but it is possible to find.”

Tributes

A student of the free jazz scene in Dresden, Germany, Liebezeit co-founded Can in 1968 with keyboardist Irmin Schmidt, bassist Holger Czukay and guitarist Michael Karoli. Vocalist Malcolm Mooney joined later that year.

He enjoyed a long career behind the kit, working with the likes of Depeche Mode, the Eurythmics, Jah Wobble and Brian Eno as well as his work with Can.

His dynamic drumming style was the metronomic heart of Can’s music, tethering their more exploratory compositions with precise, hypnotic pulse.

The style was later dubbed “motorik” – a play on the German word for “motor skills” – which was meant to evoke the repetitive, relentless experience of driving on a motorway.

The musician was set to perform with Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore, as well as Can’s Schmidt and Mooney, for a show at London’s Barbican in April, dubbed The Can Project.

“Absolutely gutted to hear my dear friend Jaki Liebezeit has passed,” wrote Wobble – the bassist in Public Image Limited – after hearing of Liebezeit’s death.

“Wonderful person and best European drummer. King of Saxony lebewohl!!!”

Brian Eno responded by posting a series of links to Can’s music and interviews with Liebezeit.

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