Holger Czukay  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Holger Czukay born Holger Schüring; (24 March 1938 – September 2017) was a German musician, probably best known as a co-founder of the krautrock group Can. Described as "successfully bridg[ing] the gap between pop and the avant-garde", Czukay was also notable for having created early important examples of ambient music, for having explored "world music" well before the term was coined, and for having been a pioneer of sampling.


Czukay was born in 24 March 1938 in the Free City of Danzig, from which his family was expelled after World War II. Due to the turmoil of the war, Czukay's primary education was limited. One pivotal early experience, however, was working, when still a teenager, at a radio repair-shop, where he became fond of the aural qualities of radio broadcasts (anticipating his use of shortwave radio broadcasts as musical elements) and became familiar with the rudiments of electrical repair and engineering.

Czukay studied music under Karlheinz Stockhausen from 1963 to 1966 and then worked for a while as a music teacher. Initially Czukay had little interest in rock music, but this changed when a student played him the Beatles' 1967 song "I Am the Walrus", a 1967 psychedelic rock single with an unusual musical structure and blasts of AM radio noise. This opened his ears to music by rock experimentalists such as The Velvet Underground and Frank Zappa.

Czukay co-founded Can in 1968. He played bass guitar and performed most of the recording and engineering for the group. Rosko Gee, former bassist of the British band Traffic, joined the band in 1977, with Czukay handling only tapes and sound effects on album Saw Delight, his final LP with the group before departing for a solo career.

After his departure from Can, Czukay recorded several albums. One of his trademarks was the use of shortwave radio sounds and his early pioneering of sampling, in those days involving the painstaking cutting and splicing of magnetic tapes. He would tape-record various sounds and snippets from shortwave and incorporate them into his compositions. He also used shortwave as a live, interactive musical instrument (such as on 1991's Radio Wave Surfer), a method of composition he termed "radio painting". Czukay also stated "If you want to make something new, you shouldn't think too far beyond one certain idea".

Czukay collaborated with a considerable number of musicians, notably a series of albums with Jah Wobble and David Sylvian, two younger British musicians who shared his interest in blending pop music with experimental recording and sampling techniques. Other collaborators include U.N.K.L.E., Brian Eno, Eurythmics, and German Neue Deutsche Welle band Trio.

In 2008, after a problematic time with the record company that had been gradually re-releasing his albums on CD, Czukay began a new collaboration with the Claremont 56 record label, releasing vinyl-only remixes of tracks from earlier albums, as well as some new recordings. This approach changed Czukay's plans for his back catalogue, so that the original albums Der Osten ist Rot (1984), Rome Remains Rome (1987) and Moving Pictures (1993) are no longer being reissued (in the case of Moving Pictures, because the master tapes have degraded beyond repair). Instead, most of the tracks are being remade and newly organized as limited edition vinyl releases.

Czukay's body was discovered inside his apartment on 5 September 2017. The New York Times reports that he died on the same day, but the cause of his death is still subject to a police investigation.



  • Canaxis 5 (1969, remastered and expanded 2006)
  • Movies (1979, remastered and expanded 2007)
  • Biomutanten / Menetekel (as Les Vampyrettes with Conny Plank) (1981)
  • On the Way to the Peak of Normal (1981)
  • Full Circle (1982) collaboration with Jah Wobble and Jaki Liebezeit (re-issue of a UK-only EP, expanded with two additional tracks)
  • Snake Charmer (1983) EP, collaboration with Jah Wobble, The Edge, and Ben Mandelson
  • Der Osten ist Rot (1984)
  • Rome Remains Rome (1987)
  • Plight and Premonition (1988) collaboration with David Sylvian. A re-issue, featuring separate remixes of the album by both Czukay and Sylvian, was planned but has yet to be released
  • Flux and Mutability (1989) collaboration with David Sylvian
  • Radio Wave Surfer (1991, remastered and expanded 2006) Live recordings made in 1984, 1986 & 1987
  • Moving Pictures (1993)
  • Clash (1998, remastered and expanded 2007) collaboration with Dr. Walker
  • Good Morning Story (1999, remastered and expanded 2006)
  • La Luna (2000, remastered and expanded 2007)
  • Linear City (2001, remastered and remixed 2006) Audio collaborations with Susanne Drescher, Per Odderskove, Ray Darr, Darren B. Dunn, Marc Uzan, Ola Norlander, Haki, U-She, Drew Kalapach, Michael Letourneau, Alan Evil from IFPR, Luca Kormentini, Andrew Paine (Boomboy), The Weeds of Eden, Michael Banabila, Dreamfluid, Beatsystem, Noiseman433, Dane Johnson, James Webb, Panoptic, 1605 Munro, Tom Hamlyn
  • The New Millennium (2003) with U-She
  • Time and Tide (2001, remastered 2007) with U-She
  • 21st Century (2007) with Ursa Major, Drew Kalapach voice, electronics
  • Ode to Perfume/Fragrance (2009) 10 inch single, limited edition of 500
  • Good Morning Story (2010) Double LP with three additional tracks, limited edition of 500
  • Way to LA (2010) 10 inch single collaboration with Bison and Ursa Major
  • Let's Get Hot/Let's Get Cool (2010) 12 inch single, limited edition of 500 red vinyl and 500 blue vinyl
  • Persian Love (Remix)/My Persian Love (2010) 12 inch single, gold vinyl, limited edition of 1001
  • Dream Again (2010) 10 inch double EP of remixes from The East Is Red and Rome Remains Rome, clear vinyl, limited edition of 666
  • Hit Hit Flop Flop (Remix)/Hey Baba Reebop (2011) 7 inch single, limited edition of 444

See also

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