Jaki Liebezeit, drummer of seminal krautrock band Can, dies at 78

German avant garde rock group announces on Facebook page that drummer died from pneumonia

Jaki Liebezeit, drummer and founding member of the seminal krautrock band Can, has died from pneumonia at the age of 78.

The band – which was formed in West Germany in 1968 and is widely regarded as one of the most influential avant garde rock groups of all time – confirmed his death in a post to its official Facebook page late on Tuesday GMT.

“It is with great sadness we have to announce that Jaki passed away this morning from sudden pneumonia,” read the unsigned post. “He fell asleep peacefully, surrounded by his loved ones. We will miss him hugely.”

Jah Wobble, the English musician and original Public Image Ltd bassist with whom Liebezeit had collaborated since the 1980s, paid tribute to him on Twitter.

“Absolutely gutted to hear my dear friend Jaki Liebezeit has passed. Wonderful person and best European drummer. King of Saxony lebewohl!!!”

Absolutely gutted to hear my dear friend Jaki Liebezeit has passed. Wonderful person and best European drummer. King of Saxony lebewohl!!!

— Jah Wobble (@realjahwobble) January 22, 2017

Though there were various iterations of Can’s lineup in its heyday from 1968 to 1979, Liebezeit was a constant. He is credited with the band’s name, stylised in capital letters and standing for “Communism, Anarchism, Nihilism”.

Born in 1939 in Dresden, Liebezeit was a jazz drummer before joining Can – a discipline that contributed significantly to the band’s sound, as well as the so-called “Motorik” beat that defined krautrock.

In the 1960s, he had played with the American trumpeter Chet Baker and the Spanish jazz pianist Tete Montoliu before joining the Manfred Schoof Quintet, through which he helped to shape European free jazz.

With Can, he lent a metronome-style precision to the band’s wide-ranging and genre-defying take on psychedelia.

Liebezeit characterised the group as a “German rock-pop group” in an interview for Red Bull Music Academy’s Fireside Chat series: “I don’t know the exact. Was it rock, was it pop? I don’t know.”

Following a hiatus brought about by Czukay’s departure in late 1977, Liebezeit worked with Brian Eno, Depeche Mode and Jah Wobble. Liebezeit was also a member of Phantomband, with which he produced three albums, and the drum ensemble Drums of Chaos.

Goodbye Jaki Liebezeit: human metronome, inventor of the motorik beat.
Had hoped to see him in London this summer.https://t.co/YOnHYi34Sd

— DänielNöthing (@DanielNothing) January 22, 2017

In recent years, he had been working with the German electronic musician Burnt Friedman.

“In the 90s, suddenly, then, the electronic revolution came, which turned me on very much,” said Liebezeit in the Red Bull interview. “I thought, ‘This is the first time you hear some music which does not come from the United States.’ It was more European-based, I think.

“It was not a typical American music anymore. I was very much interested in another way to play music and then I started to give up the traditional jazz and rock drumkit. I changed it to something else in a new configuration and also with a different drum technique.”

Cedric Bixler-Zavala, the frontman of the contemporary rock bands At the Drive-In and the Mars Volta, tweeted: “All roads of drumming eventually lead to Jaki Liebezeit. Your approach was contagious RIP.”

All roads of drumming eventually lead to Jaki Liebezeit. Your approach was contagious RIP #JakiLiebezeit https://t.co/SHJ0r8h7GD

— CEDRIC BIXLER ZAVALA (@cedricbixler_) January 22, 2017

Alex Kapranos, the frontman of the Scottish rock band Franz Ferdinand, also tweeted: “Farewell, Jaki Liebzeit. I’ll never tire of listening to you play.”

Farewell, Jaki Liebezeit. I'll never tire of listening to you play.

— alex kapranos (@alkapranos) January 22, 2017

Liebezeit performed at Can reunions held sporadically from the late 1980s through to 1999. He was set to reunite with his former members, Irmin Schmidt and Malcolm Mooney, for a concert as the Can Project at London’s Barbican Hall in April.


Elle Hunt

The GuardianTramp

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