Holger Czukay, bassist with Can, dies aged 79

The man who helped give the German psychedelic rockers their driving rhythm section was found at his apartment, with the cause of death currently unknown

Holger Czukay, co-founder and bassist with pioneering German rock band Can, has died aged 79.

He was found by a neighbour at his apartment, converted from Can’s old studio in Weilerswist near Cologne. The cause of death is currently unknown. His wife Ursula had died in July, while his former bandmate Jaki Liebezeit – with whom he created Can’s fabled driving rhythm section – also died this year, in January.

Can were part of a 1970s movement rather insensitively dubbed “krautrock” by the British music press, alongside bands including Neu!, Faust and Tangerine Dream, who paired the strident rhythms of rock’n’roll with psychedelic, exploratory new forms. Following a period of study under composer Karlheinz Stockhausen in the early 1960s, Czukay played on nine of Can’s albums as well as engineering them, including their celebrated Tago Mago and Ege Bamyasi, before leaving in 1977 to go solo.

He went on to collaborate with numerous celebrated musicians – he and Liebezeit played on the Eurythmics’ debut album, while he recorded the Balearic disco classic Snake Charmer with New York DJ Francois Kevorkian, U2 guitarist The Edge and Public Image Limited’s Jah Wobble, and also made a pair of collaborations with Japan singer David Sylvian.

Czukay is also celebrated for his experiments with sampling before the advent of digital samplers, cutting up and splicing tape into recordings. He also pioneered what he called “radio painting”, using shortwave radios to record random snippets of sound and pasting them collage-style into recordings; “rhythm boxing” was his description of how he used drum machines. His most recent solo album was Eleven Years Innerspace in 2015.

Can partly reformed in April without Czukay – Irmin Schmidt and Malcolm Mooney performed with the London Symphony Orchestra, Sonic Youth guitarist Thurston Moore and others as The Can Project.


Ben Beaumont-Thomas

The GuardianTramp

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