Obituary: Jaki Liebezeit – Can’s human drum machine 1938 – 2017



Jake Leibezeit will be best remembered for his work with German avant-garde band Can. He played on some of their most memorable albums, such as ‘Ege Bamyasi’ and ‘Monster Movie’, and brought a steady motorik beat, relentless and minimalistic, yet unmistakeably human. His rhythmic repetoire however had infinite depth beyond the bare-bones pulse of Krautrock, and incorporated funk, afrobeat and weird out-of-sync yet totally on it rhythms that defied logic.

His formative years in Rock ‘n Roll bands for G.I. bases was soon replaced by a stint in the world of Free-Jazz, playing with the likes of Chet Baker, but the often (he perceived) unnecessary frills and fills steered him instead towards a stripped down monotonous approach.

Can’s influence on groups that followed cannot be overstated, and Jaki’s open experimental attitude led to several projects with other artists. After appearing on Brian Eno’s ‘Before and After Science’, he (along with Can meister Holger Czukay) collaborated on the 1983 mini-album ‘Snake Charmer’ with Jah Wobble and U2’s The Edge. Later hook ups with Depeche Mode (‘Ultra’) and Burnt Friedman assured his place in modern music, his unique contributions enriching all he touched.

The pneumonia that took him sadly arrived just before a planned reunion with former Can members Irmin Schmidt and Malcolm Mooney, at the Barbican.

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