From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Schneider founded Kraftwerk with Ralf Hütter in 1970, the two having met in 1968, studying firstly at the Academy of Arts in Remscheid, then at the Robert Schumann Academy in Düsseldorf, and played together in the improvising ensemble Organisation. Prior to meeting up with Hütter, Schneider played with Eberhard Kranemann in the group Pissoff from 1967-68. Kranemann would later join Kraftwerk as a bass guitar player, although his time with the group was short lived.
Originally Schneider's main instrument was the flute, which he would treat using a diverse manner of electronic effects, including tape echo, ring modulation, use of pitch-to-voltage converter, fuzz and wah-wah, allowing him to use his flute as a bass instrument. He also played violin (similarly treated) and made use of synthesizers (both as a melodic instrument and as a sound processor). Later he also created his own electronic flute instrument. After the release of their 1974 album, Autobahn his use of acoustic instruments diminished.
David Bowie titled his "Heroes" instrumental track "V-2 Schneider" after Schneider,<ref name="Bowie: An Illustrated Record">Roy Carr & Charles Shaar Murray (1981). Bowie: An Illustrated Record: p.92</ref> and was heavily influenced by Kraftwerk's sound during his 'Berlin' period in the late 1970s.
Schneider, speaking in 1991, said: "I had studied seriously up to a certain level, then I found it boring; I looked for other things, I found that the flute was too limiting... Soon I bought a microphone, then loudspeakers, then an echo, then a synthesizer. Much later I threw the flute away; it was a sort of process."<ref>Pascal Bussy (1993). Man, Machine and Music</ref> Although he has limited keyboard technique, and is a trained flautist, he apparently preferred to trigger the synth sounds through a keyboard in the group's 1975, 1976 and 1981 concerts (later, developments in sequencing limited the need for hands-on playing).
Schneider's approach is concentrated on sound design (in an interview in 2005, Hütter called him a "sound fetishist") and vocoding/speech-synthesis. One patented implementation of the latter was christened the Robovox, a distinctive feature of the Kraftwerk sound.
- "He is a sound perfectionist, so, if the sound isn’t up to a certain standard, he doesn’t want to do it. With electronic music there’s no necessity ever to leave the studio. You could keep making records and sending them out. Why put so much energy into travel, spending time in airports, in waiting halls, in backstage areas, being like an animal, just for two hours of a concert? But now, with the Kling Klang studio on tour with us, we work in the afternoon, we do soundchecks, we compose, we put down new ideas and computer graphics. There’s always so much to do, and we do make progress. — Ralf Hütter </small>
Although they are rarely given, Schneider is also known for his comical, enigmatic interviews.
Departure from Kraftwerk
Schneider did not perform on any of the dates of the Kraftwerk 2008 world tour. His position onstage was filled by Stefan Pfaffe, an associate working for the band as a video technician. According to a close friend of the group, Schneider supposedly left Kraftwerk on the 21st of November 2008. On the 5th of January 2009, the official Kraftwerk fan site, Technopop, confirmed Schneider's departure.