Holger Czukay has left behind an incomparable oeuvre. Not only with his band CAN, with which he wrote rock history since 1968, but also with large parts of his solo work, with which he paved the way for styles like HipHop or Techno. But as soon as Czukay has left us, one must seriously ask oneself whether he actually existed, or whether he was only the projection of the idealized artist. With all his technical finesse, he seemed to belong to the dying species of the art inventor, who, shielded from the rest of the world, creates gigantic things under the roof. With his velvet cap and sickle beard he could have sprung from a painting by Carl Spitzweg. When you met him, you never knew exactly whether he was in his imagination or in reality. The gates of his perception were always wider open than those of the rest of his surroundings.
From Caterina Valente to Dieter Bohlen
Holger Czukay had many stories to tell. He flirted with a past that repeatedly exposed him as a mixture between anarchist and oddball and provoked with quotations like "I hate music" or "The only German world music is Dieter Bohlen". His small, piercing eyes lit up when such platitudes camouflaged as lightnings were unleashed. But his original stories from the past often have much more to do with the present than with the past. "The first record I had was [Caterina Valentes] 'All Paris dreams of love'. But I didn't buy it because it had this song on it, but because the back 'Wenn es Nacht wird in Paris' sounded so sinister and dark. At that time, every title that was to be played was printed in the programme guides. I worked as a student in a radio shop. Saturday, 3:00 p.m., it was over. And exactly 3:03 p.m. came 'When night falls in Paris'. Now I turned up all the radios in the store incredibly loud so that I could hear this song as loud as I thought it would be. I don't even know who wrote this song, but it has left its mark on me to this day."
Czukay, born on 24 March 1938 as Holger Schüring in Gdansk, grew up with church music and began to take an early interest in the music of Anton Webern. However, his studies with electronics pioneer Karlheinz Stockhausen, with whom he worked closely, became much more important to him. Stockhausen's studio in Cologne secretly produced the first recordings of the band CAN, which he had founded with Irmin Schmidt, Jaki Liebezeit and Michael Karoli and to which he lent their idiosyncratic rhythm character as a bassist together with Liebezeit. CAN turned the rock of the late sixties upside down, renounced the usual rock'n'roll and blues schemata and oriented themselves much more strongly to the standards of minimal music and sound manipulation and increasingly included world music. Czukay saw himself as a world receiver. He relentlessly handled shortwave receivers to capture unprecedented sounds from the remotest corners of the earth.