Flor Iain Shader RIP (And Some Other Stuff About Kroitrock)

6 06 2020

The recent demise of Kraftwerk founder Florian Schneider over in Germany had fans of electronic music in mourning. Kraftwerk, of course, emerged from Germany’s early 70s music scene alongside a host of other innovative bands, in a movement subsequently tagged by English-speaking music critics as “Krautrock”.

These same English-speaking music critics were even slower to catch on to the parallel developments in electronic music that were happening in the Outer Hebrides, pioneered among others by Schneider’s also-recently-deceased cousin Flor Iain Shader.

The “Kroitrock” movement was centred around 2 Lewis villages – Coll-logne and Balantrushaldörf. Due to an error in the 1815 crofting census, both villages had been allocated to Prussia after the Battle of Waterloo, and therefore found themselves on the Axis side during World War II.  The villages were industrial powerhouses, vital in the supply of peats and tweed to the Nazi war machine, and were therefore bombed remorselessly by the allies on a nightly basis. 

Indeed, old SYs will recall the regular 1000-bomber raids that took off on moonless nights from RAF Stornoway and returned many minutes later.  

By 1945 both Coll-logne and Balantrushaldörf were completely flattened (except, miraculously, Coll-logne’s famous mediaeval gothic FP Mission House). In the postwar years, with the aid of a big grant from the Maw-rshall Plan, the villages were reconstructed  as shining beacons of modernity with slated roofs, electricity, running water, a proper tarred road with really big passing places and a streetlamp outside the council houses.

It was in this environment of determinedly forward-looking futurism that Flor Iain Shader and his fellow Kroitrock pioneers grew up.

Most Leodhasachs nowadays will of course only remember the later incarnations of Kroftwerk, playing AC/DC covers in the Clachan and the Sea Angling. By that time of course the band’s sound had changed a bit and the original members had long since left. Scholars of Kroitrock, however, will know that the band was originally formed in 1970 by Flor Iain Shader and Calf Hutter after they met while studying compost-ition at Balantrushaldörf’s Ropach Schiarmann Hoochschule.  They were eventually  joined by two other like minded musicians – Woolgang Flüich and Karloway “Roddy” Bartos.

After a few experiments trying to come up with a band image, they decided to pretend to be robotic performers and to make every move on stage as mechanical as possible. However, it turned out that Shader’s cousin Florian had thought of this idea ten minutes before and so forbade him to copy the idea.

Instead, the Kroftwerk boys decided to do the next best thing and pick an image of somber-looking church elders standing with barely a movement for hours on end, as if enjoying a really, really, really lengthy prayer. And the idea, which reinforced this image, for the four band members to wear black church suits came from seeing a Gilbert and GeorgeStewartshop exhibition in An Lanntair. They were also hugely influenced by Hearach composer Karl-Heinz Stockinish.

The band first came to the attention of a wider audience (four people looking at a telly in Maciver and Dart’s window) when they appeared on “Tomorrow’s World” in 1974 – famously presented by Raebhat Bac-ster – and stunned viewers with the sound of the future.  

Shortly after this they broke big with their “Dòta-mahn” album and single (produced by Conny Planasker). Written as a tribute to the well known and loved kids’ Gaelic tv show, the English translation of the minimalist lyrics were a nod to the impact Donnie Dòtaman had on Gaelic medium education “We thrive,thrive,thrive on the Dòta-mahn”

Well Known Singles

  • “Dòta-mahn” – see above
  • “Trans-Eòropie Island Express” – About a legendary ‘Island Express’  tour around Ness in the early 70’s
  • “The Maw Machine” – a moving tribute to those from outwith the cattle grids
  • “Tour De Fanks” – the band were keen cyclists who would earn some extra cash by cycling round the neighbouring fanks to help out with the dipping.
  • “The Maw-Dell” – see below
  • “RadioRanol Activity” – about the playlists for the Hospital Radio show (which was always Calum Kennedy and Jimmy Shand and nobody else).
  • “Bucket Calculator” – about rationing out the guga at Port of Ness when the Guga Hunters return.

The Maw-Dell

“She’s a Maw from Dell und she’s cooking food

I like her marag dubh that’s understood

She prays hard to get, from Ness to Airidhantuim 

It only takes the Minister to change her mind.

She’s going out tonight drinking in bus shelters 

Und she’s been checking out nearly all the Elders 

I saw her on the cover of the Gazette

I vant to see her in just her hairnet”

Of course Kroftwerk were but one of many bands in the Kroitrock scene. One of these days we might get around to a more detailed look at some of their contemporaries who had even less success, such as: 

Can(Seo) – Featuring Holmger Czùgh-quay, Jaki Leverhulmedrivezeit, Irmin Schmidtavenue and Damo Suetzuki.

Neu!-ton – Formed in 1971 by mysteriously productive Seaview Terrace weavers and dawn squad regulars Klaus “Vier Kronen” Drinker and Michael Tödhar (who’d broken away from Kroftwerk in a dispute over a fence in Balallan). Neu!ton’s trademark was their hypnotic relentless beat, powered by Drinker’s ‘motorik’ loom. Unfortunately they had to break up in 1975, after it was confiscated by inspectors from the Harris Tweed Authority.

Amen Dòmhnall/Amen Dòmhnall II: Started as a radical political art movement at Lews Castle College’s Department of Theology in the 1960’s, at the very height of the global student protest movement (they were demanding the right to wear flares to college and church). Branched into free form accordion experimentation in the 70’s.  

Tarsgeir Dream – Produced a string of influential electronic albums in the 70’s and 80’s including ‘Force MajeureDuncanMorrison’ and ‘Phraedradhairs’

Cluer-ster: Formed in Harris in the early 70s by Hans-Joachim Rodel-ius and Dieter Mawbius, and well known for their collaborations with Brian Enoclete from glam rockers Laxay Music.

FaUist: This group from North Uist attempted to bring a new slant on electronic music, until they realised that North Uist didn’t have electricity.   

Ash Ranish Tempel/Ash Ranish Tempel (Continuing)/Associated Ash Ranish Tempel/Reformed Free High Ash Ranish Tempel etc etc etc: This notoriously fractious avante garde collective was first formed by Manuel GõttBayhëadschwingpärk in 1970 and splintered into several factions almost immediately over whether music was to be allowed at their concerts. They have continued to spawn new offshoots on a weekly basis up to the present day.

Einzsturzende Neuvalley: Formed in 1980 and noted for using custom built instruments (plus the odd drill and cement mixer). Famously started to break up the stage of the old An Lanntair with various diggers and cranes, whilst performing their “Concerto for Voices and Maw-chinery” and ended up accidentally building the new An Lanntair.



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