The Guardian MAY 5, 2008 - by Jon Lusk


German rock drummer who played with Kraftwerk and Neu!

The German musician Klaus Dinger, who has died aged sixty-one, was a key figure in early 1970's "Krautrock". An early member of Kraftwerk, and then half of the duo Neu! with guitarist Michael Rother, his unique drumming style was dubbed motorik (motor-like) for its mesmerising, metronomic simplicity.

Although his later career was stymied by financial, legal and personal disputes, the trilogy of albums he made with Rother between 1971 and 1975 - Neu!, Neu! 2 and Neu! 75 - influenced British musicians such as Stereolab, Radiohead, Julian Cope, John Lydon, David Bowie and Brian Eno. "There were three great beats in the '70s: Fela Kuti's Afrobeat; James Brown's funk; and Klaus Dinger's Neu!-beat," declared Eno in the press material accompanying the albums when re-released on CD in 2001 by the British label Grönland.

Vinyl production of the originals on Germany's Metronome label ceased in 1983, but an international cult was fostered and fed by vinyl and CD bootlegs. Dinger's not-quite-robotic mid-tempo 4/4 beats meant that Neu! is widely considered driving music par excellence. Dinger's relentless style also anticipated developments in recording technology, as Grönland's founder René Renner noted: "He revolutionised drumming. The way that people played drums [then] was according to bars that would repeat and then change, whereas he played one drum beat repeatedly for ten or fifteen minutes. That's why they called his beat motorik because it was less human and a lot more like a machine."

Dinger, from a working-class background, was singing in a Düsseldorf school choir at around ten and took up drumming at school. From 1966 he studied architecture, dropping out a year before qualifying to follow the "artist way". After dabbling in experimental theatre, LSD and touring with cover bands, The No and The Smash, he joined an early incarnation of Kraftwerk, recording the drums on the second side of their eponymous 1970 debut. Rother also joined for a short period of touring, during which Dinger's intense percussive workouts often left his hands bleeding. Fractious relations within Kraftwerk soon led to their departure.

They recorded Neu! the following year, deriving inspiration for their name from advertising slogans, with Dinger's pop art cover and poster art drawing on both Andy Warhol and Joseph Beuys. The contrasting personalities made for an uneasy working relationship.

Live performances in Germany were not well received and nor was the 1972 follow-up album, after which Rother left Düsseldorf to live and work with members of the group Harmonia. Dinger stayed, moving away from drums, drafting in his younger brother Thomas to replace him in what became the band La Düsseldorf. He also set up his Dingerland label, which soon bankrupted him.

In 1975, Rother returned and recorded the third Neu! album with Dinger - by then increasingly focused on singing - before going solo. Dinger continued with La Düsseldorf, releasing three quite successful albums (1976-81) before the band dissolved amid mutual acrimony.

The ensuing decade found Dinger mired in legal battles. A reunion with Rother in 1986 resulted in the mediocre Neu! 4. In 1996, Dinger released the first of eight patchy albums under the confusing moniker of La!Neu?, the last being Live At Kunsthalle Düsseldorf (2001).

Since the Grönland reissues, requests for Neu! to tour had met with no success, although negotiations were leading towards the possibility of fresh Neu! recordings at the time of Dinger's death.

Klaus Dinger (Nicolaus van Rheim), musician, born March 24 1946 - died March 20 2008