Jaki Liebezeit was know as the drummer in Can and one of the world’s most sampled drummers, but what is less known is that he developed and worked to a system that reached beyond rhythm, harmony, melody and even cultural boundaries. After his death on 22nd Jan last year I panicked that he may have taken his theoretical work with him. I had worked with Jaki on and off for the best part of 20 years and visited him regularly in Cologne and he’d given me tantalising fragments of his theory whenever he saw fit. Jah Wobble, who had worked with Jaki since the 80s, has referred to Jaki as a being akin to a Zen master or a martial artist and there was something of this in the way he passed on his wisdom. The odd sentence describing his view on the intertwined relationship of rhythm and harmony would set me off on months of research and experimentation until the next time I saw him. Eventually, along with American journalist John Payne who Jaki had also begun to illuminate, we began to implore Jaki to write his system down and publish it for posterity. Every time I brought it up – which was beginning to be every time I saw him – he would brush the subject aside and say he would do it when he was too old or ill to play the drums. But for a musician with the ascetic commitment of Herr Liebezeit that was very unlikely to happen and sure enough he died just a matter of days after his last gig.
On news of his death I immediately contacted the people closest to him to see if we could piece together his theory before it was lost or corrupted. We were all shocked, hurt and upset at his passing but recognised the importance of the task, and within days we had our first break. Gero Sprafke, a drummer who had worked closely with Jaki in the 90s, had transcribed the core of the system back in 2000 with a view to making a drum machine. From this basis we’ve now put together an entire book: Jaki Liebezeit: Life, Theory and Practice of a Master Drummer, which will contain Jaki’s theory, articles on its application in practical and broader philosphical terms, and an exhaustive biography and discography. If you want to know why and how Jaki’s playing was to become the bedrock of Krautrock and all the other music that it went on to spawn then you need this book. We’re deep in to the crowdfunding stage with our publishers Unbound and hope to have it fully funded in next few weeks for release this year.
For more information, an extract and the various pledges available please visit the website HERE.