The Music of Can: Unreleased Music & Discussion with Irmin Schmidt + Jono Podmore

Can was the leading avant-garde rock group of the 70s. Can experimented with noise, synthesizers, non-traditional music, cut-and-paste techniques, and, most importantly, electronic music.

Can - The Lost Tapes

When the legendary Can studio in Weilerswist was sold to the German Rock N Pop Museum, they bought everything, including the army mattresses that covered the walls for sound protection, and relocated it to Gronau.

Whilst dismantling the studio, master tapes were found and stored in the Spoon archive. With barely legible labeling, no one was sure what was on these until Irmin Schmidt and long time collaborator Jono Podmore started to go through over 30 hours of music.

What they found was years of archived material, not outtakes, but rather tracks which had been shelved for a variety of reasons – soundtracks to films that were never released and tracks that didn’t make it onto the final versions of albums due to space.

Irmin Schmidt explains “Obviously the tapes weren't really lost, but were left in the cupboards of the studio archives for so long everybody just forgot about them. Everybody except Hildegard, who watches over Can and its work like the dragon over the gold of the Nibelungen and doesn't allow forgetting.”

The final cut of tracks, dating from 1968-1977, features studio material recorded at Schloss Nörvenich and Can Studio, Weilerswist with the Can line up of Holger Czukay on bass, Michael Karoli on guitars, Jaki Liebezeit on drums and Irmin Schmidt on keyboards, and on most tracks, vocals from Malcolm Mooney or Damo Suzuki.

Irmin Schmidt and Jono Podmore will present some of these tracks, accompanied by visuals and discussion.

The Lost Tapes - 3 CD box set of ALL unreleased material - is out on 18 June on Mute. Listen to the first track from The Lost Tapes here:


Can was formed by ex-student of Stockhausen Irmin Schmidt, who, fired by the sounds of Jimi Hendrix and Frank Zappa abandoned his career in classic music to form a group which could utilise and transcend all boundaries of ethnic, electronic experimental and modern classical music.

Before Irmin founded the now legendary German band CAN in 1968 he received a formal musical education and studied composition, piano, conducting and music ethnology. Amongst others his teachers were Karlheinz Stockhausen and Ligeti. Between 1962 and 1969 he conducted numerous orchestras including his own compositions. During this period he also composed music for various film and theatre productions.

Between 1969 and 1978 he worked exclusively with CAN (in 2003 they received the prestigious ECHO Award for the CAN life time achievement) After 1978 Irmin released several solo albums (Toy Planet, Musk At Dusk, Impossible Holidays) and a 3 CDbox-set of his work as a film composer (Annthology - Soundtrack 1978 - 1993). He wrote the Fantasy Opera, Gormenghast (premiere in 1998) and the ballet, La Fermosa (premiere in 2008) and over 120 film scores.

With British composer KUMO he released two CDs, Masters of Confusion (2001) and Axolotl Eyes (2008) and a DVD of their sound installation Flies, Guys and Choirs (originally commissioned by the Barbican Centre).

In 2008 he also releases his second Anthology - Soundtracks 1994 - 2008 and the original score to the Wim Wenders film Palermo Shooting which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival 2008.

Can’s influence is well known and far-reaching and the impact they made on music is felt today as keenly as it ever has been. They themselves have always been impossible to classify and reflecting this, the scope of artists who in recent years have cited Can as a major influence is varied from John Lydon to Radiohead, The Fall to Portishead.

Jono Podmore (aka Kumo) is a Professor of the Practice of Popular Music, Composer, Producer, Programmer, Engineer, and Orchestral Arranger. He releases music under the moniker Kumo.

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