Sunday, January 7, 2018


It takes a lot for me to latch onto a drummer, my favourites to be counted on one hand, with Dave Mattacks, Charlie Watts and this guy being the thumb, the index and the f-you middle finger. The other two still live, so will have to await their turn, but Jaki was the essence of drumming, ever condensing the need and size of his kit always downward. So, how would you know him? Ultimately, I guess, through Can, german post-rockers of the 70s at a time when all else was per and the phrase was yet to be considered. More metronome than accompaniment, the beat is constant and incessant in its intricacy. In truth I was not a great fan of the band, then or even now, sometimes finding them overly cerebral for my simpler taste. But I could never shake off that rhythmic pulse.

I am no scholar of the language, but I find it intriguing that his name translates, ever so loosely, into "loves time". OK, very, very loosely, but enough for me to peddle such mythology. Arguably he invented the "Motorik" style of percussion, near mechanistic but never mechanical. No human prototype for a drum machine he, and I really began to latch on to him and this in the 1980's and 90's, when he became involved with british uber-dub bassist Jah Wobble, becoming a, possibly the, lynchpin of Wobble's live Invaders of the Heart, a solid counterpoint to the turmoil of bass notes.(Scratch possibly, substitute probably. Or definitely.) Catching the band live at Glastonbury in the early mid 90's. I recall standing entranced as he pounded his insistent patterns into a tiny kit, as the clip above evokes. With little recorded evidence, there is 'Live in Leuven', a remarkable live concert, sparse and spare, just the two of them, he and Wobble, with thin scrapes of guitar above, from Philip Jeck. Nothing on youtube. I am guessing Wobble became introduced to him via the extraordinary 'Snakecharmer' project, involving Wobble with Libezeit's Can colleague, Holger Czukay, and U2 guitarist, The Edge. Years ahead of it's time, an astonishing 47 years ago, here is another example of his groundbreaking work, a clear influence on dance music's european arm......

There is little more to add. He wasn't prodigious in output, working also with Brian Eno and little known singer Robert Coyne. At the time of his death, an unexpected event, he was set to reunite with Irmin Schmidt for a performance of Can music, entitled the Can Project. He was 78, dying of pneumonia.

My favourite quotation from him relates to his dismissal of hi-hat:
'It was invented for the Charleston. I don't play the Charlestown so much these days'.
Other examples of his modus operandi come in this interview from The Quietus.

Finally, and I don't usually enjoy such things, here he is in solo mode:

Can, Wobble, go!!

(Holger Czukay, Liebezeit's colleague and bassist in Can, also died during 2017.)

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