Neil Cooper

"There’s still so much to do,” says an uncharacteristically flustered Michael Rother. The normally unflappably beatific German guitarist, composer and former member of Neu! and Harmonia, who also had a stint in a nascent Kraftwerk, is packing for live dates in Russia and the UK, including this weekend’s show at Queen Margaret Union in Glasgow.

“It has always been my choice to take care of these things myself and not have a manager,” he says. “Somehow for me the independent aspect of doing things is really important, but it has its disadvantages.”

As well as playing selections from Neu! and Harmonia, the trio he formed with Dieter Moebius and Hans Joachim Roedelius of Cluster, Rother’s Glasgow date will see him play a 40th anniversary rendering of his second solo album, Sterntaler, in full. Rother will be accompanied by guitarist Franz Bargmann and drummer Hans Lampe, the latter of whose musical involvement with Rother dates back to Neu! days, as well as playing alongside Neu! drummer Klaus Dinger in La Dusseldorf.

Originally released in 1978, Sterntaler – its title meaning Star Money and taken from a Brothers Grimm fairytale - followed the success of its predecessor, Flammende Herzen (Bleeding Heart), and featured Rother playing a series of propulsively poppy instrumentals with Can drummer Jaki Liebezeit on a record produced by Conny Plank. Like its predecessor, Sterntaler marked a sea-change in how Rother and the generation of German musicians he worked alongside were perceived.

“I have great memories of when Sterntaler came out,” Rother says. “It had been a long period of low sales with Neu! and Harmonia. Mostly it had been a great time making those records, but it was so disappointing that people didn’t share that love. Then my first solo album came out, and suddenly people wanted to hear it. It wasn’t like a rocket, but was a slow-burner that just got stronger and kept on selling. It’s a mystery why that was. Some voices said, oh, that guy Rother, he’s so smart knowing that this is what the public wants, but that wasn’t the case.

“It was the same recording it. After Harmonia ended, I had some hazy ideas I wanted to explore, and that was what came out. It wasn’t story-boarded, but working with Jaki and Conny, imagine three different chefs adding different spices, and that’s what happened. I still feel close to the material, and playing it again, I can take liberties with it, but the shape of it remains unchanged.”

Rother’s early exposure to music came through his mother, a classically trained pianist, while his older brother had “rock and roll parties. I still get excited hearing Little Richard.”

Living in Pakistan also had an influence.

“It was so exotic,” he says, “and the music there was so different to what I knew. I would need psycho-analysis to find out how that influenced my idea of total endless forward moving European music, but I also had an interest in repetition.”

Back in Germany, this didn’t stop the influence of the Kinks, the Rolling Stones and the Beatles seeping into Rother’s own mid-1960s band, The Spirits of Sound, which also featured future Kraftwerk member Wolfgang Flur.

“We were ambitious,” he says, “but we were copycats. In the beginning it was just okay to sound like our heroes.”

Rother soon switched on to the more progressive sounds of Cream and Jimi Hendrix.

“I saw Hendrix live in Dusseldorf in 1968,” Rother says, “and I had to accept that the world already had one Jimi Hendrix, and didn’t need another one.”

Rother moved increasingly away from blues-based music.

“In the late ‘60s I ran into a crisis,” he says, “and picking up ideas from other musicians wasn’t good enough. I had to find my own way, and that was quite a rocky road. I felt very alone trying to find other people to play music not based on blues, but through very lucky circumstances I met the Kraftwerk people, Florian Schneider and Rolf Hutter, as well as Klaus Dinger, and then Conny Plank, and realised I wasn’t alone. It was clear to all of us there was something in the air that was about making a European music.”

Rother and Dinger released three albums as Neu! between 1972 and 1975 before breaking up. Key to their rediscovery was Krautrocksampler, the sprawlingly enthusiastic book by former Teardrop Explodes driving force and weird music fan, Julian Cope, published in 1995.

“When Julian Cope’s book came out, that was the first time young journalists were able to convince their editors to let them write stories about us,” says Rother. “Traditionally the German media looked to America and Great Britain, and in the 90s it was still very unusual to write about German music, but then people like Sonic Youth started saying they were influenced by Neu!, and that was all to do with Julian Cope.

“I met Julian when myself and Dieter Moebius played in Bristol in 2007, and he apologised for the mistakes in the book. Because there was no internet then to do fact checking, a lot of it came out of his imagination, but I think what impresses people is his love for the music. That changed things, because we were the underground of the underground, and we’re still not mainstream.”

Rother also attributes the rediscovery of his back catalogue and subsequent raising of profile to Gronland Records, the Berlin-based label founded Herbert Gronemeyer. Gronland has championed Rother’s work, re-releasing Neu! and Harmonia’s back-catalogue, as well as a box set of Rother’s first four solo albums.

“Gronland did a great job with Neu! and Harmonia,” he says, “The people there really care about the artists and the music, and I’m so happy to have them as partners.”

While the vinyl edition of Rother’s Solo box set featured some unreleased live material, he hasn’t released a full new album since 2004’s Remember (The Great Adventure). Since then, it is the live arena that has enthused Rother most.

“I’m thinking about the next step,” he says. “I’ll be playing the Gronland 20th anniversary party, and I think they would be hoping for a live album at some point. I also think they might quite like a live album, but I’m not sure I’d be happy to spend all that time in the studio to do that. For me at the moment, it’s the experience of playing live I enjoy the most. Live, live, live!”

Michael Rother, Queen Margaret Union, Glasgow, September 6.