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Holger Czukay, Founding Bassist of Can, Dies

Hulton Archive, Getty Images
Hulton Archive, Getty Images

Holger Czukay, who co-founded Can and served as its bass player from 1968-77, has died. He was 79. The cause of death is unknown at this time.

According to the Quietus, his body was discovered in his apartment in Weilerswist, Germany, the same building that served as the group’s Inner Space Studio. After construction workers on-site had realized he had not been seen for several days, they asked a neighbor to check in on him. A doctor was called, and he was pronounced dead.

His death comes less than two months after his wife, Ursula, passed away on July 28. He’s the second original member of Can to die this year. Drummer Jaki Liebezeit passed away from pneumonia back in January.

A native of Gdansk, Poland, Czukay studied under avant-garde composer Karlheinz Stockhausen between 1963 and 1966. From there he worked as a music teacher until one of his students played him the Beatles’ “I Am the Walrus” and he became intrigued by the experimental rock music. At the same time, another student of Stockhausen, keyboardist Irmin Schmidt, was feeling the same way, and they teamed up with Liebezeit and guitarist Michael Karoli, a student of Czukay’s, to form Can.

Czukay played bass on the eight records Can released between 1969 and 1976, and also was their engineer for many years at Inner Space. However, on 1977’s Saw Delight, Rosko Gee of Traffic handled bass chores while he providing sound effects, and he left shortly thereafter.

From there, he moved on to a solo career, putting out eight albums between 1981 and 2001, and also worked with the Edge, Peter Gabriel, Brian Eno and the Eurythmics. Beginning with 1979’s Movies, he helped innovate sampling in the pre-digital years by cutting up tape from radio broadcasts around the world and mixing them into his compositions. His most recent record was 2015’s 11 Years Innerspace.

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