Can’s ‘The Lost Tapes’: The Inside Story

Dave DiMartino
Maximum Performance (NEW)

In this era when major labels release box sets that effectively encapsulate major artists' entire careers--consider, if you will, Sony's recent collection of Leonard Cohen's entire recording career, offered up for an entirely reasonable price--one might think there's not much left in the world of unreleased works by highly influential artists.

But then there is the story of Can.

A highly influential German band whose works were comparatively undersold here in the United States--only a few of the albums the distinguished band recorded between 1969-1979 were released here while the band was still active, and their 1989 reunion set Rite Time also never surfaced Stateside--the band has left a legacy that time simply refuses to tarnish.

Built around the instrumental core of keyboardist Irmin Schmidt, bassist Holger Czukay, guitarist Michael Karoli, drummer Jaki Liebezeit, a pair of highly unique singers in American Malcolm Mooney and Japanese vocalist Damo Suzuki--and a latter-day additional rhythm section--Can released a pioneering string of releases between 1969's Monster Movie and 1979's Can--that to this day sound stunningly contemporary and have amassed an international fanbase that truly rivals few other bands. And the number of contemporary musicians who claim them as a direct influence is--for those who have perhaps never heard the band--nearly unbelievable.

But this week via Mute Records comes the delightful 3-disc set The Lost Tapes--a wonderful, historic collection of works the German combo never officially released that will surely be an eye-opening--and ear-opening--experience for longtime fans and newcomers alike.

The new collection, drawn from the band's studio in Germany from 30 hours of newly found tapes, may serve as the best all-around encapsulation of the band's unique musical approach, from beginning to end--and for Can fans worldwide, it approaches near godsend status. Curated by Can bassist Holger Czukay and Mute's Daniel Miller and compiled by keyboardist Irmin Schmidt and his current musical partner Jono Podmore, The Lost Tapes stands as one of the year's finest new releases and is a marvelous encapsulation of all that has made Can such a hallowed name in popular music history.

Y! Music was please to welcome both Schmidt and Podmore to our studios recently, where the pair detailed the compiling of the new set and--given the limited time frame--contextualized the Can story in delightful and colorful detail. Take a look and you'll hear the inside story of The Lost Tapes and more.