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Jaki Liebezeit: Life, Theory and Practice of a Master Drummer

By Jono Podmore

An exploration of the life and legacy of Can drummer Jaki Liebezeit.

Music | Biography
125% funded
599 supporters

Publication date: January 2020

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Ebook edition
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1st edition hardback
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Two Hardbacks

Two hardback first edition books
$115  + shipping
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1st edition hardback, ebook edition and your name in the back of the book, plus: a set of ten postcards featuring previously unpublished photographs of Jaki and reproductions of his own artwork, and a PDF of extended Jaki discography (40,000 plus words).
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Collectable & EP

Everything at collectable level plus a limited edition EP by Jaki's band Drums Off Chaos. Jaki earmarked the 5 tracks on this EP for release shortly before he died, representing the culmination of over 35 years work with Drums Off Chaos and giving a fascinating insight into his world of rhythm.

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Four Hardbacks

Four copies of the hardback, ebook and four names in the book
$750  + shipping

Drum Workshop

A 2 day practical workshop for drummers with Gero Sprafke and members of Jaki Liebezeit's drum group, Drums off Chaos, introducing Jaki's Dot Dash system. The workshop will be held in Jaki’s Drum Room at the Stollwerck in Cologne, Germany and will present the patterns, theory and methods of Jaki’s system, all fully demonstrated by Drums Off Chaos members. Instruments provided. Includes everything at collectable level. Travel, food and accommodation not included.
5 places only

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Jaki Liebezeit is remembered as the groove and power behind Can, but he left another legacy – a complete practical theory of drumming.

This theory, often referred to as E-T after the Morse code symbols for dot and dash, is based on natural principles of movement that Jaki observed during his lifelong ethnological research into drumming. Producer Jono Podmore and journalist John Payne had been pestering Jaki for a number of years to write his theory down, but he always replied he’d do it when he was too old to play the drums. That never happened – his last gig was just weeks before his death on Jan 22nd 2017. Shortly after Jaki died Jono and John contacted Jaki’s drum group Drums off Chaos and long-term collaborator Burnt Friedman to see if the complete theory could be pieced together before it was lost or corrupted. Fortunately the basic principles had already been transcribed, and with the help of Jaki’s widow Birgit Berger and discographer Bryan O’Connell, we’ve been able to amass a comprehensive overview of not only the drum theory, but also Jaki’s profound theoretical and practical vision as applied throughout his life.

Jaki Liebezeit: Life, Theory and Practice of a Master Drummer includes:

· a full biography with exclusive, previously unpublished material, identifying themes and trends in Jaki’s life that manifested in his thinking and playing
· an explanation of Jaki’s E-T theory
· an in-depth discussion with Drums Off Chaos introducing the technical and craft aspects that were the expression of the system
· an exploration of the philosophical aspects of Jaki’s work and outlook
· an overview of Jaki’s selection of drums and percussion, highlighting his modified and hand-made equipment
· the first ever complete discography of Jaki’s recordings
· a selection of illustrations including previously unseen photos of Jaki and reproductions of his own artwork.

Jaki was a scrupulously ego-less man and we are careful not to beatify him, or worse promote ourselves on the back of his work. All proceeds from the book will go to Jaki’s estate, to be used to fund future creative ventures based on his thinking.


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1st edition hardback
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  • Jono Podmore avatar

    Jono Podmore

    Jono Podmore (editor)
    Producer, composer, musician and professor of music, Jono (aka Kumo) has been at heart of the underground since the 80s. While working with artists from Jamiroquai to Can to Jose Padilla, Jono’s own music has explored more experimental areas, including the analogue electronic collective Metamono. He runs the label Psychomat and is a regular contributor to online music magazine Getintothis.

    John Payne
    Los Angeles-based veteran journalist and former music editor of the L.A. Weekly, John’s writing on the vanguard of contemporary music has been seen in the L.A. Times, Mojo, EQ, Arthur, High Times, Drum! and many other publications.

    Drums Off Chaos
    Jaki’s drum group and inner circle: performing, recording and studying together since 1982. Current members are:
    Reiner Linke
    Maf Retter
    Manos Tsangaris

    Gero Sprafke
    Former member of Drums Off Chaos and first to transcribe the E-T system.

    Burnt Friedman
    One of Germany’s leading electronic musicians with a career spanning almost 40 years, his 15 year partnership with Jaki resulted in pioneering electro-acoustic craft and a musical vocabulary that stands apart the formulas of Western European and Anglo-American music.

    Bryan O’Connell
    Bryan is a drummer. Jaki’s music and E-T system have been essential in his own work for several years. He lives and works in Ireland.

  • Extract from biography by Jono Podmore:

    I first got the job of writing Jaki’s biography in 2003. I was living in Cologne at the time and the maternal engine of Spoon Records, Hildegard Schmidt (wife of Can founder Irmin) had decided a biography of each member of Can should appear on the Can DVD we were preparing for release. She knew Jaki and I got on well since we had worked together under her watchful eye in Irmin’s studio in their home in Provence.

    Punctual as ever, Jaki made it up to my 5th floor flat in Bonnerstraße. What followed was an exercise on what not to include. Applying the reductionist and ego-free approach that he practiced in all other spheres of his life, like teenagers deciding who we wouldn’t invite to the party, we had side-splitting fun scratching names like Depeche Mode, Chet Baker, Michael Rother, Eurythmics and Brian Eno out of his biography. Überflüssig – superfluous – was my new German word that week.

    As far as he was prepared to divulge, his life began at the age of 30 in 1968 when he joined Can…

    Extract from discussion with Drums off Chaos:

    Jaki Liebezeit, best known as the master timekeeper of Cologne’s legendary esoteric-rock unit Can, pursued over a decades-long career an enduring fascination with the core truths of time as expressed via rhythm. Not just a musician who wished to perfect a technique or expand his range of drumming styles, Liebezeit took his fascination deeper, to realms in which the very whys and wherefores of rhythm’s true place in any musical mode were of paramount substance –– as was by extension its metaphorical relationship to the human being’s role in larger, collective society.

    From his revered Can recordings and live performances, along with the numerous other drum-centric musical projects that followed right up to his death in January 2017, Liebezeit had become famously known as the drummer whose sense of time was so accurate that he was far better than any mere drum machine. This is a reputation he sometimes laughed about, though one could see a twinkle in his eye that suggested that just maybe he suspected it was true. Jaki knew that deep down he and potentially all of us can be flesh-blood-bone analogues of programmed drum machines, a piece of equipment that, after all, simply executes the rhythmic patterns it has been programmed to play.

    Why not, thought Jaki, apply the schematics of what a drum machine does to a codified set of rules for human musicians so that they too could play with more accuracy than a programmed rhythm box? His own playing –– astonishingly spare and to the fleshy ear note-perfectly precise –– had benefited enormously from applying a strictly held-to set of do’s and don’ts for the proper order and exact placement of drum notes in any given musical scenario. In addition, and perhaps more profoundly, Liebezeit came to a realization that such a codification of rhythmic method would at core build upon a foundation of harmonic hierarchy –– i.e., drum notes, he found out, are not just beats, they’re like friendly cousins in the overall harmonic texture of a musical composition.

    Liebezeit, who never considered himself a teacher-type as such, found himself the centre of a group of fellow drummers that gravitated towards him and his system: Drums Off Chaos. A few years ago one of the group, Gero Sprafke, transcribed the system in detail. Roughly analogous to Morse code, Liebezeit’s system is referred to as E-T, the E and the T coming from the Morse code to represent the dot and the dash respectively.

    Extract from the theory, collated by Drums Off Chaos:

    The primary characters are ‘dot’ and ‘dash’. These form the smallest possible units of the rhythmic system.

    First rule of play:
      = A hit with one hand - relative time value of 1.
      = Two hits with one hand - relative time value of 2.

    These two units contain in themselves fundamental dynamic information, which will be explained later step by step.

    The entire rhythmic system is inseparable from movement and the effect of inertia on the arms, hands and sticks as well the rebound from the drum head.

    In order to be able to understand the dynamic profile within the rhythms, an exact analysis and awareness of the basic physical processes and movements is vital.

    Following the rules of the game without a working understanding of the physical context would be contrary to the spirit of the originator.

    ” what the stick wants.” (Jaki Liebezeit)

  • 8th April 2020 Extended Discography

    Hi everyone!


    I hope you are all keeping safe and well.

    Although we’ve had to postpone our London event, we’ve been keeping busy elsewhere.


    One of the items in the Collectable level pledge was an extended version of the discography from the book in .pdf format.


    This has now been completed and sent out to the pledgers.


    Bryan has done a wonderful job on this. He has…

    12th March 2020 Errata!

    Hi everyone

    No matter how well proof read and pored over, all books end up with a few typos and errors when they hit the shelves and our book is no exception.

    Since publication we've identified around 10 of these.

    Policy at Unbound is to repair the errors with each reprint of the paperback (or trade run) and as one reprint has already taken place most of the issues listed here have now been…

    11th February 2020 London Launch Event

    Hi Everyone

    In conjucntion with Walthamstow Rock n Roll Book Club, we're very happy to announce a special book launch event and tribute to Jaki in London:

    Fri, March 27, 2020 7:00 pm – 11:00 pm 

    Wild Card Brewery Tap Bar

    Shernhall Street

    London E17 9HQ


    More info and tickets here:…

    19th September 2019 We’ve gone to press - and an Update to the Update!

    The book is now at the printers - another massive step has been taken!


    Meanwhile, in the last update “Launch Party 8/11/19” I mentioned that:


    “Copies of the hard back will be available on the night and still available on pre-order.”


    It turns out it will actually be the paperback trade edition for sale on the night.

    Sorry about that.

    In fact, as we’ve now gone to press…

    17th September 2019 Launch Party 8/11/19

    Exciting news!

    The book is now ready for print so tickets are now on sale for the Launch Party!


    November 8th




    More info and tickets here:


    We’ve managed to put together a star studded line-up for what will be a very special night,…

    3rd January 2019 Tribute Concert video

    Happy New Year!

    On January 22nd 2018, the first anniversary of Jaki Liebezeit’s death, musicians from many of the diverse avenues of Jaki’s musical life, including many of the contributors to the book, gathered to play a tribute concert to a sell-out audience at the Philharmonie in Cologne. Fortunately for those of you who missed it, the event was filmed, and a trailer, including interviews, is…

    7th August 2018 Manuscript received!

    Hi Everyone

    Just a quick note to let you know that the manuscript for the book has been submitted and received by Unbound; which means the painstaking but now irrevocable process of publishing now begins!

    The book will slowly become a reality over the next 12 months and I'll keep you updated at various milestones along the way. It was a very exciting moment when we pieced a ll the chapters from…

    17th May 2018 Jaki's cassettes - audio!


    We're 94% funded now - so hopefully we'll be able to go into production very soon.

    One of the chapters in the book is an overview of Jaki's highly specialised collection of drums and other equipment - and an important piece was his cassette machine. Here's an extract from the text:

    "The essential Jaki studio. Real low tech. A mono cassette recorder connected to a speaker Jaki had made…

    27th April 2018 celebrating 90% and a new chapter

    We’re now on 90% funding so we’re nearly there!

    Thanks to a generous pledge from the Jaki Liebezeit Foundation which is currently in the final throes of being established, we now have little more than £1000 to raise before going in to production. Thank you so much for the support so far.

    Meanwhile the book itself is expanding! We’re going to add another chapter: JL notes by Manos Tsangaris.

    19th October 2017 Tribute Concert - new pledges

    Thanks for your support so far!

    We've just updated the site with 2 new pledges, both concerning a fabulous star-studded gig in Cologne...

    On the first anniversary of Jaki's death next year there will be a Tribute Concert for Jaki featuring some of the many wonderful musicians he worked with over his long career, including

    • Jah Wobble
    • Damo Suzuki
    • Irmin Schmidt
    • Gianna Nannini
    • Manfred…

    2nd October 2017 Extract from Biography

    To celebrate reaching 40% of our target funding, here's a further extract from the biography section of the book, covering the years of Phantom Band (78 to 84) aka Stunde Null. If you enjoyed this then please pass it on! Further extracts from other sections of the book will appear as we progress with the funding.

    Stunde Null

    Alongside a burgeoning career as a session drummer (playing on…

  • These people are helping to fund Jaki Liebezeit: Life, Theory and Practice of a Master Drummer.

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  • Crave On
    Crave On asked:

    This is a great idea. When is the book expected to be finished?

    Jono Podmore
    Jono Podmore replied:

    Hi Crave - thanks for your pledge and thanks for getting in touch! We are planning to get the final text together by the end of this month (Sept) but the final release date is dependent on the crowdfunding. If we get to 100% before Christmas there's a possibility we could see the book going out to pledgers in the summer 2018. So please share!! Cheers - Jono

    Bryan Summersett
    Bryan Summersett asked:

    Hi, I purchased the reward for the book + ticket to the show today. Sorry for the short notice. I’m in Berlin, and need time for travel to make it to Cologne in time. Could someone contact me at +491756275383 (call, iMessage, Sms or WhatsApp) to figure out the ticket situation?

    Jono Podmore
    Jono Podmore replied:

    Hi Bryan - we didn't see your message in time - Sorry! Please email me at and let me know what happened

    Connor Ackroyd
    Connor Ackroyd asked:

    Hello! Really excited about this, only just become aware that the book is being made (I had heard about the dot dash theory, but did not know it had ever been transcribed). I was just wondering on progress? as not much has been posted for a while and it is getting close now to the target! Thanks, Connor

    Jono Podmore
    Jono Podmore replied:

    Hi Connor - fully funded now so we deliver the manuscript by the end of July and then the process of layout, editing, proofing etc starts, which takes 8 - 12 months Cheers! Jono

    Robin Deas
    Robin Deas asked:

    Hi - when do you think the book might be ready now that you have 100% funding? Really looking forward to seeing it!

    Jono Podmore
    Jono Podmore replied:

    Hi Robin. I had a meeting with unbound on Friday. We deliver the final manuscript by the end of June - we had to wait for 100% funding before we could pay for translations etc. After that the production process takes 8 - 12 months. Cheers Jono

    Sheldon Kreger
    Sheldon Kreger asked:

    Hi, My address has changed since I made this pledge. I have updated it in my account settings. Just want to make sure you will use the new info. Thanks!

    Unbound replied:

    Hi Sheldon, If you've updated the address on your order then that should be fine, but we always double check we're sending to the correct address before posting books out too. More info on address changes here in case it's useful: Yours, Unbound Support

    Hugo van der Meer
    Hugo van der Meer asked:

    Have received long awaited book which is a huge relief after such a long wait. A couple of issues though. Between page 5 and page 7 is a minimal biography? Also putting this inbetween the conversation with Jaki meant for me that 5he piece didn't read well and had me a tad confused. Although I am only currently on page 23 there have been a couple of syntax issues, I'll the finding of those to whomever. Another concern is I can't locate where the e-book edition or the 40,000 pdf are situated, should that have come with the book? Pleasr advise. All best wishes. Hugo.

    Jono Podmore
    Jono Podmore replied:

    Hi Hugo. The short Bio on p 5 - p 7 is a bio I put together with Jaki years ago that I included to illustrate his brevity and the bio of the artist rather than the person. This is explained on p.7. Please contact Unbound as to the whereabouts of the other sections of your reward. I hope you enjoy the rest of the book! Cheers Jono

    Hugo van der Meer
    Hugo van der Meer asked:

    Hallo Jono. Appreciate your reply. The book is superb. As both a drummer and drum teacher the depth of information thus far read has already given me insight into the world of Jaki and has led me to alter my approach to the kit. Thank you for making it happen. All best wishes. Hugo

    Jono Podmore
    Jono Podmore replied:

    Wow! That's great to hear Hugo - enjoy exploring further and pass it on to your students Cheers Jono

    Hugo van der Meer
    Hugo van der Meer asked:

    Seriously Jono much gratitude to you, and, of course Jaki, for expanding both my horizons and technique. I have seen this as a general recalibrating of how I approach orchestration and phrasing around the kit. I am learning this only through your amazing book on Jaki and his awesome organic technique. Honestly Jono, sincere thanks. I'm not sure I'll allow my students access to the book... just yet...:-)All best wishes. Hugo

    Jono Podmore
    Jono Podmore replied:

    That's fabulous Hugo! Let us know how you get on. Cheers Jono