His father, Johannes, a tax officer, had been drafted into the Nazi army. He was captured by Russian forces on the Eastern Front and did not return until 1948 after escaping from a prison camp in Siberia. Brotzmann was raised in Remscheid with his father, mother, Frida (Schroeder) Brotzmann, and sister Marian, but moved to Wuppertal to attend school, where he spent the rest of his life.
He studied graphic design and visual arts at the School of Applied Arts in Wuppertal in the late 1950s, where he created his own font, a striking blocky alphabet, which he later used on many album covers. He held his first gallery show in 1959 and participated in early performances organized by the experimental and interdisciplinary art movement Fluxus. In 1963, he collaborated on the first large-scale exhibition of Korean-American artist Nam June Paik. The artist became known for his video work, but by then he was creating music-oriented installations and interactive sculptures.
Brotzmann continued to produce prolific artwork even though music was a priority in his life.
“From the beginning, he didn’t love the environment of the art world,” says John Corbett, co-owner of the Corbett vs. Dempsey Gallery in Chicago, where he started curating. Exhibition of Brotzmann’s work “But he continued to make visual art personally. He was interested in beauty, but it had to be accompanied by a certain kind of honesty and candor.
“He couldn’t really deal with fake people, fake art, fake music,” Corbett added. “He was totally intolerant of all that.”
In 1967, Brotzmann released his first album as bandleader on his own label BRÖ. If its title, “For Adolphe Sax”, read like a provocation to the 19th-century saxophone inventor, his On the next blow album, Machine Gun, everything is declared. Start a war with everything that ever happened.