Growling over booming drums, funky electronic noises, and pummeling guitar riffs (played not by guitarists, but by "guitarrorists," according to press material), KMFDM's statuesque En Esch prowls the stage in his best tutu, vocally assaulting his audiences with his husky voice and rampant testosterone like only a big, bald German guy can.
In the 80s, KMFDM left Germany, where they baffled audiences "who just didn't understand" why they would try to make music with 16 vacuum cleaners. They then "infiltrated" (another cool industrial word) the U.S. by jumping onto the young Wax Trax label. Since then, they've long remained innovators of that type of music we all know and tolerate, and recently released a new album cheerily entitled "Nihil." To their high credit, KMFDM have spent eleven years injecting life and variety into a type of music that's become chock-full-o imitators and onerous cliches.
MELVIN spoke to KMFDM main guy Sascha Konietzko on the phone. We bugged the line for you.
MELVIN:I been listening to your new album, Nihil, and I like it a lot.
KONIETZKO: Yeah, what do you like about it?
It has more of an electronic feel to it and a bit less guitar-intensive than the last one.
Yeah, it's more kinda towards Naive and UAIOE [previous releases].
So did you make an effort to come up with a new sound?
Yeah I wasn't to happy with Agnst [last release]. We knew it was time to start recording an album and just cause we knew we didn't have anything ready, we just sat down with some guitarists, and started to record tons of guitars and basically built our songs around the guitar riffs, which really backfired in my opinion. The guitarists were really happy of course because they were featured much more than usual.
So, did you like making Nihil, better than Angst?
Oh, much more. I started writing songs for this album in February of '94, spending the whole year leisurely writing a bit here and there. Then, when I had 25 songs ready, I started bringing in the other guys. With Angst we started with four guys involved right away, so it had more compromises, and with Nihil, it was more my thing and everyone started manipulating it, which was real fun.
After so many of the original Wax Trax bands have left for larger labels, what has kept KMFDM there?
We talked between Wax Tracks, KMFDM, and those guys from TVT [another label] that had an interest in KMFDM, and we said that we're not interested in signing to TVT or any major record company. We actually would like to see Wax Trax come back, so we made a very conscious decision to stay with Wax Trax and really help those guys back. . . .First of all it was a loyal, kind of friendship decision because I'm really good friends with Jim and Danny, the owners of Wax Trax, and second of all, it was a really important, strategic move because at that point we were just the biggest fish in the pond, whereas, if we had signed with Interscope or any other company that had offered contracts, we would have been just one of many other bands. We don't feel like slipping into this corporate music circus. So, that move really opened all the doors for us within Wax Trax, and we get everything that we want, and we have more control and better relations with those guys than ever before.
Wax Trax just released these Black Box compilations. I noticed that Ministry wasn't on it and 242 wasn't on it either [both Wax Trax bands].
Well, Front 242 is not on there just simply because the guy, Kenny, from Play it Again Sam didn't want any stuff released by Wax Trax. He just, ah, has some old kind of grumpiness towards Wax Trax. It was actually a pretty big issue for a while, but, um, they just simply refused permission, and the same thing with Ministry I suppose. Most of the Ministry catalogue went to Sire when they signed with Sire.
Hmm, ok. So, are you guys doing Lollapalooza this year or what?
But why not??
Well, everybody knows we don't like MTV. It's all one big circus; a big sell-out thing. Why would we do all this underground stuff for so long and just refuse to sell out and then all of a sudden... do LOLLAPALOOZA?!
Well I was joking, but anyway. . . .It's good that you can continue to do things your own way and still be successful.
I know, look at some bands like good ol' Thrill Kill Kult. They just went to Interscope, they got a lot of money probably, but they're in a position that I never wanted to be in. There's so much vested interest in them. . . They're writing song after song that gets rejected because it doesn't have that "hit potential." We don't give a fuck about "hit potential."
Any videos in the works?
Yeah. One is a cyber-animation type thing. Plus we're shooting a documentary while we're on the road in May. So that's two things coming out later this year. We'll be sending them around to the clubs and local access stations. No MTV.
You guys were on the Hellraiser III soundtrack and now I hear you're gonna be on a few other ones this year?
Yeah we either do movies that are really good or really bad. There's a movie, "Hideaway," where they use "Go to Hell" for the intro scene. Then the next one, "Bad Boys," which is a sort of Beverly Hills Cop sort of thing, they use "Juke Joint Jezebel." And there's this William Gibson movie, "Johnny Pneumonic," with Henry Rollins--another really bad movie.
So who's coming on tour with you?
We're just thinking about that. Could be Die Warzau, Cop Shoot Cop... not sure. There's a rumor that we're touring with Type O Negative, but don't believe it.
KMFDM usually has a lot of political or philosophical view-points in your music. What kinds of themes do you have on the new album?
Raymond Watts from PIG [and original KMFDM member] was guest vocalist on 5-6 tracks and his style of writing is quite different from mine or En Esche's. He was the de-politicizing element. A lot of things that were on the table were wiped away and replaced with a kind of "sick man" attitude. There's a couple of "hit me, rape me" kind of things by Raymond and there's a couple more political things by myself. Just listen to it and figure it out. I'm really bad at interpreting my own stuff.