KMFDM – interview by sean
If you were at the Grand Palais in Paris, France on February 29, 1984 you would have experienced a piece of underground music history in the making–the forming of KMFDM. On that day, when most of the bands you will read about in this magazine were still somewhere between playing with G.I. Joe figures and learning to kiss, Sascha Konietzko and Udo Sturm formed a band that would remain a consistent, quality entity in the music industry. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the “Ultra Heavy Beat,” as Sascha describes KMFDM’s music, you don’t know what it feels like to have your skull cracked open while someone feeds you the truth one note at a time.
With their barrage of overdriven guitars, rapid-fire drums, synthesized backgrounds, distorted vocals from the deepest regions of a throat seemingly made of rust, accompanied by female vocals that’ll soothe you into taking it all in no matter how damaging, KMFDM has more than earned its place in the halls of those few musicians who can beautifully manipulate their aggressions. With “eighteen years, fifteen albums, over thirty musicians, a dozen tours, and legions of loyal fans,” as boasted by their site, the new album, “ATTAK,” exemplifies the attitude Sascha and the crew have kept up for almost two decades–the title alone is a testament to the fact that they’re not done yet.As for myself, after eight years of listening to KMFDM, and an amazing show in New Orleans in 1998, I was definitely ready to meet the man behind the Ultra Heavy Beat. Just three days after the March 19 US release of “ATTAK,” I got my phone call from Seattle, WA, a flu-stricken Sascha K. on the other end of the phone. Figuring I shouldn’t jump into the questions on topics such as political extremism or personal views on society and where it’s going, I thought I would start with something more innocuous. I started by asking how it felt now that the album is out, and are whether he was pleased with the end results.
“The process with us is once we deliver an album to a record label, which we obviously have, it’s kind of like giving your child up for adoption, explained Sascha. “You’ve got to be mentally prepared to have the things done to it that are out of your control. Well you know really after that point, once I give it away, once we give it away, there is no more expectations if it’s good at that point. My expectations as far as sales if that’s what you mean? Because you know we’re not here, we’re not really following on too much on what’s going on in terms of selling records as making them. The product is the evidence. It’s at a point where there’s nothing to be added.”
On January 22, 1999 KMFDM suffered a minor breakup which lead to the forming of MDFMK, which consisted mianly of Sascha K., Lucia Cifarelli, and Tim Skold. An album was released which continued the tradition of massively assaulting the brain, followed with a tour in 2000. At the end of 2000 they
called it quits and Sascha went back to writing for a new KMFDM. With all the changes as far as with bands, labels, and personal experiences over that time period one might think it stressful and complicated.
“People have been joining and leaving KMFDM for the last 18 years. En Esch’s absence has been on and off with the band since 1992. Apparently, I don’t know, some people make more of a fuss about it than others. I mean it hasn’t really changed at all. It’s the same lineup as always, just different jumbled amount of people and the album is basically a big pool of people. Not everybody is up for working on every album. KMFDM has always worked that way and we believe it’s been working so far as it has been forever. You know, only time will tell,” Sascha explains.
“ATTAK” is being released by Metropolis records, one of the largest labels putting out industrial, post-modern industrial and all the hybridsof this music today. After WAX TRAX closed its doors in the late ’90s, Metropolis took over the reins as the premier industrial music label. A veteran of the music business, Sascha seems content–but nothing more–with working with Metropolis.
“Well, I don’t know man, to be happy on a record label is kinda impossible. On the inside of a record label you know what’s going on in terms of they sell records for this and that price, yet you see a small percentage of that. And secondly, if I had the time and energy to establish KMFDM records a long time ago we would be on our own label.
In 1998, Sascha and the boys hit the road to tour for their latest album, the title of which is a bunch of symbols, and I got the opportunity to see them live in New Orleans at the Howling Wolf. The show itself was incredible, lots of people going apeshit over the barrage of guitars, drums, and other assorted sounds being pumped into our ears, but not a lot of fancy stagework such as filmwork being played in the background or excessive lighting effects. As far as the equipment used on tour to orchestrate the madness as opposed to what is used for recording, it seems to be quite a large pool to draw from.
“On this one, we used guitars, bass, drum kits, and a pretty big Pro-Tools rig,” says Sascha. “As far as synthesizers…EM1…Nord Lead… A lot of times, things that come across as synthesizers is actually something like me coughing in the mic and time stretching it. As far as how the live show is I don’t know how we are going to do it this time. Last time, we had two Macintosh rigs–two G4s with a MIDI interface going to a couple of keyboard stations Tim and I were working with. I don’t know this time we might go to a DA7, a DAT kinda track. I think on [the 1998 tour], we used a (MPC) 2000 Akai kind of thing.”
As far as the creativity level with lighting, among other things, it continually seems to grow. Sascha explains the progression.
“Well, I mean, [we’re] always more creative in that we’re trying to be a little more creative everytime. We’re staying away from video projection. On the MDFMK tour we had guitar-playing robot. His name is Cyclor, and he’s a 7 foot tall guitar playing robot with a camera eye and what we had was a feed from his camera to a screen on stage so basically whatever the robot saw was projected. The audience could basically jump up and down in fron of the robot’s camera and see themselves blown up on stage. Right now, we’re in the process–the first bit of information that has been let out on the internet about a European leg of the tour in May, and that European leg is not happening now.”
With influences from Frank Zappa and T-Rex, to David Bowie and early eighties new wave bands such as Die Krups, and the interjecting of his own experiences and flavor, Sascha K. has created a band that has smashed apart any objections that have stood in his way. Through the changing of members to new bands and side projects such as Excessive Force and the re-releasing of the “Opium” tapes, he has proven that hard work and consistency can beat the crap out of mainstream airplay, heavy MTV rotation, and whether or not you’re on the cover of some corporate music magazine. Eighteen years–for some bands, just trying to stay together until your first show is an accomplishment. For Sascha Konietzko and KMFDM, eighteen years is just the beginning.
This June, when KMFDM goes on tour across the US, I would highly recommend being there at theshow if you’re in a band that wants to go somewhere, a diehard fan, or someone just getting introduced to the Ultra Heavy Beat, ’cause after all the smashed equipment, sweaty clothes, empty beer bottles are cleaned up, and after you stop shaking from KMFDM’s mental beating, you’ll finally know what exceptional music is and where to find it.