by Chris Curry
I was working in a record shop in Orlando, Florida during my second wave of college. One day I peered over the counter at an orange and black promo poster that was as alluring and curious, as it was superficial and silly. I went about my day. I went about my weeks. I gazed at the Skinny Puppy t-shirts and the Revolting Cocks CD’s. I questioned whether or not I should check out Psychic T.V's Temple of the Psychic Youth or gamble on the latest Thrill Kill Kult 12" and still I looked at that silly promo poster. It was 1990 and electro-industrial music was making a transition from the absurd to the most serious. Ministry had dumped The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste on us and it seemed that everyone was gonna follow suit. Yet that orange and black poster harkened back to my comic book days of old while strangely ushering in a bold look at cynicism and sarcasm. It was a thin line between the cartoonish and reality. It was a step away from my day-to-day life with a strong foothold on fiction. I soon found out that it was a vibrant form of electro-industrial music and it was called KMFDM.
The poster in question was for KMFDM's break-thru album, Naïve and the artwork was a pure juxtaposition to the music within. I'd like to say that they were a 'True American Original' but that would be an untruth. The origins of the group can quickly be traced from Germany to Chicago over the sea to England and back to the States (Seattle, Washington to be exact). Perhaps it's this melting pot of musical misfits that serves as a catalyst for the mastermind and mad hatter of the most prolific industrial rock project in history. Perhaps not, perhaps Sascha Konietzko just is and KMFDM just are and we've been put here to enjoy what they have to give. And they gave us a lot. From 1984 to the present the project has continued to unfurl a cavalcade of full-length releases and singles while maintaining their very own sound and style. That sound and style has been honed finely by the group's leader and its revolving roster of members.
In the following conversation Sascha reveals the low-down on their new record Attak, Universal Records, his short stint as MDFMK, past and present members, their upcoming tour and his feelings about the future of music.
Christopher Curry: Attak is a great record. How do you feel about the final product?
Sascha Konietzko: Well, I feel really good about it or else I wouldn't have put it out.
CC: Right, and while that does sound like a silly question, I do specifically remember you being unhappy with the outcome of Angst and yet you released it.
SK: Yes, but that was a different situation in a different era where we made some compromises. Lots of people were tugging at us in different directions and so we conceded. That was the 'reality' of that record which isn't at all the case with Attak. All in all, the hiatus and break-up of KMFDM in 1998 with the announcement in 1999 definitely lightened the load in terms of unnecessary baggage. All that was tossed overboard and the new record sounds really fresh to me.
CC: While on the subject of the KMFDM split, do you mind talking a little about MDFMK and your relationship with Universal Records?
SK: No not at all, what do you want to know?
CC: First up, I noticed that the programming on that album was really dense and involved whereas KMFDM's programming was more stark and 'in your face'. Was that a conscious effort on your part in an attempt to make the 2 projects differ or was it a decision that came down from the 'brass' at Universal?
SK: Well, it was a different approach and with that came a different outcome. That record was less of a group effort than our previous recordings. This was just basically Tim (Skold) and I holed up in a
studio together for months and then Lucia came in and helped out towards the end. I think that if MDFMK had been a KMFDM album no one would've objected to the change. That record is as different to Adios as Xtort is to Symbols. It's just part of the KMFDM evolution.
CC: I personally found very little different with MDFMK verses KMFDM. Do you feel the MDFMK release to be a 'dark horse' of sorts? I mean do you consider it a valid addition to the KMFDM catalogue?
SK: Absolutely, it may as well have been released as a KMFDM record. Really all we wanted to do was get away from all these people who had all these different opinions about us and what we should be doing. We did that (MDFMK) and we really enjoyed the peace and solitude of just the two of us working on the record. We had sufficient funding from Universal and so we wanted to make a record that was absolutely to the maximum in terms of programming. It was something that we wanted to do at the time and now we've gotten that out of our systems and so, as I said before, Attak sounds really fresh and new to me. I must add though, I listened to MDFMK the other day and I thought that it still sounded fucking cool.
CC: I'd heard that you kinda sat back and allowed Tim Skold to steer that record. Is there any truth to that?
SK: No, not at all. I'm not surprised that you read that though. Tim's very prolific in the industry right now and he seems to be catching a lot of heat lately.
CC: Again, while on the subject…tell me about Tim Skold. When he was on the Symbols album / tour we could only guess that he'd just pass through the revolving KMFDM door as so many others have in the past. However at present he's been with you for 4 albums. How'd all this come about?
SK: Tim and I have a very similar work ethic and that's not something you find very often in this business. So many people are just out there to fuck you over but Tim's a good guy. He's a very gifted programmer and a talented musician and I get along with him very well.
CC: Do you guys split the writing and / or programming chores in any specific way?
SK: No, actually we do exactly the same things and we also have a lot of similar tastes. So we just basically swap out stuff and that way it doesn't get boring for anyone.
CC: Recently you've compared your new label, Metropolis Records to your happier days with Wax Trax in terms of musical freedom and label support and encouragement. I figured that Universal would be exactly the opposite yet it doesn't appear that they stifled your creativity at all.
SK: No they didn't stifle the creativity, but they just didn't have the right kind of understanding about us. We delivered the MDFMK record to them and they were pretty speechless. They just sat there and didn't know what to say. So we all sat in this huge conference room listening to the record and one guy stood up after it was finished and said, "Um, I don't hear anything on here that's gonna fit the 'modern rock' radio format."
CC: Well, I guess you were thrilled with that! So what do you say to some inane remark like that?
SK: (laughs) Well, I was like, "What are you talking about?" So he said, "Well, that's what we do. We take a single to 'modern rock' radio but there's no single on this one." They were never successful at explaining to us just what the hell 'modern rock' radio was supposed to be. That's just the way that they operate.
CC: It doesn't appear as though they've misunderstood Rammstein and they've done a good job of promoting them.
SK: Well, according to Rammstein they didn't push them. I'm really good friends with Richard (Z. Kruspe-Berstein) and according to him, Universal made the wrong choice in terms of their first single from the Mutter album which was 'Sonne'. This wrong choice has caused them problems. It's the same thing that happened to us and to a lot of other artists on Universal.
CC: Were there any singles from the MDFMK record other than 'Torpedoes'?
SK: We had three of them; 'Get Outta My Head', 'Rabble Rouser' and 'Torpedoes'.
CC: Were those released as remix singles? If so I never saw them.
SK: No and Universal isn't the type of label to put out remix singles unless there's a lot of money in it. In the end the MDFMK record sold around 120,000 copies, which is right where Adios and Nihil and most of our others are. So in terms of sales there were no set backs but when you look at the amount of money that they pumped into the thing along with the difficult angle on promotion and radio air play it just didn't work out the way that they wanted it to. They wanted it to sell like 500,000 copies. So when that didn't happen they just didn't know what to do. So, I simply went up to them and said, "Look you guys have an option on another record. Is there any chance that you want to let us go or do you want to pick up that option?" And they said, "Well, we'll pick up the option if there's a consensus on the creativity, which means we want to choose a producer for you." So, I said, "Forget it. That isn't gonna fly."
CC: Thankfully they gave you the option to leave; most artists don't get that.
SK: Yea, I did get the option to leave and you're right not everybody gets that. However, I'm not like everybody else. I'm pretty outspoken and I usually get my way. Of course there are some bands out there that are frozen into some sorta contract and I don't wanna get fucked like that. So I made my points. They agreed and we signed my release papers that day and I was free to go without any further obligations to them. So then I was like, "Who's gonna be my next label home?" I called up Metropolis Records and asked if they'd be interested in taking on KMFDM. They said, "Absolutely. Who's gonna be in the band?" I said, "I don't know other than myself." And they said, "Fine. Let's do it."
CC: A couple more questions about MDFMK. The track 'Missing Time' from the Heavy Metal 2000 soundtrack - was that recorded specifically for the film or was it a leftover?
SK: It was for the movie and it was written at a time when KMFDM wasn't quite dead and the MDFMK idea hadn't really spawned yet, but by the time it came out we were MDFMK. Actually it was gonna be part of the video game soundtrack for The Prey, but the finances for that project fell through and it never happened.
CC: You're gearing up for a tour, will we be hearing any tunes from the MDFMK album?
SK: Um, I doubt it because Tim Skold is not gonna be on this tour. He's taking time off to co-produce Marilyn Manson's new album. It's perfectly legit and it's happened in the past where somebody would be on a record but not on the tour.
CC: Exactly and I've always considered you to be like a techno-industrial P-Funk cause you just never know who's gonna be on the stage.
SK: (laughs) Yea, you're right.
CC: You've worked with Ogre in the past. Exactly what does he contribute?
SK: Mainly just vocals and lyrics.
CC: Really? The tunes that he does with KMFDM seem really abstract in comparison to the rest. I'm really surprised that he didn't help out in the programming or arranging department.
SK: Well here's the thing. We'd pass all the songs around and when we'd come across one that nobody knew what to do with we'd give it to Ogre and he was always able to make them work. He's definitely very talented and he does deliver.
CC: You have a new DVD out. Did Wax Trax just throw that out there or were you involved in any way?
SK: Here's the deal. I was talking to my manager and I told him that I thought we should put Beat By Beat on the DVD format and he said, "Funny you should mention that cause I just got a call from TVT and they were wondering about it as well." So I went to work for about a week compiling around 2 and a half hours of additional material to pile on top of the already 60 minutes long video. It's basically a couple of bootleg shows from the Money tour and a show from the tour we did with Ministry. All in all the DVD runs around 3 and half hours now.
CC: Yea, I was really shocked at how much stuff was on there. I'm also surprised that TVT contacted you about it in the first place. I figured they'd put it out without your consent.
SK: No, I had a big hand in it. I actually didn't have anything to do with the authoring of it and I wish that I had because there's a couple of glitches and flaws. It just didn't turn out looking as good as I thought is should. In regards to them contacting me, they have to. TVT cannot do a thing involving KMFDM without my consent. That was one of the things that I inherited from the Wax Trax days. I mean I have a contract with Wax Trax that is pretty much unparalleled to any other in the industry. Actually in a few years all rights will revert back to me and I will own all my masters.
CC: What do you think about some of the newer music that is coming out these days?
SK: You know, there are more bands than ever before out there and it seems that I'm finding less and less that I want to listen to. Actually I think music is pretty boring right now.
CC: I agree. It's certainly seen better times and right now it's simply in the gutter.
SK: Yep but I'll tell you this, KMFDM still have a shit-load of energy left in them.
CC: Boots was the first single from Attak and yet it's not on the album. What was the reasoning behind that?
SK: Well, it's more like an E.P. and with the recession and all I figured it would go for like 6 bucks and it would be easy on everyone's pockets. KMFDM doing a cover tune is kinda prankish and even more so with that song. Also Attak has 11 songs whereas most of our releases have only 10. It was like our "Recession Special.” (laughs)
CC: Speaking of 'pranks', I'm glad that the KMFDM sense of humor is back. As much as I enjoyed MDFMK I did miss the 'winking' quality that you guys have.
SK: That record (MDFMK) was made while the Columbine shooting was still fresh on everyone's minds and so the record company didn't want any overtly political stuff on there. Hence, "American Dream" only got released in Japan. Also, Adios came out the day of the Columbine shooting and with all of that Universal opted to hold onto the MDFMK record. They just told us to continue working. So we did and there's a whole bunch of material that has yet to see the light of day. Unfortunately we got wrapped up in the 'eye of storm' kinda thing.
CC: Is this stuff gonna be released?
SK: Yea, I think so. I think it's gonna be released as MDFMK #2. Right now Universal owns it and so far they've opted to sit on it.
CC: With that in mind, if Universal decides to not release it, will the rights ever revert back to where you can put it out?
SK: Yes, absolutely but that's a while down the road though.
CC: While we're talking about hard to find and unreleased stuff tell us about Opium. Will this actually document the vacuum cleaner days?
SK: This is what it is. It's one session where we recorded some stuff in a few days as a trio. It was myself, Raymond (Watts) and Ton Geist and it's out now and being well received.
CC: Really? I've yet to see it on the shelves.
SK: It's not in stores. It's only available on KMFDM.com. It's a no bar code limited edition.
CC: So this is stuff prior to What Do You Know Deutschland?
SK: Right and it was recorded in the summer of 1984.
CC: And the vacuum cleaners…?
SK:Yes, there is one track where we used vacuum cleaners. (laughs)
CC: Can't wait! Speaking of Raymond, I'm glad to see him back in the fold, and En Esch?
SK: Well what can I say? I really miss En Esch.
CC: Any chance of him returning to KMFDM?
SK: It's possible.
CC: I have to say that I miss his presence on stage he really is quite enigmatic. He's like some sorta monster or something up there.
SK: Yea, he is a wonderful live performer.
CC: Have you heard Slick Idiot?
SK: Yea, but not enough to state an honest opinion on it.
CC: Discuss some of the gear that was used in the making of Attak.
SK: Let's see, Pro Tools with Pro Controls was the centerpiece for all the recording and sound design. Interestingly very few synthesizers were used on Attak besides some analogue stuff like a Pro One and an SH 101. Midway through the MDFMK record I switched from Logic to Pro Tools and in comparison to other KMFDM releases Attak is virtually midi-free. We simply decided not to work the record to death. I wasn't as concerned about the 'perfect take' as I'd been in the past.
CC: Attak does seem to have a certain spontaneity about it.
SK: Right and I came to the conclusion that this was just 1 record in a long line of others that we'd done and will do.
CC: Most everyone in the know is aware that KMFDM stands for Kein Mehrheit Fur Die Mitleid, which translates into 'No Pity for the Majority' but what is the origin of that? Was it from a movie or a book?
SK: O.K. here's the deal with that. On the morning of February 29th, 1984 I woke up and went down to breakfast at a hotel in Paris. We had a show that night opening for an exhibition for young European artists. Actually I was the only musician at this event and I was surrounded by painters and sculptors. Anyhow we needed a motto for the night so that we could make up some fliers and post them around. There was a German newspaper on the table and so I started cutting out words and threw them all into a cap. We picked a few of them out and it read "Kein Mehrheit Fur Die Mitleid. It's kinda improper German in regards to its translation but in the DA-DA-esque mindset of the early morning it made perfect sense. So when I was on my way back to Hamburg I'd mentioned it to Raymond. He liked it but he was having difficulty pronouncing it correctly. So finally he said, "Why don't you just call it KMFDM?" So that was it. We were KMFDM.
CC: Well it's made one helluva catch phrase for you.
SK: (laughs) Sure did.
CC: One more for you. If someone had 5 minutes to live and they wanted to hear KMFDM, what song would you play for them?
SK: “Attak/Reload.”Posted by Alex Zander at November 1, 2003 12:00 AM