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KMFDM


KMFDM - We're All Morons

by Dr. Abner Mality

"It will be a long and difficult war...it will be fought on many fronts. We will not falter, we will not tire. We will prevail."

President George W. Bush


When our leaders become morons...when the daily news becomes a trip into the absurd...when everyday life seems to be one long descent into the surreal...that's when the jokers arrive to save us from drowning in lunacy.

For the last 20 years, KMFDM have been those jokers. Using music and satire, they've declared war on complacency and stupidity. Led by German-born commando Sascha Konietzko (or Kap'n K, as faithful followers call him), this musical chameleon has assaulted the world with an aggressive hybrid of industrial/techno/metal/goth/rock, which they prefer to call "ultra heavy beat deluxe" and have gotten a good deal of attention because of it.

Now Armageddon has arrived. With the idiots firmly in control of society, it's time for a final battle. It's time for "WWIII", the latest and greatest platter from the ever-evolving KMFDM, a record that combines scathing humor and social commentary with a varied and diverse musical assault that will have your head banging or your ass shaking.

Recently, the Good Doctor was granted clearance to discuss the upcoming battle with none other than Kap'n K himself, who divulged his plan of "attak":

WORMWOOD CHRONICLES: I recently got a promo of "WWIII" and I loved it!


SASCHA KONIETZKO: Why did you love it?

WC: Well, mostly because it was so diverse, the songs were all so different from each other. That's not typical on most industrial albums. How did you arrive at such a diversity of sound?

SK: Are you familiar with KMFDM's back catalogue?

WC: I'm kind of a novice when it comes to the band, I've just recently been turned on to them.

SK: The answer is that KMFDM traditionally has a wider variety of sounds and sonic elements on their records than your standard industrial band. But that may be due to the fact that KMFDM doesn't really view itself as an industrial band. We're not stuck in a genre and do only one thing. We can do whatever we want. In the long 20 year history of KMFDM, there's been reggae tunes and piano ballads about school shootings as well as absolutely head grinding stuff like "WWIII". That diversity is kind of KMFDM's specialty and that is probably the reason why KMFDM has been holding out for so long.


WC: Would you be happiest just being categorized as a rock band, then?

SK: Our own category that we started in 1984 is "ultra heavy beat" but we're fine with the rock categorization. We're fine with any categorization because we are just concerned with results. So it doesn't really matter that much as long as you know what the beast is that you're talking about.

WC: I was really surprised by the "hillbilly" style intro to the record. It sounded really cool. What was the inspiration for that?

SK: The inspiration was that we had this track "WWIII" and we decided it was going to be the opening track on the album. Yet in the original version, it started right up with the guitar riff. It felt like that was not the way we wanted to begin this record, so we began to compose a soundscape. We tried to visualize a setting where the listener enters the record and then completely disrupt that feeling and break into the "WWIII" track. So we fiddled around with things a bit and put on a smile and grabbed a banjo and Andy started howling like a dog and I uncorked the jug of whiskey and we recorded it.

WC: I could hear some subtle sounds like a rocking chair in the background,too. So that was all you guys on those instruments, you didn't go out and get somebody to play those parts?

SK: Yeah, it was all us. There's no foreign samples or sounds on the record. It's all homemade stuff.

WC: Humor plays a pretty important part in your music.

SK: Of course.

WC: How hard is it to mix humor and social comment without one overtaking the other?

SK: I guess that's a fine line but then again, we have nearly 20 years of experience at it!

WC: So many bands have written in reaction to 9/11. What makes your approach different from the rest?

SK: I think our approach is different because 5 out of 6 members of KMFDM are European and as Europeans, we were brought up in a much more politicized climate than young Americans were. Due to the geopolitical situation in Europe, we had to concern ourselves much more with what it would be like to go into other countries. What would it be like to encounter young French people or young English people . Whereas Americans seem to...I don't want to use the word "gloat"...but they're floating in this big soupbowl where they can't seem to muster enough energy to see what other people are like. It's kind of like, "we're fucked with anyway, our government is screwing us no matter what we say, so we don't vote, we don't even develop a political interest at a young age. We don't care what anybody does as long as our boys come home safe." I'm not saying that one way of life is better than another, I'm just saying there are differences and you need to be aware of them and many Americans don't bother to do that.

WC: The major impression is that Americans are apathetic compared to Europeans.

SK: Yeah, that is so, I'd say that's true.

WC: So many bands point out problems, few have solutions. Does KMFDM have any solutions for the problems you see?

SK: We basically say "wake up and get educated". Inform yourself...build an opinion. It's good to be a dissenter. It's good to be a dissenter in a country that boasts of being the oldest democracy in the world. A country that is literally the beacon of hope for so many people in the world. That's a big part of it. I think this country, through its foreign policy, through its president, through its actions in invading other countries, has eroded a lot of the confidence people had worldwide in it. They're asking, why don't the Americans do something against this craziness that's exerted by a handful of neo-conservatives.

WC: I just talked to Chris Barnes from Six Feet Under and his views sound a lot like yours. He felt a lot of the patriotism around now is phony and that the real patriots are the ones who probe into things.

SK: Exactly! To quote Abe Lincoln, he said that the American President should be under the closest scrutiny, more than any other man, and if he does wrong, he needs to be kicked.

WC: And you're the ones to administer the kicking?

SK: Well, we're not the ones to administer the kicking. What we can do is deliver a soundtrack for these times. We can't necessarily bring up the solution. We can increase awareness of things, that's our part in it.

WC: Is the song "Moron" specifically about President Bush or is it rather about a general type of person?

SK: It's about a general type. In fact, in the last verse, I'm singing "By the way/This is Kap'n K/Calling from Seattle" right after the "moron" bit. We're all morons. We're all morons for different reasons. The only song that's specifically about Bush is "Stars and Stripes". "WWIII" utilizes some soundbites from Bush...some classic excerpts like "if you're not with us, you're a terrorist."

WC: KMFDM has had a lot of members over the years. How much does it feel like a band right now?

SK: It feels much more like a band. We had reached a point in the late 90's where the band was pretty much dysfunctional. We were being pulled too hard in too many different directions. One member wanted to go in more of a techno/electronic direction, another member (myself) wanted to go in more of a 90's guitar-oriented rock direction, another wanted a more mainstream pop approach kind of like a movie soundtrack. It rendered the band dysfunctional. Now, with the new line-up that was tested and approved during last summer's "Attak" tour, we feel actually almost like a band. We actually go down to the rehearsal rooms and hang out! We have a beer together.

WC: What's the KMFDM songwriting process like? Do you lay out a general framework and then the other members tweak it?

SK: That was usually the procedure in the past. On "WWIII", we started as a band. Oddly enough, we started with recording the drums and then built basic tracks. The songwriting was done by Andrew and Joolz, drummer and guitarist, and then Lucia and myself. Then Raymond came from London for a little while and he wrote lyrics on a couple of tracks. It was much more of a group effort than previous works. And it shows. There's an organic quality that I never saw before.

WC: Each song is completely different but there's an underlying theme beneath all of it that identifies your band. When you write a song, do you know when you write that Lucia will be the singer or do you hash it out after the fact?

SK: Well, with Lucia not being an instrumentalist, just a vocalist, she comes into the studio several times a day and sees what we're up to. She'll say "this is a song that I'd like to get my teeth into" and we'll burn a copy of the rough track for her and she gets to work on it. The rough guideline is when you hear Raymond on vocals, he wrote the lyrics for that song. When you hear Lucia, she wrote the lyrics. When you hear me, I wrote them. We're all coming from very different places and we all three of us have very different backgrounds. But by throwing us into this one pot, it creates the unique melange that is KMFDM.


WC: Those wild shrieks on the song "Pity the Pious"...

SK: That was Cheryl Wilson...

WC: Were those real or simulated? Was she really working herself over?

SK: She was working herself over but voluntarily. Not by means of any devices. It think it was kind of a mental torture type thing...pleasure and pain!

WC: She was either having a real good time or a real bad time!

SK: Yeah, that was the intention!

WC: I laughed out loud when I read the lyrics to the song "Intro", which ends the album. I understand this song is a lead-in to the next KMFDM album?

SK: We always say half-jokingly that the last song on each album is a lead-in or segue to the next album. What can we do, we have 11 songs on the album, we've got one called "Intro" so naturally we put it last on the record. It kind of makes sense just to play it all over again after that song!


WC: What's your favorite track on the record?

SK: "Last Things." We had a record release party here in Seattle last night and the whole record was blasting over and over through the PA. I think "WWIII" is up there, too, though. That one's cracking me up all the time. I'm just declaring war on everyone and everything.

WC: What touring plans do you guys have?

SK: Well, there's a full U.S. tour beginning on Oct. 17, going from Seattle clockwise around the country that's gonna last about six weeks. That will take us to late November and then we'll go over to Europe for a couple of shows. Then, early in the new year, as soon as the snow clears and spring comes out, we'll go on the road again. We have a bit of production work to do in January and February with a Seattle-based band and then we'll take it from there.

WC: What can people expect from a live show? Is it real theatrical or is it stripped down?

SK: It's the same as always with KMFDM...it's a morbid, sordid kind of mix. We have these characters we portray. Lucia is obviously a main attraction. Raymond looks like he stepped out of some weird goth movie. And myself, I'm the Captain, donning camoflauge and combat gear. That in itself generates so much theatrical potential that we don't have to worry too much about fireworks and props. We leave that to the Rammsteins and Great Whites of the world. For the first time on this tour, we'll be bringing this elaborate system that's half projection/half camera on stage, filming what's going on stage. So you get a visual mix of what's going on, including close-ups,interspersed with footage from KMFDM videos, highlights from past years and some specially made footage in keeping with the "WWIII" theme.

WC: Sounds like a novel approach...

SK: Right now we're working on a short film that will visualize the intro that we talked about, the banjo part, that will tell a little story and act as an intro to KMFDM. It will be a silent movie style thing that will tie us into the song "Intro", where the characters are all introduced. The show will start with this movie and as soon as the machine gun fire kicks in, bam, the lights go up and there's KMFDM.

WC: What was the last CD you bought just for your own listening pleasure?

SK: The last one I got was Gun Club's "Early Warnings"

WC: And the last concert you saw just for yourself?

SK: Last concert I was at was R.E.M. with Bill Rieflin (KMFDM member) playing the drums.

WC: What's your Spinal Tap moment?

SK: Oh God, there's too many! Which one to pick? One of the best ones was Halloween 1995 in New Orleans. We had kept the fact that it was Halloween from Raymond, who is not really susceptible to the habits of "the colonials". He went on stage unsuspectingly and I came out on stage with this axe in my head. Blood was everywhere! I stumbled right into Raymond and he was naturally concerned about not infecting himself with any possible bloodborne diseases. That, and getting an ambulance called. It was complete chaos. Everyone in the audience thought "It's Halloween,it's a joke of course" but Raymond's reaction was so believably freaked out that people got confused and almost panicked. Which would have been a very uncomfortable situation...