KMFDM's Sascha Konietzko on Kill Mother F*cking Depeche Mode and how it came about
KMFDM (originally Kein Mehrheit Für Die Mitleid) started as a performance-art one-off in 1984 that evolved into an ongoing endeavor. Founding member Sascha Konietzko was joined by drummer and vocalist En Esch, who formed the core of the band until its temporary split in 1999. With various collaborators, KMFDM developed its signature melding of electronic industrial music and hard rock, which has often been imitated but seldom equaled.
The peak of the band's commercial popularity came following the release of Nihil in 1995, which spawned the soundtrack-friendly hit single "Juke Joint Jezebel." What has kept the group interesting is its visceral live shows and its songs, which feature tongue-in-cheek, genuinely clever lyrics that take aim at sociopolitical ills in the world -- that and KMFDM's willingness to poke fun at itself. We recently had a chat with the always engaging and articulate Konietzko about the impact of Wax Trax on his career, Kunst, and covering U2's "Mysterious Ways."
Westword: When did you start making music of your own?
Sascha Konietzko: I started playing music kind of when I was a kid. I played bass in a couple of bands in school. It was punk-rock stuff. Nothing of any noteworthiness. Then I pursued a career in photography and visual things. By coincidence, I came around to doing music again. It wasn't planned; it just kind of happened.
The first KMFDM show was kind of a performance art piece. How did you become involved in that sort of thing?
I was friends with a guy that was part of a group of painters and sculptors that were called First Aid. They were invited to some gig in Paris, some opening performance of a show of young European artists. I was the driver for the whole enterprise because I was the only guy that wasn't stoned or drunk all the fucking time. Somehow, as we were driving, they found out I also played bass guitar.
Then the idea arose to accompany their performance, which consisted of pouring about a ton of potatoes down some large steps and smearing concrete over some glass entry hall doors. I accompanied them with some sound thing, and that just became the way we did the next performances. Then I met some guy who had a studio, and then I started recording with the guy. That's how it all began.
How did you come to work with Adrian Sherwood on Don't Blow Your Top?
Adrian was a guy I knew from when he came to Hamburg frequently to mix concerts of Mark Stewart & The Mafia, and I talked to him and got to know him. We went to London and had him work on a couple of tracks, and we became friends.
What do you think he brought to that album?
His name. That was important enough to raise some eyebrows in the U.K. That, I think, really helped to facilitate licensing with Wax Trax Records in Chicago. I didn't know at the time, but he had worked with Al Jourgensen on at least one album.
Certainly on Twitch.
Yeah, Twitch for sure. So yeah, that all kind of happened unbeknownst to me, because when I came to the US in 1989, when I sat down with Jim [Nash] and Dannie [Flesher] from Wax Trax, they were like, "We want to sign KMFDM directly." I said, "Why would you want to do that?" They said, "We licensed these two albums through this English company already, and we sold like seventy thousand copies already." I said, "What the fuck are you talking about?" I had difficulty selling five hundred copies in Germany, you know? They said, "Oh, you're totally established over here." I fucking had no idea.
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