My association with KMFDM goes way back into the nineties. I own most if not all of their albums in one form or another, I’ve seen them live five or six times, and I still listen to them regularly. Sure, they’ve had occasional periods where they’ve not matched some of the heights they’d set themselves before, but with a band that has a back catalogue as extensive as theirs, I’d be surprised to see every idea work.
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I covered their past a few years back, as I dedicated an entire /Tuesday Ten to them around the time of their thirtieth anniversary (/222/Thirty Years of the Ultra Heavy Beat), so with a chance to interview Sascha Konietzko, I wanted to know about the here and now, as they reach thirty-five years of conceptual continuity, and approach the release of PARADISE.
Having heard the entirely of PARADISE, it’s a surprisingly varied, expansive release, that takes in pretty much all of the styles that the band have taken on before, with a few new twists, but never losing the central core of what KMFDM are. The sloganeering, the guitars, the power, the politics, are all still there, just at points shone through a different prism, and the result is an album even better than HELL YEAH was back in 2017.
Thanks as ever to the promo people who arranged this e-mail interview and provided the promo pics (taken by Kirk Edward Mitchell, Bobby Talamine & Howard Gaines), and to Sascha for taking the time to answer my questions.
A note about the interviews on amodelofcontrol.com. This is now a long-running, occasional series, occasional because of the fact that I only interview artists when I have something to ask, and when artists have something to say. I don’t use question templates, so each is unique, too. Finally, I only edit for grammar and adding in links, so what you’re reading is the response of the artist directly.
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Sascha, the KMFDM of 2019 feels more alive and open to new ideas. How are things in the KMFDM camp?
Sascha K: Many people already said the same when HELL YEAH was released 2 years ago [indeed, as did I, really, on /But Listen/154], that it “feels more and alive and open to new ideas”.
I’d wager to guess that perhaps the increase in “aliveness” and “openness” may be exponential? jk;-)
Things have been good and, at the same time intensely focused. There was a lot of experimentation, a fair share of redundancy and a rewarding final round when all the pieces finally fell into place. Lucia, Andy Selway (drums) and our new (well, new since 2017) guitarist Andee Blacksugar and i have been working together across the Atlantic Ocean without even once setting foot into a recording environment together, everything was done modular, which by the way, is my preferred method of working, for over two decades by now.
The title track has one of the best takedowns of world politics I’ve heard in a while: “this world is paradise for assholes”. Here in the UK is bad enough, never mind elsewhere. I take it you’re despairing as much as we are?
Sascha K: Not at all, far from despairing, really. Quite the opposite. We see promising activity and growing forces of resistance against the overcrusted systems and our song PARADISE is meant as a battle cry, as a call to action, to join forces, to get our hands dirty. As I said in 2001’s BACK IN THE USSA: “The future belongs to those of us, still willing to get our hands dirty“.
As for the UK, you guys really got fucked by those demagogues luring you into that referendum, but that’s a whole different story, of course…
PARADISE is notable for seeing the return of two previous contributors for the first time in a long time – Cheryl Wilson (who was the striking guest vocalist on Power, as I recall) destroys on WDYWB, while Raymond Watts is back on Binge Boil & Blow. How did these come about?
Sascha K: To relativate a bit, Cheryl’s vocal performance was recorded many years ago and now was used as a “sample”, a nod to KMFDM’s “conceptual continuity”. The track with Watts appearing was the last finishing touch to the final version of this album, and a nice one at that. It came about totally unexpected, the result of a phone call after some 16 years of silence between us.
The last couple of albums – and indeed the last tour (in the UK, anyway!) – saw you digging back into your past, with reworkings of a couple of older songs either recorded or live. Was this a way of inspiring yourselves again, or just a way of changing it up and doing something different?
Sascha K: I wanna say it was more a result of being bored with always playing more or less the same selection of songs that we know our audiences love and want to hear each and every time. Harkening back to a body of works exceeding 200+ compositions is a refreshing thing every once in a while.
What strikes me about this album is the variety on show. There’s the hip-hop of K•M•F, the dub-reggae of No God, the alt-rock of Oh My Goth… as well as a couple of thumping industrial dancefloor tracks. What were the inspirations for this album?
Sascha K: I hear you! I always wondered what’s with the precursor “industrial” in front of KMFDM ! We have always done dub stuff, pop, dance, goth, d&b, you name it… a blend of anything that strikes the fancy. Inspirations are like bits of rubbish blowing in the wind, just look closely and there it is – Inspiration ! Certainly many bands are stuck in their (self-)defined style, not being able for a variety of reasons to break out of the mold. KMFDM does not care what others think or how our stuff will be received. We make the music we want, for our own sake and entertainment. We are serious about what we do but do not take ourselves too seriously.
KMFDM are one of a handful of the wave of industrial bands to still be going some decades on from their inception. Do you think there is a common thread to those bands that have survived, or did you all have to find your own way to keep going?
Sascha K: I don’t know, i really have no contact to people from decades ago, and i really have other stuff to preoccupy myself with. It’s good to sometimes run into these old war-horses somewhere on the road, down a few and have some good laughs. For me personally, i do not regard the “olden days” as particularly good times. I live for the future, not in some past.
KMFDM is thirty-five years old this year. What would you say is your greatest achievement in that time?
Sascha K: KMFDM’s greatest (and most rewarding) achievement, in my mind, is the fact that we have a constant and steady influx of new fans, young people that perhaps only have discovered us last week, but by today they have become obsessed and have bought all of our releases, no, seriously! And secondly, the fact that i am still having a blast, doing what i do.
New album Paradise is out on Friday 27-September.