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INTERVIEWS

KMFDM - Giving You the Real Thing!

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An Interview with Sascha Konietzko and Lucia Cifarelli of KMFDM
Posted: Monday, October 23, 2006
By: Ilker Yücel
Editor

Time and time again, KMFDM have made the promise to never stop, standing tall as the archetypal industrial rock group. This past year has shown a remarkable amount of activity, not only following up their 2005 Hau Ruck album with an impressive remix EP, Ruck Zuck, but also the re-release of the group's back catalog, spanning the first 15 years of the band's history, the legendary and now out-of-print Wax Trax releases. Now on Metropolis Records, both old and new fans will have the opportunity to revisit KMFDM's past output with a full package of additional tracks, never-before-seen photos, extensive liner notes, lyrics, and artwork. If that weren't enough, Sascha Konietzko (a.k.a. Käpt'n K) and Lucia Cifarelli present a new project with Curve's Dean Garcia, KGC, with a limited edition album coming soon. Now on the road for the Hau Ruck Zuck Tour, ReGen caught up with the band in Baltimore and had the opportunity to discuss with Sascha and Lucia their thoughts on KGC, KMFDM's remixes and back catalog, and the current political climate in the United States.

On the Ruck Zuck EP, there were two remixes by you, two by Steve White, and one by Jules Hodgson. What's the process like among the band members? Do you guys collaborate with each other on the remixes?

Konietzko: Sometimes, yeah. Even though I did the 'Spezial K' remix, Jules did the 'Mini Mini Mini' remix totally by himself. I did my stuff totally by myself. Yeah, sometimes we work together, and sometimes not.

You guys do a lot of remixes for other artists, and I've noticed particularly on a lot of those that there's a very prominent guitar sound, but it is credited to KMFDM.

Konietzko: Well, both Steve and Jules play guitar, so it sounds like KMFDM.

About your remixes for other artists, such as Megadeth, Mindless Self Indulgence, Starlit, DJ? Acucrack, and that's just a short list, how do you approach remixing other artists versus when you work on your own music?

Konietzko: I think it's very much the same way. I spend a lot of time with remixes. In the old days, a remix would take me a day or two, but now it can take me as long as a week.

You went back to using a lot of analog equipment on Hau Ruck. How do you feel that has affected the sound of KMFDM, not just with remixes, but in general?

Konietzko: It's not so much a sound thing, because you can recreate the analog sounds easily with digital and all the presets. The reason I changed was because I was getting tired of programming MIDI stuff. I liked working with tape decks instead of the newer stuff, which can get very cryptic and shit. So I'd rather take a little box that was made in the '70s or '80s, try something out, and record it.

Shifting gears, you both did a collaboration with Dean Garcia, called KGC (Konietzko, Garcia, Cifarelli). How did this project come about in the first place, and how do you feel that your music with KGC is different from what you do in KMFDM?

Cifarelli: I connected with Dean Garcia through a mutual fan. He was the conduit. He knew that I was a fan of Curve, and he knew Dean personally, and he said, 'If you want to get introduced, I can introduce you.' 'Okay, sure.' But in my mind, I'm thinking that's the last of it, but oddly enough, a week later, I got an e-mail from Dean Garcia. We started writing, and before I knew it, it snowballed. And then we met in London, Sascha joined us, and we all made a plan then and there that we had a good thing going. We had a bunch of drinks, and we were a go. As far as how it's different from KMFDM, it's apples and oranges. They're two completely different projects. Obviously, on KGC, I had the opportunity to be a little more heavy-handed than I am with KMFDM. The music itself is completely different. It's much more haunting, strange, and creepy, and I'm not doing the kind of thing I do with KMFDM. It's definitely a kind of dark electronic, fuzzy guitar-oriented sound. I don't think it sounds like KMFDM at all.

Konietzko: It sounds like KMFDM because I mixed it and produced it, so it has the production value of KMFDM, but there's nothing in it that I think people can identify as KMFDM.

You've been known to do a lot of side projects in the past like Schwein, Excessive Force, and MDFMK, which turned out to be a one-time thing. How far do you guys plan to take KGC?

Cifarelli: That depends on a lot of things. That depends on myself and Dean, and Sascha to a point, if Sascha decides that he wants to be involved in it. Obviously he will be, but if he doesn't, maybe it'll be just be GC. [Laughs]

I don't know. I'd very much like to see it go forward, but it is a little labor of love project where we all had a certain amount of time allotted, free time that we had available to work on this. We're going to see where it goes, but we can't be a slave to it. If people don't come to the parties, I'm not sure how far we can take it. We funded the whole thing totally DIY, so we need to make some friends out there and see where it goes. We love it, and we want to see it go to the next level.

Did you guys work in person with him, or was it all in the studio?

Cifarelli: Completely across the air and the ether, sending tracks back and forth through...what is it, Royal Mail?

Konietzko: That, and ProTools sessions. Lucia worked out some vocal stuff and recorded that, and we just started building the arrangements, sort of beefing it all up. Dean works on Reason a lot, doing a lot of track sketching and loops and the sort, and I'm not saying there's anything wrong with that, but he did get into areas where I think something like analog would've worked because the sound pales in comparison. So there was a bit of beefing up to do, but basically the idea of the music was by Dean, the lyrics and vocals were Lucia, and my work was really production.

When does the album come out?

Konietzko: Well, it's going to be a limited run of 1,000 copies, and that'll hopefully be coming out in late October or early November.

You signed back with Metropolis some time ago, and now you're re-releasing the back catalog. The first three albums are out now, and the next three come out in November. What are your primary reasons for releasing the old albums at this time?

Konietzko: Because the licenses with Wax Trax and TVT would've ended in 2008, but they fucked up, so I managed to get the tracks back earlier. Since the stuff has been out of print for four years, they were going to come out sometime, and they're being re-released over the course of a year or so.

Also, Raymond Watts is now on Metropolis Records with the Pigmata release. Now you're both on the same label. What's your relationship with him like now? Is he going to return to KMFDM?

Konietzko: Well, we were on the same label as Eminem, so what does that tell you? Being on the same label doesn't really mean anything. But the wires between Raymond Watts and us right now are disconnected.

Ruck Zuck ended with 'Ansage,' and the message seems directed at the current administration in the USA. Why exactly did you do the recitation in German?

Konietzko: Well, because it was written in German, and it's not about the content of that piece. It's about the humor in it, and that humor cannot be translated. You can easily translate what I'm saying, and it'll just seem like kind of statement like I would make. But it's a German thing, really. That was like a bonus track that was just there at the time. It was meant for another project that never happened. It was an idea by a German writer, and he asked me if I could speak this text, and whatever project he had intended it for fell through, so we had that track and put it on Ruck Zuck. At least the Germans will get it. [Laughs]

You guys have been known to put hidden tracks at the end of your albums, like that humorous fairytale at the end of XTORT. What exactly is that humming at the end of 'Auf Wiederseh'n?'

Konietzko: That is...annoying is what it is. [Laughs]

You know, when you're in the studio, and you're saying stuff into the microphone, there's always shit that you're not supposed to do because you're just warming up your voice. Oftentimes, when you first sing something, and you're going from part A to part B, you stop the tape and sing part A, then you stop recording and go to part B. In between, I hum to warm up, and sometimes we just take it and leave it. It's garbage really, but then I got the idea to just put it at the end.

KMFDM has always been very politically-minded, and your albums seem to have gotten more and more political. Given the current situation in the USA, with a lot of Republican leaders starting to lose favor and a lot of people resigning, what are your thoughts on the current political climate?

Konietzko: Well, I think something needs to change really quickly, because things don't look good. I guess for the remaining two years of this administration, or regime, whatever word you want to call it, we will try to realize more points that they didn't notice. So, in other words, a regime change in North Korea and in Iraq. That's the legacy that the next legislature will have to deal with. Are you aware of the Project for a New American Century? The first couple of steps have been turned into a reality. I mean, the Neo-Cons, the ultra right wing, they're actually fascists. If you read the definition of fascism, it's the concentration of the state by government power and corporations, and breaking up the whole population so they can be easily manipulated. Fascism stems from the Latin 'fascis,' which means bundle, so it's bundling society. There was an interesting article written in the late '40s by the Vice President, I don't remember who it was, but it was about American Fascism. Very interesting.

You've lived in the States for quite a number of years now. If you had to choose, who would you say could best exemplify the kind of candidate you'd like to see in office, if there is one?

Konietzko: I don't think there is one, personally. I think Noam Chomsky would be good.

In recent years, quite a few industrial groups have started to release some rather political albums, like Acumen Nation's Anticore, Ministry's Rio Grande Blood and Houses of the Molé, Skinny Puppy's The Greater Wrong of the Right, and the list goes on. As the industrial music market seems to have a much smaller audience compared to the mainstream market, the question arises as to why these groups or groups like KMFDM make such politically charged albums. What kind of impact are you hoping to achieve?

Konietzko: I don't know the answer to that. KMFDM has always been political, and I think Al sounds like a fucking broken record. He seems to wear nothing but a Bush T-shirt. I haven't listened to the Skinny Puppy album, but my guess would be that they're getting fed up. I guess industrial music has always had a tendency to be politically charged just by its nature, since it is a form of anti-music. I don't know; I think it's a good trend.

Throbbing Gristle have come back, and there's rumors of Cabaret Voltaire coming back, so maybe it is just the time for this sort of music. About Lucia's collaboration with Acumen Nation on Anticore, how did that come about?

Cifarelli: It was really simple. Jason called me up and asked if I would sing on a track, and I said, 'Sure.' He sent me a couple of tracks and I picked the one that I thought I could vocally handle and laid it down for him, and he took it from there. It was really cut and dry. We're friends, and he wanted a female vocalist, and he thought I'd be right for it, and I had the time.

Jason had mentioned that he sent you 'Black Son Hole' first.

Cifarelli: Yes, that's right, he did send me that one first, and I told him that I couldn't stand behind it. We had a big discussion about it, and I guess we had a difference of opinion as to what it meant and the contradictory meanings. I can't remember the lyrics exactly, but I thought, 'How can you say it about this one kind of element of people and not our element of people, but we kind of do the same thing, just in different languages,' or whatever. I can't remember the lyrics, but it was definitely pigeonholing a specific group of people. It was a very specific opinion on a specific genre, if I remember correctly, and I don't know if I believe that. I think that anybody trying to sell themselves to a specific audience does a similar thing, and they're full of shit, no matter what genre or whatever coat they're trying to wear, and I just thought that I don't believe this to be a specific genre attitude. I think it's across the board, and I just didn't feel comfortable singing it because I didn't believe it. He was great because we had a very challenging discussion, and finally he said, 'I'll send you another track.'

And then you went with 'My Life's Last Breath.'

Cifarelli: I did because I could live with that one a little bit more. I'm not righteous about anything, but I've got to at least have something, at least some part of me that buys it. Even if I'm talking about sticking a gun in my mouth, if it's something that I can believe, that I can imagine...not that I want to encourage it, but if I can imagine it in the subtext of the story. I chose that song because I could. Not that I would, but because I could visualize it in my head, and I could say, 'Okay, this is a point of view I can understand.' If it's not a point of view I can understand or relate to, then I don't necessarily know that I could do it. At that moment in time, that's how I felt.

On Ruck Zuck, you guys did a cover of D.A.F.'s 'Der Mussolini.' Covers are nothing new for you, but it is probably one of the most outright political songs you've covered.

Konietzko: It's not political at all. It's absolutely ridiculous. 'Dance the Hitler, dance the Mussolini, dance the cha-cha-cha,' you know? 'Dance the Jesus Christ.'

So you did it just because it's funny?

Konietzko: That, and it is perhaps my favorite song of all time.

On the last tour, you did the MDFMK song 'Rabble Rouser.'

Konietzko: We did it a couple of times yet. It's a destroyer, that song.

Cifarelli: We can't keep it up. It just tears at the pitch.

Konietzko: It just tears the vocal chords right out. We tried to pitch it down, but it doesn't work that way.

Besides the KGC song, are there any other side projects songs you're including on the current set list?

Konietzko: No, but there's a couple of goodies, like 'More and Faster.'