SASCHA KONIETZKO HAS BEEN THE CREATIVE FORCE BEHIND KEIN MEHRHEIT FURH DIE MITLEID (NO PITY FOR THE MAJORITY) OR KMFDM FOR 20 YEARS. ON THE EVE OF TOURING FOR THEIR BRAND-NEW DISC WWIII, NIGHT WATCHMAN GOT A CHANCE TO PICK SASCHAíS BRAIN AND FIND OUT ABOUT ALL THINGS KMFDM; PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE.
Night Watchman: KMFDM has been through a lot of changes in the last few years. How would you compare the old KMFDM to the new KMFDM?
Sascha: Itís more fun.
S: Yeah. Definitely more fun. Itís something that once again feels full-steam.
NW: Is it just because you were able to clear the air and start over again?
S: Yeah, that was definitely the case. It really helped. There was a lot of stuff at the end of the old KMFDM that hindered its own progress. Too much tugging going on.
NW: That seems to happen when a band is together for a long time, though.
S: But I never saw it coming, because of the circulation of fresh air, because of the whole rotating concept-- the guest cast and whatnot-- which was always part of the program. But, it crystallized that some of the "core" members just couldnít work together any longer, and that was the only way to gracefully let everyone take their hats and go their own ways.
NW: Iíve seen very polarized reactions to Tim Skold (former member, now bassist for Marilyn Manson) as far as what he brought to the band. People either love him or hate him; there doesnít seem to be much middle ground. How do you feel about what he contributed to the band?
S: Well, he definitely left a huge fingerprint on KMFDM, thatís for sure. I think the more talented or enigmatic or replace-this-with-any-other-adjective people are, the more the propensity rises for them to be either hated or loved. Thatís a common thing. Mediocre people you donít really have much of an opinion of, this way or that way. They typically donít have much to offer, either. So I think it just speaks for the overall greatness of Tim Skold. Loved so much and hated so much.
NW: Do you two still get along?
S: Oh, yeah. No problem.
NW: It seemed like you guys had a pretty good relationship.
S: No, I send him letters with white powder in them and call him a cunt. (laughs)
NW: (laughs) Nice!
S: No, thereís no problem. Itís not like, "You asshole. Now youíre with Manson, you fuck." (laughs) No, itís fine that people do move on. Bill Rieflin is drumming for R.E.M. these days-Ė thatís even worse. (laughs)
NW: Did you see MDFMK as an experiment, or did you mean for it to be an ongoing thing that, for whatever reason, couldnít sustain itself?
S: I never really thought too much about it. At the time that we made that album it was still KMFDM. But then we released it at MDFMK for the aforementioned reasons. We stuck close by KMFDM, but not too close. And then Universal fucked it all up. And at that point, it was just like, "So much for that." People were just like, "Come on, man. Youíre still doing it, youíre just calling it MDFMK. Just give it a little push, turn it back around, be KMFDM again. Fuck the guys that left." I got hundreds, if not thousands of emails just like that. Finally, I got my head around and said thereís enough water gone by under the bridge to make a bold move and be KMFDM again.
NW: Well, I definitely think the new disc WWIII is so focused and aggressive,... I was talking to a friend the other day about how CDs and music videos that are coming out remind us of the Reagan era. Everyone is so pissed off about politics, and theyíre stepping up to say so.
S: Yeah, Iím glad people are that way.
NW: When you were writing this album, was that feeling just something that you couldnít get away from?
S: Definitely. I donít want to think about it, but I have to all the time. That type of relationship between the news and us. Whatís interesting in that context is that Iíve spoken to many, many, many journalists in the last few days and weeks about this new album, and their reaction is very divided. Everybody loves the album, but they're divided as far as European journalists saying this is another darn angry KMFDM album; they donít really dwell on the, "Itís so overtly political," aspect, whereas American journalists go, "Wow, this is so overtly political. I never realized that KMFDM is so outspoken and explicit." And all I can say is, "Look, this is why we have an explicit sticker on it." Itís not more political than before, itís just that you guys here in this country are becoming more politicized. More keen and aware of whatís going on. That seems to be the biggest change. So, in other words, KMFDM hasnít really done anything drastically different from before, but it seems the times, events, and the openness is slowly coming around and honing onto our course.
NW: Everyone here is definitely more focused on it; you canít avoid it. KMFDM has always been outspoken. I remember the spoken word piece on XTORT.
S: Yes, "Dogma".
NW: Every time I heard "Dogma" Iíd get goosebumps.
S: Thatís pretty good. I just heard it again recently, and the actuality of it is so darn surprising right now.
NW: Itís scary.
S: Yes, it is.
NW: When you were getting so much bad press for the Columbine massacre--
S: There is no bad press, you know that?
NW: Thatís true. Did that creep into your writing process? Did you feel like you had to censor what you could say, or did you just keep doing what you have always done?
S: Well, the MDFMK track "Witch Hunt" definitely addressed that incident. My mind was just drifting off,.. that was the kind of thing that spawned "Witch Hunt".
NW: The band has been around since 1984?
S: Yeah. Weíll have a twentieth anniversary in February.
NW: Wow. Thatís a long time to keep a band moving along.
S: I know. It just doesnít feel all that long.
NW: Thatís good, though.
S: Yeah. Thereís more motivation, steam, and inspiration than back in the day, for sure.
NW: When you first started out, what bands made you want to make music?
S: Well, Iím a firm believer that the stuff you listen to in your early years is the stuff that leaves the biggest imprint on your mind. And, for me, that would be glam rock stuff like T. Rex, Slade, Alice Cooper, David Bowie, Roxy Music, later Frank Zappa, and then punk rock stuff. So that's the luggage I carry through my life.
NW: And do you find that you reference those bands in your music?
S: No. I donít reference them knowingly or consciously at all. I donít know,.. itís just music that somehow fills my head.
NW: And what about now? What CDs do you have in your collection that KMFDM fans would be shocked to know that you own?
S: Well, the one thing that I listen to constantly when Iím driving-- to the point that it drives everyone, PIG and Lucia, mad-- is Gun Club, which is early seminal punk. For the last month Iíve listened to nothing but Gun Club. The car is the only place where I really listen to music, and thatís been my constant companion for the past two or three months. Iím actually thinking about starting a side project with twangy guitars, that kind of thing. (laughs)
NW: (laughs) Not a tribute band?
S: No, not a tribute band. Just sort of inspired by that kind of early shit. Sort of Birthday Party-ish/Gun Club-ish kind of stuff.
NW: Cool. After being in KMFDM for 20 years what points really stick out in your mind as the high points?
S: The highlights in the life of KMFDM?
S: Geez,... A lot of the smaller, unimportant incidents really come to mind. One of the best moments was when we arrived in America for the first time. December 16th, I think, 1989. We were so damned surprised. For us, America was represented by TV shows like Dallas and Dynasty. So we came to Chicago and were put up in the Wax Trax! building. The next morning we opened our eyes and looked out, and it was totally snowed in-Ė it looked like a Third World country under a blanket of snow. There were no high-rise buildings anywhere; it looked completely the opposite of what we imagined it would look like. (laughs) It was really great! And we realized, "Wow. KMFDM is in America." Are we any better off by now? (laughs) And then the tour with Ministry was a huge eye-opener. We realized in Germany and Europe we had trouble selling 2,000 records for each one we put out. Whereas, with Wax Trax!, they told us theyíre selling 40, 50, 60,000 copies, you know? We were just like, "What? How come we didnít know this?" There were really bad times-- bad fighting going on, like every band I suppose. Ups and downs.
NW: Did that friction cause the rotating nature of the people who made up the band?
S: Yeah. When we came to Chicago it quickly became very apparent that this whole "industrial scene", as it was called, was sort of incestuous. Collaborations across the board were totally the norm, and that really inspired the open door policy even more. It was something we were already doing for a couple of years, so we must be on the right track.
NW: Yeah. Everyone was in everyone elseís bands back then.
S: Most definitely.
NW: As far as the other bands that were there at the beginning of the "industrial scene", what do you think of some of the other godfathers of industrial? Like Skinny Puppy?
S: Skinny Puppy,.. that was something that was totally unbeknownst to us until we ended up with Wax Trax! I canít say I ever really latched onto that kind of stuff. To me, it was always drony, buzzy, noisy indistinct stuff. Thatís not to say itís not good. Iíve actually just recently listened to some Skinny Puppy, and I was surprised because I liked it. Stuff that Iíve never really paid much attention to or liked before.
NW: How about Ministry in comparison?
S: When we were invited to open for Ministry on the 1990 tour, we went to a record store in Hamburg and bought the Ministry album With Sympathy, one of their early, pre-industrial synth-pop albums.
S: So, we listened to that and were like, "Wow. Weíre going to open for a band that sounds like this, huh? How bizarre." So we toned down our set a little bit. Just took all the really rowdy and wild stuff out of it, and had an almost pop band kind of set. And then we came to Chicago and went to the first rehearsal with Ministry. It was Paul Barker, two drummers, three guitarists, and it was just like, "Oh my fucking God!" (laughs)
S: "Is this the same Ministry that put out With Sympathy?" So we just started over and played our normal set.
NW: Yeah. I was surprised when I went into their back catalogue and came across that one.
S: Yeah. Then it was The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste. Unfortunately, we met them right at their peak point. Everything Iíve seen after that has never really held that much water.
NW: How about Einsturzende Neubauten?
S: Theyíre good old friends from almost the very beginning. Iíve worked for many years with Marc Chung, the original bass player, in a publishing firm that he founded in Germany. I was sort of his secondhand man. Blixa (Bargeld) and I go back to early '80s Berlin times-- just swearing at each other, throwing bottles around, doing drugs together. Good band-- fucking great! Same thing though, with the departure of F.M. Einheit and Marc Chung; the whole thing kind of collapsed a bit in on itself. Which doesnít necessarily mean they couldnít win it back. Blixa is one of the most talented people alive in the world today.
NW: You also toured with My Life With The Thrill Kill Cult, right?
S: Yeah. They were label mates. That was a relationship that was rivalrous in a way, but also really friendly. When we arrived in Chicago we were put up in Buzz McCoyís (My Lifeís keyboardist/vocalist) apartment, and we had an instant "in" with those guys. They had a couple of really good albums in '89 and '90, but after "Cooler than Jesus" and that stuff it all sort of collapsed. I think theyíre still around though.
NW: Yeah. I just saw them this past Spring with Pigface.
S: Well, theyíve degenerated into one of those invisible, tag-along kind of bands, unfortunately. Not invisible but "Invisible"-- the label. One of those nameless, faceless entities.
NW: And how do you feel about Nine Inch Nails, Marilyn Manson, and those types of bands?
S: When "Head Like A Hole" came out, it was a love/hate relationship. I thought the album was really lame and really fucking good at the same time. At the time it felt like, "Alright, heís picking up everyoneís throwaways, and heís actually making a fucking killing out of it." I think I really saw his talent more on the following things, on Broken and that kind of stuff. I bought The Fragile when it came out, which was, what, 2000? I gave it a couple of listens, but never picked it up again. In fact, I havenít picked up a Nine Inch Nails CD ever since then. Thereís no incentive for me to listen to it because, in memory, it all molds into the same kind of stuff. Itís basically one song, but a very good song. (laughs)
NW: Marilyn Manson? Do you enjoy his stuff?
S: Marilyn Manson, to me, is as silly as Alice Cooper, but not as novel because Alice just stole the show.
NW: So you guys are headed off on tour now. How long is the tour?
S: That will be starting in three weeks, and weíll be going for six weeks. We start on October 17th in Seattle, and we'll be back in Seattle on November 25th.
NW: Are you going to tour overseas as well?
S: Yeah. The main incentive for signing with Sanctuary was the decision that we want to get one leg firmly planted on European soil in the next year, and Sanctuary will be the vehicle to facilitate that.
NW: Will you still live here in America?
S: I donít think so. I think my days are numbered here.
NW: What makes you think that?
S: Iím just sort of longing to move back to Europe-Ė my old stomping grounds.
NW: Has Americaís novelty worn off for you, or is it just the political climate?
S: Itís a little bit of everything. I mean, I totally love it here. Itís hard to imagine relocation, because all my friends over the last 14 years are basically here. But I think in the long run I will have to. Itís calling.
NW: How do you think that will affect KMFDM? Generally, you guys would send tapes back and forth and add onto the songs that way, right?
S: Well, not so much on this album. For WWIII, the whole band relocated to Seattle, with the exception of Raymond (Watts), and we just got him over here. So there wasnít much mail on this one, which was probably a good thing. I think the proximity to each other facilitated the onslaught. There is nothing concrete going on. I couldnít tell you in March of next year Iím moving back to Europe. But I think that in the next five years or so, something like that could potentially happen. There is nothing really eminent or looming. Itís just a long-run thing.
NW: And once you wrap up the tour?
S: Once we wrap up the U.S. tour, thereís the potential to go play a couple shows in Russia this December. As of early Spring, once the ice and snow is gone, weíre definitely going to be touring in Europe.
NW: Sounds great. To wrap up, I have one final question that we always ask everyone we interview: do you think dogs have lips?
S: Do dogs have lips? (long pause) Fuck, I donít know, do they? I donít know. I havenít looked at dogs for a while. Iíll check it out, though, and Iíll let you know. (laughs) What kind of question is that?
NW: It just started as a debate with the staffÖ
S: What kind of answers do you get?
NW: Some people say yes, some say no, some people think they just have jowls,.. we just ask to see where everybody stands.
S: Pretty strange. But then again, youíre called tastes like chicken,.. that makes everything relative.
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