Apr 2017 03

One of industrial music’s living legends, En Esch welcomes ReGen to his party and shows off his slick superfantastic style!
 
En Esch

 

An InterView with En Esch

By Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x)

There’s no questioning that En Esch is one of the most revered and most distinctive talents in modern industrial music. For over three decades, he’s brought his skills as a performer and producer to the masses as a member of KMFDM, Slick Idiot, and Pigface, virtually helping to define an entire generation of underground electro and industrial/rock; add to that his numerous guest appearances and remix and production credits, and it would be perhaps make more sense to ask who the man hasn’t worked with. In 2014, he successfully crowdfunded his first solo venture in 21 years, signing to Jim Semonik’s Distortion Productions imprint for the 2015 release of SPÄNK, followed by a tour of the U.S. with up-and-coming electro/rock sensation Ghostfeeder. As ever, his inimitable style blends the best elements of noisy industrial with danceable techno, augmented by a guitar approach that blends guttural riffs with manic solos, and topped off by his snarling voice that dances between a sleazy rasp and a sensual baritone croon. In 2016, he not only co-produced the latest PIG album, The Gospel, and appeared at the Pigface 25th Anniversary Show in Chicago, but he also released his latest solo effort. Trash Chic showcased an even greater experimental spirit while still staying true to the sound he has cultivated since his earliest days during the WaxTrax! era. Once again funded via PledgeMusic campaign, Trash Chic saw En Esch collaborating with his usual complement of musical miscreants, including Mona Mur, longtime Slick Idiot band mates Erica “Lady E” Dilanjian and Günter Schulz, Seattle industrial/rock duo More Machine Than Man, members of Promonium Jesters, Honest Marquee, and Vanity Beach, and at long last his fellow KMFDM alumni – the Lord of Lard, Raymond “PIG” Watts. Now, ReGen Magazine speaks with En Esch in the flesh, discussing the creation of his latest album, the political state of the world, man’s relationship with nature and animal life, and his future plans.

 

What was different about how you approached Trash Chic as opposed to SPÄNK? Was there a different or more experimental mindset?

Esch: Well, yeah, there was only a little bit of a different mindset, but it is also the same in my book. I just want to be an artist and I don’t want to have to think commercially at all. I’m like Prince without Warner Bros., so I can basically afford to do whatever I fucking like. When I’m giving birth to a track, then you start to think about if you have to think about putting an album together, you’ve got to have kind of a reservoir of a hundred little keys and cues and little ideas to just put together from whatever. I’m also a person who recycles, and I recycle from the public, so I can take something from a commercial for like a second and make a little loop out of it. I like to do shit like that, and then play on top of it; again, it’s kind of like Prince, because I like things to get a little funky too. I think it’s almost Beethoven-esque, but while he’ll have four of five movements, I’ve got something more like 15. (Laughter) It’s like being if you were an old school hippie in the old days, sitting in a dark room listening to Pink Floyd records. So, that was the idea behind this record, to have something that you would really take the time to listen to. It’s like how you would have to listen to the record of Beethoven’s 6th Symphony, and you have two sides to a vinyl record, and you’re listening to nothing else. If you play on your smartphone or whatever, I don’t think you get the same feeling. I wanted to achieve that and have an album that you could listen to from top to bottom all the way through… if you have the time, but who has the time anymore? (Laughter)

It did feel like there were movements to the album with the interlude tracks, like ‘Gendarmenmarkt’ and ‘The Long Haul,’ as if they were stopgaps or chapter breaks to create the flow.

Esch: Well, ‘Gendarmenmarkt’ is named after a square in Berlin. There’s a French dome and a German dome, and in the middle of it is an Opera House. I just went with Mona Mur to see our friend who is an opera singer, who is really famous in Germany, to see her perform. I just went there and the track was recorded from my cellphone, and it was just the end tone of the bell ringing in the French dome, and the last ‘bong’ is what I put on my sampler and played on my keyboard. I use a very low note at the end, and I’m sure if you listen back to it, you’ll hear some people talking – it might be me and Mona, but it might also be some tourists because Gendarmenmarkt is a public place that tourists go to, and it’s very architectural.

One thing I noticed on the track ‘Super Ego’ is that the vocal is the same as one you did for Harshrealm’s ‘Butterfly Effect.’

Esch: Oh yeah! For my part, I was not actually happy with that collaboration because I never received any kind of feedback from them, or even a copy of the CD. I never really knew what was going on with the credits or the publishing, and it wasn’t really handled correctly, and I didn’t like the track too much either. My vocals were buried in the mix that I’d heard. But yes, it was 10 years ago I believe. I would like to talk to them. Do you know what happened to them?

Yes, Harshrealm has had a lot of lineup changes, but Finn is still the head of the band and I believe a new album is in the works. But yes, you were credited on the album and Günter Schulz did a remix that was also featured on that album.
On that note, Günter Schulz appears on Trash Chic, but only plays on two songs – not as many as on SPÄNK – and you worked with him on PIG’s The Gospel. What can you tell us about your working relationship with him now?

Esch: I think that there would be more Slick Idiot if there was more of a demand for it and if a lot of people like it, but it is hard to tell. It’s still there, and it’s something that we did, a bunch of tracks that we still find exciting. I think that the next thing I’m going to do about that is a ‘Best Of’ for Slick Idiot, and I’ve thought a lot about that for years now; maybe a double CD or a double vinyl, or quadruple vinyl, or something. But yeah, we still work together, and we still like each other, but he does other things and we do PIG, so it’s okay.

Speaking of PIG, because I’d just mentioned that you are now in the live band and worked with Raymond on The Gospel, and he also appears on a couple of tracks on Trash Chic in which he sings in German. From what I understand, hasn’t he had difficulty with German?

Esch: Yes, he sings in German on ‘Alles Wird Gut (Der Kicker),’ but he also sings on ‘Sweet Lord,’ but I get what you’re saying. You have to see though that Raymond’s German does go way back. He used to live in Berlin, and he had to learn a lot of German then. But he’s not the guy who is just sucking it in; he’s not interested in learning a language if he really doesn’t have to. But he is interested in German, of course, so I picked something that would be easier for him to pronounce. Of course, like all the British people do, they speak German like they’re commanding Nazis, you know? (Laughter) But there is… not a feud, but something kind of like a nice competition between the British and the German people.

What was the dynamic like for you two, working on his album, and then he appearing on your album? Did that competition manifest in any way?

Esch: It’s all right. We are old friends and we go way back, and we’ve never had a problem. I met him for the first time in Hamburg when he had some fucking eight-track recorder or something. Raymond and I never had a problem when we were in KMFDM; there was a period when he’d skip out and then skip in. He never really wanted to be part of the crew; he liked to be by himself, and a lot of times, I wanted to be by myself also. But obviously, he’s one of the oldest KMFDM members from the early days, and he skips back in to have success with PIG and I have no problem working with him no matter what the band.

In terms of the production, was there any difference in how you approached this album from the last one? Were there any new production styles or any new tools that really came into play and affected how you did things? Or was it just business-as-usual and doing what you do?

Esch: I tried to have a close production on both records, and the bass drums sounds are pretty much the same; in my school of music, there is a sort of fashionable yea or nay, but I like certain sounds that I try to keep. But the only difference technically was that I used a few more keyboards from Arturia, and I used a bit of the Microbrute, because they all run on MIDI and I used them to trigger the MiniMoog and such. But yeah, of course, you have more experience after awhile, so you can learn from the old problems and it’s hard to tell because the way I produce is computer production and I used certain elements of dubstep. But yeah, there has always been the same ideology of using samples and making music out of whatever sounds you hear.

You mentioned dubstep, so is there any new music you’re hearing that is really exciting you?

Esch: It’s hard to tell. I don’t know, but everything sounds retro to me. Everything I hear just reminds me of something I’ve heard before in the past. There’s a chance, of course, that you’ll hear new things from the new technology – like in dubstep, it wouldn’t sound the way it does if not for things like Massive or Native Instruments stuff; without that, it wouldn’t be the same, so a lot of it is in the technology. But without that, I don’t know. Everybody wants to be old school, and I’m already old school, and I live in a different world. Everybody’s trying to be funky, and it gets on my nerves. People think I’m part of Front 242 or something; nothing against Front 242, but they were putting out albums back in like 1978 with four-track recorders and things like that.

Do you ever miss the old ways?

Esch: Well, in those days, I was doing it myself – editing analog tape by hand and splicing tape; I did that myself, and I did that on Cheesy and the older KMFDM stuff in the ’80s and even in the ’90s. So… I don’t know. I like working with computers now, I’ll say it like that.

Both SPÄNK and Trash Chic were funded via PledgeMusic campaigns with extra proceeds going to fighting animal cruelty and animal testing, and Trash Chic was dedicated to Benni. Tell us about Benni.

Esch: Benni is a dog, a dachshund that I picked up from the shelter. He was to be put to sleep, and I saved him so that he lived another 10 months.

What are your thoughts and/or hopes for man to have a better relationship with nature and animal life in the future?

Esch: It’s possible, but in this moment, the biggest problem is obviously the mass production and all the mass animal farming. I don’t eat meat, and I definitely feel that… and I know people who say that animals should have citizenship rights. Why should an animal be owned? They own me.

I say the same thing to my cats.

Esch: Yeah, why don’t we just open the door and let them go? And if they come back, then there you go. But even with chickens; I think the U.S. consumes too many chickens. They kill so many chickens every day and they’re fed in the same building where they are killed, just like in a factory line. And even now that the environmentalists have figured it out, we just keep on slaughtering animals to eat them. And it’s the same thing with water, like what you have going on with the pipelines and such on the Indian reservoir, but the pipelines were already built and just waiting for someone like Trump to come in and make those last connections.

And now that we’re talking about politics, people tend to still remember you as a member of KMFDM, whose music has always been very political. Your own music is a little more personal, and not devoid of politics…

Esch: Well, if you listen to certain tracks on this album, it does get political. Look at ‘Sweet Lord’ or ‘Live and Let Live,’ and even a song like ‘Super Ego’ could totally be about Trump. ‘Sucker,’ ‘The Bullet Fires In One Direction,’ and ‘Terrorist’ are also examples. I think it’s relatively political, and you can see some political shit in there. I think that the relationship with animals that you mentioned is the same as the relationship with the government, or the country, or in all circumstances, and that when you write lyrics, sometimes different ideas can go together, just like in a poem. So, I think it’s relatively political, but not completely in-your-face.

I like that.

Esch: So, let me ask you, what is your job? What do you do when you’re not doing ReGen?

I work in Government Relations database maintenance, maintaining a database of U.S. legislators and committees; I joke that I get paid to annoy the government.

Esch: Ah, sounds interesting. So you must be close to Washington, then. Everywhere is the same, and governments are all the same. Going to the post office is the worst; I remember when I lived in the U.S., it always seemed like there were more people lined up that there were accountants.

Oh, they do that on purpose.

Esch: Yeah. So, are you feeling at all Turkish? Do you follow Turkish politics, or are you not interested in that at all?

I maintain a limited interest in it; my parents are retired and they visit Türkiye regularly, and they managed to miss the attempted coup last year… they missed it by a day or so, and all I could say was, ‘You made it home just in time.’

Esch: It really seems like Erdoğan wants to take things back to a monarchy, right?

Let’s just say that my family is not particularly happy with Erdoğan right now.

Esch: Yeah, we have about three-million Turks in Germany, and some of them are pretty hardcore about it all. But the problem is that as a NATO country, there are the U.S. bases and there are German soldiers stationed as well, and it’s a big tricky thing. The western world seems to like Türkiye, and it is the bridge country to another culture, and it gives Trump the right to go and fuck shit up.

I try not to think too much about too much about it because it depresses me. I do, unfortunately, and I try to be informed and calm about it all, but it does seem like an insane situation.

Esch: Europeans seem to be very concerned about it for some fucking reason, and they are following it quite a lot. I like the idea that the media is declaring war on Trump, and if they can get everything together, then maybe something can be done. I mean, there obviously is fake news, but there was really fake news in the old days, all to entertain people and create all kinds of impressions. I don’t really want to think too much about it, of course, but I do like to talk about politics. Sometimes I think that politics are there to entertain people and give them something in the background and make people think that there will be a war with Korea or something.

We have a reality TV star for a President!

Esch: Yeah, politicians are kind of like well produced reality show stars. Even Reagan was an actor, right?

Orson Welles once said that politicians are actors, and working in Government Relations, I can tell you that so many of them are lawyers and businessmen.

Esch: It’s true! I mean, tell me what does a politician do? What does he really do, except give statements and try to give you the feeling that something is happening? What do they really do? Of course, that’s what your country is run by… Türkiye too… and Germany. (Laughter)

So, you’ve just done the PIG tour in the States and the one in the U.K. with Mortiis, and you toured for SPÄNK. Is there any possibility that you will tour for Trash Chic?

Esch: Oh, I don’t know yet. I have no plans for it, but I think that there will be a tour. I think that there is a chance that PIG will come back in the summer, but that’s assuming they actually let us in. (Laughter)

They’d better let you in! (Laughter) Muhammad Ali’s son and wife were detained recently.

Esch: Yeah, ‘Where did you get this fucking name,’ right? (Laughter) But yeah, it’s scary, but who let the dogs out, you know? And it’s the same thing with Erdoğan; it’s sick! It’s scary, and it’s the fascination for me that there are the small people working their asses off who don’t understand, and who seem to be desperate enough to look toward something wrong. Like, how does this supposed billionaire from Manhattan not pay taxes for 12 years, instead of this unemployed Bible belt steel worker? But you know… it is what it is.

Besides PIG and your solo work, which includes many friends as guests, you’ve had your projects with Mona Mur, and the one with her and F.M. Einheit. What other projects or music do you have going on that you can tell us about?

Esch: I just did some vocals for Project .44 in Chicago; I met Chris (Harris) again at the Pigface show in November. It was a great reunion of all those motherfuckers, and it was especially nice to see Mary Byker, and Greta from L7 and Moby. It was a great time! But that’s something else, and there is a chance of a PIG tour, and maybe even Pigface… how’s that for you, I’m a vegetarian and I’m in two bands with pigs in the name. (Laughter) I will definitely do another solo record in the near future, and I’ve already started working on that, and also a bunch of remixes.

On the subject of remixes, there’s the Leæther Strip remix of ‘Do Me’ on Trash Chic, and the Stoneburner remix of ‘12345.’ Is there a possibility of a remix album or something more extensive like that?

Esch: It’s a good idea, but it has to be organized and people would have to get paid. And you did a wonderful remix, and maybe I will use it… maybe on the next record, which will definitely have more danceable, simpler tracks. I’m always collecting little ideas every day, and things get put aside and years later will become part of a song. I’m a collector of those sorts of things, which always trigger something that I can make a full track out of. But it would be good to do a remix album in general, and one that would have songs from both records would be a really good idea, but I don’t know how I would organize that sort of thing.

Because it’s you, I’m sure anybody would be happy to do one for you.

Esch: Maybe you should organize it.

Why not talk to Jim Semonik? Distortion Productions does put your records out.

Esch: Yeah, he is already working with me, but he doesn’t tie me down. I can do whatever I like. He’s a good friend, and he also works with Claus with his Am Tierpark, so maybe that’s something to think about. Do you think it makes sense for Leæther Strip and En Esch to go on tour together?

Oh, absolutely, I think it would! A lot of people would enjoy that – musically, you’re both danceable, powerful, you both put on good shows, and you’re both sweethearts. I think a lot of people would respond well to that kind of tour.

Esch: I’m always thinking of things like that, and summer in the U.S. will likely be with PIG, but after that, I’m always trying to figure out what would go well.

 

En Esch
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Distortion Productions
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