Sep 2015 19

With his first solo album in over two decades, En Esch’s SPÄNK might just be one of 2015’s best albums; ReGen had the singular honor of speaking with the legendary electro/industrial figure on the album’s production and what audiences can expect from him next!
 
En Esch

 

An InterView with En Esch

By Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x)

What can be said about En Esch that hasn’t already been said? A renowned producer and performer, honing his skills as a vocalist and multi-instrumentalist since the early ’80, his list of credits has seen him become one of the legendary figures in the underground electro/industrial music scene. He was a core member of KMFDM throughout the band’s tenure during the WaxTrax! era of the ’80s and ’90s. He has appeared on nearly every Pigface release, playing a prominent role in the industrial collective’s first and last albums, 1990’s Gub and 2009’s 6, respectively. With his former KMFDM band mate, guitarist Günter Schulz, he started Slick Idiot, taking their eclectic and sexually-driven techno/rock stylings around the world. He has collaborated with Mona Mur on three albums, including one with legendary noisemaker and sonic deconstructionist F.M. Einheit. He has remixed the likes of More Machine Than Man, Chemlab, I:Scintilla, Girls Under Glass, Project.44, and many others, while lending his vocals to The Fragile Path, Angelspit, and Hardwire. Suffice to say, the man has an impressive resume under his belt; it’s no wonder he is one of the most revered figures in modern music. In late 2014, he embarked on a new chapter in his creative legacy with a PledgeMusic campaign to fund his first solo album in over two decades – reaching 115% of its intended goal, SPÄNK was then signed to Jim Semonik’s Distortion Productions, becoming one of 2015’s most exciting and electrified releases, featuring numerous guest musicians like Tim Skold, MMTM’s Rob and Tasha, a remix/cover of GoFight’s “Give the People What They Want,” and appearances by his Slick Idiot compatriots, Erica Dilanjian, Trixie Reiss, and Günter Schulz. The subsequent tour took him around the United States, sharing the stage with fellow electro/industrial upstarts Ghostfeeder, as well as one-off performances with Chicago’s GoFight, Baltimore’s White Shadow, Canada’s Adaptive Reaction, and numerous others. ReGen Magazine recently had the singular honor of speaking with the man on his music over the years, the success of his crowdfunding campaign, and just how much the recording industry has changed and what the future holds for it and for his music.

 

You ran a pretty successful PledgeMusic campaign for SPÄNK, and then went on tour for the album. How pleased are you with how the whole process of crowdfunding your album and tour went?

Esch: Yeah, it’s okay. At the moment, I’m just laying low and trying to overlook the whole process. In the long run, if you don’t have a real label, you need to put money into promotion; promoters nowadays are not promoters as they were in the old-school ways. They’re more like your friends that are helping out so they can see you in their town. The next time, I’m going to try to gain some money to put more into promotion, because that’s the only chance you have – you have to replace the record label like it was in the old days with yourself.
Yeah, I made something like 115% of the PledgeMusic goal, and a lot of that money went into printing T-shirts, applying for the VISA, and that alone took something like $2,500 because you have to verify that you’re an important person in this country. (Laughter) I mean, you decide… I’m just a lazy fucking bum from Germany.

You’d funded the album and then released it digitally, but then went with Jim Semonik’s Distortion Productions for the CD release. How did that come about?

Esch: Well, he is a friend and I’d known him before when he booked us in Pittsburgh with Slick Idiot. He had told me that he has the same distribution that Metropolis has, but he’s not a big label. He’d told me that he had a small label, so it was a favor to him and a favor to me, so it worked out well.

Do you think you’ll be going the crowdfunding route for the next album?

Esch: Oh yeah, I think I need to do that again, but next time, I’ll probably spend the money less on my VISA because it was only good for a couple of years anyway. I guess I have a green card, but I spent so much time in Germany as a good citizen that I may just give it back. (Laughter)
But I may use PledgeMusic again or perhaps another platform, and the other reason is of course to gain some money to fill up more promotion and look for a strong label. As well, I hope to get more people to write about the shows, about the acts coming into town, write about the music, and get people talking about it. It’s very important to get the public interested.

This was your first solo album in 22 years, and you had numerous guests that you worked with. What was different about making this album from how you did things in the past?

Esch: It’s not really that different – it’s actually always the same, you know? You have a certain connection of different compositions that you work on and that you want to work on further, certain ideas for certain songs, and that sort of thing. I’m very pleased especially with the songs I did with Trixie, because that was something I’d been working on with her before; I like this kind of coming back to old ideas that I never finished, and there are other tracks I’ve worked on with her that I hope to continue working on. The last thing I did with her was ‘Daydreams’ from Sucksess. I’ve always thought that my music is a little timeless – it’s not much different from how I’ve always done things, so it could be 15-years-old or 20-years-old, and it’s still the same kind of cool. Maybe I’ll make it more modern, but usually, with a song like ‘Daydreams’ or the songs on SPÄNK, they are more or less 85% older material that we get to make better and complete later.

It’s interesting because it does seem like certain songs – particularly ‘Slickalicious’ – are holdovers from Slick Idiot. What’s the current status of Slick Idiot? Is the band still active?

Esch: I just saw Günter in Vancouver, and saw his new child; he’s a father, and he has a load of other things he does. He likes to do more jamming kind of music, and he doesn’t like to play with the computers so much – he wants more to get rid of the techno thing that I like so much. I don’t want to go on stage and jam out; I rather like to have a more mechanical structure, so we’ve just gone to do other things, but we are still friends. I think there might be something in the future. I want to put out a sort of Slick Idiot ‘best of,’ and maybe put out a few things that were not released or not appreciated. I wouldn’t mind doing another Pigface thing – the Pigface days were really cool, but that’s really up to Martin.

(Enter Mona Mur)

Mur: I’d like to join, actually! There needs to be some good female talent in with this thing, and I’ve been watching these concerts that people have been posting on YouTube, and it’s really good stuff, man. It’s like an industrial Grateful Dead. The concert was like an hour, and the encore and extras was two hours. So yeah, call me up because I’d like to do this.

Esch: You know, more and more people come to me and ask me if a KMFDM reunion will happen; of course, they mean a reunion between me and Sascha, but who knows?

You did some shows on the tour with GoFight and you did a cover of ‘Give the People What They Want’ on SPÄNK. What was it about that song that you decided to cover it?

Esch: Well, I kind of liked it. The reason I covered it was that I had actually worked on it a few years; they were supposed to do a remix album that hadn’t happened, and I was supposed to remix it. In other words, my cover version of their song was originally supposed to be a remix, and that was in 2012. Of course, I had missed the deadline because I got sidetracked, as so often happens, but then I don’t think they did the remix album anyway. I simply took the remix that I had worked on already and decided to make it a total cover song, so that was pretty easy to do. Plus, I like Jim Marcus a lot; we had worked together on a bunch of stuff, especially on those Pigface albums. It was good to play with him on those shows and do the remix/cover version; it was great fun!

What is next for you? Will there be another solo album in the near future?

Esch: Yes, I’m working on one. Of course, every record that you do is your baby and has its own reason to exist. What will the next record be? It can’t be the same record over and over; that doesn’t make sense. But when I was working on SPÄNK, I had so many tracks that I thought I would need to put out a triple album. So who knows? I will be working on the next batch of songs and will hopefully put out another CD, and it will also include Günter and Erica again, and maybe I’ll get Skold on there again. We’ll have to see.

You’d also done two albums with Mona Mur (three if you include the one with F.M. Einheit, Terre Haute). Are there plans to do another Mona Mur/En Esch album?

Esch: The problem is if you’re only one person with four different projects, you can’t really handle that. I did SPÄNK in a similar way as Do with Me What You Want, and as I said, every album is like giving birth to a child. It’s not easy to do a lot of things parallel, but I think we have decided to do a digital release, and there were some remixes that never got to see the light of day from 120 Tage because there were some mistakes with the label; he’s a good friend of ours, so that’s not a big deal. But there are some things on the backburner, and I think if anything does come out, it will probably be an EP with some of those remixes and other songs… maybe. It’s similar with Slick Idiot; there are some things that I want to release, and the contract with Cleopatra Records is pretty much over, but I do have to talk to my lawyers about that. It’s sometimes hard to nail down all of those contracts.

It does seem like artists have to be even more involved in the business side of things than they used to be; how do you feel that has worked out for you, personally?

Esch: I feel like I’m getting lame again, but in the long run, it is getting a little annoying because you want to concentrate on the music. I think it is too much to expect anybody to be an artist and a musician at the same time. It’s too hard; I’d rather not give a shit and concentrate more on my music rather than thinking about, ‘Oh, how am I going to promote this?’ and all of that shit. I have to spend some money and the money has to come from somewhere. I am planning to put out another solo record and then I’ll have to put some money into promotion and hire the people to do that; normally, that would be the job of the record company, but who knows? It’s all going to end up on Spotify anyway, and then nobody will make any money. It’s going to be old men and Top 40 cover bands doing Rihanna kind of music. It just seems like there won’t be anybody making real music except for amateur acts. It doesn’t make sense to have 10,000 streams and getting only like $0.10 for that. It doesn’t make sense.

Do you feel like anything can or should be done to change that?

Esch: I don’t know, man. Renew your fucking contracts is all I can say. BMI, ASCAP, and all of those companies basically sought out the artists and now, it’s like it’s just a file on your computer and with it’s just out there in the air, like a spiritual thing or a Mohammed, you know? So what are you so worried about? But in that case, I don’t get any money for it. By their thinking, they just think that it’s mechanically in my computer – it’s just a file, and you can’t touch it or earn money for it. Apple Music promises better rates, but even if it’s double, it’s still shit! They’re not giving people a future. Maybe it’s good for smaller bands, but in the long run, you can’t live on that anymore, and so you have to work and have a day job. If you’re an artist and nothing else, you walk around and whatever you see every day, or hear every day, or the people that you talk to… all of that goes into your songs. But if you’re working your ass off, and have restricted time at night, and then you have to go to band rehearsal, then there’s no time to create some shit. Just play your instrument and play some Top 40 hits, and those bands make the most money anyway. They make more money than the real bands! Get me a DJ; I don’t need a fucking band! What is this crap?! So, the days of being artsy-fartsy and being able to live on it is over. Unless you’re a classical composer and you get all of the big money, because that’s what happens – here in Germany, they are spoiled. Classical people are given more money because they call that ‘serious music,’ compared to the pop music; that’s just entertainment, so they get less fore being ‘superficial’ or some shit!
Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s going to change. People like me, Mona, Skold, and even Sascha… we’re going to vanish. There won’t be this subculture or class anymore; it will only be Top 10 and nothing else. Anybody will be artist, but nobody will make any money – as a profession, it will disappear. It won’t be seen as a business, but as your own individual hobby. I’m sure they’ll have an animated pop star soon, like a cartoon Rihanna or something.

 

En Esch
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