Sep 2019 30

After 35 years and 21 albums, the Ultra Heavy Beat remains on a strong upward trajectory; KMFDM continues to rip the system, encouraging audiences to live with no regret, don’t look back, and find your destiny, with Sascha Konietzko speaking with ReGen about the new album and the band’s continuing evolution.
 

 

An InterView with Sascha “Käpt’n K” Konietzko of KMFDM

By Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x)

For three-and-a-half decades, Sascha Konietzko has guided KMFDM to become one of the longest enduring and consistently driving entities in modern music. Never adhering strictly to the parameters of industrial music, and constantly finding new ways to incorporate elements of metal, varying electronic forms, punk, funk, dub/reggae, and whatever else strikes the group’s fancy, the Ultra Heavy Beat has stood in a class all its own for 35 years, with 2019 marking the release of KMFDM’s twenty-first album, PARADISE. Wrought with the band’s signature blend of musical styles and topped off by aggressive lyrics that observe the sociopolitical zeitgeist and beckon the listener to take a stand against oppression and ignorance, PARADISE is a harsh indictment of a world overrun by assholes and steadily being destroyed by the corruption of a political elite that must be derailed. It’s a record that holds true to KMFDM’s philosophy of living without regret, finding your destiny, and fighting for a better future. On the day of the album’s highly anticipated release, Käpt’n K himself took the time to speak with ReGen Magazine about the evolution of KMFDM’s creative process to culminate in this latest outing, complete with some words about guitarist Andee Blacksugar (Black Sugar Transmission) and returning member Raymond Watts (<PIG>), the musical partnership between himself and Lucia Cifarelli, and his response to the critical and disparaging voices that are ultimately rendered mute against the continuing onslaught of the Ultra Heavy Beat’s success and loyal fan base.

 


 

PARADISE is the first studio release to feature guitarist Andee Blacksugar, who toured with you in the U.S. in 2017 after Lord of the Lost had to pull out. Would you tell us about how you feel his guitar playing and musical style have enhanced the sound of KMFDM on the new album?

Konietzko: Andee is very open to all kinds of experimentation, input, and critique; plus, he’s a fantabulously skilled player, left handed on top of everything else! From the moment the three of us initially met with him, we felt he’s a kindred soul, and since then, we all get along like a house on fire.

This is also the first album to feature Raymond Watts since 2003’s WWIII. I’d asked him in a recent InterView about how that came to be; can we get your perspective on his contribution to the song ‘Binge Boil & Blow,’ and what you feel was different about this particular song versus some of the past work you’ve done with him?

Konietzko: 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. In the past, we often sat in a studio, working on something together, while this was done in a modular fashion – I sent him the track and he wrote and recorded his vocals and returned it to me.

 

 

You’re seemingly in no shortage of musical and lyrical ideas, and the interplay between you and Lucia on vocals has become a defining characteristic of KMFDM since she joined. Would you give us some insight into the songwriting process, how the two of you work ideas off of each other and especially how you work out the vocal approach for each song – i.e. who will sing which part, writing lyrics, etc.?

Konietzko: Once I have worked up a basic track idea, I’ll play it around the house for a bit; perhaps Lucia will latch on to it and then it’s in her hands, or she’ll say that I should give it a try. She’s very prolific and constantly writes lyrics and comes up with melodies, has ideas about arrangements and parts. Generally speaking, what she writes she also performs, but she often writes parts specifically for me. It differs from time to time, but it’s imperative to understand that she’s much, much more than being a mere vocalist – we’re equal creators of KMFDM’s content.

 

 

What can you tell us about the songwriting process for you on the production side of things, how you continue to utilize technology and instrumentation in a way that keeps you inspired? Have there been any changes in your approach on the new album that you feel profoundly affected the sound of KMFDM that helps PARADISE to stand out in your discography?

Konietzko: I am always on the prowl to learn things like mixing and production techniques. I am an avid student of all things studio, tech-talk, and such. My current setup is streamlined, no distractions, just a good work flow. Some days, i start up the rig and after a half hour, I realize there’s nothing really
happening, so then I’ll focus on chores and things. Other days, I can hardly move fast enough to capture ideas and I get really excited, heart pumping, brain throbbing, excitement rises, and hot shit gets nailed… I prefer the latter days.
Each album to me seems like a screenshot of where I… where we are in and on the timeline. The approach never changes profoundly; just the mood and the temperature.

Although the dub and reggae influences have never been far from KMFDM’s palette, they have seemed more pronounced on Hell Yeah and especially on PARADISE on the title track and ‘No God,’ and you did talk before about Don Letts spinning reggae at the Roxy in London, and other connections between punk and reggae and the deep imprint it has left on you. This might sound a bit philosophical, but what is it about this particular musical style that you feel resonates most strongly with the themes of social and political dissent?

Konietzko: I first perked my ears to this musical style on a rainy Saturday afternoon in 1969. I had a reel-to-reel tape machine and recorded the U.K. hit parade off the radio and made my first ‘mixtape’ that way. The Harry J Allstars’ ‘The Liquidator’ came on and I was instantly hooked; then U-Roy, I-Roy, Dennis Alcapone, later Bob Marley & The Wailers. At that point in time, reggae was all about social issues, revolution, ‘Get Up – Stand Up’ stuff. A few years later, I discovered that there was an apparent proximity between punk and reggae – perhaps that had something to do with the skinhead/punk thing and ska music; not sure, not trying to write a thesis here.
Anyways, reggae and dub are some of my earliest musical influences and if I ever put on music while having a BBQ with friends in the backyard, it’ll be just that.
*Pssst* Check out Hollie Cook’s ‘Tiger Balm’ – fun fact, she’s the daughter of Sex Pistols’ Paul Cook.

 

 

Perhaps this is due to the greater visibility afforded to us by the internet and people having open forums to say whatever they want, but I have noticed what feels like an increase in the response of ‘keep your politics out of the music’ toward bands like you and MINISTRY; I’m sure you’ve heard that multiple times over the years, and it does feel like ‘No Regret’ is aimed specifically at the ‘haters’ and trolls who ‘got you wrong’ and think they know you. Having been making music for 35 years, do you feel there is a greater disconnect between what people read into your music and lyrics vs. your intent, or is it all part of the art and allowing people to draw their own interpretations?

Konietzko: I think that KMFDM’s lyrics speak for themselves; whether Lucia writes something or I do, it’s straight up and we don’t have to explain ourselves any further. As they say, ‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,’ so is music in the ear of the listener. What you make of it is your choice! And if you don’t want politics in music, then we recommend the Archies’ ‘Sugar, Sugar.’

‘Megalomaniac’ remains one of KMFDM’s most recognized and beloved anthems, and after 22 years, you’ve given the song a whole new treatment with ‘Megalo.’ While it’s not a new thing for you to reuse lyrics and create new versions of older songs, what motivated the creation of this new take on what could be called a modern classic?

Konietzko: It took on a life of its own. As the track came together over time, I kept finding myself humming the words and melody of ‘Megalomaniac’ each time I worked on it.

The one question I’ve seen asked over-and-over since the announcement of the release of PARADISE… ‘Will there be a U.S. tour?’ and many have noted you stating once that KMFDM would not tour the U.S. again as long as the current president was in office. Not to put you on the spot, but… can we get an official word from the Käpt’n on this?

Konietzko: I am watching the beginning impeachment inquiry live on TV as I write this.
Okay, seriously… yes, plans to do a tour in July 2020 are being solidified as we speak. Be afraid… be very afraid!

There is always a constant resistance to change and progress, even among fans of KMFDM who continually dismiss or even denigrate newer albums simply because of the absence of older members. Of course, KMFDM isn’t the only band to deal with this – any band with changes in lineup over many years seem to face it, but KMFDM continues to progress, evolve, and flourish with each new release, gaining new fans each time. On top of that, you all don’t seem to age visibly (bloody vampires, the lot of you!). To what would you attribute the longevity of KMFDM over the years; what do you feel has kept the Ultra Heavy Beat relevant across three-and-a-half decades?

Konietzko: We’re still hungry. We keep growing as humans and as artists. we never rest on laurels; the way is the goal. We have a blast doing what we’re doing – we’re quite serious about it, but do not take ourselves all that serious.
We experiment, push the boundaries, and most of all, we’re having fun. We’re not stuck in a mold; we are free to do what we like to. The label ‘industrial’ never stuck to us; we are so much more than just that. And the proof is in the pudding. We experience a constant influx of new, young fans that may have heard about us just last week, but today, they own half of all of our albums already; they’ve caught the virus, they’ve become instantaneously obsessed with this juggernaut. When we look at our audiences, regardless of where we are, we see people ranging in age from something like 12-70, parents that bring their kids along, kids that bring their parents along. There must be some appeal to what we do in order to explain this phenomenon.
Another important thing that has kept us alive for some laughable 35 years by now, is the fact that we actually care for the people that support us, come to our shows and buy our music and our merch. We are open to talk, to take selfies, and to just hang out. We don’t charge our fans extra money for VIP tickets – i.e. hastily arranged meet & greets, taking money from people in order to spend a brief and awkward moment in the same air that we breathe, when they can do it just the same, but for free. We’re ‘normal,’ approachable, and communicative, and they know that!
As for the first part of your question, I can understand nostalgia as much as the next guy. No doubt, something I heard a long time ago may still have a certain effect on me. I connect memories and times with certain music, like we probably all do. In that sense, there naturally exist marginalized groups of fans, whether from the days of yore that feel strongly anchored to some specific period in time they see as ‘the shining moment’ in the history of our band – be it the early years, be it the mid ’90s, or in reverse, there are people that like only what we’ve done past 2001, that feel utter disconnect to the earlier stuff.
Whenever a lineup changes, conclusions are being drawn, new elements are being viewed suspiciously, and yes, some fans become ‘former’ fans… in some instances, perhaps because of misconceptions of what former members may have contributed or not, and whether they were integral to the band’s creative process or not, and so on and so forth. That can all be as it may; it’s perfectly normal and it simply is a byproduct of ‘change.’ KMFDM has always ticked the same way. The inception of each and every single one of the 200+ songs has always started with me, then I’d farm it out to whomever of my choosing in order do their part, whether it be a vocal, a live drum track, or whatever else. KMFDM has never been a ‘band’ in the sense of some people ‘jamming’ in some rehearsal space. It’s always been a tight run ship with not much left to coincidence. Ultimately, any listener must decide whether he/she dismisses an ever evolving musical entity due to eventual departures in tastes, or whether a change in lineup justifies to categorically denigrate our newer material. Either way works for us.

Can you give us any word on how the new OK•ZTEIN•OK material is progressing, and if there are any other non-KMFDM projects or collaborations being considered or in the works?

Konietzko: OK•ZTEIN•OK is slowly maturing, ever mutating, getting freakier each time I am spending time working on it, so please stay tuned. Meanwhile, I am doing a number of work-for-hire projects that will keep me busy into 2020 (and put food on the table).

We’d once spoken about when KMFDM moved to Sanctuary Records for WWIII and then came back to Metropolis, and now you had a stint with earMusic before coming back to Metropolis yet again. As you’ve seen how different record labels are functioning in the current state of the industry, and have had some experience with your own KMFDM Records in the past, what are your thoughts on the current state of the industry; not necessarily from the big money side of things, but just in terms of the current models by which art/music and business must coexist? At the very least how it pertains to KMFDM?

Konietzko: We’re making music. We leave the selling of it to people that should be qualified to do just that. It’s not easy to make a decent income from music, touring, and merchandise. I don’t see us retiring anytime soon! As for the state of the industry, I’d have no idea. I have a family and things that really interest me, and that precludes other people’s music and problems.

 

 

KMFDM
Website, Webstore, Facebook, Twitter, SoundCloud, Bandcamp, YouTube
Metropolis Records
Website Website, Facebook, Twitter, Bandcamp, YouTube

 

Photography by…
Bobby Talamine, courtesy of Bobby Talamine Photography
Kirk Edward Mitchell, courtesy of K. Edward Mitchell Photography, Int’l.
Howard Gaines, courtesy of Howard Gaines Photography
Photos provided by KMFDM

 

1 Comment

  1. Great interview and read. 🤘🖤🤘

    I don’t see myself getting off the KMFDM train anytime soon, remaining #1 on my list of musical interests since 1995.

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