A quarter of a century in action, and the sleazy disco funk and industrial rock of My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult still runs strong. Founders Buzz McCoy and Groovie Mann speak to ReGen about what it’s like to be beyond and back!
An InterView with Buzz McCoy and Groovie Mann of My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult
By: Ilker Yücel
If one were to imagine the audio/musical equivalent of an exploitation film chock full of every form of debauchery known to humanity, the results would undoubtedly sound akin to the industrialized funk rock assault of My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult. TKK, as they are affectionately known, has for 25 years been paving a singular musical path, led by the core duo of Buzz McCoy and Groovie Mann. Incorporating sounds as diverse as industrial rock, lounge, psychedelic house and sleazy disco, the band has never strayed from the controversies of the rock & roll lifestyle, be it for their renowned excesses off the stage or their continued use of pornographic and occult imagery and movie samples that stretch the limits of blasphemy. As part of the late ‘80s WaxTrax! Records era, Thrill Kill Kult’s 1990 album Confessions of a Knife… remains one of the most seminal releases in underground music history, elevating the band to legendary status. Now embarking on the Back from Beyond! tour with rising iPunk stars Left Spine Down in celebration of their 252th anniversary, My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult’s ringleaders speak to ReGen about the band’s legacy and future, the reciprocal influence of and on the new generation of industrial music, and just how little things have changed in a quarter of a century.
TKK will not only be performing a variety of hits, but also tracks from Bomb Gang Girlz – featuring a cast of backing singers for TKK, produced by Buzz McCoy. While the two projects are clearly connected, in what ways does BGG differ from TKK and how do those differences between the two bands complement each other in the live setting?
McCoy: If you look at any of our album art, you’ll see every CD is credited as performed by Thrill Kill Kult & The Bomb Gang Girlz. They’re pretty much the same.
Mann: The difference with the BGGs is that they are chick songs inspired and written with that in mind. Until the girls decide to do a tour on their own, it’s just one big bubble bomb of fun!
TKK’s most recent release was Sinister Whisperz, celebrating the WaxTrax! years. Are there plans to continue the series with a Volume 2 with the post-WaxTrax! material?
McCoy: I’m sure there will be one day. It takes a lot of work to resurrect some of that old stuff. Many of those samples and loops are long gone, lost on old media formats. A lot has to be recreated – which can be fun, if you’re in the right head space to do it.
Mann: Possibly down the road. Right now, we’re working towards writing a new long player.
As record labels seem to come and go, especially in the underground music scene, and as you started SleazeBox Records, what are your thoughts on the way artists have taken to starting their own labels and releasing music independently in this day and age?
McCoy: I think it’s cool. I wish such things were available to me back when I was just starting to write music and form bands. There was no Internet to use for promotion. Today, if you’re web-savvy and smart, the ways to promote and market yourself seem almost endless…who needs a label? But it also seems like a lot of work, too.
Mann: Good luck and have fun, don’t expect a lot to happen unless you work for it. Love what you do and do it for the art of it – not to become the next rock star or meet chicks! Duh. If you like to work and believe in what you create, go for it – but don’t expect to make a million bucks.
The band has gone through numerous lineup changes, with Buzz and Groovie always being the consistent creative core. Now featuring drummer Justin Thyme, bassist Mimi Star, and guitarist Westin Halvorson, tell us about the current lineup and how it came together. In what ways does their playing style differ and add to the material as it was performed by past members?
McCoy: We’ve got a very talented group of musicians surrounding us now. There have been plenty members of TKK who, I must say, were not hired for their technical playing abilities, but rather more for their personality or whatever other reason, which is awesome in its own right. I wouldn’t have had it any other way. The Kult doesn’t discriminate against those who can’t play their instruments, or sing for that matter! It’s more about attitude and style. It’s extra cool right now, because everyone in the band has both!
Mann: Justin has been our drummer for over 10 years and is an amazing drummer, as well as writer, programmer and producer. Mimi’s been with us about 2 years, bringing brilliance to the stage with her bass power and attitude. Westin spices up the guitar licks and holds up the stage for us all. Each one has their own unique style.
You’re sharing the stage also with Left Spine Down, who are very much on the rise in today’s scene. As you have been a touring band for 25 years now and have shared the stage with many up-and-coming bands, what have you noticed about the newer generation of musicians in the industrial/rock genre?
McCoy: I really can’t say that I’ve noticed anything really new in the current generation of bands. I’m one of those believers that everything has already been done…until something new comes along! I see a lot of elements from the past seeping into today’s music – from punk-esque Sex Pistols attitude to melodic New Wave synths. There are aggro hardcore guitars and noisy industrial drumming. It’s all there, just new versions, regurgitated and reworked. It’s great!
Mann: I prefer the happy, fun, almost parody bands in industrial music; though I like the dark, moody junk. I find a lot of the new bands too desperate and tired – being all mean and scary. Dated.
In what ways do you feel that they are or are not taking after the TKK example? Similarly, in what ways are you are learning from them?
McCoy: TKK is about exploration, change, experimentation, escapism and having a sense of humor about life. So if those elements are present, then they’re following in our footsteps. I will never understand bands that have one sound, one formula and stick to it album after album. I can’t say I’ve learned anything new from them.
Mann: We stand on our own. I don’t deal with comparisons. I actually don’t think about that stuff. I focus on our life, with our music being part of it. We make it for us and share it with whom we love and who love us back. We have never tried to please.
As stated, you’ve been around for 25 years and have performed numerous tours while helping to usher in the early industrial/rock sound. What would you say has been the most consistent challenge in putting on a live show?
McCoy: Keeping it fresh each year, trying new material, approaching each tour differently, new characters, new sets. Sometimes it’s the rock tour, or sometimes it’s the disco show, or the ‘We’re all too fucked up to function, but we’re going to kill it anyway’ tour. We always make each tour a new adventure. Don’t ever get complacent. Keep it energized…because both you and your fans will get tired of it fast if you don’t.
Mann: It’s always a challenge to keep everything on schedule, so we can eat and have enough time to prepare for the show; that there is advertising, and loaders and working bathrooms, and some H2O, and the PA is working properly. Oh yeah, and a rider is nice if the club hasn’t marked it off the contract. Boo!
What aspects of performing live have gotten easier and more difficult?
McCoy: I guess it is a little easier remembering lyrics these days, especially after singing some of the same songs for 25 years, but that’s about it! I think everything else is pretty much the same. We always try our utmost to put on the best show we can possibly do. I do think we stay more focused now and make sure it sounds the best it can, but that’s not difficult. It’s just a little more time-consuming, paying attention more to all the details. That wasn’t always true, especially regarding the very early touring years, but those shows were special in other ways…
Mann: It’s not any easier. It’s really the same. The performance has to be good, always! Even with technical glitches – you learn to ignore them. Yes, the show must go on. Positivity makes it glow.
With the Back from Beyond! tour, what is TKK doing differently – either technically or stylistically?
McCoy: We are going through our catalog and pulling songs from every album to make it a well-rounded evening of TKK music. We won’t be playing a lot from one era or from one particular CD, which is usually the case on previous tours, because we’re usually out promoting a new release. This year we’re just celebrating 25 years of music and still being alive to do what we do.
Mann: We have incorporated songs we like and songs our fans love. We have made a set list that will flow through the various styles and moods of TKK. It’s like a live movie shown once, each time we play. We are here, in the now…back from beyond!