The Ultra Heavy Beat carries on through insurmountable odds and unwavering determination, as KMFDM stands poised to release the band’s 22nd studio album and embark on a new North American tour.
An InterView with Sascha “Käpt’n K” Konietzko of KMFDM
By Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x)
The pandemic seems to be tapering off, though it isn’t entirely over yet – people are still being afflicted, and restrictions seem to be coming and going with the tide. On top of that, you’ve had quite a number of personal tragedies over the past couple of years, losing family members and friends/past band members. So, my question is… how are you? How’s the family, how’s your health?
Konietzko: Yes, I lost two brothers, my mother, and (estranged) father kind of beat-by-beat in less than two years. The death of my younger brother was extremely challenging; we were close. My health is good, and I intend to keep it that way. We will be very cautious on our upcoming tour in that regard and as much as it pains us, we shall limit our interactions with people outside the tour crew to an absolute minimum in order to avoid COVID infections. The several past years have been hard financially, and seeing the tour go down would mean bankruptcy for me.
HYËNA moves at a rather brisk pace and while still 11 tracks, is shorter than the past several KMFDM albums; ‘Blindface’ might actually be KMFDM’s shortest track (outside of intros/outros/interludes). Was this intentional at all, or was there simply a sense of urgency to the songwriting and production that you and the band felt necessitated or at least resulted in the shorter runtime?
Fans like to talk about what guests will be on a KMFDM album, and while HYËNA brings back some members of the family like Jules, Ocelot, and Bruce Breckenfeld, as well as Kumar Bent and Sissy Misfit. Tell us about how you first encountered and got Sissy Misfit to take part in the new album?
Konietzko: Sissy Misfit I became acquainted with when I was asked to do a remix for a project then-based out of Istanbul. I was heavily impressed by Sissy’s vocal performance in that song I remixed and asked to please collaborate with me on a KMFDM song. I then tailor-made a track and sent it off. Then I got the vocal files back, and I was like, ‘Nailed it!’ The three-or-so-minute guitar solo in that track always puts me in a sort of trance, like music by CAN or NEU.
KMFDM has always welcomed international voices and musical styles. I believe I’d asked this once before, so at the risk of repeating myself… are there any languages and/or styles yet you’d like to find a way to incorporate into KMFDM’s sonic or musical vocabulary?
Konietzko: I’ll deal with that when the time comes. I’m always open for influences, new directions, and experimentation.
We’d spoken in the past couple of InterViews about dub music and its influence on you and KMFDM, and now the new album ends with ‘In Dub We Trust,’ the lyrics of which are taken from ‘Trust’ off of NIHIL. What motivated you to revisit those lyrics in the new song? What are your thoughts behind them now vs. when you first wrote them?
Similarly, did Kumar Bent’s performance and the way he sang those words cause you to further reevaluate their meaning and power?
Konietzko: A dear friend of mine had introduced to the Jamaican band Raging Fyah, which I enjoyed very much, and the idea snuck into my head to contact their (now) former lead singer Kumar Bent. Simultaneously, another friend and I talked about the lyrics to ‘Trust’ and what an empowering and emboldening effect the song had on his life at the time that song was initially released in 1995. So, the idea to approach Kumar with the lyrics from ‘Trust’ formed. We hit it off right away and he did a recording of the words accompanied by very sparse instrumentation, just a few drums and piano.
Once I had his vocals in my studio, I began fleshing out the song in a few different directions, but decided on a rather traditional reggae style, which wasn’t necessarily my initial intention, but felt ultimately most fitting Kumar’s performance. What really surprised me in the end was that one and the same set of lyrics can turn into two completely different songs, each standing up on their own. Next, I’ll ask Andee (Blacksugar) to do a ‘campfire’ version with an acoustic guitar… yeah, right.
You’d recently released the 1991 APART album as it was originally intended before it eventually turned into MONEY. You’ve played some of those songs on tour over the years, and some of those versions had found their way onto singles/compilations/rarity releases, but as an album, did you find that your perceptions of it had changed since it was first submitted to WaxTrax!?
I’d recently watched an interview with John Lodge (bassist for The Moody Blues), and he’d said something interesting about the U.K., that it tends to follow the U.S. (referring to the COVID restrictions and such, but also in the broader sense), which seems a telling statement regarding the power that this country has held over the world.
On top of that, you and I had talked a bit about hope for the current administration to make some positive strides, but the pushback seems really strong (I hate to say that even I fell into that Kafka-esque ‘this can’t happen here’ disbelief when Roe vs. Wade got overturned).
In your observations, do you feel there is now an imperative for the world to stop following the example of the U.S.?
You’d said in our last InterView that you foresaw no touring until ’22, and that’s come to pass. As well, the European dates with Jesus on Extasy had to get pushed back to next year. While this question might be better for after the tour, planning a tour is still no easy prospect. What sorts of difficulties did you anticipate occurring in the wake of the pandemic when you planned for the North American tour? Did any arise that you weren’t expecting?
Konietzko: Yes, pretty much all of them. Chaos with the airlines, rising fuel costs making road travel nearly unaffordable, where shipping items from A to B used to comparatively cheap, it’s now a major expense, lax or no COVID regulations at all, I’ve heard from many tours that stalled because people, bandmembers, and crew got too sick to continue and needed to be left behind. It’s a fucking hour scenario. Let’s hope we make it all the way through!
Live photography by Tabetha Patton (MizTabby), courtesy of KMFDM and ReGen Magazine