Sascha Konietzko (vocals) of KMFDM
KMFDM is one of the most pioneering, not to mention well-known Industrial bands out there, their new album ‘WTF’ is about to be released and Reflections of Darkness had a great opportunity to ask Sascha Konietzko about it and more...
Reflections of Darkness (RoD): You have been on the Industrial scene for so long, what is your perspective on how it’s changed over the years?
Sascha Konietzko (Sascha K): Since I never considered myself as being a part of any scene whatsoever, I haven’t really paid much attention to how these things change, evolve or de-evolve. As KMFDM I have always done what I wanted to do, pursued objectives and strategies that were important to me and to the cause of furthering the band. Trends and fads come and go, so do bands and labels. KMFDM has recently marked our 27th anniversary, and I firmly believe part of the reasons for its’ longevity is the absence of going with the flow, in fact KMFDM has often moved against the grain and been uncompromising and almost stoic in crucial aspects and decisions that were made over the years. The result is something nearly impossible to categorize, it is not fitting into any of the common drawers of genres, and my personal favourite observation in all of this is that nobody ever says “KMFDM are just ok”. It’s either they love it or they absolutely hate it.
RoD: What was behind the driving forces behind you writing the material for your newest ‘WTF?!’ album?
Sascha K: It is almost a self-dictating process, the previous album (to whatever new album) was released some time ago, touring was done and before you really know it, it is time to start recording again. Ideas get piled up and pressure builds and finally the steam gets released in the process of actual creation. I am the quintessential ‘Germaniac’, all the drive and inspiration comes from within. Since I am very focused on what I am working on, and I am never out of work, I also live a rather isolated life, there’s no idea in my head of what’s cool, new, modern….what people listen to these days…what the newest trend is… how to dress fashionably… etc.
And it works just that way: on tour you live excessively, faster than real life, you suck it all in and ride the bomb, so to speak, and after the touring is done, you spit it all back out in the studio, however, it has undergone a process of digestion in the meantime, and that is the motivational momentum for me. This album, unlike most KMFDM album before it, has been a struggle, coming-to behold what current KMFDM really is. On WTF?!, everything that could have been planned, went through a grinder, was then re-constituted and went through a whole process of re-birthing yet once again. In the past I've spent 6, 7, 8 or even nine months on making an album.... WTF?! took a whole 14 months from start to end. There's not a lyric, there's not a hook, not a rhythm, a beginning, ending nor a gimmick on this album, that wasn't re-situated, re-thought or re-done, at least once. The working title of the album was an ever-changing conundrum. Finally, when sequencing the order of songs, things that had seemingly been established for months, were thrown overboard. Nothing stayed as it was conceived.
There’s no “main theme” behind WTF?!. As with all KMFDM albums it is not a rock-opera or something to that extent, but a “snapshot” of what KMFDM is / was all about during the timeframe in which the album was created. Once the new material gets worked into the live-set, this “snapshot” becomes the actual reality, as it transforms itself and transcends throughout (at least) a touring cycle and, over time becomes a firm part of KMFDM, as the band “grows” with every album and finds new facets of expression.
RoD: You’ve spoken against an organised religion say for example on this album in ‘Vive La Mort!’. Can you please elaborate on your views even further? What was it like living in America where religion has a stronger grip than in most parts of Europe, especially in the way it’s pushing its way in controlling politics over there?
Sascha K: Organized religion, regardless of its flavour, is the root of all evil (no pun intended!) that’s happening in the world. Throughout the history of somewhat modern mankind, whether in the form of crusades, the inquisition or what have you, it has wreaked havoc on humans and has effectively stunted growth and freedom, liberty and open-mindedness. In my nearly 20 years in the US I have experienced a particularly evil manifestation of it as you mention; the inter-twining of religion and politics there is only topped by some fundamentalist-islamist states. I believe that every person should be encouraged to believe whatever it is they want to, but that this is not worn on the outside. I guess we all have to learn a lot more about being tolerant and free-spirited in the way we deal with one another as the inhabitants of this planet.
RoD: You’ve also released ‘Rebels in Kontrol’ in support of Wikileaks, what are your opinions regarding the issues that the site has raised and the powers-that-be’s reaction to it? What is your opinion on censorship per se?
Sascha K: I loved it! What a fantastic coup-de-grace to the secretive behind-the-scenes bullshit. We had no idea about any of it, but I think it is important that the public got to know these things, because now this will set in motion a whole lot of change and things will certainly have to be done quite differently from here on. Whether to the better or worse remains to be seen, of course… censorship is (almost) always a tool for the ones in power to retain and extend the same.
RoD: In ‘Tohuvabohu’ you’ve welcomed involvement of the fans - in using the samples of their calling in, is something like this (though probably not the same) still something you might do in future?
Sascha K: We’ve done a few things along the lines of audience-participation in the past, there was for instance the FAN-KAM project we did on tours in 2004 as well as in 2009, where pre-selected audience members were equipped with video cameras and shot a KMFDM from their very own perspective. Then all of the clips would be compiled on a website (fankam.com). I definitely have some ideas cooking in order to expand the aspects of a participating audience, perhaps something will become realized very soon, where fans of KMFDM not only document the content we present, but even partake in the creation of actual content. I find these strategies very interesting, I know that if I were an avid fan of a band that would do stuff like this, I’d be all over it.
From the very beginning of KMFDM I found the relationship between myself and the people that come to our shows and buy our records fascinating. For the most part, artists take it for granted that there’s an audience, but that is not so automatically. Some artist even despise their audiences, exuding “rockstar” allures and arrogant elitist behaviour toward the very people that throw money at them. We have always treated our audiences very respectfully, they are the people that enable KMFDM to move forward.
RoD: Your album covers have been mostly created by the same visual artist; did you have continuity and unity of vision in mind by not choosing different artists/styles for your covers?
Sascha K: Like many things that developed over time and at some point were taken for granted and had become staples of KMFDM, the choice of using BRUTE! Art for our covers was initially purely coincidental. Over time I realized that we had inadvertently created a BRAND, a recognizable entity. And that of course, is priceless conceptual continuity.
RoD: Although you’ve mentioned that you prefer the physical music releases to the intangible electronic ones, where do you see the advantages to these sweeping new trends?
Sascha K: The only real advantage would be that the production costs for CD’s, booklets or even vinyl-pressing fall away. It’s an economical-only factor, and as such has little bearing on my way of seeing these new developments thru an artists’ eye. Even though it is possible to read books and newspapers electronically, or listen to music that has been compressed into tiny data files, I do not personally partake in these options. To me, reading a book or a paper is a tangible, a haptic thing, I enjoy the smell of a new book. I like to remove the plastic from a new record and read thru the liner notes which I hold in my hands whilst the first track comes on. These experiences to me are sort of luxurious , something I do not get out of listening to an mp3 blasting out of tiny earphones or staring at an electronic device displaying the wonderful prose of one of my favourite writers… Call me old-fashioned!
RoD: You’ve described your creative process as a collection from scraps and scribbles of (musical and lyrical) ideas that you accumulate along the way, are you familiar with William S. Burroughs & Brion Gysin’s method of a cut-up (for example Genesis P-ORRIDGE, DAVID BOWIE and RADIOHEAD and few others utilised it as well)? How it creates what he calls ‘Third Mind’... Do some songs surprise you with things that were previously hidden from yourself too; do the collage and a mirror of your music bring surprising new reflections?
Sascha K: I am familiar with the technique called cut-up/fold-in but not a great fan of it that may be the reason I don’t care much nor neither Radiohead, Burroughs or P-Orridge ;-)
RoD: In what kind of film would you like your music to be featured as its soundtrack, either one that exists already or one that you’d envision for it?
Sascha K: I like films, movies quite a lot. But I am not decided on whether I prefer dark, moody ones or the more action-packed fare. I would certainly be able to create music to a film, but for music that exists already it would only be possible to “fit in” somewhere in a scene of a movie that calls for that or this type of background, and that’s a task I am glad I don’t have to occupy myself with ;-) But surely there are many KMFDM tracks that would work well and we often license our music out in order to be synchronized in films and videogames.
RoD: Are you busy with plans and ideas for the next album?
Sascha K: No, the new album is coming out by the end of April and I am currently very involved in all of the promotional activities that accompany each release, such as email-interview like this one right here, in-person interviews, phoners etc. and of course, let’s not forget, I am planning the upcoming live shows in order to present WTF?! to our audiences.
RoD: What are you planning for your upcoming tours?
Sascha K: I have put together a compact tour of North-America which will happen in August, and a somewhat large European tour with many dates in France, which will be a first for us. The European dates will happen from mid-October to mid-November.
RoD: What would you like to say to your fans and listeners?
Sascha K: Since the new KMFDM album ‘WTF?!’ went into mass-production in January of this year, I haven’t been idle. I started my very first solo-project entitled OK•ZTEIN•OK and will be releasing the first mini-album on April 26th, 2011. If you want to get your hands onto one out of the limited run of 1,000 copies, you can get it only exclusively from the http://www.kmfdmstore.com/, no other outlet will carry this item. There aren’t many left though… Enjoy!
RoD: Thank you very much for answering these questions!