For The St. Petersburg Times
KMFDM ready in combat mode for their upcoming gig at club PORT.
KMFDM, the intense U.S.-based industrial band, who describes its style as "ultraheavy beat," brings its most recent album, "WWIII," to St. Petersburg and promises a really special event, when it performs at club PORT on Friday.
The band was formed in Paris by Sascha Konietzko and German painter and multi-media-performer, Udo Sturm, in February 1984.
"At first, it was more of an art project, a sort of a soundtrack to art exhibitions and things like that," said Konietzko about the beginnings of the band, which released its first album, "What Do You Know, Deutschland," in 1986.
"We started, at a pretty early point, combining machine beats, electronic sounds and heavy metal guitar, with politically charged lyrics - not stuff about misery and love, but all about anger and political protest, dissatisfaction with political systems, because we figured out communism doesn't work, capitalism doesn't work, democracy doesn't work, so the driving question behind the early KMFDM stuff was: what actually works?
According to Konietzko, KMFDM has never seen itself as a German band. "We never felt like a German band, we've always been a very international mixture of people: our singer was from Indonesia, our drummer was half-Japanese. It was more than a local German band, it was an international force."
Konietzko, who was born in Hamburg in 1961, attributes his Slavic-sounding name to possibly Ukrainian roots. "I think, originally my family came from the Ukraine," he says.
From his early years, Konietzko was surrounded by music and musical instruments due to his parents' musical interests.
"My father is a marine biologist. In the 1950s he worked in Africa as a marine biologist for the Royal Belgian Zoological Society. While in Africa, with a tape machine, he recorded native music, and he exhibited those recordings at ethnic festivals in Germany and all over Europe in the early 1960s. He was interested in all kinds of archaic native musical instruments, African drums.
"My entire life I was always exposed to exotic instruments around the house. I started building my first guitar when I was eight years old, and I made the pickup out of an old headphone system, so that was how I got interested in music. Not so much in playing an instrument, because till today I can't pick up a guitar and play a song, I can't just join a band and jam. I am not a musician per se."
Since Konietzko was 11, he played drums and bass with a band at school. "Later I became interested in electronic music, in industrial music, music that was not using conventional instruments," he said.
"So the early KMFDM instruments were vaccuum cleaners, distortion pedals, little synthesizer boxes and early drum machines. We were very good friends with Einsturzende Neubauten. It was very inspiring to just do noise and have fun." Though the band's name is often transcribed as "Kill Motherfucking Depeche Mode," its origins do not have anything to do with the British pop band.
"The real definition for KMFDM is a German acronim for 'Kein Mehrheit fur die Mitleid,' which has 'Mehrheit' and 'Mitleid' flipped," said Konietzko.
"It should be "Kein Mitleid fur die Mehrheit' [No Pity for the Majority], we just flipped it because it was the way to do it at that time, and we abbreviated it to KMFDM.
"And when we came to the U.S., people were asking what does that mean, and we had to explain, 'It is German, it's not quite correct, and people were just scratching their heads, 'Aha...,' like 'O kay...' So we just need to say something more snappy. So we said, 'OK, it's Kill Motherfucking Depeche Mode, "
"It was definitely a protest against the state of music at all times, and that's still the case today. It didn't really have anything to do with us hitting Depeche Mode."
Deprived of any noticeable success in Germany, KMFDM moved from Hamburg to the U.S. in 1991. "Everything was against us, we had no luck at all, we had no record label, we had no money at all, we had no success," said Konietzko.
"But we had licensed our music to WAX TRAX! in Chicago, that was popular at that time for electronic music. From Front 242 to Ministry, all kinds of good bands were signed to that label.
"And they were selling KMFDM records in the U.S. and they said, 'It's doing very well, you have to come over here and promote your stuff. Why don't you go on tour with Ministry? So we came over here, and suddenly we realized that there were 25,000 to 40,000 people that would buy our music, and compared to Germany, where there were maybe 200 or 300, you know, it seemed very natural and logical to stay here and work as long as it worked out."
Released last September, the band's most recent album deals with the current political situation in the world.
"KMFDM is a work of concept, everything is based on each other," said Konietzko.
"Frank Zappa coined the term 'conceptual continuity,' and this is exactly what KMFDM is doing in its own way.
"WWIII" was preceded by an album called 'ATTAK.' Is was incidentally around the time when the attack on the United States occured, and the reaction to this attack was clearly the opening strokes for World War III, so what do we have going on right now? World War III. Here we are!"
Though critical of President George W. Bush, Konietzko insisted that "WWIII" is not anti-Bush.
"It's not an anti-Bush record per se, it's an anti-stupidity record," he says.
"The opening track, 'WWIII'" says it all. KMFDM is waging war against everything. Against every government, against all religions, against everything that organizes people into a stupid mass of nothing. If we had a message, it would be: Think for Yourself and Don't Believe the Bullshit."
KMFDM plays at 7 p.m. at PORT on Friday. Links: www.kmfdm.net