Sascha Konietzko is often credited as one of the founders of industrial rock music, so what does the electronic pioneer think of recent trends like dubstep?
He simply doesn't.
“I know what dubstep is, but I cannot tell you that I've listened to anything thinking, 'Oh, so that's dubstep, huh?' I don't know. I'm living a little bit in my own world, and when I'm recording, I think it's really good to have a free head and not go, 'Oh yeah, I want to make this sound like modern dubstep, (or) dubsteppy,” he related with a laugh.
“I know my bandmates, they all f——-g hate dubstep. Maybe I'll buy some dubstep compilation when we're on the tour bus next week and play it up and down, up and down every day. See what happens.”
The 51-year-old German is just too busy as the frontman, founder, and only steady member of KMFDM, a hard-hitting cross between heavy metal and techno that's slated to play The Trocadero Theatre (1003 Arch St., Philadelphia) on March 19. While he has been dedicated to the innovative project for most of his life, Konietzko said he didn't initially pursue a career in music.
“I played in a band when I was like 12, 13 years old and was never very good. It was kind of disheartening. I went into photography and visual stuff and met these guys that were artists in the classic sense, painters and sculptors and whatnot, and they were always drunk and needed a driver, so I was their driver. One time, I drove them to Paris and I was just talking to them and they said, 'Oh, so you make sound stuff? Why don't you do a little sound to this installation that we're doing?' That was the day that we coined the name KMFDM,” Konietzko recalled, an initialism that roughly translates to “no pity for the majority.”
“I went around with those guys and made more performance things. Then I met a guy who ran a studio and I got interested in studio technology, and then that was that. About a year later, we had, I don't know, six or seven tracks recorded. And then I met a guy who had a label.”
After pressing 1,000 vinyl records he paid for out-of-pocket, he dropped off copies at every record label office in London; he soon received a call from someone who found it in a dumpster and was intrigued by the cover, a picture of the daughter of former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. After being licensed to Wax Trax! Records in Chicago, KMFDM grabbed the attention of Ministry singer Al Jourgensen, who asked the band to open for him in the United States, where KMFDM would develop its largest fanbase.
“I guess I never would have set foot on American soil if it hadn't been for Al, actually. Funny how that goes, huh?” Konietzko mused. “Had I said, 'Nah, I'm not interested,' or 'I don't know who Ministry is,' which I didn't, everything – my entire life – would have been completely different I'm sure.”
KMFDM has recorded 17 studio albums and dozens of singles and remixes since, the “backbone” of the group being Konietzko's own personal taste, only putting his name on music he would listen to himself and handling all the writing, recording, and mixing.
“I have a pretty high standard of how I feel things should sound. If I listen to the older stuff, it's very punk rock, which is definitely part of its charm, too, but everything has changed. Back in the day, I was working two to three day jobs just to get money to go into the studio, and now I'm sitting in a studio all day. But, I'm never bored,” he emphasized.
Turning down million-dollar deals that would have compromised his ideals, the man who fans call “Kšpt'n K” believes that art should be a reflection of reality, so his songs are often ripped from the headlines and never shy away from expressing his own political or personal beliefs, including those on his latest album, “Kunst.”
“A KMFDM album is like a snapshot. It shows what the band is up to in the timeframe that an album was made, and it is a reflection, really, of what happened in the world during that time as well because a lot of things that are happening in this world are just sort of finding their way somehow into these lyrics,” he explained.
“For instance, this one (new) song, 'Pussy Riot,' is a song of solidarity with the incarcerated members of (Russian punk rock group) Pussy Riot… Right around when they were sentenced to jail or hard labor camp, this Ukrainian female rights activity group FEMEN did this action where they felled this gigantic cross in downtown Kiev, and as they usually do, they did this without any tops on, so I saw this on YouTube and I called (KMFDM cover) artist Aidan 'Brute' (Hughes). I said, 'Aidan, this is the image that you have waited for your entire life.' And two days later, I had it in my mailbox. He was like, 'This is going to be your cover, and I was like, 'Oh OK, this is going to raise some eyebrows. Nice one.”
Facebook soon took the image down from KMFDM's profile page, but after 29 years of “conceptual continuity,” Konietzko isn't about to back down and compromise for anyone, though he stresses that he never takes his work too seriously.
“KMFDM is very serious about what KMFDM is doing, but KMFDM doesn't take itself serious. I think that probably is the way to describe it. When KMFDM is doing something, it's definitely done right and the full monty, but that doesn't mean that anyone or ourselves can't laugh about it because it's got to be funny. How can you be all super serious about this s—t?” he questioned.
“KMFDM is not going to take your values away from you – it just makes fun of them.”