"In hindsight, honestly, it's almost impossible how it all happened." Sascha Konietzko, founder of the industrial noise collective known as KMFDM, still expresses disbelief at the way that his bizarre project has been able to captivate and endure as a three-decades-and-counting global industrial force. "It has been a series of coincidences and sheer luck, really," he explains from his Hamburg home.
If your tastes ran industrial in the early-to-late'90s, then KMFDM were just what the doctor ordered: they had the buzzsaw sheen that one expected from the genre's leaders, but also a playfulness and a knack for mixing sonic assault, psychedelic insanity, and a catchy hook into a piece of agitprop buffoonery. How many of us, against our better judgment, spent the late '90s humming "Drug Against War" in our head in a mental lockgroove?
"Sloganeering, Dadaism, expressing complete nonsense — that's what we were and are about," says Konietzko. "It has always set us apart from other bands who stoically and glumly go about their thing. We have a fun factor." Indeed: Kunst (Metropolis), the band's 18th album, released last month, is maybe their funniest and most self-aware record. Amidst the clipped guitar stomp and odes to Pussy Riot ("They have balls," says Konietzko) are inside meta-jokes, like the title-track's screamed chorus of "Kill Motherfucking Depeche Mode!," one of those "That's what their name stands for" fan theories turned into song.
"KMFDM are an art form, not a political party" is how Konietzko expressed the essence of the band's philosophy in a 1999 statement — one released under dire circumstances. At the time, the group were caught in a vortex of negative publicity following the release of their album Adios on April 20 — a day that two of their fans in Colorado decided to use as the date of their planned high school massacre. In the wake of Columbine, Konietzko and Co. found themselves the target of American wrath, with KMFDM lyrics appearing on Eric Harris's personal website. "I was entirely in love with America — until Columbine. A giant shitstorm came down on us and I thought 'Oh, oh oh oh, I see it now.' It isn't my fault if some deranged kids picked one sentence out of a song and built a manifesto. But that said, seeing one of those kids in pictures wearing a KMFDM hat was the crappiest feeling I've ever had."
KMFDM rebounded when they reformed the following year, and the steady stream of albums and tours has seen Konietzko put the late-'90s nadir behind and focus on the positive. "Everything can be misinterpreted, but the things that I want to put across in KMFDM — literally, freedom of speech, ideals like respect, our shared situation, etc. — these things are good."
KMFDM + LEGION WITHIN + CHANT :: Paradise Rock Club, 967 Comm Ave, Boston :: March 20 :: 7 pm :: 18+ :: $22 :: 617.562.8800 or thedise.com