Memory Lane: KMFDM

Whatever the rumours regarding the acronym KMFDM are, there’s certainly no denying that KMFDM write the catchiest, funkiest, coolest, most enjoyable industrial music in the world. Every song bounces along with glorious aplomb, filled with wry humour and scream-along choruses – not to mention bucketloads of raw funk. EN ESCH explains how…

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En Esch: KMFDM have been doing records since ’84 but been putting out records since ’85 or ’86. Coincidentally I moved from Frankfurt to Hamburg and moved into an apartment where Sascha moved out so we found ourselves. Back then, I was a drummer, he was a bass player. We did some p-funk shows and jammed along, in a very George Clinton vibe. The rhythm would go on and on in a funky disco feeling, the groove doesn’t stop, and it was in 1985, the first time we had a little drum machine.

We ran into Raymond Watts, who had a small studio setup in Hamburg. He had the first sampler and he would sing a little, and Sascha would sing a little. Raymond decided to move on – he never felt too much involved, like he should be a permanent member and stuff. Sascha and I went on stage, just the two of us – sampler, keyboard and sequencer. In 1989, Gunter joined us, who was called Svet Am on earlier records – they are the same person.

Sascha Koneitzko and Gunter Schultz are the other two core members of KMFDM. Although Sascha is considered to be the only full-time member of the band, En Esch has been in KMFDM for pretty much full duration of its fifteen-year history. Sascha is sweet-looking and unimposing with a ready smile and easy manner. He and Gunter explain about the band’s problems with WaxTrax (see Raymond Watts interview) and fill us in on the gossip of the day.

En Esch is scary. He’s a very scary man. He’s about six and a half feet tall with a shaved head, huge piercing blue eyes and high cheekbones. He looks like Terry Pratchett’s Death (or Lurch, take your pick!) and has a tendency to go onstage wearing nothing but a short leather skirt and combat boots. He doesn’t blink very often, just stares and intones quietly in a thick German accent – even his laugh is scary. Still, he’s happy to explain how his name morphed from Klaus Schandelmaier to En Esh:

Esch: My nickname is Nick – because of Klaus. Niklaus, so it was Nicky, Nick… My mother called me Nick. So it was ‘n’ for Nick and ‘Ssssccchhhhandelmaier”. Nick Esch. En Esch. We made it up really fast and I decided to stick with it. There was already a Daniel Ash, so it was a pun thing.

KMFDM started releasing albums on WaxTrax in the mid-1980s and by the 1990s had become one of the most popular and influential industrial bands on the planet. Two albums – Xtort and Nihil – brought the band to wide attention. A single from NihilJuke Joint Jezebel – was included on a couple of film soundtracks, notably Mortal Kombat. The resulting exposure ensured that KMFDM earned the popularity that they deserved, throughout Europe and America (though sadly not the UK).

The band have produced ten albums in just under fifteen years, and En Esch refutes any suggestion of motivation problems with the year-on-year schedule of album-writing and touring. He says he enjoys it, but in 1989, he got itchy feet: “It was after the Ministry tour in 1989, 1990… On the Ministry tour there was Bill Rieflin and Martin Atkins playing drums. They started up a band and decided to call it Pigface because Martin’s first school band was called Pigface.”

Pigface are the “industrial supergroup” put together by Killing Joke’s Martin Atkins. It has, over a history of nearly ten years, brought together well over 100 members – from John Lydon to Trent Reznor to David Yow to Marc Heal.

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(I’m Still Alive feat. En Esch & Ogre)

Esch: Back then I had a horrible accident in Chicago, jumping out of a window to escape a fire. So I came out of the hospital on crutches after two weeks of intensive care and when straight into a studio to record the first Pigface song. I went on tour, we did a full-on gig in Trenton. After that tour I was involved in the next big tour, we toured Europe and played London – like, 75 gigs in that tour. After that, we recorded some more material. It was a nice record and I liked it a lot, but I got into a really big argument with Martin Atkins about mixing the record and he didn’t want me to come to the mixing sessions. I had a certain idea about the whole thing but at the end of the day, he treated me bad and I never got any serious money out of it so I decided not to do it anymore. It was a waste of time. I had a good time and I met interesting people like Mary Byker (now in Apollo 440) and Andrew Weiss. At the time it was very good but unfortunately it is not possible any more.

The music Esch made with Pigface has many of the elements that KMFDM has – either raw metallic rage (Alles Ist Mein) or pure funk (I’m Still Alive). The p-funk origins of KMFDM show through in most of their songs – there is always a definite groove thang going on…

Esch: It was always meant to be danceable and funky. I was a drummer in the first place, so it was meant to be a dance-floor thing. I remember in 1986 ultra-heavy beat bands and stuff like that. I still like that in a certain way.

Esch has been drumming practically from the womb…

Esch: I was always drumming. I used to drum on the f***ing table – I gave my parents a hard time. They eventually started freaking out like, why are you drumming on the table the whole time? I was four years old. They had a hard time, because they were trying to watch TV. I had to wait a little longer before I could buy drumsticks. I bought drums when I was thirteen. I didn’t think about it, I bought the drums because I was drumming all the time anyway. I started being in bands when I was 18 or 19, where I was singing. Then I was in a serious drumming role playing jazz-rock and some really fast punk rock shit. Then I gave up drumming because I wanted to be the singer.

Esch cites British acts such as Adrian Sherwood, Tackhead, African Headcharge, DAF and glam rock as the primary influences on KMFDM. Although he has worked with many of the coolest people in music, Esch says that the person he would most like to work with is Pete Murphy:

Esch: I tried to work with Peter Murphy but I never really got in touch with him too well. I’d like to, and I like his attitude, but his music is a little… irregular.

Many suggestions have been made about the meaning of “KMFDM” – Kylie Minogue Fans Don’t Masturbate; Kill Mother F***king Depeche Mode; Kind Men Feeding Dainty Mice…
In fact, it’s actually the German for “no sympathy for the majority”. Harsh sentiments indeed, but the lyrics of KMFDM’s songs are a diverse range reflecting the musings of liberal left-of-centre idealists. “We shall use all peaceful means to overcome tyranny” urges Terror, whilst Dogma is a blistering attack on the corruption and greed of America (“We’re so broke we can’t even pay attention”). Many of the other songs are about sex, violence or even pure nonsense (Juke Joint Jezebel) – or simply about how “hard” KMFDM are (Power, Megalomaniac)…

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NSFW

Esch: There are some lyrics on KMFDM songs that aren’t really serious, like on Sucks where we mention that KMFDM is harder or faster or whatever. Then on the other hand, there’s other lyrics that have more depth. Sascha mainly writes all the KMFDM-are-better lyrics. Because he likes this kind of way, like old-skool hip-hop. A lot of it is about fun, but part of it – mostly more influenced by me – are trying to be more subtle and “what’s holding us all back”. On the one hand is Sascha and the other is me. On Xtort I didn’t really work too hard. During Xtort I decided not to work on KMFDM stuff, trying to find knowledge and working on a solo album. I’m not really on Xtort but I play little solos…

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Note: I’m not really sure whether the interview ends there or whether the page just got cut off somehow, but that’s the end of what I have on file. I did the interview when they played with Pig at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire, probably some time around ’98 or so.

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5 comments on “Memory Lane: KMFDM

  1. Pingback: Memory Lane: Raymond Watts « Reinspired

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