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Bands break up for any number of reasons. The dissolution of a record label, having members jump ship, or simply contending with the difficulties inherent to remaining under the radar is often enough to cause a band to call it quits. But KMFDM has been through all this and then some and still marches on 20 years after the band's inception in 1984. As KMFDM prepares to head out on a tour marking this anniversary, Rock Star Journalism spoke with band founder Sascha K about KMFDM's history and what lies ahead for the pioneers of the ultra heavy beat.
Rock Star Journalism: You just got back from a series of dates in Europe. Were you satisfied with that tour?

Sascha K: Yeah, it was excellent. We played a couple of shows in Russia. Well, we started with a little warm-up trip up and down the west coast here, then we played in Moscow and St. Petersburg. And then we played a couple of shows in Germany and England, Switzerland, Holland and Belgium, and it was excellent.

RSJ: How long had it been since you toured overseas?

SK: Last time we were overseas was in '97 with Rammstein.

RSJ: What is the biggest change you saw in the European musical community since your last visit?

SK: They're kind of warming up slowly (laughs). It's definitely more susceptible audiences these days. It seems like Germany has kind of woken up out of this self-induced techno deep sleep that they were in throughout the '90s. There seems to be a lot of interest, and it's good to see people that have followed KMFDM for a long time over the years.

RSJ: You mentioned that you did a few west coast dates. On this tour, you took Black:Japan out with you. We know they got some mixed reactions; how did you feel about having them as your opening act?

SK: Well, I like them; that's why we brought them in the first place. We wouldn't bring anyone that we don't like. Naturally, audiences were not really prepared to deal with it all the time, and some people were quite confounded by it, but that's what new stuff is supposed to do. New and experimental art always needs to create reactions like that; I think it's very important. If everybody would have loved it, they would have probably killed themselves.

RSJ: Do you find what they do reminiscent of your early experimental work?

SK: It is more in the frame of mind that they're in, rather than the technological approach. Obviously it's 2004; you can have a buttload of equipment for next to nothing, and back in the day everything was really bulky and expensive. But, yeah, they do approach their stuff in a way that does remind me of the beginnings of KMFDM.

RSJ: Would you consider taking them out again?

SK: I would take them out with us again if the chance arose, but right now we're doing something that's a little bit bigger, and it will not be the suitable thing for them to do at this point.

RSJ: Who will be opening for the upcoming tour?

SK: That's not entirely 100% decided.

RSJ: This tour coincides with the 20th anniversary of the band. Do you have anything special planned for these shows?

SK: We will play a slightly amended set list that will reflect some older material. Like, on the last two tours we played mostly the newer stuff -- WWIII and a couple of all-time favorites. But, in fact, I'm sitting and reworking "Sex on the Flag" right now. We're working on "Go To Hell," "Leibesleid," "UAIOE," and some other stuff. So, it'll be a set list that, if not playing songs from every single album, it'll definitely have a somewhat reminiscent focus of sorts.

RSJ: Has the tour line-up been finalized?

SK: Yes, it's Lucia, Jules, Andy, Steve, and myself.

RSJ: So, are you just going to leave songs out that are too associated with singers that won't be on this tour?

SK: Well, other than Raymond [Watts], there's nobody that could be too associated -- other than En Esch with some little ditties. But those are the ones that we never play anyway. If I look at the set list right now, it looks pretty damn good.

KMFDM's current tour line-up: Steve White, Andy Selway, Sascha K, Lucia Cifarelli, Jules Hodgson

RSJ: In what ways would you say that the live show has evolved since you first began touring?

SK: That's really kind of hard to say. Typically, when we do our U.S. tours, we spend a lot of money and effort on always bringing out the best equipment, bring light shows, trucks full of gear and crap like that. On this recent tour we totally scaled it down to a sort of punk rock approach where the bands themselves would load in, set up, break down, and load out after the show. And, actually we get a lot of kicks out of that, so this time around we're going to totally scale it down and do a show that's less produced and more spontaneous.

RSJ: Ministry hooked up with and plans to register voters on their upcoming tour. Given the political nature of your work, would you be interested in something like that?

SK: Yes and no. In theory, I think it's a very good idea. In practice, KMFDM is not partisan to party politics and that kind of stuff. We think that the incentives and the impulse for people to vote should not be necessarily approached that way. I mean, people should see the necessity to vote without someone shoving it down their throat. Honestly, I think it's just a pretty feeble attempt to get some sort of association and be in some sort of limelight. If, you know, the material doesn't hold water, then maybe a campaign like that would. But, hey, that's just me being mean (laughs).

RSJ: Do you prefer being on the road or in the studio?

SK: Well, one wouldn't be fun without the other. After so many months in the studio making an album, you're just dying to get out and play it. And after "X" amount of touring you just go, well, it would be nice to just hole up in the studio and have access to a toilet on a regular basis, get meals when you want them.

RSJ: When do you think you'll be heading back to the studio?

SK: It doesn't look like we will so soon. We're just right now in this weird interim stage between two tours and getting a bit of work done, tying up loose ends. It looks like we're going to be touring through December on this Canadian, U.S., and Russian tour that we're starting in two months. And then in January and February we're planning to go back to Europe, so I would say March looks like studio time.

RSJ: You did some work for the Spiderman II video game; how did you approach creating music for that project?

SK: We said, basically, let's make a KMFDM record. Let's not worry about lyrics of course because nobody wants vocals on those type of tracks. And let's just not do anything that's too obscure; let's just sort of go in with the idea to make snappy little ditties that basically grip you in the first five seconds. Its was fairly easy; we wrote 12 songs in about three to four months, which is a far cry from what it takes us when we work in the studio, where it's more like one song a month.

RSJ: When you start on the next KMFDM record, what musical direction do you see yourself going in?

SK: That's never something we can predict -- it just sort of happens, more or less. The nature of how we start working kind of prohibits the idea of 'let's make a this record' or 'let's make a that record.' It just really always falls together in a very strange miraculous way.

RSJ: Since you're no longer with Sanctuary, do you have any idea of what label you'll be going to?

SK: Well, there is not too much to choose from. The KMFDM Records idea is a really good one; the question is can we sustain ourselves long enough to go in a studio and make a record. Or, do we have to hook up with a smaller independent label that will act as a bank and feed us through the duration of the making of a record. We really want to get the KMFDM Records thing off the ground, and it looked a few months ago like it was really gonna happen with the release of the Watts album. And then Raymond got some really bad business advice and everything fell through, for him and for us. Basically, he never really got a proper release in the U.S. and we were deprived of our first real product.

RSJ: What caused the split with Sanctuary Records? When we last spoke to you, you seemed excited about being on that label.

SK: Well, they certainly made it out sounding like they were the best thing since sliced bread. They were like, we have the best distribution worldwide -- they gave us a list with all the countries that the record was supposedly released in. Bottom line is, nothing at all happened. I mean, nothing at all. They can't even sell records if their lives depended on it. They managed to SoundScan WWIII at about 20,000 copies. Metropolis sold 20,000 copies of the previous album, Attak, in the same time frame without doing anything at all. Every store I went into, whether in the U.S. or in other countries, I could never find WWIII. It was just nowhere to be found. And as far as all their overseas releases, it was just smoke and mirrors. They told us they had a Russian release on Noise Records -- bullshit. It's gonna be a pretty tough awakening for a lot of artists that recently signed with Sanctuary when they, in the next few months, find out what the nature of that company really is like.

RSJ: There seem to be fewer and fewer labels for bands to choose from. What do you think needs to happen in the record industry to promote bands that are working outside the mainstream?

SK: Whatever needs to happen is already happening. It's basically the whole music industry is completely crumbling and all predictions that myself and other people made years ago when mp3s first came in [are coming true.] We said it's gonna be a really tough time when bands realize that labels are basically out of money because all the stuff is getting pirated. No money for labels means no reinvesting into developing and furthering smaller acts. And that's where it's at now. And what needs to happen is it needs to ultimately accelerate even more and the few remaining giants realizing that their time has come. And then a new independent, grassroots kind of movement can really rise and actually survive against the competition. Competition is the lifeblood of this industry and right now we're looking at a few big ones sharing the market that are like international corporations, and they're just force-feeding us crap.

RSJ: Is this where you feel KMFDM Records could come in?

SK: KMFDM Records is a good idea, as it would cut out the middleman. It would basically maximize the income for the bands, and at the same time we could lower the prices significantly. Cause we wouldn't have to sell records for $18.99. We could sell them for $12 to $13. People would see a drastic reduction of the price of goods, and they would also know that every penny spent goes directly to the people that make it, instead of to some greedy office whores.

RSJ: KMFDM has always had a revolving line-up. Of all the people who have worked with the band in the past, who would you most like to see contribute to the band again?

SK: I don't know. I don't really think in that way because my general mentality is once you've done something there's no need to really do it again. That's why we've never toured with the same acts. Once it's done, it's done; I mean, what good would come from us once again hooking up with Ogre? Not saying that Ogre isn't a super nice and talented guy and a good friend of mine, but really, what would come out of it? I think it's more interesting and exciting to find new things and try out new stuff.

RSJ: In the 20 years of KMFDM's existence, what do you consider to be your biggest achievement?

SK: The biggest achievement is the fact that KMFDM are still free to do whatever we want. And that we've never sold out in the sense that we made music that we predicted to be successful. We always went our own way and were as left field as we wanted to be. It was always completely self-induced and self-prescribed. There was never a point in time when some record company executive would come in and say, 'I don't like this mix, you have to do it again.' The maintenance of integrity and keeping free of corporate bullshit -- that's our biggest achievement, I think.

RSJ: Not too many people end up doing that who have been in the business that long.

SK: Right. And even though I said it's gotten pretty rough, and it's harder to survive these days than it ever was, it's also more exciting. It's a challenge, and we're totally up for it.