KMFDM's Sascha Konietzko on Kill Mother F*cking Depeche Mode and how it came about

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You've spoken in the past about your move from Germany to the U.S. in 1991. Before that, what kinds of shows had you played in a place where you could barely sell five hundred copies of an album?

We opened for [Einstürzende] Neubauten frequently, I seem to remember. They kind of always took us out for little stints here and there. We opened for Young Gods, and we did some co-headlining, tiny tour, maybe three shows, with Borghesia, who were also on Wax Trax back then. Just playing the rounds of the European total underground scene, we would play for a case of beer here and there. Pretty funny. After that Ministry tour in the U.S. in 1991, we toured the U.S. headlining with Braindead Sound Machine opening, and everything fell into place.

It was a lot of luck and being at the right place at the right time. I was reminiscing with Al the other day -- I was down in El Paso a couple or three days ago, and it occurred to me for the first time that actually there were no other German bands on Wax Trax Records. We were the only German import they did, really, if I'm not totally mistaken. The closest to us would be Pankow at the time -- an Italo-German singer, Alex Spalck.

How did you get connected with Aidan "Brute!" Hughes and what do you feel it is about his aesthetic that suits the music you make?

The first album we released, What Do You Know, Deutschland?, I went to London and basically made the rounds at all the record labels. And I dropped off a copy at Mute Records. A couple of weeks after that, some guy from Liverpool called me up and said that he saw the secretary at Daniel Miller's office pop a record into the trash. He looked at it and found the cover art interesting. It had a picture of Irina Gorbachev on it. He took it home, listened to it, and deciphered how to contact me, and then said he wanted to re-release the record for the U.K. but with a different cover.

I went back to the U.K. and met this guy Aidan, and I liked his stuff. We stayed in touch, and the next record, his stuff was on the cover, and the next one, and the next one, and the next one. It became the visual [style] of the band, really. Again, a total piece of luck because his stuff is so recognizable that it inevitably branded the look of KMFDM. We wouldn't have known what to do for those covers if not for him.

For the song "Kunst," the title track of the new album, is obviously made up entirely of self-referential words like bits of lyrics, album titles and the like. Why did you do that? It's almost like certain hip-hop songs where the artists reference themselves.

It's a little bit of a thread that goes through the history of KMFDM. And, exactly, you mentioned hip-hop. We started this self-referencing thing leaning on the whole hip-hop tradition, which I guess was done so people on the dance floor didn't have to go up to the DJ and ask, "Who is it?" because it was always kind of said.

On that particular song, I was just telling the story of when KMFDM came to the U.S. the first time, and we were always asked, "What does it stand for? What does it stand for?" And I always had to come up with this long-winded explanation, you know, "It stands for kind of song long German phrase that then translates as blah."

And one of Ministry's guitar roadies said, "Why do you go through the trouble every time? Just say, 'Kill Mother Fucking Depeche Mode.'" And as I was telling this guy this story, I was like, "Hey, man, there's never been a song with 'Kill Mother Fucking Depeche Mode' in it." About ten minutes later the lyrics for the song were written, and that is that.

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Tom Murphy is a writer, visual artist and musician from Aurora, Colorado. He was a prolific music writer for Westword and a documenter of the Denver music scene.