Like its punk and metal cousins, industrial music has a rep for being nefarious, violent and misogynistic. It is ironic propaganda considering how ardently industrial artists have railed against the very social ills which they’ve been accused of perpetuating.
In their three-decade history, industrial titans KMFDM have had their share of blame heaped upon them, most famously after the 1999 Columbine shooting because one of the shooters [who shall remain nameless here] was an avid fan of the group. At the time, founder and leader Sascha Konietzko issued a statement making their mission clear. “KMFDM are an art form---not a political party. From the beginning, our music has been a statement against war, oppression, fascism and violence against others.”
Nevertheless, this specter reared its ugly head again during the 2007 shootings at the Jokela school in Finland, despite this shooter [again remaining nameless here] taking full, explicit blame for the incident. “Don’t blame the movies I see, the music I hear, the games I play or the books I read.” (In a nod to the Columbine shootings, he had used the band’s “Stray Bullet” in a video uploaded to Youtube shortly before the shooting.) And yet, at last count, there are over 1000 articles linking the group to these incidents.
Undaunted, KMFDM stayed true to their hardcore roots and continued to kick out one album after another. Kunst released yesterday is the band’s 18th album. The title, German for “art”, is also a cheeky pun on an unsavory English word for female genitalia. Taken with the cover art, an illustration of a buxom woman with a chainsaw, you can almost hear the complaints bubbling up. Speaking to Vibe exclusively on the phone from their current base in Hamburg (“where the real music and art happens in Germany, not Berlin, which is like Hollywood”), Sascha explains their inspiration for the art. “It was the women’s right activist group FEMEN who, in protest against the sentencing of Pussy Riot members to labor camp time, felled a gigantic wooden cross in Kiev, as [is] usual for them when they appear in public, without tops on.”
Possible courting controversy again, the album opens with the title track featuring the chorus, “Kill Motherfucking Depeche Mode,” whom uncannily also just released a much anticipated album this month. Long thought to be the meaning behind their acronym, Sascha explains that there is no intent behind the lyric. “It was not so much a ‘decision’ as more of like a ‘wow, haven’t done that yet, so it’s about time.” As he has explained many times, KMFDM is poorly translated German loosely meaning “no pity for the majority.” To underscore the silliness of people reading too much into their name, he adds that it has also been thought to mean “Kalte Melkerhände Fürchtet Die Milchkuh: the milk-cow fears the cold hands of the milk-maid.” Another fanciful interpretation has been “Kylie Minogue Fans Don’t Masturbate.” All of which is just fine with Sascha who would rather let the band’s trademark fusion of heavy metal guitars, grinding synthesizers and pummeling beats speak for the band as they have been since their formation in Paris in 1984.
A huge part of the ‘80s industrial scene in Chicago centered around the famous label Wax Trax!, Sascha credits Ministry for giving them their big break. “Ministry (Al) invited KMFDM to open for their 1989/90 ‘The Mind Is a Terrible Thing’ US tour and thus jumpstarted KMFDM’s career and opened the door for many years of living and working successfully in the US. I definitely owe Al [Jourgensen] a lot for that. The last time I saw him was this past summer and he wasn’t in the greatest of shapes, unfortunately.” Poignantly, that same summer Jourgensen collapsed on stage in Paris where KMFDM were started. For a while in the ‘90s, KMFDM were based in Seattle, though their decision had little to do with the grunge scene. “We love our synths, you’ll never hear an ‘Unplugged’ set from us,” he says, reaffirming the group’s devotion to their industrial DNA. Fans can experience the intensity of their devotion this March as the band heads out on its US tour, which will undoubtedly confirm, yet again, that you don’t have to be a woman-hating Satanist to raise some hell and bring the noise.
Kunst is out on Metropolis records now. Stream an exclusive remix of “Ave Maria” below.