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Emerging from the European underground in the 1980s, German firebrands KMFDM were part of the industrial wave that crashed the mainstream in the '90s alongside kindred spirits Nine Inch Nails, My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult, and Ministry. With their bold, propaganda-styled album covers and techno-metal anthems, they placed more focus on pulsing dance beats and provocative messages than their darker contemporaries. Counting numerous members over the years, KMFDM's leader has remained frontman and founder Sascha Konietzko, whose multiple roles include songwriter, producer, mixer, programmer, sampler, vocalist, percussionist, bassist, and electronic gadgeteer. The band -- whose initials stand for "Kein Mitleid für die Mehrheit" and can be translated as "No Pity for the Majority" -- swiftly moved past the sinister soundscapes on their 1984 debut Opium to establish their trademark style on 1986's What Do You Know, Deutschland? After an early-'90s relocation to the U.S., they became fixtures on the Billboard Dance charts, crashing clubs with hits such as "Naive," "Split," and "Vogue." KMFDM continued to pump out albums for Wax Trax!/TVT until the end of the 20th century, including 1995's top-selling Nihil (home to "Juke Joint Jezebel") and 1999's Adios. The latter set was appropriately titled and might have been their final effort, as the group imploded due to internal fighting. However, Konietzko remained with Tim Skold and recruited vocalist Lucia Cifarelli to form offshoot MDFMK during the subsequent hiatus. The trio resurrected KMFDM in 2002, returning with a new label (Metropolis Records) and a reconfigured lineup that boosted Cifarelli as a permanent co-vocalist, kicking off their new era with Attak. Although KMFDM lost Skold and crucial longtime collaborator Raymond Watts (aka PIG) as permanent members, Konietzko, Cifarelli, and a revolving cast of collaborators maintained their streak of thought-provoking and body-moving output until the close of the 2010s with the group's 21st full-length, 2019's Paradise.
Originally formed in Paris, France, KMFDM were founded by Konietzko and German painter/multimedia performer Udo Sturm. The duo made their in-concert debut on February 29, 1984, when they performed at an opening for an exhibition of European artists at the Grand Palais in Paris (with the show consisting of Sturm playing a synthesizer that would play feedback, and Konietzko playing a five-string bass). The same year, KMFDM issued their debut release, Opium, but Sturm exited the group shortly thereafter (around the same time, Konietzko was joined by drummer En Esch, who would remain with the group until 1999). With Sturm out of the picture, Konietzko and Esch put KMFDM on hold at first and joined up with New York industrialist Peter Missing to form the outfit Missing Foundations. But before the new outfit could issue any recordings, both Konietzko and Esch had dropped out and returned to KMFDM (Missing Foundations would carry on with replacement members and go on to issue albums on their own from the late '80s through the early '90s).
KMFDM's sophomore effort, What Do You Know, Deutschland?, arrived in 1986 and was the group's first of many for Chicago's famed industrial label Wax Trax! But instead of if being an album of all new tracks, it was comprised of selections spanning 1983 to 1986 (in fact, several were made prior to Esch's joining). Around this time, KMFDM struck up a relationship with artist Aidan Hughes (aka Brute!), who would steadily supply cover artwork for the group; the images would become synonymous with KMFDM's hard-hitting music. Konietzko and company pushed forward with such further '80s releases as 1988's Don't Blow Your Top and 1989's UAIOE, during which KMFDM found themselves in the middle of an underground industrial movement (it didn't hurt matters that Wax Trax! quickly became one of the leading industrial labels in the world, as they were the home to such other similarly styled acts as Ministry, Revco, Front 242, My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult, and others).
However, KMFDM had yet to tour America by 1989 (having heavily toured Europe with the likes of Einstürzende Neubauten, Young Gods, and Borghesia, among others), something they sought to correct when they were offered a slot opening a U.S. tour for labelmates Ministry, who at the time were readying their classic The Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Taste release. With the tour lined up for a summer launch, it was pushed back several times (due to Ministry leader Al Jourgensen falling ill) and the tour finally got underway in December 1989. The trek successfully established KMFDM as a band to watch in the industrial underground, as they returned to Europe after the tour's completion to work on their fifth full-length release overall, 1990's Naïve. Realizing that industrial's future lay in the U.S., Konietzko relocated KMFDM's home base from Hamburg to Chicago in 1991. The same year, KMFDM's side project Excessive Force was formed, issuing a debut release, Conquer Your World, in 1992, the same year that KMFDM issued a new release as well, Money.
But just as it appeared as though KMFDM were about to break through to a wider audience, Wax Trax! suddenly found itself on hard times, resulting in the label being bought out by TVT Records. What followed for KMFDM were some of its best-known and strongest releases: 1993's Angst (which earned the group its first real exposure on MTV via the video clip for the track "Drug Against War"), 1995's Nihil (home to their biggest hit, "Juke Joint Jezebel"), and 1996's XTORT. During the same time, Excessive Force issued a second release, 1994's Gentle Death, while Konietzko relocated once more, this time to Seattle. Further releases followed in the late '90s (1997's Symbols, 1998's Agogo, and 1999's Adios), before KMFDM temporarily disbanded on January 22, 1999 due to internal disagreements (longtime members En Esch and Gunter Schulz would permanently part ways with the group).
In the wake of the group's split, Konietzko assembled a new outfit, MDFMK (that is, KMFDM spelled backward) and issued a lone self-titled release in 2000 before KMFDM reunited in 2002 for an all-new album, Attak, and the live album Sturm & Drang Tour 2002. Much like their first incarnation, the revamped group continued to issue a reliable and prolific string of efforts throughout the decade. 2003 saw the release of WWIII (their last with Watts until a 2019 collaboration on Paradise), followed by WWIII Live 2003 a year later. Released on KMFDM Records, 2005's Hau Ruck was classic KMFDM in all its aggressive industrial power. The Ruck Zuck EP followed in 2006, with the full-length Tohuvabohu (Hebrew for "chaos and confusion") landing in 2007. Remix album Brimborium and rarities collection Extra, Vol. 1 were both released in 2008. Blitz followed in 2009, with the greatest-hits compilation Würst arriving a year later.
New material arrived in 2011 with the loud and heavy WTF?! Eighteenth set Kunst followed in 2013, with a song dedicated to the jailed Russian anarchist group Pussy Riot along with a collaboration featuring the Swedish group Morlocks. In 2014, the group celebrated "Over Two and a Half Decades of Conceptual Continuity" with a live album, We Are KMFDM, and their 19th studio effort, Our Time Will Come. In 2016, KMFDM signed a contract with Ear Music, releasing a quartet of efforts for the label, including ROCKS: Milestones Reloaded, which featured remixed and updated versions of their hits; the preview EP Yeah!; and Live in the USSA, which was recorded on their tour in support of 20th LP, 2017's Hell Yeah. Returning to Metropolis, KMFDM -- Konietzko, Cifarelli, drummer Andy Selway, and guitarist Andee Blacksugar -- released the intensely political Paradise, which marked a return by Watts on the track "Binge Boil & Blow," their first collaboration since 2003's WWIII. ~ Greg Prato & Neil Z. Yeung
- Hamburg, Germany
- 29 Feb 1984
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