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Such industrial alt-metal outfits as Nine Inch Nails and Ministry received the lion's share of press and commercial success during the '90s, but a handful of other bands slugged it out for just as long (or much longer), including KMFDM. The band's name has been the subject of countless debates among fans over the years as to what it stands for (their record company even went as far as holding a contest in 1994 for fans to submit possible meanings, resulting in more than 1,000 entries), but the confirmed meaning is "Kein Mitleid für die Mehrheit" which, when translated into English, means "No Pity for the Majority." The German band has included countless members over the years, but through it all, their leader has remained Sascha Konietzko, whose multiple roles have included that of songwriter, producer, mixer, programmer, sampler, vocalist, percussionist, bassist, and electronic gadgeteer.
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?, came 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 from 1983 through 1986 (in fact, several were 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, etc.).
But 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 tour 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 during 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, 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 disbanded on January 22, 1999.
In the wake of the group's split, Konietzko assembled a new outfit, MDFMK (yep, 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. The year 2003 saw the release of WWIII, 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 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?! 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. KMFDM signed a new contract with Ear Music in 2016. Their first release for the label was ROCKS: Milestones Reloaded, which featured remixed and updated versions of their hits. The following year saw the band issue a new EP, Yeah!, with plans to release a full-length outing, Hell Yeah, later that August.
In addition to leading KMFDM, Konietzko has also worked with other artists, either playing, producing, or remixing tracks and/or albums by Die Krupps, Front 242, kidneythieves, M People, Peter Murphy, Pig, Schwein, Sister Machine Gun, and Swamp Terrorists, among others. ~ Greg Prato
- Hamburg, Germany
- Feb 29, 1984
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