Raymond "Pig" Watts
Want to know what the future holds? Three years ago, dullard insomniacs across America frittered away six bucks a minute on Miss Cleo’s 1-900 fortune hotline. Around that same time, government security agencies routinely dismissed information about the future with disastrous consequences. By comparison, veteran industrial-rock band KMFDM has had a better success rate. They nailed down the future like a hard-wired Nostradamus when, in the spring of 2001, they decided to name their then forthcoming release Attak. Now, with the ominous title and sobering artwork of WWIII, the band’s debut for Sanctuary Records, (to be released 9/23/03), KMFDM are setting off a 1000-decibel wake-up alarm. “Funnily enough, the title WWIII was already coined on last summer’s tour,” reveals KMFDM chairman Sascha Konietzko. “The artwork was done in September-October of last year, way before America’s invasion of Iraq. Once again, KMFDM has a slightly prophetic angle.” WWIII is KMFDM’s 15th full-length album, and while many of the bands operating in their milieu have either faded away or have become a sad parody of themselves, Konietzko’s ensemble has embraced new directions while continuing to jack-up the energy level. For the making of WWIII, Konietzko (a.k.a. “Kapt'n K”) enlisted members of the live band who accompanied him on last year’s Attak tour and the subsequent live disc/DVD Sturm Und Drang. In addition to the participation of longtime collaborator Raymond “Pig” Watts, he credits the contributions and chemistry of singer/lyricist Lucia Cifarelli, Jules Hodgson (guitar/bass/keyboards) and Andy Selway (drums) as being crucial to the new disc’s cohesion and surprising energy. “I really like how we worked as a band this time around,” he says. “In comparison to WWIII, Attak was a patchwork of material that came to fruition during a period in which we regrouped as KMFDM. On WWIII, I worked with Andy and Jules for the first time in a recording studio. It was a whole new experience to have a real drummer playing on an entire album and to have Jules take on serious programming and engineering tasks in addition to him being a fantastic multi-instrumentalist. Add Lucia’s ability to create songs and pull off amazing performances, and I knew that this was enough for a great band. We focused on songwriting and production, and didn’t spend a lot of time trying to decide what kind of synthesizer we were going to use on a particular track or how to approach this, that or the other. We just made decisions and had fun.” WWIII opens with 54 seconds of quasi-Appalachian backporch whimsy: slide guitars, moonshine swigs and the sound of what could be an inbred mating call from the movie Deliverance. Just before the hardcore rivetheads think something must have gone horribly wrong at the CD pressing plant, the savage guitars kick in, giving way to a vicious onslaught of slash-and-burn beats and synth noise, launching a torrent of Konietzko’s unbridled contempt on what we really need to wage war on. The title track’s urgency is as harrowing as the KMFDM classic, “A Drug Against War”: Factor in the state of the world today, and the song’s relevancy is as real as a pick-axe to the forehead. That sense of disgust and vitriol surges through many of the disc’s 11 tracks. Cifarelli’s “Last Things” takes on the persona of a fatalistic freedom fighter that’s been crushed physically and mentally. “Stars & Stripes” attacks the self-serving jingoism of governments and their closed-minded constituents, while “Moron” details a resemblance to a particular commander-in-chief. Undercutting the serrated socio-political edges on WWIII are songs like “Revenge” and “Bullets, Bombs & Bigotry,” typically Watts-ian tales of debauchery; “Pity For The Pious,” a libidinous groove-fest with longtime band collaborator Cheryl Wilson straddling the line of lust and pain; and the self-deprecating band member shout-outs of the closing “Intro,” are, according to Konietzko, “a segue to the next album.” Konietzko has a unique personal perspective. He remembers growing up in the ’70s in Germany, when radical political groups like the Red Army Faction routinely kidnapped and killed government officials and bombed American military installations (“A lot of the kind of terrorism that people here have their panties in a bunch over is really old hat to a lot of Germans”). Although he has lived in America for well over a decade, he still remembers life in the European Theater when America and the former U.S.S.R. were locked into the Cold War, and the daily thought of nuclear annihilation generated both fear and loathing in the hearts of many Europeans. “Lucia is the only American in KMFDM,” he explains. [Selway, Hodgson and Watts are British.] “Regardless, all of our mindsets are similar on this record. What Lucia has to say and what I have to say are really ladled out of the same tureen, as well: How long can all of this flag-waving and misunderstood patriotism-crap go on before the conscience of the people kicks in and they think, ‘Maybe there’s something wrong here?’” KMFDM will wage WWIII across America, beginning their next tour in mid-October, fearlessly throwing it down and inevitably rattling the cages of the complacent. After experiencing WWIII, one gets the feeling that even if this band were firmly ensconced in the media spotlight, KMFDM wouldn’t change. “The fears, the vulnerability and the McCarthyism that slowly creep into the remote corners of one’s brain are all weapons of mass distraction,” he says, stridently. "Of course, this is serious and needs to be opposed and eventually debunked. But I have to say that we have no interest in making only intensely serious statements, either. We see art as art, and politics for what it is. KMFDM's lyrics simply reflect the absurdities that we all are bombarded with every day.” This isn’t rock with heart. This is rock with a conscience. Now more than ever, KMFDM are doing it again.