“Look what’s happening out in the streets. Got to revolution! One generation got old, one generation got sold. This generation’s got no destination to hold, pick up the cry! Yeah, now it’s time for you and me. Who will take it from the people? We will and who are we? We are Volunteers of America!” — Jefferson Airplane, “Volunteers”
“I declare war on the world of anti-choice! On violent unilaterality! On the amassment of murderous high-tech toys! And all crimes against humanity! World War III! Be all that you can be!” — KMFDM, “WWIII”
I’m sitting in the eighth row of the O’Keefe Center in Toronto, looking up and listening as the duo of Grace Slick and Marty Balin perform their patented vocal high-wire act, their soaring acrobatic voices looping and intertwining high above them. It’s Sunday, March 29, 1970, and the Jefferson Airplane have come to town on their fifth anniversary tour to sow the seeds of insurrection as espoused on their latest release, Volunteers, an album that takes an unpopular president to task over an unpopular war.
I’m standing on a catwalk at the Phoenix in Toronto, looking down and listening as the duo Lucia Cifarelli and Sascha Konietzko perform their patented high-impact throat aerobics, their commanding voices blasting a path through all obstacles in front of them. It’s Sunday, Oct. 17, 2004, and KMFDM have come to town on their 20th anniversary tour to sow the seeds of insurrection as espoused on their latest release, WWIII, an album that takes an unpopular president to task over an unpopular war.
Nixon, Bush. Vietnam, Iraq. The more things change, the more they get worse.
Which is why this is as good a time as any to check in with KMFDM’s esteemed leader about the path already taken and what may lie ahead. Stick around; I guarantee you’ll be surprised.
Metro Times: You were the first musician to realize that World War III had actually begun and to call it by name.
Sascha Konietzko: Now everybody’s following in step. Ministry’s doing this sort of punk rock voter kind of thing. It’s almost at the point where I think: Hey, why did it take everyone so long to wake up? Why didn’t they see it before?
MT: How long did it take for you to see —
MT: You got it the first day.
Konietzko: Well, 9/11, I figured, this is it. Next, they’re gonna nuke the Middle East or something, and that’ll be the beginning. It was very clear to me at that point that the time has now been reached where shit will hit the fan. Someone had to say it. It might as well be us.
MT: And you say it through satire.
Konietzko: Everything is good for satire. “WWIII,” the song itself, is a satire. “I declare war on the world, war on outer space, war in a nutshell.” Blah, blah, blah. Satire is just a means of oversharpening the points.
MT: You must have been pleased when you realized that WWIII fit in with your five-letter album title format.
Konietzko: (smiling) Yeah, that was good.
MT: By the way, happy 20th anniversary.
Konietzko: Thank you!
MT: It’s been a long road.
Konietzko: It’s been.
MT: A long, rocky road at times, I’d imagine.
Konietzko: It was not too rocky, really. I’m always being asked: Would I do it all again? And the answer is absolutely, totally, yes. Every decision — well, every major decision — was a right decision, I think. There’s a couple of things that were rocky where stuff didn’t go exactly the nice way, but it’s OK. We’re still dealing with TVT; they’re freezing our back catalog.
MT: That’s not right.
Konietzko: Naw, it’s just shit. I mean, aside from the monetary losses, it’s crap to not have your entire catalog available.
MT: But it’s also gotta be very rewarding, 20 years later, to see all the fans still lining up for hours before each show.
Konietzko: That’s true. And they’re definitely rejuvenating as well. Now we have the generation of kids that started 15 years ago, and now they bring their kids and they’re KMFDM fans.
MT: Every time I see Alice Cooper, I’m always amazed at the generational cross-section of fans he gets at every show. From 10-year-olds in tour shirts to tattooed teenagers to people who started following his career 30 years ago.
Konietzko: Hey, I’ve been an Alice Cooper fan for 32 years now! He’s a good guy.
MT: When did you start listening to him?
Konietzko: I was 11. “Hello Hurray.” Billion Dollar Babies. That was under the Christmas tree in 1972, back when my baby brother was very little. I like concept albums.
MT: Alice’s last record was a classic hard-edged rock ’n’ roll album, but a lot of guys just mellow out and record bedtime stories when they get old.
Konietzko: Well, you can’t blame them, though. As you get older, death nears. You get afraid and start repenting.
MT: When are you gonna repent? At what point is that gonna happen?
Konietzko: (laughing) I’m never gonna repent.
MT: No matter how old?
Konietzko: No, I don’t believe in that. But with a coming of age, people typically discover all kinds of things, like spirituality. I don’t know, maybe having children would change me. I can’t imagine anything other than having kids that would make me reconsider things and change my ways.
MT: For example?
Konietzko: If I had kids, I would not smoke anymore, for sure. I would stop completely because I would never be without my kids. I mean, seriously. I think if I had kids I would just stop everything and do something completely different. I mean, this is not a lifestyle to have children around, and I wouldn’t be without them. Not on this tour bus.
MT: Speaking of which, how is the USO tour going?
Konietzko: It’s good, man!
MT: I hope you realize that this is the best lineup you’ve ever had.
Konietzko: Like it or not, it’s definitely the strongest incarnation of KMFDM, I think. The best reproduction of all material. And most important for me, it’s also the first time that KMFDM has actually evolved into becoming a band. And amazingly, after the shows, we’re actually hanging out. Which is something I’ve never sort of encountered. I used to have my own separate part of the bus somewhere, and the other guys would be on some other bus. But this lineup is like being with family now. It’s very strange.
MT: But isn’t that the way it’s supposed to be?
Konietzko: It is maybe, but I’ve never had it.
MT: Well, that’s why KMFDM is stronger than never
Konietzko: (laughing) Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely.
KMFDM performs Sunday, Nov. 7, at St. Andrew’s Hall (431 E. Congress, Detroit; 313-961-MELT) with DJ Acucrack. Jeffrey Morgan is a freelance writer. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org