KMFDM is an industrial rock band and the brainchild of founding member Sascha Konietzko. KMFDM was founded in Paris, France on February 29, 1984 as a joint effort between Konietzko and German painter/multi-media performer Udo Sturm to perform for the opening of an exhibition of young European artists at the Grand Palais. Sturm had no lasting musical aspirations, and Konietzko was more interested in studio recordings than the occasional art performance, so he began collaborating with then-Hamburg-based studio owner Raymond Watts and drummer Klaus Schandelmaier, who adopted the stage name En Esch. After working the Hamburg underground music scene and releasing three albums on European labels, the band began its long-standing relationship with Wax Trax! Records when their 1988 album Don't Blow Your Top was licensed to the label for US distribution. After touring with Ministry in 1989–1990, they signed directly to Wax Trax! and quickly became a part of the industrial music scene in Chicago that included Ministry, Front 242 and My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult. Konietzko then moved to Chicago in early 1991, and Esch followed a year later. After close friend and president of Wax Trax! Records Jim Nash died of an illness complicated by AIDS, KMFDM relocated to Seattle, Washington.

The current line-up of KMFDM consists of Sascha Konietzko and his wife Lucia Cifarelli (vocals), Andy Selway (drums), Steve White (guitars), and Jules Hodgson (guitar). En Esch, Raymond Watts, and guitarist Günter Schulz are notable key members in the band's history.

Other notable musicians that have contributed to KMFDM projects include Bill Rieflin of Ministry/R.E.M., Nivek Ogre from Skinny Puppy and ohGr, John DeSalvo of Chemlab, Tim Skold of Shotgun Messiah/Marilyn Manson, F.M. Einheit of Einstürzende Neubauten, Nina Hagen, and spoken word artist Nicole Blackman. Additionally, Chemlab, Die Warzau, Nine Inch Nails, My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult, and Giorgio Moroder have remixed music for KMFDM.

 

Musical style

While recognized within the ranks of Nitzer Ebb, Ministry, and Skinny Puppy as pioneers in introducing industrial music to mainstream audiences, KMFDM describes their sound as "the Ultra-Heavy Beat". KMFDM's earliest output is more accurately described as performance art, as Konietzko incorporated not only visuals but non-musical devices (e.g. vacuum cleaners) as instruments. Their albums from the 1980s featured heavy sampling and studio manipulations, and the primary instruments used were synthesizers and drum machines. With the addition of guitarist Günter Schulz, KMFDM shifted to a more "industrial metal" style, with heavy guitar riffs driving their sound. With the release of Angst in 1993, KMFDM were discovered by the mainstream with their hit single "A Drug Against War". Despite the band's "anti-MTV", "anti-mainstream" attitude, the video of "A Drug Against War" was circulated in heavy rotation on MTV and was even featured on the MTV cartoon Beavis & Butt-head.

Since the release of 1989's UAIOE, KMFDM's music has been a fusion of electronic and heavy metal, with occasional elements of reggae, ska, and even rap. Many songs feature prominent backing vocals by female singers, notably Dorona Alberti, Cheryl Wilson, Christine Siewart, Sigrid Meyer, Jennifer Ginsberg, Abby Travis, and Lucia Cifarelli. Frequent KMFDM contributor Raymond Watts incorporates the style of his own musical project PIG, which features macabre lyrics, guttural vocals, and heavy, guitar-laden arrangements.

After the band's three-year hiatus which ended in 2002, KMFDM adopted a more "traditional" rock sound, that is, recording and performing with a typical band lineup — lead vocalist, lead and rhythm guitarists, bassist, and drummer — while continuing to incorporate electronics and sampling.

From KMFDM's inception, the band has been highly political. Their lyrics typically call for the rejection of and resistance to incompetent rule in capitalist society, as well as outrage over terrorism, violence, oppression, censorship, and, most explicitly, war. Their songs often feature samples of news broadcasts and speeches by political leaders, usually in an expression of irony.

KMFDM are not without a sense of humor, however. Nearly every album features a song in which they lampoon themselves, particularly evident in the lyrics to "More & Faster", "Sucks", "Light", "Inane", and "Megalomaniac". Their knack for self-parody came to a head in 2003 with the song "Intro" from the album WWIII, in which Konietzko takes a jab at each band member — including himself — with a tongue-in-cheek and slightly irreverent verse. Often the band performs the encore after the crowd repeatedly chants "KMFDM SUCKS!".

Konietzko has cited T. Rex, David Bowie, and Frank Zappa as inspiration in the early stages of KMFDM. Zappa is heavily referenced on the albums Don't Blow Your Top and UAIOE.

 

Recording, performance, and fanbase

KMFDM guitarist Jules Hodgson
KMFDM guitarist Jules Hodgson

Since the beginning, KMFDM has been one of the hardest working industrial bands in the business. They have released at least one album or EP every year since 1986 and toured extensively for nearly every release. Even during their brief hiatus (1999–2002), Konietzko and other band members engaged in a number of side projects (see below).

The early albums were recorded in Hamburg, Germany. In 1988, KMFDM began working with the famous (yet now defunct) industrial label Wax Trax! Records and relocated to Chicago the following year. After reforming in 2002, KMFDM worked with the Metropolis and Sanctuary record labels. In 2004, Konietzko started his own record label, aptly titled KMFDM Records.

Previously confined to touring the United States and only portions of Europe and Japan, KMFDM embarked on a 2004 world tour in which they performed in Australia, Russia, Canada, and much of Europe in addition to the US.

KMFDM has had a longstanding commitment to their fans, striving to present themselves as personable and approachable entertainers. Konietzko and most KMFDM members both past and present often converse with fans via e-mail and chat rooms. The band tours seemingly non-stop, pausing briefly to record an album. At most concert venues, KMFDM typically mingles with the fans before and after the show to sign autographs, pose for photos, and answer questions. Konietzko and the band's representatives have experimented with ways for fans to interact directly with the band. In 2002, KMFDM launched the "Horde", an exclusive fan club in which members had the opportunity to attend a private meet-and-greet with the band before every show, as well as gaining access to members-only music and footage online. In 2004, they experimented with "FanKam", a project in which a member of the audience was selected to record that night's show, as well as some back-stage antics, with a hand-held digital video camera. The resulting footage was incorporated into the 20th Anniversary World Tour DVD the following year, which also included fan photos submitted to the KMFDM official website. In March 2007, KMFDM encouraged fans to call a special "FanPhone" and leave a voice message. The song "Superpower" from 2007's Tohuvabohu includes sound-clips from these messages; likewise, a video for the song features footage shot and submitted by fans.

During the summer of 2006, Metropolis Records announced that it would reissue KMFDM's entire Wax Trax!-era studio album back catalog, which had been out of print since the early 2000s. The albums were released in chronological order in groups of two or three every couple months from September 2006 to May 2007, and are now all back in print.

In 2007, KMFDM released their sixteenth studio album, titled Tohuvabohu, a word derived from the biblical Hebrew phrase "tohu va bohu" meaning "without form and void" or "chaos and utter confusion"

Etymology

The cover of 84-86, featuring the original stamp used by KMFDM in 1984.
The cover of 84-86, featuring the original stamp used by KMFDM in 1984.

KMFDM is an initialism for the nonsensical and grammatically incorrect German phrase "Kein Mehrheit Für Die Mitleid", which literally translates as "no majority for the pity" or "no majority for the empathy" but is typically given the loose translation of "no pity for the majority" or "no mercy for the masses". The most common account of the origin of the name involves Konietzko cutting headlines from German newspapers and shuffling around the words to produce the now infamous expression. The name was shortened to "KMFDM" in 1985 in order to simplify the long phrase, with one popular account having Raymond Watts originating the initialism to avoid the difficulties he had in pronouncing the German.

Confusion often arises regarding the correct German expansion of the acronym, primarily stemming from the aforementioned language issues. In German, nouns possess genders that require proper declension of any preceding articles or adjectives. In the true phrase, the articles preceding the nouns "Mehrheit" and "Mitleid" are inflected for the wrong gender. However, swapping the two nouns yields the grammatically correct "Kein Mitleid Für Die Mehrheit", which additionally translates directly as "no pity for the majority". Adding to the confusion is the fact that this "correct" phrase appears within the lyrics to the song "Megalomaniac", which Konietzko revealed was done in order to confuse people who were always telling the band their name was wrong.

When the band first toured the US in 1989–1990, band members and their associates began using alternate English meanings for their name to tease journalists who did not understand German. The most prominent and most widely repeated was "Kill Mother Fucking Depeche Mode", which is attributed to Shawn Joyce. After the release of Angst, TVT/Wax Trax! Records launched a promotion (without consent of the band) in which fans were encouraged to come up with at least 1,001 different meanings for KMFDM. College radio DJs Kinslow and Smith of WKGC Florida won the contest with an entry of more than 1,200 potential meanings.

The lyrics to the song "Moron" feature a slight variant of the traditional translation: "no pity for the masses". Likewise, the song "Light" reveals another possible alternate meaning: "Keiner Macht für dich mehr", which translates as "no power for you anymore".

 

Copyright infringement

The song "Liebeslied" from KMFDM's 1990 album Naïve contains an unlicensed sample of "O Fortuna" from Carl Orff's Carmina Burana. The band was threatened with legal action by Orff's publisher (Orff himself died in 1982), and the album was withdrawn from production in 1993. The following year, a new version of the album was released entitled Naïve/Hell to Go, containing remixes of several songs, including the offending track (with the sample removed) which was renamed "Leibesleid (Infringement Mix)" (the modified name is a play of words in German: Liebeslied = "love song", Leibesleid = "physical pain"). Consequently, the original release of Naïve has become highly collectible among KMFDM fans. KMFDM still occasionally performs the original version of "Liebeslied" in concert. Live versions, complete with the controversial sample, can be accessed on both the Beat by Beat by Beat and 20th Anniversary World Tour 2004 DVDs.

Columbine High School shootings

In wake of the Columbine High School massacre it was revealed that lyrics to KMFDM songs ("Anarchy", "Power", "Son of a Gun", "Stray Bullet", "Waste") were posted on the website of shooter Eric Harris, and that the massacre coincided with the release date of the album Adios and the birthday of Adolf Hitler. The media was quick to jump on the apparent connection of the massacre to violent entertainment and Nazism. In response, Konietzko issued a statement the following day:

First and foremost, KMFDM would like to express their deep and heartfelt sympathy for the parents, families and friends of the murdered and injured children in Littleton. We are sick and appalled, as is the rest of the nation, by what took place in Colorado yesterday.

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. While some of the former band members are German as reported in the media, none of us condone any Nazi beliefs whatsoever.

Jokela school shootings

On November 7, 2007, nine individuals (six pupils, the school principal, school nurse, and the gunman) died at the Jokela school shooting in Tuusula, Finland. Prior to the rampage, shooter Pekka-Eric Auvinen posted a video on YouTube titled "Jokela High School Massacre 11/7/2007", which used KMFDM's song "Stray Bullet" from the 1997 album Symbols as background music.

Album artwork

KMFDM has a long-standing relationship with commercial artist Aidan "Brute!" Hughes, who creates the iconic artwork adorning almost all of the band's albums and singles. Brute!'s artwork is also featured in KMFDM's music videos for "A Drug Against War" and "Son of a Gun", and on the band's promotional t-shirts.

Prior to the 2006-2007 remastering and rerelease of KMFDM's back catalog, the design and packaging of the albums were inconsistent. Upon their release on KMFDM Records, they were repackaged by designer Justin Gammon to be visually similar. These changes included standard organization of the liner notes, lyrics, photos, and songwriting/guest musician credits.

KMFDM "code"

The symbols that served as a the title of KMFDM's twelfth album.
The symbols that served as a the title of KMFDM's twelfth album.

Around the time the album Naïve was released, a member of the press assumed that KMFDM followed a pattern of naming their albums and certain songs with a single five-letter word. Konietzko adopted the idea and every studio album thereafter was named in this manner, even the compilation albums (Agogo, Retro). In typical KMFDM fashion, the band began mocking their self-imposed conformity by intentionally misspelling words so they would meet the five-letter criteria (Xtort, Attak).

In 1997, they took the concept a step further by adopting five unpronounceable symbols as the album's official title (see image), imitating similar stunts previously done by Led Zeppelin (see Led Zeppelin IV) and Prince (see Love Symbol). The band, fans, and record executives alike simply referred to the album as Symbols out of convenience, although some listeners — in an attempt to keep the title within the five letter "mold" — referred to the album as either Icons or Curse, alluding to the symbols used in comics to indicate profanity. This five-symbol word is also apparently used in the song "Down and Out" according to the printed lyrics included with the album; however, it is bleeped out of the recording.

Often, the five-letter album and song titles are portrayed in a distinct color, possibly to convey apparent importance to those particular words.

The tradition of five-letter-word album titles was broken in 2005 with the release of their fifteenth studio album, Hau Ruck, which translates to "Heave Ho". Likewise, none of the album's song titles are five letter words. However, the title of their 2007 release, Tohuvabohu, while not a five letter word, is composed of five syllables.

 

Studio albums

Date of Release Title Label Notes
1984 Opium
Initially released on 200 cassette tapes to be sold at live venues. Reissued in 2002 on KMFDM Records.
1986 What Do You Know, Deutschland? Z Records, Skysaw Records Reissued in 2006 on Metropolis/KMFDM Records.
1988 Don't Blow Your Top Skysaw Records, Wax Trax! Records Reissued in 2006 on Metropolis/KMFDM Records.
1989 UAIOE Wax Trax! Records Reissued in 2006 on Metropolis/KMFDM Records.
1990 Naïve Wax Trax! Records Naïve was removed from distribution in 1993 due to an unlicensed sample of Carl Orff's "O Fortuna" on the track "Liebeslied". It was reissued as Naïve/Hell to Go in 1994 with several tracks remixed, and reissued again in 2006 with tracks from both releases on Metropolis/KMFDM Records. Only the original release of Naïve contains the original version of "Liebeslied" and has become a collector's item.
September 17, 1992 Money Wax Trax! Records Reissued in 2006 on Metropolis/KMFDM Records.
October 12, 1993 Angst Wax Trax!/TVT Reissued in 2006 on Metropolis/KMFDM Records.
March 1, 1994 Naïve/Hell to Go Wax Trax!/TVT Reissue of Naïve with several tracks remixed and the unlicensed sample removed. Unique tracks included on the 2006 reissue of Naïve.
April 4, 1995 Nihil Wax Trax!/TVT Nihil is one of only a handful of KMFDM releases that do not feature cover artwork by Brute!. The cover features a painting by Francesca Sundsten, wife of drummer Bill Rieflin. Reissued in 2007 on Metropolis/KMFDM Records.
June 25, 1996 Xtort Wax Trax!/TVT Reissued in 2007 on Metropolis/KMFDM Records.
September 23, 1997 Symbols Wax Trax!/TVT Reissued in 2007 on Metropolis/KMFDM Records.
April 20, 1999 Adios Wax Trax!/TVT Adios was intended to be KMFDM's final album due to an escalating rift among the core members of the band. It marks the last appearance of core members En Esch and Günter Schulz on a KMFDM record. Reissued in 2007 on Metropolis/KMFDM Records.
March 5, 2002 Attak Metropolis Records Attak marked the return of KMFDM after a three-year hiatus, with founder Sascha Konietzko as the sole original member. See also MDFMK.
September 23, 2003 WWIII Sanctuary Records
September 13, 2005 Hau Ruck Metropolis/KMFDM Records While it was initially promoted with a working title of FUBAR, Hau Ruck broke a long-standing KMFDM tradition of five-letter album titles.
August 21, 2007 Tohuvabohu Metropolis/KMFDM Records In biblical Hebrew, the phrase "tohu va bohu" means "without form and void" or "chaos and utter confusion".

Compilation albums

Date of Release Title Label Notes
1995 Year of the Pig Wax Trax!/TVT Collection of seven previously released songs included as a bonus disc with the Canadian release of Juke Joint Jezebel.
November 17, 1998 Agogo Wax Trax!/TVT Collection of rare and unreleased tracks. Contains a cover of U2's "Mysterious Ways".
November 17, 1998 Retro Wax Trax!/TVT Retro was originally a promotional disc released to radio stations as a playlist. It was reissued as a "greatest hits" compilation in 1998. All tracks are taken from earlier KMFDM albums.
October 11, 2004 84-86 KMFDM Records 84-86 is a two-disc collection of previously unreleased material from KMFDM's early career. It contains cover versions of "Get It On/Bang a Gong" by T. Rex and "Too Much Monkey Business" by Chuck Berry.

 Live albums

Date of Release Title Label Notes
2003 Sturm & Drang Tour 2002 Metropolis Records Includes highlights from KMFDM's comeback world tour in support of their album Attak.
2004 WWIII Live 2003 Sanctuary Records Chronicles KMFDM's world tour in support of their album WWIII.

Singles and EPs

Date of Release Title Label Notes
1987 Kickin' Ass Z Records Out of print.
November 1988 Don't Blow Your Top Wax Trax! Records Out of print.
June 1989 More & Faster Wax Trax! Records Out of print.
August 1989 Virus Wax Trax! Records Out of print.
August 1990 Godlike Wax Trax! Records Out of print. Includes a cover of The Osmonds' "Crazy Horses".
June 1991 Naïve/The Days of Swine & Roses Wax Trax! Records Collaborative single with My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult; out of print.
June 25, 1991 Split Wax Trax! Records Out of print.
April 24, 1992 Vogue Wax Trax! Records Out of print.
April 28, 1992 Money Wax Trax! Records Out of print.
September 15, 1992 Help Us/Save Us/Take Us Away Wax Trax! Records Out of print.
October 1992 Sucks Wax Trax!/TVT Out of print.
December 20, 1993 A Drug Against War Wax Trax!/TVT Out of print.
February 15, 1994 Light Wax Trax!/TVT Out of print.
October 31, 1994 Glory Wax Trax!/TVT Out of print.
December 1, 1994 Sin Sex & Salvation Wax Trax!/TVT Collaborative EP with PIG; out of print.
February 28, 1995 Juke Joint Jezebel Wax Trax!/TVT Out of print.
1995 Juke Joint Jezebel: The Giorgio Morodor Mixes Wax Trax!/TVT Out of print.
October 31, 1995 Brute Wax Trax!/TVT Out of print.
October 31, 1995 Trust/Juke Joint Jezebel Wax Trax!/TVT Import-only single from Germany; out of print.
October 12, 1996 Rules Wax Trax!/TVT Out of print.
January 20, 1998 MDFMK Wax Trax!/TVT Out of print.
February 5, 2002 Boots Metropolis Records First release following the reforming of KMFDM. Includes several cover versions of the Nancy Sinatra song "These Boots Are Made For Walkin'".
May 9, 2006 Ruck Zuck Metropolis/KMFDM Records Includes a cover of "Der Mussolini" by D.A.F..
February 19, 2008 Brimborium Metropolis/KMFDM Records Remixes of songs from 2007's Tahuvabohu.

Videos and DVDs

Date of Release Title Label Notes
1997 Beat by Beat Wax Trax!/TVT VHS
2001 Beat by Beat by Beat Wax Trax!/TVT DVD release of Beat by Beat, includes additional concert footage, music videos, and interviews
2002 Sturm & Drang Tour 2002 Metropolis Records DVD
2004 WWIII Tour 2003 Sanctuary Records DVD
2005 20th Anniversary World Tour 2004 KMFDM Records DVD

Soundtracks

Date of Release Title Song Notes
1992 Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth "Ooh La La"
1995 Bad Boys "Juke Joint Jezebel"
1995 Hideaway "Go To Hell"
1995 Johnny Mnemonic "Virus"
1995 Mortal Kombat "Juke Joint Jezebel"
1995 Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie "Ultra"
1997 Mortal Kombat: Annihilation "Megalomaniac"
1997 Wing Commander: Prophecy (video game) "Stray Bullet"
1998 Test Drive 5 "Anarchy", "Megalomaniac"
2004 Spider-Man 2 (video game) Entire score

Remixes

Band Song Release Date of Release Notes
A Flock of Seagulls "Space Age Love Song" Greatest Hits Remixed 1999
Bile "Submission"


Bloodhound Gang "The Bad Touch" The Bad Touch (single) (import version) 1999
Braindead Sound Machine "Walking After Midnight"


Chemlab "Electric Molecular"


Combichrist "Get Your Body Beat" Get Your Body Beat June 6, 2006
Die Krupps "Iron Man"


Dink "Get On It"


Dink "Green Mind"


Evil Mothers "I Like Fur"


Front 242 "Modern Angel"


Genitorturers "Addiction"


Genitorturers "Sin City"


Girls Under Glass "Ten Million Dollars"


Good Courage "Did I Deserve This"


Human Factors Lab "Adam and Eve"


Kidneythieves "Spank"


Kittie "Safe" Safe (EP) 2002
Legion Within "Cover Me"


Phil Lewis (L.A. Guns) "Hello There"


Phil Lewis (L.A. Guns) "My Michelle"


Living Colour "Ausländer"


Lords of Acid "Lover"


Love and Rockets "Resurrection Hex"


Lucia "Monkey Puzzle Tree" From the Land of Volcanos May 3, 2003
Metallica "King Nothing"


Mindless Self Indulgence "Straight To Video"


Missing Persons "Walking in L.A." Remixed Hits 1999
My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult "The Days of Swine & Roses" Naïve/The Days of Swine & Roses June 1991
O.N.A. "Nie Chcę Nigdy - Babcia"


PIG "No One Gets Out of Her Alive" No One Gets Out of Her Alive January 21, 1998
PIG "Blades" Red Raw & Sore 1994
Rammstein "Du Riechst So Gut (Remix by Günter Schulz & Hiwatt Marshall)";

"Du Riechst So Gut (Remix by Sascha Konietzko)";

"Du Riechst So Gut ("Migräne-"remix by Günter Schulz)"

Du Riechst So Gut '98 single 1998
Rammstein "Stripped (FKK Mix by Günter Schulz)" Stripped single 1998
Regenerator "The Archetype"


Jack Russell (Great White) & Dweezil Zappa "Unchained"


Sabotage Q.C.Q.C.? "To Be"


Sister Machine Gun "Addiction"


Skinny Puppy "Addiction" Remix Dystemper October 20, 1998
Mark Slaughter (Slaughter) "Rock And Roll"


Swamp Terrorists "Dive-Right Jab"


Treponem Pal "Renegade"


White Zombie "Black Sunshine" Nightcrawlers: The KMFDM Remixes October 6, 1992
White Zombie "Thunder Kiss '65" Nightcrawlers: The KMFDM Remixes October 6, 1992
The Young Gods "Kissing The Sun"


Zombie Girl "Creepy Crawler"