I'm not just a geek over comic books and movies – I'm also a bit of a music geek…just maybe not in the traditional sense.
I don't own an extensive collection of first pressings of obscure vinyls. I can't identify every Beatles song in two or three notes. I'm not aware of every new indie band before they hit the mainstream. But I am utterly fascinated by music itself, particularly the strange and unpredictable mix of bands I grew up with.
That's why I'm constantly reading magazines and websites detailing their histories, diving deeper with extensive interviews, tour diaries, and any other tidbits I can get my hands on. I could care less if people scoff at my taste or question my hipness; I like what I like, and my curiosity regarding creative origins is one of many reasons why I do what I do now.
That's why I couldn't pass up the opportunity a few weeks ago to chat with Sascha Konietzko, the founder and only steady member of KMFDM in its 29 year history, for an article in The Weekender. From Nine Inch Nails to Fear Factory to Stabbing Westward, I've always had an affinity for industrial metal music. KMFDM, which roughly translates to “no pity for the majority,” is not only one of its originators, but it is an uncompromising blend of rebellious political stances, catchy dance beats, and badass hard rock.
I've listened to the German pioneers of “the Ultra-Heavy Beat” since I was a teenager, so even though this has been my profession for years now, I still found myself overwhelmed by the thought of talking to the Käpt'n K (as he is known to fans), considering my long-term relationship with his music. As soon as he called from his home in Hamburg, however, my anxiety turned into familiarity as we went back to his beginnings as an artist, his technical work and writing process on 17 (!) studio albums, his unwavering musical vision, and the fact that he's not as big a fan of his earlier work as his listeners are.
Even as a fan, I learned quite a bit, and while I would have been content with just that, he said he would add me to the guest list of any show I wanted to see. I couldn't make Philadelphia due to deadlines, so New York City it was – did I really just get invited to a concert by Sascha himself? Yes, it was still strange to me.
When we arrived in the Big Apple, my friend and I made our first stop at the Chat 'n' Chew on E. 16th Street, a cozy little diner with a drool-worthy menu. After explaining that we came all the way from Scranton, the manager came back with a free bowl of their “Quintessential Macaroni and Cheese,” which puts any Kraft product you've ever had to shame, and two cans of delicious Porkslap Pale Ale to wash it down, also on the house. I mention this not only as a “thank you,” but to help illustrate a later point.
Before KMFDM's set, I ran into a good friend of mine who lives in the city (and I don't see often enough) and Rey Roldan, the band's publicist, who I had worked with many times but had yet to meet in person. Many stories and laughs were shared before the band began a career-spanning set of fan favorites and new tracks, all blending together into a seamless medley that rocked the Irving Plaza and its wild occupants.
“You drove all the way up here for this show?” Rey asked.
“Of course!” I replied. “Why wouldn't I?”
And that's when it occurred to me – not everyone would make a three-hour trek on a Thursday night with work the next morning. A music geek doesn't think twice about being overtired or the price of gas, though, and I knew I wasn't alone. While standing outside in the cold after the show, we ended up talking to some other fans as they waited for the band to exit and climb aboard their tour bus. Within minutes, it was like conversing with old friends – again, these tunes had brought me closer to complete strangers.
Each member of KMFDM signed autographs and posed for pictures for anyone who asked, and when I told Sascha that I was the guy who had interviewed him recently, he said, “Yes, Rich Howells,” and told me how much he enjoyed our exchange. He remembered my name? How much better could this night get?
Too hyped up to go home just yet, we went out and found the last bar open with our fellow fans we had just met and got one drink in before last call. While the music at its core will always be significant, it's the experiences and subsequent stories that derive from it – from talking to renowned singers to eating complimentary food to running around after 1 a.m. in bitter conditions looking for a beer – that make it memorable, and, in turn, make me geek out.
You can keep your limited edition clear vinyl with the misprinted sleeve – but I'd love to come over and see it sometime.
-Rich Howells is a lifelong Marvel Comics collector, wannabe Jedi master, and cult film fan. E-mail him at [email protected]