Cold night in February, 1999.
Had just been kicked out of my first apartment.
Had to go back and live with my parents in the town where progress means becoming somehow more quaint, Mason, Michigan.
To procrastinate, I stopped at a 24 hour store called Meijer, and walked around like a zombie. Found this CD, and bought it on a nostalgic whim:
Little did I realize, it would be the most life-defining purchase of my life.
Not a car or house, but a CD when I was nearly eighteen years old.
I took it to my old room in Mason, popped it into a “boombox” that didn’t have much boom.
Listened on repeat all night while unpacking my belongings and pondering my navel.
My memories of that experience are limited, because I didn’t know how important that night was. If I’d known, I might have taken notes…
I recall during the opening track Power, the chorus struck me as extremely cheesy.
“We’ve got the power
to the holy wars”
Who are these people? Who do they think they are?
Honestly, back then I didn’t even know what “industrial” meant in that context.
“We’ve got the power” made me think of He-man or some shit.
The perceived cheesiness reached a pinnacle with the track Inane.
KMFDM kept referencing themselves in this song. It seemed they’d erected some kind of sonic shrine in their own honor.
“KMFDM can’t suck hard enough
Have a little more
You just love that stuff
KMFDM, nihilistic and free
UAIOE for you and me
Help us, save us, take us away
KMFDM, make my day”
“What the actual fuck?” may have been my reaction if I’d accessed 2017 societal vernacular.
Turns out, most of the words in that track were built around incorporating their previous album and single titles into the lyrics.
And in the KMFDM universe, saying they suck is a compliment.
But I didn’t know what was going on the first time I heard it.
But the music floored me.
It took everything I loved about electronic music and layered it with awesome guitar riffs and driven vocals. Lots of weird sounds and genre-blending sensibilities.
Plus, some of those tracks resonated with me lyrically in a profound way.
I was an angry teenager. A high school drop out. Pissed off at society. Dogma was an immediate anthem for me.
“Let’s stop saying ‘Don’t quote me’ because if no one quotes you
You probably haven’t said a thing worth saying
We need something to kill the pain of all that nothing inside
We all just want to die a little bit…
Let’s stop praying for someone to save us and start saving ourselves
Let’s stop this and start over
Let’s go out – let’s keep going”
It’s true. I was enamored by this cynical spoken-word poem.
It spoke of some concepts I wasn’t quite developed enough to understand. But it called out to me
I also recall my first experience of XTORT’s finale, when the track Wrath goes into a turbulent hell of electronic dissonance, mixed with screaming and a nice, “Fuck you!”
It broke me into a slight sweat on my first listen. Ha. I was so sheltered and sweet.
There’s also the “hidden track” which features a pornographic foray in a fairy garden.
Another stroke of, “What the actual fuck?”
Anyway, I got through XTORT perhaps four times that night before finally passing out in concession to my failed attempt at adulting and coming to terms with being back at home.
Soon I’d find that home was a myth anyway, since my parents would soon divorce and everything would change beyond recognition.
But thankfully, I had a new band in my life, one that I’d soon love more than I thought I could ever love music.
The next day, I logged onto our computer, to check out KMFDM’s website.
Was greeted with a terrible message:
“KMFDM IS DEAD !”
If I correctly recall, the announcement of KMFDM’s demise had launched on that very day.
Talk about timing!
I was disappointed, but then realized that KMFDM had an impressively-large back catalog of albums and singles.
Although I was never into Pokemon, I can relate to the “Gotta catch ’em all” craze…
Thanks to eBay, I was stocked up in no time.
How many discs overall? I don’t know. Maybe 20 or so. With lots of posters and t-shirts too.
Right when my interest in KMFDM was becoming an obsession, they released their “final” album on April 20, 1999: Adios.
I had a copy pre-ordered, but I wasn’t sure if it would arrive that day. So, I went to the store and bought a copy. Then I came home, and my pre-ordered copy was waiting for me.
(A neat synchronicity: I gave my extra copy to my best friend, who I’d discover much later shares a June 21 birthday with KMFDM founder, Sascha Konietzko)
Also around that time, in some attempt to be cool or whatever, I started wearing a trench coat.
Well, also on April 20, 1999: The Columbine school shootings. Which involved people who wore trench coats. And who liked KMFDM.
I remember getting home from work on April 20.
And my dad asked me, “What’s that band called that you’re into again? KMFDM? They are on the news.”
And sure enough, the media was hosing down KMFDM. Blaming the Columbine shootings on videogames and music.
It only took a week or less for the media to realize that KMFDM wasn’t popular enough to bump up their ratings and generate the controversy they were looking for, so they moved on to Marilyn Manson…
People at work kept asking me if I was in the trench coat mafia.
My trench coat wasn’t even black. I looked more like Columbo (although that is pretty similar to Columbine).
Throughout 1999, my fandom of KMFDM grew to enormous levels.
I loved listening to their catalog in chronological order from the 80’s to late 90’s to hear their evolution.
So many songs struck a chord with me, spoke to my inner non-conformist.
“RIP THE SYSTEM!” became my daily affirmation.
Though often aggressive and cynical, KMFDM’s message could rarely be construed as promoting of violence. Quite the opposite.
“We shall use all peaceful means to overcome tyranny and march on!”
KMFDM’s message, to me, was all about waking up to the problems in society. Choosing not to be blind. Standing up for the truth, for what is right, for what is real.
Over time, the cheesy songs became less cheesy to me. The self-glorifying name-checking songs (of which there are many) are just a part of the KMFDM experience.
KMFDM often uses humor and irony for the purpose of entertainment. This makes their message a little clumsy sometimes, but it’s amazingly real. It’s all a reflection of the humanity of the artists behind the project, with their flaws, egos, ambitions, and ideals.
Which would become a mirror for me to look at my own flaws, ego, ambitions, and ideals…
Which is why this music was so vital to me. It helped me discover who I was underneath all of my fears, insecurities, and uncertainties…
At some point in 1999, the KMFDM website was updated.
“KMFDM IS DEAD !” the message still proclaimed.
Followed up by:
“LOVE LIVE MDFMK !”…..
Also published on Medium.