We Are KMFDM: Kunst

Not many bands last 30 years. Not many continue to crank out new material, either.

But KMFDM has marched on through many iterations, founders coming and going, and new lineups that freshen up the sound.

We Are KMFDM: Better Than the Best

I’ve been a fan since the Nihil era – KMFDM’s glory days. The golden age when each new album, from Angst to Symbols, did better than the one before it.

And like a lot of people, it was “Juke Joint Jezebel” that turned me on to the band. I should say – it turned me on to a world of music I didn’t know before.

Danceable. Techno beats. Shredding, heavy-metal style guitars. Backup singers. Self references. Self mockery.

And so much fun.

We Are KMFDM: Steve

The current lineup is a talented group. I do enjoy the twin-guitar gallop of Steve (above) and Jules. Andy’s live drums add a new dimension that makes many live KMFDM songs better.

We Are KMFDM: Kaptain K

We Are KMFDM: Magic Stick

My buddy Don and I saw KMFDM at the Magic Stick, a smaller venue than usual, along Detroit’s Woodward Ave. It’s actually the perfect place to see the band: small, intimate, and easy to get to.

A lot of the new stuff is so-so, but Sascha always throws in plenty of the classic stuff. “Light,” “DIY,” “Anarchy” – these are the songs we came to scream. Some of the new stuff, like “Kunst,” sounds great live, too. But I think the majority of KMFDM fans prefer the classics.

We Are KMFDM: Sascha

Who knows how much longer KMFDM will be around. Forty more years? Fifty?

Into light and the future.”

See the rest of the set.

Spock’s Beard

Sure, prog rock was kind of dorky back in the early 2000s (or 1970s, or…). But no one had more fun on stage than Spock’s Beard back in the day.

Skip to 0:55:00 for the best version of “Waste Away” I’ve seen. So fun.

I saw them live, opening up for Dream Theater, at the Phoenix Plaza in Pontiac, MI, the summer of 2000. And from there, I went on to buy V and it changed my life.

Smashing Pumpkins, ‘Rocket’

If I could pick any song that said, “This is why I want to play guitar,” then “Rocket” would be it.

The original version was magic to a 14-year-old me. Still is. And it’s so gratifying to hear Billy say that this song is the Plutonic ideal of Pumpkins material. Especially when all the weirdness hit the Pumkins, and I looked back on Siamese Dream with longing, thinking, “If only they could do that again.”

Reissue? Purchased.


GE Radio

The other day my dad was talking about his cellphone, and how it liked it so much because it was simple. Flip open, find the number you want, dial and talk, and then to hang up you simply close the clam shell.

Smartphones? They’re beyond him. Why do you need all that fancy stuff when you just want to make a phone call?

I almost chalked our conversation up to one of those aren’t-parents-cute moments, but then I thought, gosh, I recently felt the exact same way.

All I wanted was a radio. Nothing fancy, no media-playing capabilities. Just something that turns on, plays a radio station, and that’s it. And I wanted it to be portable enough to carry around the house with me: in the garage, in the kitchen, or in the kitchen window so I can hear it in the backyard.

At a local rummage sale, I found exactly what I was looking for. But to find it, I had to buy something that’s probably close to the same age as me. It’s the above General Electric desktop radio, model 7-4115B. Faux wood grain, black and metal finish, and two knobs – one for volume, and one for tuning. Then there’s a little switch that you flip to go from AM to FM.

It’s gorgeous, and it’s perfect, and it only cost me $1 at the rummage sale (some yahoo at Etsy has one for $18). That little radio was exactly what I was looking for, and it works like a charm. Plus, it’s stylish in a retro kind of way. That little radio fits perfectly with my kitchen. It’s sturdy enough, and if I drop and break it, I’m only out $1. But it’s the kind of thing where I can see having it for years and years. The thing has survived this long, after all – but maybe the reason it’s lasted so long is because it’s so simple.

When I’m doing repetitive tasks, I need something in the background to listen to. Put the radio on, and I’m up for anything. But if it’s not on, it’s easy to get distracted. Turning my brain off means having music, and so this new GE radio is going to be perfect.

Sometimes, fancy is great. Having the Internet on my phone is wonderfully handy, and goodness knows I get plenty of use out of my iPhone.

But then simple can be all you need just when you need it. My dad just wants a phone to make calls. I just want a little radio to carry around the house with me. Easy. Simple. Perfect.

The Look

Sean Kingston Concert - Yeah

We often do things that we regret when we’re out of our heads. Drunk, in love, low blood sugar – whatever the reason, something causes our brain to reboot, usually the day after, and look back on our behavior in horror.

Sean Kingston Concert - Smile

But at concerts, at least we’re doing things we regret with other people. It’s fine to act like a screw-loose reptile when everyone else is just as goofy as you.

Sean Kingston Concert - Sing along

Look around you. See all those people screaming their heads off? See how they’re gyrating and dancing in a sea of other lunatics? Notice how they don’t care who’s watching, because (probably) no one really is?

Sean Kingston Concert - Rapture

That’s why I go to concerts: to utterly lose myself in the songs I love. These kids, just like me, were having the time of their lives – and they didn’t care who was watching.

Sean Kingston Concert - Sing-along

The difference is that my enjoyment didn’t stem from the music on stage. No, it came from the kids losing their collective minds. This is why I want to take pictures. They mean something. I mean, look at them. They’re in ecstasy.

Sean Kingston Concert - Front row

Not on Ecstasy, mind you. No, there’s something about a collective musical experience that makes drugs or alcohol totally redundant. Who needs booze when you have grooves?

Sean Kingston Concert - Lining up

It makes my heart ache to see these pictures, the day after, and realize what fun we all had that night. They’ll remember the songs and their friends singing along.

I’ll remember that look on their face.

The Importance of Artifact

Scott at ISO50:

Hey Pete

“I’ve lost myself again
It’s a nightmare
But it’s clear
It will end
But when?”

– Type O Negative, “White Slavery”

Peter Steele came into my life through dumb luck.

My high school buddy Nathan and I were playing “Magic: The Gathering” at his place, listening one of those satellite TV stations that does nothing but play a certain category of music. I was probably 16 or 17 at the time. We’re sitting there, and this thundering, brooding rock came on, and I asked what it was.

“Oh, that’s Type O Negative,” Nathan said. “Their frontman is a giant, seven-foot-tall guy with that deep voice. They sing mostly about sex and death.”

Sold, I thought. What more do I need to know?

But actually I forgot about that encounter for a few months, until later that summer I was browsing through the CD section of Jackson’s Circuit City when I found the Type O Negative section. Browsing through the albums, I took a chance on the newest one – October Rust.

It turns out I picked the right one, because October Rust changed my life. It has since risen to the top two or three albums I listen to, and it introduced me to something I had been looking for. Here, I discovered, was a perfect blend of lush, methodical, brooding music. It was funny, heavy, and catchy as hell. I remember “Burnt Flowers Falling” being stuck in my head for months, and after repeated listens the whole thing became a classic.

From there, I caught up on the rest of Type O’s catalog, with the (what I felt) uneven Bloody Kisses, the album that gave Pete and the band their first big hit with “Black No. 1.” I had to wait two or three long years until World Coming Down came out my first year of college.

That was the thing with Type O. You had to wait Tool-long periods of time, usually four years, between albums. What you had, you had to stick with, until some other life-altering event in Peter’s life made another album necessary.

For me, World Coming Down was almost too much. It was their darkest album yet, dealing with death and suicide and – for the first time that I can think of – Pete’s cocaine habit. And from that album on, Type O albums weren’t immediately grabbing. Hell, I didn’t like WCD after the first few spins. It wasn’t until I spent a year or two with it that it began to grow on me.

Same with Life is Killing Me. Same, amazingly, with Dead Again.

When you give them enough time, however, they become a part of your standby list. Need a CD to get you to work in the morning? Grab Dead Again and skip to “Profit of Doom.”

I remember printing out reams and reams of Type O guitar tabs in my high school computer class. I’d get done with my work so early that the teacher gave me permission to dick around on the Internet. So I’d head to a Type O site and print off all the guitar music, and learn those dead-heavy chords in dropped-B tuning.

I remember walking to my first in-college job, at Lincoln Elementary in Adrian, rocking World Coming Down as the maple leaves fell around me, and thinking that Type O was the soundtrack for fall.

I remember “Anesthesia” getting me through a few breakups.

Are a thousand tears worth a single smile?
When you give an inch, will they take a mile?
Longing for the past but dreading the future
If not being used, well then you’re a user and a loser

Type O drummer Johnny Kelly, in the After Dark video, called what Pete did “sonic therapy.”

For Pete, is was for himself more than anyone. Over the years, the music became less about girls and sex and more about family and addictions.

During the interim between Life is Killing Me (2003) and Dead Again, Pete faced all kinds of wacky stuff: incarceration at Riker’s Island, a stint in rehab, the death of his mom, coming back to Catholicism. Through all that, he never lost his sense of (dark) humor. And I can’t speak highly enough of the end product: Dead Again fucking rocks, and I’ve listened to it constantly since 2007. Constantly. It’s now right up there with October Rust in terms of rotation.

That got me thinking a few days ago. Dead Again was released in 2007, and we usually wait about four years between albums, meaning new Type O was due to hit in 2011.

Turns out I was right. The band’s statement on the Type O web site put it best:

Ironically Peter had been enjoying a long period of sobriety and improved health and was imminently due to begin writing and recording new music for our follow up to “Dead Again” released in 2007.

Now he’s gone. But as Don said, there’s bound to be some music in some deep, dark crypt that has yet to be released. Let’s hope.

And maybe this is all one big frigid’ joke. Pete faked his own death in 2005, and once spread a rumor that Type O may call it quits:

With a recent trip to Iceland to “clean his mental health” behind him and The Profits Of Doom ahead (an early summer release is planned), Steele is non-committal about Type O’s future. And if he did return to making music as a hobby? “Maybe I can start my own website and send out CDs for free to fans, who could send me a donation for what they feel it’s worth,” says the former NYC Parks Department employee. Then he adds – with the slightest hint of self-deprecation – “So I guess I could expect a bag of shit in the mail.”

Pete and his humor. Man, to count the time the guy made me laugh out loud. I remember nearly pissing myself in the Adrian library reading interviews from the guy. As a journalist, Pete would have been a dream interview, full of those “did he really just say that?” moments. His personality was a big as his giant, hulking frame and as deep as his voice.

Hell, the guy did a Playgirl spread. Now that’s having a sense of humor about yourself.

I had no pulse last time I checked
I’d trade my life for self respect
So I say with my ass whipped
There are some things worse than death

I can’t believe I died last night – oh God I’m dead again.

Pete worked for the New York City Parks Department. He tried to instigate a Vinnland uprising. His favorite venue to play? Harpo’s in Detroit. Don and I saw the band there twice. He said all kinds of crazy things. He did all kinds of crazy things.

Eventually, all that stuff – the cocaine, the drinking, the giant frame – catches up with you. Yesterday, it caught up with Pete.

He joked about dying all the time. When his mom died, he started taking death seriously, and tried to turn his life around.

Now he’s gone. Again.