KMFDM Members Return With Smaller, More Personal MDFMK

Electro-punk trio to release debut album in March.

Members of the electro-punk trio MDFMK have ready answers for how creators of such torrential, anger-fueled rock can seem so, well, lighthearted.

"We're all heavily medicated," multi-instrumentalist Sascha Konietzko quipped.

"Split-personality disorder," singer Lucia Cifarelli added.

Actually, the bandmembers have a more likely explanation for their undeniable glee: a debut album they feel validates their decision to disband pioneering industrial outfit KMFDM and replace it with the backward-named MDFMK.

"We know we have a kick-ass record," guitarist Tim Skold offered. "We pulled it off. ... This record is as near perfect as perfect can be."

The eponymous debut LP will hit stores March 28 — less than a year after the release of KMFDM's final album.

Adios And Hello

KMFDM emerged as a German industrial quartet in 1984 and soon attracted a goth following. Known for one-word album titles and hand-drawn covers, the band eventually scored a major U.S. dance-floor hit in 1995 with "Juke-Joint Jezebel" (RealAudio excerpt), which was featured on the "Mortal Kombat" soundtrack. Konietzko pulled the plug on KMFDM last year, just a few months prior to the April release of, aptly, Adios.

"It was very necessary to move on," Konietzko said. "It wasn't like a breaking-up kind of thing. I started KMFDM, and I stopped KMFDM; there were no hard feelings," which is probably why Skold (who joined the group in 1997) reteamed with Konietzko soon after KMFDM disbanded.

The two struggled with their new project for several months before Konietzko decided to invite Cifarelli to join. He met her in 1996, when Konietzko remixed a song by her previous band, Drill, for the "Empire Records" soundtrack.

'A Lot Of Territory To Explore'

Before joining MDFMK, Cifarelli spent two years on a Drill album, only to have A&M Records drop the band at the height of the Universal-PolyGram merger and never release the finished product.

"It sucked the life out of me," she said. "MDFMK kind of renewed my faith and reinspired me in so many ways. ... It's become such a huge thing for me."

"That's when things started to take unexpected twists and when tracks became songs," Konietzko explained. "It felt like, 'Wow, there's a lot of territory to explore.' We can go into the melodic thing — really get away from the trackage. We can totally strip all of this crap out of it, and it becomes very transparent all of a sudden. You can even envision someone with a little guitar, strumming at a campfire."

In MDFMK — unlike in KMFDM — each member has some responsibility for each song. Cifarelli writes lyrics, while Konietzko and Skold use guitars and synthesizers to create the tracks. All three share vocal duties.

"KMFDM was an open-cast, revolving-member kind of thing — with everyone and the kitchen sink having input in the writing, the mixing, the touring, the performing," Konietzko said. "It became quite difficult to handle at times. MDFMK seems to be more streamlined; we are all heading in the same direction."

The size of the band has also had an effect on the lyrics, which address more intimate topics than those of its predecessor. On "Rabble-Rouser," Konietzko croons, "Failure is man's fate/ A blacklist of mistakes/ Nothing's what it seems/ Blown to smithereens."

"It's funny how things get more personal when there's less personnel involved," Skold said. "You actually have to back up your ideas and concepts in a different way than if you are just contributing to a project. You're actually personally responsible."

Familiar Sound

There are similarities between the two bands, however. MDFMK is loaded with guitar layers, much like a KMFDM record, while many of the howling vocal tracks (on songs such as "Now") sound strikingly familiar. But the band takes an unlikely turn with "Get out of My Head," which opens with a tenor choir and finds Cifarelli seducing listeners with her slithering words.

"It's kind of like three records in one," Konietzko said. "It's an industrial-rock record, it's a techno, drum & bass record, and it's a New Age record, just layered one on top of each other."

Two weeks ago, MDFMK was the top debut on the CMJ top 200, with 236 college radio stations adding the album to their playlists. The album has had a greater impact on the chart thus far than have the past two KMFDM releases, according to Associate/RPM Editor M. Tye Comer.

"In some respect, it retains a lot of the qualities that the fans of KMFDM remember and identify with. But, at the same time, there is a new direction," Comer said. "Even though there wasn't that long of a break between the death of KMFDM and the birth of MDFMK, I think the transition made a lot of people take notice who had taken KMFDM for granted for a long time."