photo by Berry Behrendt
I had the opportunity to talk with En Esch (KMFDM, Pigface, Slick Idiot) before his performance here in New York at the STIMULATE 7th Annual 4th of July Industrial Barbeque. It turns out my friend Nix Laemmle knows him from back in the day. Being a teenager in the 90's KMFDM was always on, and holds so many memories for me. Needless to say, it was a lot fun to talk with him.
Below is an excerpt for Huffington Post in what turned into a long engaging interview with En Esch which I will release in my book of Conversations in the near future. Enjoy.
MN: When you were a kid in Germany, what was it that got you interested in music? I think a lot of Americans can't understand what post-war Germany was like. So what was the first stuff that you were exposed to which pushed you in this direction?
EE: Me, as a kid, I wasn't really a kid, of course I was into Gary Glitter, Slade or T-Rex or something, followed by Frank Zappa or King Crimson and stuff. There was also just kind of like, art rock or something. Then someone just kicked me onto Genesis and shit like that, but of course, I'm talking about early Genesis - Peter Gabriel and the really younger stuff. The international record companies distributed that shit all over the place. Germany is a big market because they have a lot of people. The same amount of market in Canada, whatever, you know. So there will be the same stuff. Luckily I grew up in an age where Led Zeppelin was in the top ten. Unbelievable.
MN: Were you in West Germany or East Germany?
EE: West Germany.
MN: It makes quite a difference.
EE: Yeah, totally. We weren't supposed to listen to that stuff in East Germany. Legally, you weren't.
MN: Mm-hmm. So, tell me a little about the newest record, Spänk.
EE: After a few years, you know, collect certain tracks you most like to do, you know, you gather certain stuff.
And you know, one day, you say "whatever, Slick Idiot should be better on a back burner. Maybe I should do something by myself. There's nothing else I have to do, so I'll do a solo record. Why not? Fuck it. You know, so far, I just tried to never expose my own name, my own self as much. I should try that.
MN: Well, you seem to do this every once in a while starting with "Cheesy" right? Like, in '93?
MN: And then so, that's actually something else I wanted to ask you. How do you determine - what's your working style like? How do you determine which ones are going to be solo records? Which one will be suitable for Slick idiot?
EE: You don't know that. I mean, On Spänk, it's definitely the two tracks that were supposed to be Slick Idiot songs. In the long run, Slick Idiot is not far away from my solo work. The only difference is that I decide myself and it's getting a little more punch maybe. Because if you're working with Güenter Schulz, he's kind of more- his way is more careful. I'm more brutal in my approach. Sound mixing-wise. But in the long run, of course, it's all connected. Some Pigface songs are connected to it, some KMFDM songs, some En Esch songs, and some Slick Idiot songs. It's all the same kind of school, so to speak.
MN: I was surprised how many people were in Pigface when I looked it up because I remember Pigface when it came out and I was listening to that "Fuck It Up Pigface" record. I was looking at some web pages and it looked like there's like a hundred people passed in and out of it. How much work did you do with Pigface? Were you in a lot of it because I see some people come in and do a track and do like...
EE: I would say, I was basically on the first record. I mean, because Pigface started after this Ministry tour where KMFDM opened up for and then there was this German, Bill Rieflin, also a Ministry Drummer, and Martin Atkins was hired to be a second drummer on the Ministry tour, so they had fucking two drummers, you know, five guitarists, whatever. It was just totally mayhem. And so these two guys wanted to do something after Ministry. And they were like, "I'm so tired of like, regular rock business. Let's do some artsy stuff."
You know this track I was singing on, on the first Pigface record called Gub was the name of Martin Atkins's cat, "Gub." I came on crutches in the studio because I was in a bad accident in Chicago. I almost died. I jumped out of a window on the fourth story, or third floor, it was the fourth floor - American.
MN: What happened? You fell out the fourth floor?
EE: I had some lover in Chicago and she left the house and I was still in bed and I woke up and I was still waking up and there was this fiery hell and there was no way out. I was trapped in a room and I couldn't get out. There was a wall of fire, so I had to destroy the window and jump out with not a second thought. The good thing back then in Chicago, it was in February, very cold and the people in these older houses, they have like this plastic form in the houses tape to isolate the apartment, so they don't have to use so much heating, so I destroyed it and this glass was between and somehow I managed to jump through it. And I was naked because my clothes were in the fire.
MN: Holy shit.
EE: So the room I was left in was just basically a little bigger than the bed. It was almost the end of it, but for some reason, I just woke up and was kind of relaxed and just basically gave in. There was no plan B - there was no second option. So I was so relaxed so obviously I hit some kind of a handle downstairs and smacked into the sidewalk, so I didn't break more than my ankle here and my wrist here. I dislocated my--
MN: Is that a scar from it?
EE: Yeah, this is from back then, see?
MN: Oh, I see.
EE: I still have a metal blade in here from Switzerland.
MN: Did it affect your guitar playing?
EE: It was in the beginning. I got used to it. Meanwhile, it's okay. In the beginning it was kind of slow. You have to start all over. You have to move your fingers; you cannot move them at all in the beginning.
MN: You have to do a physical therapy to get it right again. Wow, it's funny. Genesis Breyer P-Orridge told me the same story.
EE: Yeah, but he was at least happy enough to get some fucking money out of the case, but in my case it wasn't... It was very chaotic and I was in the US, so likely, travel insurance paid like, $40,000 in fees.
MN: Just enough.
EE: So I landed naked on the sidewalk and I was all fucking like a bird who got hit by a car or some kind. You know, not capable to go anywhere, but still alive. There was a neighbor who came and covered me up with a blanket because I was naked and he didn't want me to be naked and exposed. Pretty crazy. I mean, back in the day if that would have been my, I'd have been foolish... but of course, it wasn't the case.
EE: Whatever, so I went to the hospital. I got stitched together somehow and I survived that. There's still part of my spine that is bent off the spine, but not inside of the left outside. This side still is kind of numb in certain ways. But, you know, so I came on crutches to the studio to text for this first pick for this record I wrote in the hospital about that whole incident in German.
MN: What song is that?
EE: War Ich Nicht Immer Ein Guter Junge? War Ich Night Immer Schoen Und Nett? Ich Zerpfluckte Niemals Eine Spinne War Niemals Frech Und Stah. That's the title. And, of course, Martin Atkins and Bill Rieflin wanted to be so artsy that Martin Atkins played the drums at like 111 beats per minute and Bill Rieflin played the drums at 110 beats per minute. So there sometimes shifting and then there's a little high pitched synth and then my voice. And so, it's very artsy.
EE: I couldn't do more. After that, I went back home. But on the second record, I'm massively, the second record of Pigface, was a year later or so I was living already in Chicago. I was pretty much involved in all the tracks. There was also a massive tour with. The Golden Years of Pigface, I can say.
MN: So what year was that about? Was that after KMFDM?
EE: It was during KMFDM.
MN: Okay because I saw KMFDM in '92 I think. Thereabouts, '92 or '93. I don't recall. So, speaking of which, I know a lot of artists don't like to play older stuff. What is your relationship with KMFDM and playing that stuff now? How do you feel about it now?
EE: I like to play it because I see people like it so much. And I appreciate their love to the music and to the things I was a part of to create. So I'm happy to play that. And of course, I liked also, back then in the studio in Seattle, I don't even remember and ...all the shit we went through and all this fucking collaboration we went through, the people that came together. Raymond Watts and Sascha, it was a good time, Güenter Schulz was also kicking ass back in the day. He has a big part of that whole KMFDM. KMFDM got more hard with him. He's totally unappreciated in a certain end.
MN: Oh, I think it's classic. When I was a teenager, I listened to a lot of that. That, Skinny Puppy, you know? Back in the 90s when I was in high school. Do you have a relationship with the other members at this point or, you don't talk? Or what's up with that?
EE: Yeah, I have a relationship with all of the members, including even Sascha even if I don't talk to him. I mean, once in a while, he sends me statements of some kind of mechanicals, I don't know. Besides Sascha I talk to everybody else. We have good relationships, and you know, we are all thinking about collaboration once in a while. I just met Tim Skold when we were playing in LA. I just came from Raymond in London before this tour and I might go back there because it's so relaxing. Raymond needs my help; maybe we get some shit straight. Maybe we'll collaborate on some new, big record, I don't know. It's too early to tell.
Mike: Tell me a little about your collaboration with FM Einheit, Mona Mur, and EEM. How did that come about?
En Esch: First of all, when I met Mona Mur the first time, I was in Hamburg and I opened up for her with KMFDM, back then, a very young band from Hamburg. And so, FM Einheit was her drummer back in the days, and I also know him, of course, from a few concerts I did. KMFDM also opened up for Einstürzende Neubauten at a certain point within Germany and stuff, so I got a little in touch with him, and of course, Mona was very - I guess she fit in certain ways, playing a lot of music, and so , I don't know. It was automatically a given that we, at a certain point, after we tried to visit him, because he lives in Bavaria - he lives in a wonderful landscape and everything - so Mona and I took a trip and visited him and then we started working on some stuff. Of course, he's on a very different trip. He does a lot of theatre productions and stuff like that. So it was a very cultural trip, more on a kind of noise and ambient kind of style. But I think the record is totally underrated and it's actually a super band in a way. It came out on vinyl actually, on a label in Bologna, Italy, you know, only about, again, 300 limited standard vinyl.
Mike: Right. I saw that there was a very limited release of this. I really like it. I think it's great. It is a super group. So, how did you begin working with Mona Mur? How did that begin, kinda when?
En Esch: It has to do with her keyboarder, Nikko Weidemann, which is talked about, there will be a documentary about the guy, he was like a Berlin musician, and he used to be also in Mona Mur's band back in the day when FM Einheit was in Mona Mur's band. And he ended up living around here in the same moment when I was living around here. I lived in New York for multiple years so we ended up in the same city and you know, started hanging out. So at that point when I came back to Berlin, he was inviting me to hang with them, so he introduced me to Mona Mur, who wanted to do something. And Nico thought I'm the right man to work with and so Nico Weidemann's thought is that he got us back together.
Back in the days, I opened up for her, well KMFDM, and then she did an interview with KMFDM because she was also working as a journalist when she was here, but we didn't have any direct, private connections. It came after I moved back to Berlin in late 2006.
MN: The last thing I want to ask you about is the band you are touring with now. Who'd you put together and how is it working out?
EE: We try to be band minimalistic because we're like, a small family. Actually, Luke Dangler, he's from the band Ghostfeeder, who coincidentally became our guitar player because our other guitar player didn't want to be around anymore. He just hopped in a cab and vanished to all of our surprises, because he had some problems with himself. We have Erica here, Lady E. I was on tour with her already in 2009, Slick Idiot, 2010 Slick Idiot. She's on the last Slick Idiot record and also on Spänk. So there's certain connections.
MN: Okay, that's all my questions. Do you have anything that you'd like to add for the Huffington Post readers?
Yeah, I'm happy to be back in New York. I lived here for, I guess, almost ten years. I'm feeling very relaxed to be in Manhattan, at least. Even if I say, "Oh, you should come to Brooklyn. Come to Brooklyn." I lived in Brooklyn, but at the time that I lived in Brooklyn, it was more stressful in a way. So, I like to be in Manhattan. It reminds me of my old days. I get really calm, even in the subway I get calm. Even if it's crowded, I get calm because people know how to behave here compared to fucking Germany, where everybody's running into you and pushing you and they don't even say "I'm sorry." So, I'm happy about that, New York is a planet of itself. I'm happy about that.
original transcribed with love by Courtney Eddington