Monday, March 18, 2024

No Time to 'Let Go:' KMFDM's Lucia Cifarelli on Longevity, Resilience, and Bill Rieflin

Lucia Cifarelli of KMFDM (Photo by Bobby Talamine)

It’s often difficult for a band to last 40 months, but KMFDM is still in the game after 40 years. Currently comprised of founder/vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Sascha Konietzko, vocalist Lucia Cifarelli, guitarist Andee Blacksugar, drummer Andy Selway, and guest MC Ocelot, the group recently released its 23rd (and best-in-years) album, Let Go, and hit the road in the U.S. to celebrate its fourth decade of activity. Despite the typical rigors of touring, Cifarelli was kind enough to find time to fill me on the state of KMFDM circa now.  

Congratulations on the new album! I think it’s one of the strongest ones the band has ever released—not an easy feat for a group that’s been around for four decades. From your perspective, what has been the key to keeping KMFDM’s sound fresh and innovative after so many years?

I speak for all of us in the band when I say we have a deep love and respect for what we do. As soon as Sascha wakes up, he grabs a coffee and heads into the studio, and I head into my workspace. Being innovative isn’t something we’re necessarily thinking about going into the writing process, but as the songs develop and the production evolves, they take on a life of their own.

KMFDM’s lineup has been consistent for a few years now. What makes this incarnation of the band work so well?

We all have a similar work ethic and dedication to the art form and share great chemistry. Liking the people you work with and having respect for what they bring to the table cannot be underestimated. We all bring a unique talent to the band that just works.

Ocelot has contributed to three KMFDM albums in a row now. How did he become part of the picture, and what makes him such a great participant?

Ocelot started out selling merch for us. Along the way, he mentioned that he was an artist as well, so I asked to hear his music. I liked it a lot and asked Sascha to listen. Then an opportunity came up where we needed an opener, and he filled the slot. Later, Sascha asked if he wanted to collaborate on a track.

I love the “Airhead” video—especially since I’m old enough to recall the images featured in it! Crazy Eddie AND Days of Our Lives in a KMFDM video? Oh, hell yeah! The video brings back so many fond memories for me. How were the images for it selected?

The video was made by one of our crew family, Pedro Rodgriguez. He was inspired by the song and presented it to us shortly before the tour. We all loved it and decided to release “Airhead” as a single along with it. He chose all the images himself.

Certain elements of the song’s lyrics make me suspect that they’re autobiographical. How close to the mark am I?

You are correct! The song is loosely based on my life. When Sascha initially played the track for me, I had no idea what to do with it. I spent a lot of time working through the melody before I conceptualized the lyrics. Once I had the melody and title for the chorus, everything else fell into place. I started thinking about my journey in the music business and life and decided to have fun with it.

You’ve been on nearly 20 tours with KMFDM since joining the band in 2002. Touring can be an amazing experience, but it can also be very hard work. What are some ways you’re able to maintain your energy level—and your physical and mental health—while traveling so often?

No matter how enthusiastic I am about touring, it’s hard work–both physically and mentally–so I train at the gym regularly three to five times a week to stay aerobically conditioned at all times. I also spend a lot of time outside with my dog, which helps me stay balanced mentally. Traveling on a tour bus with 12 people can quickly feel claustrophobic, so preparation on every level beforehand is integral for me energetically.

KMFDM’s show in New York City in 2002 during the Sturm & Drang Tour is still among the greatest gigs I’ve ever seen. Bill Rieflin played bass on that tour, and he was a frequent contributor to KMFDM who’s sadly no longer with us. What do you miss most about him—both as a person and as a collaborator?

Bill was a force of nature, both musically and personally. What I miss most about him is the loss of my friend. When Sascha and I lived in Seattle, we spent a lot of time with him and his wife, Frankie, who is also no longer with us. We cooked dinners together … spent weekends at Hood Canal. Touring together was a bonus because he was a fierce musician and had beautiful energy. It’s still difficult to accept their passings. I miss them very much.

The Industrial genre has no shortage of great acts, but KMFDM has maintained its place as one of the most popular groups in the scene for decades. Why do you feel your music still resonates with people so deeply?

I understand that KMFDM will always be tagged as Industrial, but that’s not how I view us or how we approach writing and production. Our tastes in music are wide and varied, and I believe that’s precisely why it resonates with so many different people. There are elements of every genre within the body of each album that bring together people from all walks of life.

When I interviewed Sascha in 2018 shortly before KMFDM’s 35th anniversary, I asked him to share his thoughts on the key to the group’s survival. This was his reply:

I think the longevity comes mainly from never having been a ‘band’ in the traditional sense. Bands tend to shrivel up over time over personal differences and things like that. KMFDM was always fresh in the sense that an ever-changing group of people set out to create something. Every album was approached almost like a one-off - let’s get together, do this, and then everybody returns to whatever else they’re doing. And of course, this is what we’re good at. We suck at all else.

What would you add to this statement?

That statement doesn’t feel relevant at this point, considering how long the current lineup has been making records together. The thing to remember is KMFDM starts and ends with Sascha. Although each member past and present has left an indelible mark, KMFDM is Sascha’s brainchild at the end of the day. 

*Portions of the above interview were edited for clarity.

KMFDM Tour Dates