KMFDM: WWIII Tour 2003

KMFDM - WWIII Tour 2003Synopsis: Pioneers in the industrial music field, KMFDM have cemented their position in the hallowed halls of the genre with a prodigious touring and record release schedule. In 2003, they embarked on their “WWIII” tour, combining classic material with newer songs. Features action-packed concert footage, interviews and backstage footage, along with tracks such as “From Here On Out,” “Blackball,” “Pity for Pious” and more.

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KMFDM: WWIII Tour 2003 7.25

eyelights: the explosiveness of the WWIII songs. Lucia’s stage presence and sexiness. the DVD’s wealth of extras.
eyesores: the poor audio edit. the loudness of the interstitial bits. the construction of the main feature.

KMFDM is a German industrial band that was first formed in 1984. Over the course of 27 years (they broke up from 1999 to 2002), they have released 19 studio albums, countless singles, live albums, compilations and remixes. The individual band members have also worked on various side projects through the years.

I first learned of their existence in the mid-nineties, while browsing the shelves of a (now-defunct) local music store. Their cartoon album artwork, which is designed by an artist with the lovely moniker Brute!, just jumped at me. I didn’t know what to make of them, but I was tempted by the CD for “Juke Joint Jezebel”.

This edition of the maxi single was subtitled “The Giorgio Moroder Mixes” and featured five remixes of the title track as well as a non-album track. Not only that, but the Canadian version had a limited edition bonus CD called “The Year of the Pig”, featuring seven tracks from throughout their career thus far.

All in all, I got a full hour of their music for about 10-12 bucks. It was a nice way to start.

I later picked up their album ‘Nihil’ in a second-hand shop for mere peanuts. I’m glad I did: it’s without a doubt still one of my favourites in their whole catalogue. Had I picked up one of their earlier efforts, I might have been less impressed and simply left them on the back-burner. ‘Nihil’, thankfully, was all killer, no filler.

In subsequent years, I found KMFDM releases on various compilations – most notably on soundtracks, either with their own cuts or remixing other artists’ work. I usually enjoyed these tracks. But it would take until after their return in 2002 before I started getting serious about picking up their music. ‘WWIII’ was my first purchase.

It was another great platter from KMFDM: ‘WWIII’ was a blistering album full of guitar-based industrial fury. Rooted in the political climate of the post-9/11 years, it grabbed me by the throat, channeled my anger. Subsequently, I picked up a number of their CDs (although not all of them – there are so many!) as well as a few of their DVD.

This particular DVD is a record of their 2003 tour in support of ‘WWIII’, an album that heavily criticized the state of th world at the time, using samples of George W. Bush’s speeches to great effect. It’s an album that I still quite adore (second perhaps to ‘Nihil’), so I was quite eager to see the resulting live footage when I picked it up.

The thing I didn’t know back then (and that I had forgotten by the time of this second viewing), is that it’s not exactly a concert film. What ‘WWIII Tour 2003’ is, really, is a document of the tour, including live performances. So what one gets isn’t a full concert, but tour and behind-the-scenes bits with full live tracks in between.

This is nothing new: bands have been doing this ever since the first home video releases. But what is unfortunate about this release, on top of not being a full show, is that the footage to each live track is culled from a variety of sources. This means that each track is a pastiche of many different concerts, cut together.

While the audio is one clean track (so clean, in fact, that one has to wonder if it was recorded live or in the studio), the video is a haphazard series of quick cuts showing the band members in different positions and/or get-ups from one cut to the next. It’s a jarring effect that’s only made worse by the poor audio on the DVD.

The thing is that, for reasons that escape me, the interstitial behind-the-scenes material is presented here at a much louder volume than the concert footage. This means that, to hear the concert bits in their full glory, you end up having to hear the other stuff ripping across your speakers, with dialogues booming through the room.

Or you jog the volume in between bits, a tedious endeavour to say the least.

I chose to just leave the volume low enough to enjoy the interstitial bits. This left the concert bits at a much lower volume than I would have wanted (especially given the genre and the ferocity of the performances), but that was the least tedious way to go. Surprisingly, the low ends were heavy and dynamic anyway.

Naturally, since we aren’t treated to any full concert performances (on top of being culled from multiple performances, there’s even behind-the-scenes stuff during some of them), there’s not much for me to comment on – much like the MLWTTKK and Juno Reactor shows, it’s just a jumble of images accompanied by audio.

So many of my comments will refer to the interstitial material (although my ratings will refer to my impression of the song being performed).

Main Program

The DVD begins by introducing the band and pretty much all the crew members as they are rehearsing and setting up for their shows. They talk about their outfits (Lucia’s latex suit in particular, with good reason). It’s cool: sort of gives us the impression of being backstage and with the crew in some ways.

1. WWIII: Over the sound of the track’s slide guitar intro, we are shown a brief sepia-coloured video clip (giving the allure of old-time southern film footage). Then the show proper begins, with a ruthless guitar assault, flashing lights and Sascha Konietzko (frontman and leader of the group) prowling about the stage. The crowd cheers to the sound of the audio clip of Dubya. Lucia, who is one of the singers and keyboardist, sounds awesome here. 8.5

Sascha and Pig (Raymond Watts, one of the three vocalists) are playfully dueling it out in a parking lot on tour cases, getting slammed into each other by roadies.

2. From Here On Out: This song has Lucia on lead vocals. She’s ferocious and sexy. The afore-mentioned latex body suit looks like a reverse Rorschach test – yellow on black. It’s perhaps far too form-fitting: she probably drew all the attention away from the rest of the band. Anyway, the song rocks; it has a heavy bass backing. But a poor fade out. 7.75

Then we’re on the tour bus, and Lucia is teasing a sleeping crew member (or friend) with a pen. Then Jules writes all over his face. Funny to them, but inconsiderate as heck to this guy who’s just trying to get some shut-eye. Now he knows he’ll have to sleep with one eye open for the rest of the tour. Sucky.

3. Blackball: This one has a yummy ominous synth opening, then it kicks in with a quick electro beat. Pig is on vocals, dressed in a long white vinyl coat and cowboy hat. I love seeing Lucia prowl behind her keyboards, and hearing her creepy vocals. She’s a wicked counterpoint to all the testosterone on stage. 7.5

The band is jokingly talking about a so-called “spoon incident”. I didn’t really get all of it, nor did I care. It wasn’t really that funny or interesting to me.

4. Brute: This slower track is taken from ‘Nihil’. Out of context, it doesn’t really do much for me, but the chorus drives it home a bit. There’s behind the scenes footage during the performance. 7.0

Between songs, we get to watch KMFDM go to a truck stop for snacks and other doodads. It’s nothing spectacular. Life on the road, basically.

5. Stars and Stripes: This is a Sascha track with Lucia on support. I couldn’t help but think that her vocals have got to be pre-recorded or else she’d lose her voice by alternating so quickly from normal to hard like she does here. Good track, anyway. There’s tour footage mixed in during this performance. 7.5

So there’s this bit that suggests that KMFDM were at Disneyland for a show. We only see them hanging about in a parking lot, but they keep musing about fuzzy ears and Goofy and such. Turns out that in the other special features we discover that they only went to visit. KMFDM at Disneyland? A strange mix indeed…

6. Pity for the Pious: This is a really slow number with Pig on vocals. It’s not that interesting to me. 4.5

Woohoo! Watch KMFDM and crew eating at picnic tables, and then go on the road.

7. Moron: Another wicked track from ‘WWIII’, this one starts with minor keys then a full onslaught, with synth touches. During the performance, there’s behind-the-scenes footage of Lucia and Sascha meeting fans post-show. 7.5

There’s footage of Jules’ birthday gathering with the band and crew. Hooray for drinks and cake.

8. Revenge: I hate the slow start of this one, but the chorus with Lucia backing Pig is pretty catchy. And there’s a nice guitar solo in there. It’s nearly redundant to mention it at this point, but there’s more behind-the-scenes footage during the performance. 7.75

It’s getting thin, with the band and crew talking about drinking. Whoopee.

9. Bullets, Bombs and Bigotry: This is an uptempo number with Pig on vocals. It has a terrific guitar drive and electro pulses. The chorus features Pig, Sasha and Lucia together, which is pretty awesome. 8.0

Watch the band members lounging about a café, in a pool and in a bar.

10. Light: A classic from 1993’s ‘Angst’, it begins with an electronic intro, before the guitars kick in. It’s a Sascha song, and he’s also doing beats on top of the drummer. No wonder their sound is an aural assault: 2x percussions + 2x guitars + synths and 3 vocalists = so sweet. 7.5

KMFDM goes to an oceanarium. Which ones are the wild creatures, you wonder?

11. Juke Joint Jezebel: This classic from ‘Nihil’ starts with delicious electro pulses, then drums. It’s an excellent rendition. But it’s quickly cut from so many different performances, unfortunately. 7.5

KMFDM smuggle a greyhound dog, Blue, into their hotel room. Oh, the rock star decadence!

12. Intro: Although it only has so much replay value, I quite like this closing track from ‘WWIII’, which finds Sasha introducing each band member in a tongue-in-cheek fashion. It starts with a tribal-like drumbeat, slide guitar backing behind the industrial assault, and it has a cool chant/chorus – a great way to involve the crowd. 7.75

There’s no interstitial material here – It’s just a fade out/in between tracks.

13. A Drug Against War: Another mega-classic from ‘Angst’, this is a very fast, thrash-like, number, but without the complexity of the genre. The guitar riff reminds me of a Metallica track (but which one… “The Four Horsemen”, perhaps?). I hate the title, though, given that the song refers to KMFDM. So what the heck is it supposed to mean? But it’s still a kick-@$$ track, and a great way to end the set. 8.0

Post-show, there is 12 minutes of the band talking, goofing off with friends, family and fans. There are also lots of autograph signings, including on a fan’s car. KMFDM is clearly very fan-oriented. We also get to see them eat again (can’t have too much of that!). And there’s lots of footage of the band and crew expressing their dislike of the omnipresent cameras. Understandably.

Whether one likes the material as presented will vary from one person to the next. I didn’t, if only because of the aforementioned audio discrepancy. But there’s so much crammed onto this DVD that it very much makes up for it. There’s basically hours of stuff – that some would call filler, but that I think is a superb addition for any die-hard fan of KMFDM. You almost couldn’t ask for more.

As I started to explore the DVD’s many menus and its wealth of bonus content, I discovered that the main program can be viewed separately: with the concert footage being under the “Song Selection” section, and the interstitial bits under “Tour Footage”. Both play uninterruptedly, so I could have watched the “concert” on its own, then watched the other stuff on its own. That would have been much better.

Of course, this wasn’t self-evident at first glance. Usually, when you have a “Song Selection” menu on a music DVD, it’s to see individual chapters; it doesn’t only present the songs on their own. But if you go to that menu, and select the first track, “WWIII”, you get nearly an hour of non-stop music – without the interstitial bits inserted in. For the “Tour Footage”, there are four chapters listed, for a total of half an hour.

Essentially, I would recommend not clicking on “Play All” and just picking the separate components.

In any case, this highlights an issue that has surfaced a few times while I was watching ‘WWIII Tour 2003’, and it’s the authoring of the DVD itself: the menus aren’t always intuitive, the pointer returns to the start when a featurette is done (instead of returning where you were at), one featurette played after another one (even though they usually play independently. It’s also positioned later on the menu).

But, again, there’s so much content that I’m surprised a small company like Sanctuary Records even kept it together as much as they did. It was an ambitious project to say the least.

Horde
As a thank you to their fan club, The Horde, KMFDM basically showed their various meet and greets on the tour in what amounts to a 12-minute montage – with KMFDM’s music as background, naturally. And then they scrolled the names of the club members at the end of the video. What astounded me was the diversity of people who go to see KMFDM: from the mousy to the freak. Some people even brought their kids (which is mind-blowing, given the content of their music! Personally, I’m not sure that’s a good idea…) and there was even a Muslim girl. Naturally, this is mostly of interest to those fan club members. 6.5

Interviews
There are nearly 30 minutes’ worth of interviews with the band members as well as about a dozen crew members. Most of it is vacuous stuff, but what I took out of it is that most of them say that it’s the best band/line-up they’ve ever worked with; that it’s like family, and many have returned (and will again) because it’s the best experience ever – everyone gets along. There are a couple of highlights (such as Sascha humbly saying that he has no wisdom to give, Lucia talking about not initially being a political person but has been forced to be with time, and Lucia explaining the origin of the KMFDM name), but otherwise it’s just redundant or empty blather. 6.5

Videos
This section features a variety of video bits. Initially, I thought that this was a set of music videos, but not all of this content falls neatly in that category.

(Nota bene: where applicable, I subjectively rated the songs and videos separately, in the following format: song/video)

Stars and Stripes: This is an actual video for the ‘WWIII’ track. It’s a Sascha track, featuring pulses and a full-fledge guitar attack. The footage is taken from ’40s army training films, educational shorts about health, US propaganda films, atomic bomb footage, and inserts of George W Bush, Hitler, and various talking heads; it provocatively juxtaposes Nazi Germany and the U.S. There’s no real narrative and none of it really follows the song’s beats, but it’s fascinating anyway. 8.0/7.5

Skurk: This is taken from the predecessor to ‘WWIII’, ‘Attak’. It’s a repetitive track that’s all beat and guitar riff, with some interesting electronic sounds. For some reason, it didn’t grab me.

The video is a low-budget CGI affair that starts with a weird guy walking on a volcano’s edge. There’s an eruption and, instead of lava, money flies everywhere. Later, we’ll see him walking on slabs of rock floating in mid-air. Intercut with this guy is another guy on a floating disc hitting dollar bills with a bat, who is then attacked by George W. Bush on a flying lectern. He is then attacked by fast food items and proceeds to shooting them with a shotgun. He later knocks down a half-naked woman with the help of a big dildo and smashes a bunch of TVs with a bat. There are also inserts of an ’80s-style 2D video game and, in another bit, a giant muscle-bound Mickey Mouse stalks a city. The video ends with a guy in a madhouse, having dreamt all that we’d seen before.

Given the budget the band and label likely had to make a video, this is okay. A bit ambitious, and not entirely effective, but decent all things considered. 6.5/7.5

Ultra: “Ultra” is the opening number from ‘Nihil’. It really set the tone for the album: it’s a genius mix of metal guitars and electronics, with Pig on vocals.

The video is made of Lego. It shows scientists being visited by man in black in a black chopper. They show him their experiments, many of which are on people. Suddenly, an ape escapes and rampages in the lab, ‘causing a system failure. Then a big grey clay monster escapes and eats everyone, so a containment team is sent in and more violence erupts.

I have no idea how this pertains to the song but it was cool to see what a little ingenuity was able to achieve. It’s not a great video, but it’s excellent considering the context. 8.25/7.0

Making of a Western Concert Intro: This is basically a 5-minute “making of” bit for the sepia-coloured film that was shown at the beginning of each concert – to the slide-guitars of “WWIII”. It’s shown in full here, with the band members disguised as southern hicks, sitting on a porch, clapping their hands and playing steel guitars. Each member is introduced in this short, which I suppose might have been a nice way to avoid doing it on stage during the show. In any case, the band’s get-ups are quite amusing, with plastic toys guns, bad beards, Lucia dressed as a man, and Jules as a woman. 7.5

WWIII: This is merely a brief advert for the album. For some reason it automatically played after “Ultra” instead of going back to the menu. In any case, it consists of images from the album’s artwork (but enhanced by minor animation) and some text inserts. The audio is f-in terrible, though: it’s tinny and full of pops. 6.5

KMFDM Studio: This is exactly what it sounds like: five minutes of the band in the studio, recording the album. Thankfully, it doesn’t overstay its welcome. 5.0

Whale Watching: Remarkably, the whole band goes out to watch whales. Honest. I never thought I’d ever see that. Sadly, we barely get to see any whales ourselves; we get to watch the watchers. They probably didn’t get permission from the whales’ lawyers. 5.0

Pictures

Tour Photos: This is a 10-minute (or so) slide-show of professional tour photos of the band. Each picture is on-screen for mere seconds, so there are a lot to see. There is no accompanying audio for this.

Fan photos: This is a slide-show of close to 30 minutes’ worth of tour pictures taken by fans. There are many by a certain Barbara Fara (unfortunately, she imprinted each picture with her name, basically ruining them). There is also no audio here.

There are also detailed Tour Diaries by Lucia and Jeff (KMFDM’s webmaster) to read, lyrics to all the songs in the concert bits and videos, an Electronic Press Kit, an e-Card and other DVD-rom features. Like I was saying, there are tons of stuff. Whether you find it interesting or not may depend on the depth of your interest in KMFDM, and how many such products you’ve seen before.

For all its flaws, I enjoyed revisiting this DVD. It reminded me just how down-to-earth and cool KMFDM are (or were at the time – I don’t know if that’s still the case. Although, given that their line-up hasn’t changed since, it’s likely). Even though they play heavy music (“The Ultra-Heavy Beat” as Sascha calls it) and have angry lyrics, they aren’t off-putting @$$holes one bit. Unlike some bands.

I’d put them on par with Megadeth as far as my appreciation level goes: when they’re on, the f-ing amazeballs. When they’re off, they’re still pretty good. The difference here is in the attitude. Sascha seems to have his !@#$ together more than Dave Mustaine probably ever will, and I appreciate the lack of negativity. It makes his music a good channeling experience without the bad aftertaste.

I ended up seeing them live on their subsequent 20th Anniversary tour, in 2004. It was such a visceral experience to see them: I felt the music go right through me; it was almost hypnotic. It was such a powerful experience that I felt compelled to buy a 60$ shirt as a memento afterwards – something I never do at concerts. Heck, I could have simply stayed around for autographs instead.

I’ve lost sight of KMFDM since. Having left my radio show, and with the closure of 80% of the record shops in my neck of the woods, there are hardly any points of access. Say what you will about today’s instant connectivity, but I liked walking around and having Brute!’s album covers jumping in my face. Having the band’s presence in my day-to-day matters more than having them a click away.

But I’ll make an effort. I’ll do my best to stay on top of all things KMFDM somehow. If ‘WWIII Tour 2003’ has done anything, it’s to remind me of why I should.

Nota bene: As much as I love KMFDM, and this album in particular, I had to dock the DVD some points for its weaknesses in the authoring and audio departments. It also gets points for the quantity of content, but this is tapered off the mundanity of some of it. ‘WWIII Tour 2003’ is a great DVD for those who just want lots of KMFDM, but not so much for those who want to know them better.

Dates of viewings: November 8-13, 2014

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