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Who To Blame For What You've Been Listening To

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What is "My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult"?
There are a couple of answers to that one, actually. The most obvious of them would be that it's a band which is/was (that bit sort of depends on who you ask, and what day it is when you do the asking) based out of Chicago. Then again, there's always the interpretation which involves a bit more of their history...
 
The story begins in the late 1970s, when a fellow by the name of Frank Nardiello (along with a couple of other notable people, including Al Jourgensen, Harry Rushakoff, and Marty Sorenson) founded a local Chicago area punk/glam/new wave band by the name of Special Affect. The band lasted for a couple of years, managed to release an EP (Mood Music) and a full length album (Too Much Soft Living).
[Band Photo (140k)]
(From left to right) Marty Sorenson (bass), Al Jourgensen (guitar), Frankie Nardiello (vocals), and Harry Rushakoff (drums).
 
After the second release, the band split, Al Jourgensen moving on to form Ministry in late 1981 and Frank moving to England and joined a band called The Drowning Craze. The Drowning Craze was originally put together as a vehicle for Angela Jaeger, a singer from New York. The band, which was also included Simon Raymonde (who went on to join the Cocteau Twins in 1983, replacing the original bassist), recorded three singles between 1981 and 1982. Frank was the replacement singer after Angela left the group in mid-1981 and recorded 'Trance' and 'Heat' with the band, both released on Beggar's Banquet's Situation 2 imprint. The band even made an appearance on John Peel's Radio 1 sessions in late 1981 or early 1982.
When the Drowning Craze split, Frankie moved back to Chicago and met up with Marston Daley (later to be known as Buzz McCoy) who had recently relocated to Chicago from the Boston area. The two formed an electronic music and art collective that went by the name Hammer Head Housewife and the Thrill Kill Kult. By 1987, they got fed up with their lack of success and set about trying to turn their latest project, an autobiographical movie chronicling the "true-life" adventures of the pair, into rent money by getting themselves signed to a record label.
During this label-shopping phase, Groovie and Buzz (as they were now generally known) approached Dannie Flesher and Jim Nash (the owners and founders of Wax Trax! Records) with the beginnings of a movie-and-music project. Of course, as might be expected, the movie was titled My Life With The Thrill Kull Kult.
Some (all?) of the completed chunks of the film have since been released on the fan club Ride The Mindway video, released in 1996, and more recently on DVD as The Kult Konnection.

Who makes up/has made up the band?
That also depends on who you ask. The studio incarnation of the band is usually just Groovie and Buzz, with occasional contributions by a cast of characters and backup singers who are brought in as required.
On the road, however, the Kult has always been quite the collection of misfits and oddballs, something to make their live shows more interesting than they'd be if somebody just fired up a sequencer and started singing along.
A more or less chronological list of contributors and co-conspirators follows (the pictures linked to their stage names are borrowed without permission from the offical site):
 
Stage Name Real Name Band Job Era
Groovie Mann Frank Nardiello Lead vocals, lyrics 1987 - Present
Buzz McCoy Marston Daley Production, music, keyboards 1987 - Present
Buck Ryder Thomas Locklear Keyboards, samples (now with EHC; see below) 1988 - 1990
Skip Towne Brian Gillespie Drums 1988
Curse Chris Mackay Keyboards 1988 - 2001
Levi Levi Charles Levi Bass 1991 - Present
Cliff Powerz Jheri Grisham Drums 1991 ?
Amber Guitarstar William Tucker Guitars 1991
Adam Best ? unknown 1991
Marquis Mark Mark McCabe Production, keyboards 1991 - 1994
Wolfgang Wolfgang Dodge World's Greatest Roadie, trumpet 1992 - 1996
Otto Mattix Adam Aaronson Drums / Percussion / Lights 1992 - 2001
Trash Kavity Bruce Manning Guitars 1992 - 1993
Ten Ron Zisook Performance / Videos 1992 - Present
Wickedboy X Michael Zemba Vocals / Manager 1992 - Present
Martini Sean Jordan Keyboards 1995
Dick Fury ? Drums 1995
Beatmistress Linda LeSabre Drums 1995 - 1996
Davy Dasher Dave Janusko Guitars 1997 - Present
James Fury James Basore Drums 1997 - 2002
Justin Thyme Justin Bennet Drums 2003
Shok ? Drums 2004
? Jason ? assorted roadie tasks ?
 
Other touring personnel have included Fluffy Montecarlo (better knowns as Keith Auerbach, the Chicago Trax engineer and production guy) and Ava Luscious and Ten of Instant Action, the roving film production crew.

Who are the Bomb Gang Girlz?
In a manner of speaking, they're the product of a deranged imagination. According to at least one source, the Bomb Gang Girlz started out as a way of milking the Wax Trax! coffers for a bit of extra money; Buzz and Groovie reportedly pitchshifted their voices up an octave or two on I See Good Spirits... and claimed to have hired a couple of backup singers who needed to be paid (at the label's expense, of course).
Soon enough, it was time for the Kult to go on tour and, not wanting to be caught without their "backup singers", the guys rushed out in search of real live replacements who could sing, dance, play keyboards, model some breathtaking leather outfits, and fit into the entire Russ Meyer-esque atmosphere. Before long, the first of the Girlz were hired, resulting in a touring complement made up of Groovie, Buzz, Buck Ryder, Skip Towne, Rhonda "Pickles" Bond, Kitty Killdare, and the one and only Jacky "Go-Go Butt" Blacque.
Over the years, the Bomb Gang Girlz' lineup has included:
 
Stage Name Real Name Band Job Era
Jacky "Go-go Butt" Blacque K.R. Hollingsworth Vocals 1987 - Present
Kitty "Red" Killdare Laura Gomel Vocals 1987 - 1995
Rhonda "Pickles" Bond Sue Bond Vocals 1987 - 1990
Avon Aviv / Viva Nova Pamela Manning Vocals 1988 - Present
Lydia Lunch Lydia Lunch Vocals 1989, 1993
Sekret DeZyre Laura Dame Vocals 1989 - 1993
Jasmine Night Shawn Christopher Vocals 1991 - 1993
Avalucious White Louanne Ponder Performance / Video Director 1991 - Present
Beatmistress Linda LeSabre Percussion 1995 - 1996
Sinderella Pussie Marcia Ove Vocals 1995 - 1999
Arena Rock Carmen Marusich Vocals, Keyboards, Production 1995 - 1996
Xtina Christina Petro Vocals 1997 - 1998
Cherrie Blue Ruth McArdle Vocals 1999 - 2002
Abbie Damned Vikki Savage Vocals ? - Present

Who is the Electric Hellfire Club?
Back in 1990 (or so), Buck Ryder (also known as Thomas Thorn), the guy who triggered samples a-plenty during the Kult's live shows, decided that he did not like the path that the Kult was taking and split from the band.
The result of this split was the Electric Hellfire Club, a band which recorded a number of albums and remix discs for Cleopatra Records.
Aside from Buck's presence (he now goes by the name Thomas Thorn, which some have suggested is an homage to The Omen), the appearances of Otto Matrix, and the Satanic overtones of most of the band's music, though, there really isn't that much of a connection between the two groups.

How about Death Ride 69?
Similar to the Electric Hellfire Club, Death Ride 69 is not a TKK side project.
In the late 1980s, Linda LeSabre (best known for her drumming stint with the Kult it seems) and a couple of other folks from the Los Angeles area got together to start up a percussion-heavy band. By 1989, they had undergone a couple of lineup changes, released a couple of records, and dropped into a state of near-total obscurity.
About the same time as Beatmistress' stretch of time touring with the Kult, the latest incarnation of Death Ride 69 was picked up by Fifth Colvmn Records. They released Screaming Down the Gravity Well at this time. This disc was co-produced by Buzz McCoy and Groovie Mann's vocals are featured on a pair of tracks, Needle and Super Hot Sister 69.

Wasn't a Bomb Gang Girl involved with U2?
On the ZooTV tours, during the Mysterious Ways song (later covered by KMFDM, featuring Charles Levi on bass), Bono, the singer from U2, would be 'tempted' by a belly dancer. As it so happens, this belly dancer actually has a connection to the Kult. Ophelia, as her stage name was, was Christina Petro (aka Xtina or Xtina X), the wife of Grim Fairies singer, Curse MacKey. She performed with the Kult from 1997 through 1998, while Curse has performed on and off with them from 1988 through to 2001.

What is their sound and live setup like?
The Kult's sound is more than a little bit difficult to describe. Initially, the material that they turned out on Wax Trax! sounded a good deal like the rest of the Wax Trax! catalogue, if a bit more frenetic and sample-heavy; since the release of Sexplosion! and the subsequent move to Interscope, however, their sound has been described as being something of a cross between goth, techno, industrial dance, and disco. If that helps at all. The band's best attempt to date to categorize themselves is "Psycho-babble-dingbat-funk".
As for their live setup, the best descriptions seen to date came from the old TKK mailing list ("Lots of tight clothes," wrote dRaven) and an interview in Raygun magazine ("A soundtrack for some bikini surf sex encounter that someone's about to have, hopefully me," from the Nov. 1995 issue). Of course, that doesn't help too much either...
A number of people do harp on the allegations that a fair number of the band's performances are synched to DAT recordings, making for shows that involved more dancing and stage events than actual musicianship. On the other hand, several other accounts insist that nothing has ever been played entirely off of tape and that there is a distinct diffence between a DAT player and a sequencer.

What other musical projects have the members of TKK been involved with?
This is one of the most difficult things to keep track of, especially due to the large number of people involved with the TKK camp over the years. As such, it concentrates primarily on Groovie and Buzz' work, with a brief listing of some of the other regular members.
  • Groovie Mann: Once the front-man for Special Affect, a Chicago-area glam/punk band (which also featured Ministry's Al Jourgensen on guitar, though Frankie reportedly delights in pointing out that he almost wasn't hired, and Concrete Blonde's Harry Rushikoff on drums). The band released a 7" single (Mood Music) and an album that was supposed to be a movie soundtrack (Too Much Soft Living). Frankie has also worked with Ministry, writing the lyrics for the song Thrill Kill Kult played on the Twitch tour in 1986. The music later went on to be used for the Lead Into Gold track Hated with all new lyrics. On the 1988 tour, Frankie was responsible for lighting. That year, he also provided the cover painting for the Stigmata single and vocals for the b-side, Tonight We Murder. He was also featured on the track Mindblower (from Psychic TV guitarist Fred Gianelli's solo album, Fred), to which he contributed vocals. More recently, he contributed vocals to a couple of tracks on a Death Ride 69 release and a Pigface track, Closer To Heaven, on their Easy Listening... release. His best known side-project work was with William Tucker on the Darling Kandie release titled People Next Door.

  • Buzz McCoy: Also a very busy member of the band, Buzz made up one half of the band Excessive Force (KMFDM's Sascha Konietzko was the other half), which is responsible for several remixes on assorted KMFDM singles, not to mention two XF albums and several singles on Wax Trax! (though Buzz was only involved with Conquer Your World and Conquer Your House). Other remixes that he has been involved with include Sascha's treatment of Dink's Get On It, Evil Mother's The Ready Set Die, Professional Murder Music's Something New, Voodou's Doomsday, and Pigface's Closer To Heaven. Some other bands that he has worked with include Pigface (who credit him with assistance on the live album Welcome to Mexico... Asshole), Death Ride 69 (their most recent album having been co-produced with band member Mark Blasquez), and his latest venture with Ruth McArdle, Cherrie Blue.

  • Levi Levi: If anybody in the band doesn't see the inside of his own home very often, it's Charles Levi, who has turned up with countless bands over the past few years. A brief rundown follows:
    • Chemlab: part of the band that toured in support of East Side Militia;
    • Die Warzau: credited on Engine;
    • Haloblack: toured with the band for two months in early 1995;
    • Hell3ent: a Fifth Colvmn collaborative band, also featuring Chemlab's Jared and Dylan, Haloblack's Bryan Barton, and 16 Volt's Eric Powell, their first release (0.01) saw the light of day in February '96;
    • the band formerly known as IceNine: an unsigned band made up of Levi, James Teitelbaum (Pigface/Evil Clowns), and Danny McGuinness (Coven of Thieves).
    • KMFDM: provided bass on their cover of U2's Mysterious Ways, found on Re-Constriction Records' Shut Up Kitty compilation;
    • Mescaline: following the breakup of Die Warzau, Van Christie assembled a band with ex-NIN and Die Warzau keyboardist James Wooley and Lick's Jason McNinch to do a couple of shows around the Chicago area, and they might even release something at some point;
    • Pig: turned up on a handful of songs recorded by Raymond Watts' solo venture;
    • Pigface: appeared on Notes from thee Underground and a couple of subsequent tours;
    • Sister Machine Gun: credited on The Torture Technique (he played bass on the songs Sacrifice and Negative), and also appeared in the Wired video (with Chris Randall, Jim Marcus and others), which can be found on Vol. 2 of the Wax Trax! video sampler;

  • Jacky Blacque: In addition to being the creative inspiration for most of Hit & Run Holiday (which was originally supposed to be a Bomb Gang Girlz album), Jacky provided vocals for the Excessive Force track Blow Your House Down, from the album Conquer Your World.

  • Kitty Killdare: Kitty has been a member of Pigface in recent years, contributing vocals (along with Martin Atkins) to the track Fuck It Up (on Notes from thee Underground) and appearing on the Pigface Team '94 tour.

  • Beatmistress: Linda LeSabre is another one of those artists whose name has been all over the place in recent years: her own projects, Death Ride 69 (whose albums, Death Ride 69: The CD and the more electronic Screaming Down the Gravity Well are floating around out there in the ozone) and Beatmistress (a tribal-percussion band) are mentioned a fair bit on r.m.i., and she has also appeared with the Vampire Rodents (providing vocals on Terra Amata, from the album Clockseed) and Pain Emission (on the compilation track Headcheese).

  • Trash Kavity: While there doesn't appear to be any information available online on either band, Trash's name has been mentioned in relation to two bands, "Kill Joy" and "Skin and Bones". Any news on either bands' sound, releases, etc., would be appreciated.

  • Miscellaneous: On a semi-related note, the Kult has toured with such wide-ranging bands as Siouxsie and the Banshees, Machines of Loving Grace, EMF, Lords of Acid, The Final Cut, Definition FX, Eve's Plum, Big Stick, Course of Empire and others.

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Alex Fletcher