Williamette Weekly July 4, 2000

"Glamour is a Rocky Road"

by John Graham

The electric messiahs of My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult have always lived in a kitsch-cool world of sleazy chicks and cheesy B-flicks. So why do people take them so seriously?

When discussing My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult, hyphens are a must -- the campy 13-year-old band has run through so many musical personalities it's impossible to describe them in simple terms. Satanic-disco orgy-a-go-go? Stripperdelic industrial-slam-glam? Hump-n-grind '60s porno-funk? All, and none, of the above apply. But talking to singer Frankie Nardiello (or, when in his role as Kult leader, Groovie Mann) from his Chicago home, it's obvious cut 'n' dry style-copping is the farthest thing from his mind. Tune in, turn on, drop a beat -- it's as simple as that. Ride with it, baby.

Willamette Week: Your whole career you've shrugged off any moral or musical significance to what you do -- said, "This is silly, let's just have a good time." Still, I know a lot of people who take it really seriously and say, "I can't listen to Thrill Kill Kult anymore. It's just so ridiculous now."

Frankie Nardiello/Groovie Mann: You mean the ones who thought we were going to stay dark and...yeah, that kind of upset some of our earlier fans. I don't know, we still have a bit of it with us, [but] you can't just settle into one thing. It's boring. A formula is boring. It's so much more fun to just see who you can be next, without claiming to be the "real thing." Like how Marilyn Manson wanted to turn into Bowie, and having Bowie produce his Bowie-inspired album. It's like, "Eck! Overkill! Tilt! Tilt!"

Tell me about The Reincarnation of Luna [TKK's forthcoming album].

It's kind of in a story form -- it's about this chick and she goes through all these changes and phases and things, like, going in her and possessing her and different personalities. The album starts out with sort of a rap thing, which is a real new thing for us, a kind of cut-up.... When we were writing it, we were like "aaahhhheeww." But it's really good, I'm happy how it turned out. There's the aggressive side of us, a track called "The Untouchable Clash" which is pretty good [with] chugging guitars, aggro vocals, repeating phrases: "You're no good to anybody." [laughs] "Why don't you just stop living?" That's pretty funny.

Sounds like it's all over the place.

Yeah. It definitely takes you on a Thrill Kill Kult joyride... There is a real swirly dance song, the chick solo song -- every album usually has the featured babe.

Does it make you feel weird that you're touring on the strength of reissued albums because the new one isn't out yet?

Nah, that stuff doesn't really have an effect on me anymore. You can only do so much to lead your whole career constantly, album-tour-album-tour-album-tour-album-tour. Think of a life like that. It's cool, but it's pretty demanding.

You're going to let down all your fans who think you lead a crazy road life.

Well, it never shuts off. When you go on the road it just kicks in, and then it's just a swirl of non-stop drinking. It's shows and partying. It's like clockwork. I party, believe me. I'm not like an Earth Father that's like, "No cigarettes, no pot, no drugs." All that stuff goes and I sort of dabble through it. Whatever I can handle. I mean, I have a huge responsibility, when you're doing six, eight shows in a row.... I can't completely go wild, but like I said, I do stay up all night. I gotta keep the excitement. I used to be out seven days a week in a city where the bars close at five. And all my friends who I hung out with, they either owned the clubs or... I was in bands, and I drank for free, and I was out every fucking night. The scene fixture completely.

Are you not allowed to have your real name if you're in the band?

If you want it. Or you make up a cult name and join the Kult. It's silly, of course. Who said it wasn't silly? It's totally silly. When it's not silly is when it sucks to us. No, we're not a Satanic band. We like Satan and we laugh at Satan and we laugh at Jesus and we laugh at everyone and everything. No one's spared. We don't get into picking on certain groups. We're, like, so many different things. This whole band is gay, straight, bi. There are no transsexuals in it now, but who knows, y'know?

That's why it's funny that people look back at Confessions of a Knife and see it as dark when, really, it was just incredibly silly.

That was a period we were in, of course. It was our dark chapter, maybe, the first album. You can see us coming out of it right away into the second album. That's where the dark disco begins. We were laughing at it then as being Satanic disco.... [But] if you don't like us, and you don't get us, then go away. We never were begging for fans or trying to make people happy so they'd like us. Never. In the beginning, the West Coast could give a fuck. They were like, "Who are you? Who's Thrill Kill Kult?" And we ended up becoming so popular in California.... Even people that reviewed our earlier records -- "Oh, this sucks, this is awful" -- then two or three records later: "Oh, we like that one. Let's do a full feature interview." Didn't you just say we sucked last year? A lot of people were asking me about that whole mess with Columbine: "Did you guys get in trouble?" No...! We may have "kill" in our name but we're not reciting blender directions over music: "Chop, kill, burn."

People do misinterpret it on both sides of the spectrum.

They always do. Isn't that funny, how the public doesn't ever realize?

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Alex Fletcher