’30 Years Of Journalism – Celebration Interview’ with Uwe Kanka / Armageddon Dildos: ‘We Were In The Right Place At The Right Time!’
Back in 1991 I started writing my first reviews for Side-Line magazine. I would have never thought to go on writing reviews and making interviews non-stop for 30 years. So 2021 is a special year to me, a kind of ‘celebration year’. I got the idea to celebrate this special event by interviewing people from the scene who all have a special meaning to me. EBM formation Armageddon Dildos definitely is a band I had to interview. The German band, which started as a duo, composed a very dynamic EBM sound and got rapidly famous for their impressive live shows. The band never stopped to evolve and rapidly started experimenting with harder Industrial elements to finally move towards a more ‘Poppy’ production. Uwe Kanka kindly accepted to look back at the impressive career of ‘the dildos’.
(Courtesy by Inferno Sound Diaries)
Q: Armageddon Dildos was originally set up in 1990 (!) by you and Dirk Krause. How did you guys meet and what was your music background?
Uwe: Dirk and I met us in 1986 in the same rehearsal room in Kassel. I played guitar/vocals in a classic three-man band (Beat The Beat) and Dirk keyboards/synths in a Synth-Pop group.
We liked each other immediately and very quickly it became clear to us that we wanted to explore new musical ways. Harder and more aggressive Electronic sounds and harder beats, that was the plan. After a few jam sessions, we knew that it worked great!
Q: Armageddon Dildos became an instant successful EBM band; you got directly signed to Zoth Ommog, releasing the EP’s “Never Mind / Pressure”, “East West”, “Resist” and of course the debut album “That’s Armageddon”. According to you what made the success formula of the early productions and what has been the impact of Talla 2XLC who produced your first works?
Uwe: I am still firmly convinced that it was largely due to the symbiosis between Dirk and me – added to that the incredible energy of that time.
Actually, something new was always happening; musical as well as social (fall of the Berlin Wall) changes certainly played a part in it. It was an unbelievable dynamic, open and wild time. Being signed to Talla 2XLC and Musik Research/Zoth Ommog was a blessing for us. It was the perfect timing for Armageddon Dildos. Talla and its staff convinced us with their high level of competence and passion for music. Frankfurt and the Techno Club, for example, was, along with Berlin, the measure of all things in Germany for us at that time. Looking back, I am sure that the success of Armageddon Dildos was largely due to Talla 2XLC and his team. We were in the right place at the right time!
Q: Zoth Ommog was one of the absolute leading labels from the 90s Electro underground scene. How do you look back at this period, the 90s, Talla 2XLC, the label and label mates?
Uwe: Zoth Ommog was very important for the development and spread of Electronic music at that time worldwide. Label bands like Leather Strip, X Marks The Pedwalk, Bigod 20, Orange Sector, Consolidated, Psychopomps, The Armageddon Dildos to name a few, played an important role in the scene in the late 80s to the mid 90s. Those were very exciting times.
Through Talla’s contacts and our gigs at the New Music Seminar 1991 and 1993 in New-York, Howie Klein became aware of us and we got a contract with Sire Records in the U.S.A. Rüdiger Ladwig took over our management and booked our concerts. “Homicidal Dolls” was released by Sire Records in 1993 in The States and “Lost” followed in 1994. After the release of “Lost” we went on tour and played among others at the Zillo Festival in December 1994 at the Zeche Karl. We were accompanied at the Zillo gigs by Markus Hartmann, who would play an important role for us in the next few years.
Q: Quite progressively the band evolved towards harder music, still EBM driven, but with an Industrial input with guitar play and samplings. What made this evolution towards a more ‘Industrial’ sound?
Uwe: We have always worked with samples. That was our usual way of working. Sampled speech, noises but also instruments like guitars were part of almost every production.
On some tracks I played the guitars later myself. In 1994, for the production of “Lost”, we went to Chicago to Wax Trax Studio to work with Keith ‘Fluffy’ Auerbach (producer/sound engineer of Ministry, Revolting Cocks, Pigface, Skinny Puppy etc.). During this time we recorded guitars and drum sequences instead of sampling them. To bring the production to the stage, Vom, who now drums for The Toten Hosen, and Uwe Osterlehner, played guitars, joined the band.
Q: You also started working with another producer; Sevren Ni-Arb produced several productions and I remember a lot of bands wanted to record in his studio. What made him that special and what has been his true impact on the final production? Are you still in touch with him?
Uwe: Most of our albums/EP/singles from ’89 to ’99 were produced by different producers. However, Dirk and I were always significantly involved.
We met Andre Schmechta (Sevren Ni-Arb) through Talla in Frankfurt. We immediately got along really well, had a very consistent understanding of music and, not to be underestimated, a very similar sense of humor. Therefore we decided to produce “Homicidal Dolls” with Andre. Working on the album was a lot of fun, full of energy and musical creativity. Later on we worked again with him on “Fear” and “Homicidal Maniac”. Besides, it always smelled wonderfully of freshly baked goods in the studio because there was a bakery in the neighborhood.
Unfortunately, we lost track of each other over the years and are no longer in contact.
Q: I got the impression the “Speed”-album (my favorite by the way) released in 1997 was a kind of turning point in the band’s early years. You signed to a major company (BMG), got produced by Bob Kraushaar and Andy Gill (Gang Of Four). The sound became ultra-professional, but how did you experience the “Speed”-album and the move to a major company?
Uwe: Through Markus Hartmann (see above) we got the contract with Metronome and later also with BMG Ariola in Hamburg. The move from Zoth Ommog to a major label changed a lot for us: first of all, of course, the financial means for production, marketing etc.. We travelled to London in search of the right producer and met Bob Kraushaar (Pet Shop Boys, Paul McCartney, ABC etc.) among others. Bob had very concrete ideas about the production of the new Armageddon Dildos album and suggested to have one half of the CD produced by himself and the other half by Andy Gill, the legendary guitarist of Gang Of Four. We agreed immediately and went to London in the Summer of 1996 to produce “Speed”. But some tracks on the album were also produced at Skyline Studio in Düsseldorf. “Speed” is, and I agree with you 100%, a very professional production and an excellent album.
Q: Do you remember how much albums you were selling at that time and was it possible to earn a living from your music?
Uwe: We had very good sales at times and could also live on it during such periods. However, the consistency was missing. I think many artists are in the same situation. You should always have a plan B in mind. But let’s be honest: there were never enough albums sold to be able to make a living from it in the long run.
Q: BMG became a one-shot experience, you get back to Zoth Ommog, revisiting some of your early songs by the album “Re:Match”. It also was the last work together with Dirk Krause. How do you explain the split of the band and are you still in touch with Dirk today?
Uwe: In hindsight, I think the events following the completion of “Speed” were key to the band’s development. We had a fantastic team behind us at the Metronome, a killer production and a very good video for “Open Up Your Eyes” recorded in Kenya. Everything was great and then we got the devastating news: Metronome was dissolved!
What a bummer. We got the rights for “Speed” and ended up with BMG Ariola, but that didn’t work out. The label split up with us and we had to look for a new label. All that was hard stuff and the band didn’t take it too well.
Dirk decided to leave the Dildos to start a new project. I wanted to continue. We decided to do one last release together and that became “Re.Match” on Zoth Ommog in 1999. Dirk and I have hardly any contact today.
Q: “Morgengrauen” released in 2003 on Electric Blue was the first album you were totally involved in the song writing. That was something new and without offending you Uwe, I think the only Armageddon Dildos-album that couldn’t convince me. What’s your personal analysis about this work?
Uwe: I underestimated, as I see it not only now, that this kind of music definitely does not fit to an EBM/Industrial band like The Armageddon Dildos.
I like “Morgengrauen”. It’s an Electro album with good songs, artwork and photos. However, I should have released it as a new project with a different name. But as we all know, hindsight is always the wiser!
Q: “Sangreal” got released in 2005 on Ausfahrt, but it finally was the “Untergrund”-album released in 2011 on Alfa Matrix that put you back on the map. You joined back hands with a leading label from the scene and for the very first time you also produced the album. What does this album mean to you and where do you place this work in the band’s discography?
Uwe: “Untergrund” is a very important album for me. It combines interesting Electro sounds and beats with hard guitars without slipping too much into pure Industrial. Unfortunately, I could not convince Ausfahrt/Electric Blue with this production. I asked for a termination contract, got it and signed with Alfa Matrix a short time later.
However, this is not the first independently produced album. I have been working with sound engineer and producer Mathias Black since 1997, who mixed and co-produced all Armageddon Dildos albums from “Re:Match” onwards.
Q: After “Untergrund” it took your nine years to strike back with the “Dystopia”-album, which became one of the most achieved, diversified and professional albums. Do you feel this album as different from the others? And tell us a bit more about the ‘teamwork’ to achieve “Dystopia”?
Uwe: “Dystopia” is the first Armageddon Dildos album where I did everything on my own until the mixing phase. From the composition/lyrics to the recording and programming of the instruments to the recording of the vocals including Malin’s vocals for “Neon”. I had quite clear ideas in which direction “Dystopia” should move. Mathias changed or added vocals and some sounds later while mixing the tracks. We had a very good division of labor. I am really satisfied with the result of this production!
Q: Armageddon Dildos always had a strong live reputation. How did you see the shows evolving throughout the years and what’s your connection with the fans?
Uwe: What has changed over the last thirty years is the number of musicians on stage: Dirk and I started in ’89 as a duo. In the mid-90s, there were four of us for a while with Vom and Uwe Osterlehner. After that with Vom it was three.
At the first gig without Dirk at the beginning of 2000, Malin and Dave Anderson were there with me. Then Ulf Häusgen joined on guitar/vocals. A short time later Rene Nowotny took over the keyboards. On our five-week U.S. tour with Inertia in 2007, Gabriel Shaw joined me and Ulf Häusgen.
And for almost ten years now, it’s been just the two of us on stage again: Uwe Kanka and Sven Mouhcine. Last but not least, it is very important to say that Mathias Black has been responsible for the sound of the Dildos as a member of the band for 99% of the gigs since 1996.
What has not changed at all during this time, thank God, is the energy and power of every Armageddon Dildos show, which also includes the very close contact to the audience and the fans.
Q: I remember there was an Armageddon Dildos fan-club. How important is it for a band to have a fan club?
Uwe: I think that a fan club is very important for artists. In our case it was phenomenal. The Armageddon Dildos Fan Club was founded in Aachen after our gig in Übach-Palenberg on 24.06.1991. After that, regular meetings took place in Düsseldorf or Aachen. The fan club did unbelievably good public relations work, e.g. published an info letter. Members of the fan club were at almost all the band’s concerts until the middle of the ’90s. Due to personal changes and also due to the musical development of the band from the middle of 90s onwards, the interest of the members of the Fan Club in the band waned.
Q: If you had to introduce Armageddon Dildos to people who never heard of the band before, what song and album would you choose first?
Uwe: It depends on the people. I have friends who can’t do anything with our older songs; I would play “Stay” or similar tracks for them. People from the scene who don’t know us, mmhm, that’s not so easy. Maybe “I Can’t Remember” or “White Room”. But I could also think of pieces by “Speed” and “Homicidal Dolls”. I personally like “Gottland” very much.
Q: Do you’ve other passions in life next to music?
Uwe: Ride a motorbike, skiing and enjoy the tranquility of nature.
Q: Did the success of the band had an impact on you as human being?
Uwe: I don’t think so. Rather the failures. Because those were the ones that kept me going.
Q: What’s your best- and worst memory after more than thirty years Armageddon Dildos? And do you still have secret wishes and dreams?
Uwe: I would like to mention two of the many wonderful memories: the fantastic concert in Übach-Palenberg together with And One, when we met the people from the later Fan Club, and our performance at the Roskilde Festival at midnight in front of about 10,000 spectators. That was gigantic.
The worst was definitely the moment when we were informed about the closure of Metronome.
Secret wishes and dreams? Yes, I do. And they should be kept secret.
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