Were John Waters to throw a dayglo filth rave in a shag-carpeted bathroom, My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult would be the luxuriantly prurient electro industrial band slaying the shower-turned-stage. They're a sample-dense, sextactular dance band founded in Chicago in 1987 by Groovie Mann and Buzz McCoy on the experimental indie label Wax Trax! Records.
Thrill Kill Kult is as feral and fabtrashtic as ever. They're taking their berserker dark disco on the road with backup singers the Bomb Gang Girlz in tow. DGO spoke to Buzz McCoy about religion, Taylor Dayne, and what to expect out of their 30th Anniversary tour.
How, in an era of Taylor Dayne and U2, did Thrill Kill Kult happen? The sound is so drastically different from the world around it. [Laughs] When I worked at Wax Trax!, I had my little shipping world all to myself. It was just me and I was away from the label and I would blast the radio on my boombox all day long and Taylor Dayne was one of my favorites. That song, “Tell It To My Heart” – I loved it. I'd be playing pop music on full blast and everyone at the record label would be like, “Why is he listening to pop music?” or “Shouldn't he be listening to Laibach?”
So Taylor Dayne is partly responsible for My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult?Yeah. In fact, I could probably even say I stole a snare or something from one of those albums and it's on the early recordings.
What were the early days in Chicago around Wax Trax! like? I worked at the label in shipping and Groovie worked at the record store. We were spending our nights in my bedroom on my little four-track making silly music, never thinking anything of it. We had hoped to put together this tiny horror film with some music and we didn't know what we were doing. We were just passing time, ya know?
We would go out to the clubs every single night, all night long. We'd hit about four or five bars a night. We'd end up at SmartBar under Metro. That'd be the last stop because that was open till 4. We'd get two or three hours of sleep and go to work. It was a relaxed atmosphere. I could work a few hours then go lay down and take a nap. Fortunately, I lived right above the label, so I didn't have far to go to bed.
Smart Bar, Dreamers was a big one. That one was in Wicker Park right by Wax Trax!. Neo. Berlin. We'd go to Neo to do drugs in the bathroom and then leave. Exit was where we ended up a lot. The Bomb Gang Girlz all worked there. We stole the wait staff by asking, “Hey, you wanna be in a band?”
Was there something about Chicago that helped spawn industrial as much as it did? It's a very enthusiastic city, a very welcoming city. Everyone is so into what they're into. The dance clubs like Medusa's – it was all ages – and they'd play all the Wax Trax! stuff. People embraced it because the clubs played it.
You also had all this new music coming out of the city. House music was coming up at the same time and the people who weren't necessarily all in to house found their niche in industrial. It was mostly the dance music.
What would you say the overarching message of Thrill Kill Kult is? Our whole philosophy is, “Be yourself and someone else, too.” Our thing is more of a cultural thing, more of an anti-religious thing. We may not be political, but we are very anti-organized religion. We think religion is just as demonic as some of the government is. It's about control. That's one of our main messages. Just look at it. It's nothing but images and paper dolls. Satan isn't real, ya know? It's kitsch, really.
Is there a movie you'd love to sample from but don't because of legal reasons? We sample whatever we want. We've never worried about legal stuff. Generally, we mask the samples. We don't blatantly use a sample. It's cut up so that it doesn't say exactly what it said in the movie or its pitch changed. A woman could be saying it, but now it's a guy. Very few samples we use are obvious.
After three decades, what's your audience like now? We have people bringing their kids to the show. That's the new thing. “My son is 18 and I brought him to see you guys,” and I'm like, “Oh, geez.” They're the kinda people who see you at the end of the show and say, “I want you to meet my kids,” and you're like, “Oh, god, don't make me feel older than I already do.” It's great and fun though. And funny. The kid will be like, “Since I was a baby I've been dancing to 'Daisy Chain for Satan'”
Who would ever thought when we started I'd say this now? I didn't think this little band thing would last more than a couple years, if that. To last 30 years is mind-blowing.
What's the sexiest thing you've ever seen at a show?I saw a couple who was [effing] through the whole set – the whole set. Against the stage and staring at us while they were [effing]. I don't know if it's the sexiest thing I've ever seen. It might be something I want to erase out of my memory. It's probably happened a lot more than I know. Who knows what's going on up in the balcony or over by the coat check?
I guess we are sexually inspiring. [Laughs]
For TKK's 30th Anniversary tour details, hit up https://www.facebook.com/thrillkillkult. This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.Patty Templeton