A conversation with Chico’s industrial-goth-metal artists, The Kunst Conspiracy
The Kunst Conspiracy began simply as Kunst. Lead vocalist/guitarist NiL grew up in Colorado, and for his high school senior project his teacher let him indulge in a little kunst (German for “art"). Instead of doing the typical research paper, NiL and a buddy got a drum machine and hit the recording studio, recording an EP of goth-inspired fun called Head Without a Clown under the moniker of Kunst.
There was a live unveiling of the senior project and the whole school showed up. Kunst sold a ton of CDs and the teacher announced, “Now this is a senior project.”
That was just two years ago, and since then NiL moved to Chico for college and joined up with 25-year-old metal guitarist Manimal (son of a Wyoming preacher man), as well as Zeke Hughett (synth), Mat Leathers (bass) and eventually drummer J0e. Re-dubbed The Kunst Conspiracy, the band has been rehearsing four times a week in preparation for supporting the springtime release of its first full-length, Machination on Chicago underground goth label Killing Jar Records.
We lured Chico’s only full-on goth/industrial band (since the days of the infamous Bone Gruel) away from the nudie video game inside Off Limits before a recent show, and into the cold night to get to the bottom of The Kunst Conspiracy.
So, you guys are signed.
NiL: Yeah, signed to Killing Jar Records. Basically what’s going on is, they gave us about $1,500 to help us record this album. We recorded with Mike Gee over at Knee Deep Studios.
You planning a tour?
NiL: We’re going to be planning a tour. The CD is called Machination and it’s going to be released nationwide. It’s going to be going through all the Targets, all the FYEs, Virgin Records, Tower Records, Hot Topic, all that stuff. They have about three distributors they’re working with right now. One of the biggest bands on [the label], Twenty Ripped Angel from Baltimore, Md., we’re going to be touring with them pretty soon. And they’re going to be getting us to New York, Chicago and Florida.
You guys are pretty much it for goth/industrial in Chico.
Manimal: It’s something new. We’re trying to bring something fresh to the table.
Do you attract a big goth crowd, or is it mostly a metal crowd?
Manimal: We come from all different backgrounds. We kind of bring a little bit of our own crowd with us. We get a lot of metal heads, a lot of grunge fans, a lot of just straight hard rock and rock ‘n’ roll fans. [NiL: We even get punks.]. And everybody seems to enjoy it, whether you’re 10 or whether you’re 45. We get a whole bunch of biker moms coming in going, “You guys fuckin’ rock!”
Are any of you into the goth lifestyle at all, or is it just the music?
Manimal: Well, we’re not heroin addicts.
NiL: I don’t smoke cloves or anything like that. We’re pretty laid-back guys. [Manimal and I] work at a construction company, and these guys work at a retirement home. We like drinking, and we go out causing mayhem. Just all that good shit.
Why this musical style then?
Manimal: I played the piano for, like, 20 years, and I was looking for a band where I could play dark, melodic music, with heavy, fast speed metal. Clean stuff. All that electronic influence and everything that makes it sound so dark. Makes you want to slit your wrists. … We have a lot of gothic elements and influences in what we do, but every song we do doesn’t sound the same.
NiL: We take what we like, and the different styles that we listen to, and then we pretty much trim off the fat of what we don’t like.
Any sunny songs?
Manimal: To quote the opening line of the CD [in unison with Nil]: “I wanna kill everyone with my loaded gun/ I wanna burn my world to the ground/ I wanna shoot on site, just for my delight/ I wanna see you rot in hell.”
NiL: I’ve gotten flack before for [the song] “Trigger,” saying it’s promoting suicide. When, in all actuality, it’s about a relative who had a meth addiction, and he was looking to kill himself.
You lived in Colorado. Did you live there when Columbine went down?
NiL: Yes, I did. I actually knew some kids at Columbine. It was insane. We weren’t allowed to go on the Internet at school. We couldn’t see The Matrix. Some kids got jumped for wearing trench coats.
Trench coats have been around forever, though.
Manimal: Shit, hicks wear them and they call them dusters.
NiL: Urban Cowboy man. John Travolta!