My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult are
Kooler Than Jesus an industrial disco band from Chicago who are known for soundtrack contributions to cult classic films such as The Crow, Cool World and Showgirls.
In my 20’s, I was a maverick Babylon drifter TKK videographer with subKulture TV. Our videos were awful but somehow we managed to win a Telly Award and I got to meet the Electric Messiah himself, lyricist and lead singer, Groovie Mann.
Fast forward a decade, I am married and a father; a mainstream pseudo dude. Then I read that TKK had announced their 30th Anniversary tour. Ever the loyal fan and aspiring ko-konspirator, I brushed off how old the number “30” made me feel, laced up the platform Docs and paid TKK a visit at my favorite venue in New York City, the Knitting Factory.
The show had sold out weeks prior and tonight it was balls to the wall with glam-punk girls, norm-core nerds and goth kids seemingly unable to move in their giant boots and formidable hardware. In the daylight, we might have actually looked our age!
Looming in the shadows offstage, I could see Groovie Mann attempting to remain hidden while Mimi Star and Justin Bennet got things started with the thumping hypnotic drum and bass of “Heresy”. On a faux dramatic cue, The AC DC God joined the Kult and their cheap props on stage, splitting the tedium of the endless beat with his raspy off-pitch screaming.
The Filthiest Show In Town had begun!
I set my lukewarm can of Yuengling on stage behind the foldback monitors and methodically worked through three rolls of Ilford Delta 3200 in my Leica M6 TTL .85, swapping between my 1950’s Leitz 5cm 1.5 Summarit and 1980’s Leitz 90mm f2 Summicron Pre-Aspheric.
Lights were typical of a TKK concert or a no-budget horror flick; low and sourced at odd angles, flashing rapidly between RGB color schemes with no discernible logic. Even at 6400 ISO, I often had to max out my aperture, bottom out my shutter speed and pray to Satan. The terrible lighting was just a reminder that TKK seem to put on shows more to amuse themselves than to appeal to anyone’s expectations.
By the chorus of Do You Fear For Your Child, the black-leather-clad crowd was bouncing and yelling the familiar curiously provocative lyrics back at Groovie Mann and original Bomb Gang Girl, Arena Rock.
“TV disease is making us tired
Death struts the streets, it’s high on the bile
Do you fear? Do you fear for your child?”
“Christian Zombie Vampyre! I am the Father, the Father of NOTHING!”
TKK have a long, strung-out history of a revolving cast of appropriately pseudonym-ed characters handling vocals and instrumentation. Tonight, Mimi Star gave her bass a serious workout and appeared to be having the most fun of anyone on stage. My beautiful, out-of-place, Michael Kors purse-donning wife leaned into my ear. Her breath smelled of candy and cheap beer when she said, almost suggestively, “I think I like her the best!”
Along with Groovie Mann, Buzz McCoy is the other constant/founding member of TKK and he was difficult to shoot upstage, hiding behind Arena Rock, pounding on his keyboards in Aviators. I did manage to get a frame burn of him though!
I’ll never understand how Buzz and Groovie can see anything wearing sunglasses throughout entire sets but it seems to be a staple.
Groovie Man was in full form, sporting nut-hugging black leather pants that he’s probably been unable to remove since the 1980’s. My wife got a kick out of his old white man dance moves, which, ironically he’s been doing since he was a young white man. Groovie was lit primarily by downstage floor specials like how one holds a flashlight below their face to tell scary stories.
“We leave our lives to ride The Mindway
It’s hard to keep all the demons back”
I used to shoot TKK during the Reincarnation of Luna days of 2001. Shows were more explosive and high-energy on that tour. Lyrics were more sex-driven with hyper beats, guitar fuzz and more uppers-inspired on-stage action. Tonight was stripped down slow trance dancing with The Devil in an echoing darkness. For whatever reason, their signature b-movie samples were not played for this live show, making TKK’s more hollow and tinny original sound, that much sparser and dizzying. Tracks were truncated perhaps to avoid sounding redundant. But it was kool to get a taste of what TKK’s early days must have been like; playing in a cramped campy club emphasizing the industrial, slower hypnotic components of their sound. And hey, a fight almost even broke out near us!
30 years later, My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult continue to make their daisy chains for Satan and my carnal mind remains infected! I hope you’ve enjoyed my photos!
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