“I read on social media, someone said we were ‘okay’ for an ancient band,” My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult frontman Groovie Mann tells me over the phone from his California home. “It didn’t make me mad, I thought it was cute.” Franke Nardiello started the Thrill Kill Kult in 1987 with Marston Daley, taking the stage names Groovie Mann and Buzz McCoy respectively. Indeed, for some, the veteran duo have been making industrial dance music longer than many of their fans have been alive. “I couldn’t ask for anything more…the older fans bring their kids and their friends,” he tells me when I ask him if he ever reflects on the status of his lengthy career.
During 2017 and 2018 the band toured in celebration of their 30th anniversary. More recently, Groovie did a short run as a panel speaker for the Wax Trax! Records documentary, Industrial Accident. “It’s been great. Chris (Connelly), Paul (Barker), and Al (Jourgensen) have been my friends for years. It’s great sharing it with them.” The film did a six date run that featured a screening of the film, a panel Q&A, and a Wax Trax! era performance by Ministry. In its heyday, Wax Trax! often employed artists from the label to work in their record store of the same name. “I worked there on and off as Thrill Kill got more busy touring. I always joke that they fired me because I had to go on tour.“
My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult was a key act on the Wax Trax! roster. Along with other great industrial bands of the late 80’s and 90’s (like Ministry, KMFDM, and Front 242) the Thrill Kill Kult shared in the aesthetic cultivated by the label and its artists, but also had a singular sound of their own. Often horny, a touch sleazy, and highly influenced by film scores and soundtracks, the band was always bit more dance oriented when their cohorts veered toward more guitar driven songs over the years. “Cinema has always been the underbelly of inspiration, [such as] Italian movie soundtracks, but even music from commercials from the 60’s, and the crates of records I had collected from the stores I used to work in played a part [in the bands sound].“
Last February, the band released their 13th album, In the House of Strange Affairs on their own label, Sleazebox Records. “The idea was to make it like it was the third album, if ‘Sexplosion’ didn’t exist,” he tells me when I ask if last years anniversary tour had any impact on the writing process. “Each song is like a paperback book found in the various rooms of this hotel.” This comes as no surprise as many of the lyrics could’ve been lifted right out of a pulp fiction novel. Nardiello cites “Gold to Grey,” “Royal Skull,” and “Under a Crown” as a few of his favorites from the latest release. Undeniably, these tracks are stand-outs on the album. But, from top to bottom, Strange Affairs shows the band is still as vital as ever. Drawing on the formula that ignited the bands early days, the album has a subtle sophistication that could only come from years of touring and the 12 albums that came before. The arrangements are complex, but McCoy and Nardiello know how to balance live instruments with samples and other electronic sounds to keep it focused on hip-shaking rather than head shaking. If you can’t dance to a Thrill Kill Kult song, is it even a Thrill Kill Kult song?
Not unlike other artists trying to survive in today’s music industry, Nardiello recognizes that “Free music is a gift, but it’s hard for the old school music world.” But, the singer doesn’t sound the least bit bitter. The band has always identified more as artists than pop stars. “If you believe in your music, love it for what it is…but, you’ve got to do the work,” he tells me. For Nardiello, success is measured by performing and the interaction with the crowd rather than the number of units moved. Missing this key fact is certainly what makes many of his cohorts jaded by endless touring cycles and the scant return on streaming royalties.
The band comes to Dallas on Sunday night (6/2, Trees) and fans can expect a handful of tracks from Strange Affairs alongside classic tracks from albums like 13 Above The Night, Hit and Run Holiday, and others. “I like [Dallas], it’s hot, but the response is always fantastic. I’ve always been a fan of Texas, everyone has always been cool to me and that’s all I ask.”
My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult Tour Dates
May 31 Elysium, Austin
June 1 Number’s, Houston, TX
June 2 Trees, Dallas, TX
June 4 Ready Room, St Louis, MO
June 5 The Bottleneck, Lawrence, KS
June 7 Marquis Theater, Denver, CO
June 9 Launchpad, Albuquerque, NM
June 11 Club Red, Mesa, AZ
June 13 1720, Los Angeles, CA
June 14 La Santa, Santa Ana, CA
June 15 Brick By Brick, San Diego, CA