Twenty years ago, when Motley Crue ruled the world, My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult emerged in a last wave of underground, subversive music that included Ministry, Skinny Puppy, Laibach, Coil, and Nine Inch Nails, bands that offered truly radioactive material underneath the umbrella that was “alternative” rock.
TKK employed more than its share of occult iconography, images all the more spooky because they lacked any context. (The mysterious “who…why…murdered” graffiti in the Confessions of a Knife sleeve still creeps me out). Yet they were always having such a good time, slipping so seamlessly from industrial, psychedelic evil into goofball, pornographic disco-a-go-go, that they persistently resisted any concrete definition.
According to TKK vocalist and co-founding member Groovie Mann, his band, now in the midst of its 20th anniversary tour, has truly come full circle. Not only are they back to booking their own shows; they’ve also scaled themselves back to their original duo of Mann and keyboardist/guitarist Buzz McCoy.
“We just felt it was time to get out there and play the songs that made us,” Mann said. “We’re like one of those Grateful Dead bands, where our fans always stick by us. Nothing has really changed except our ages. A lot of the old goth kids are parents now, and they bring their kids.
TKK made their debut on Chicago indie Wax Trax! — a key label for industrial and punk in the ‘80s — but they also found success through more mainstream vehicles: a contract with Atlantic Records, an MTV documentary, licensing agreements for shows like CSI: New York.
“It was where things were taking us at the time and we felt like we had to thrive,” Mann said. “One of the reasons Wax Trax folded was because they couldn’t pay the royalties once our album was successful. And we were doing everything, all our art, ourselves anyway, so the [label support] was just embellishing that.”
One memory that particularly stands out for Mann is their participation in the brutal Goth/comic book revenge flick, The Crow. TKK had a cameo in the film, and their entry on the popular soundtrack, “After the Flesh,” finally gave their prior hit “Daisy Chain 4 Satan” some company as a regular club staple in the early to mid-1990s.
About the film, Mann says that he “loved all the super-cool bad guys, enough to allow the sappy parts to slide.” More soberly, he added, “Our scene was shot in an old factory, and there was still this sign — I even took a picture of it — that said, ‘365 days without an accident.’ A week later, Brandon (Lee) was dead.”