Mona Mur & En Esch interview:
Composer, vocalist and sound artist Mona Mur, a well known name in the German music scene, who has teamed up with artists such as Einstürzende Neubauten and Joachim Witt, has teamed up with Nicklaus Schandelmaier (aka En Esch), ex KMFDM guitarist and co-founder of Slick Idiot to form "Mona Mur / En Esch", a music project that showcases the unique talents of both artists. I received a copy of their new album "120 Tage: The Fine Art of Beauty and Violence" and was seriously impressed. The next step? Ask Mona Mur and En Esch a few questions, and just like their music, their answers were quite interesting. -Radio Nietzsche 3/09
Radio Nietzsche: Could you tell us a little about how you first started making music, how it all began?
Mona Mur: It began...in the belly of my mother probably..as she was singing all day, sad beautiful Russian songs with her brilliant soprano. “Alone in the snow storm out in street...” I think that was crucial. I was singing and recording at the age of 5. Played accordion, flutes, piano, guitar... always the soloist in the choir. No choice, pal.
Radio Nietzsche: Shortly after your first band, "Mona Mur and die Mieter" released Jeszcze Polska, you disbanded. What was the reason behind this?
Mona Mur: Juvenile confusion... I had some of the best musicians of the country, but I thought, “I want to go to Paris” and idiotic shit like this. To my defense, I must say that it was a little complicated as these hot boys were also playing in other successful bands, like “Einstürzende Neubauten”. A hard competition.
Radio Nietzsche: After "Mona Mur and die Mieter" you worked with members of Einstürzende Neubauten between 1985 and 1986, played around Europe and got Dieter Meier as your producer. Tell us how it was to work with Neubauten, about your work with Dieter Meier and the album "Mona Mur" you released in 1988.
Mona Mur: This is not quite correct. Already “Mona Mur & Die Mieter“ WAS with the Neubauten Members FM Einheit, Alex Hacke and Mark Chung. We released this seminal 12” “Jeszcze Polska” in 1982 and then disbanded. The second Mona Mur incarnation was 1984 to 1986, with FM Einheit and Alexander Hacke again, but also organist Nikko Weidemann, Thomas Stern (“Crime and the City Solution”) on bass and Sievert Johannsen (“Stricher”) on second guitar. With this formation we played some concerts people seem to remember until today for their intensity.
When Dieter Meier got in, the boys disappeared. Until today, this hurts very much, although Mr Esch now comforts me for this loss. The whole thing morphed into something else – me being the solo singer dealing with a major record company, RCA, and a Swiss millionäre, Mr Meier. It was a hard but, in the end, fruitful lesson. I wrote my own songs since then. I produced in the UK and in Poland. I got the chance to work with a full orchestra in Warsaw. Priceless experiences.
Radio Nietzsche: You also worked with Joachim Witt, what was that like?
Mona Mur: It was funny – but I think it was not the 100 % match. Anyway, thanks, Joachim, for a nice time in the legendary Can studio !
Radio Nietzsche: Around this time you quit singing and focused solely on martial arts. Why did you decide to make such a change in your life?
Mona Mur: Oh no, this was ten years later :) early 90s. My WARSAW record wasn’t released by RCA – as it wasn’t mainstream enough. I had reached a dead end in my development as a singer.
BUT I didn’t stop making music. I actually got into programming and producing electronic music. My martial arts life also started in 1991. It helped me greatly to develop endurance and 120% dedication.
Radio Nietzsche: When did you start training in Tae Kwon Do, and when did you reach third dan? You also became International German Vice Champion twice. Tell us a bit about this time of your life.
Mona Mur: I had been doing Aikido and Taekwondo already in 1980 for two years. Always totally fascinated by the aesthetics and discipline. Then, 10 years living a radical rock n roll life, I started Taekwondo from scratch again in 1991. Did my first black belt exam in 1996. 3rd DAN in 2002. National Team in 1999 and 2000. When I do something, I try to do it right. Even obsessed. That is all I can say.
Radio Nietzsche: Do you still train now?
Mona Mur: Sure. I hope to do it until the end. I also teach once a week since 10 years.
Radio Nietzsche: Around the mid 90's, you got back into music again, and did some sound design for computer games and such. What made you decide to shift your focus again and get back into music?
Mona Mur: As I explained, I NEVER quit music. I only quit SINGING for a while. Big difference :)
Radio Nietzsche: How did you end up getting together with En Esch?
Mona Mur: Actually, the KMFDM boys were buddies from Hamburg in the 80s. I think I can say, they were Mona Mur fans. I personally knew Sascha K., and also Raymond Watts, who was the MM sound engineer and then became KMFDM member. Later I got to know En Esch’s outrageous performances in mini skirts, fishnet stockings and parachute boots which immediately shot him far up in my eternal top list of extreme stage personalities.
Radio Nietzsche: Tell us a bit about that partnership and how it works. Who writes the music and who writes the lyrics?
Mona Mur: We do both what is necessary. Result counts. The best idea will be chosen. We are both composers, programmers, singers, producers. Writers. It’s great. We have huge sources to create from. Only with lyrics, each of us writes his/her own lyrics so far.
Radio Nietzsche: Do you two plan on touring anytime soon, and would you like to play in North America at one point?
Mona Mur: Actually, there are plans, yes. But everything has to be confirmed. We love to play, we are hot.
Radio Nietzsche: What are your plans for the immediate future?
Mona Mur: Playing, rocking, rolling, touring. Europe, US, .. Asia, everywhere if possible...
Radio Nietzsche: Any famous last words?
Mona Mur: DIE GARDE STIRBT, ABER SIE ERGIBT SICH NICHT :)
Radio Nietzsche: How did you get started making music? Tell us a bit about the early years.
En Esch: when I was a kid I started drumming on the dinner table. I guess that was when I was about three years old. I used to drum to the music on tv too and it drove my parents nuts.... anyway, I was in my first band as a drummer when I was 14, then I watched my bandmates and learned guitar by watching what they were doing. Later I became a singer in a band when I was 19 because I got tired of being stuck on the drum stool.
Btw, I have a diploma as a classical percussionist playing timpanies, vibraphone, snare drum and such.
Radio Nietzsche: What is the story behind the name "En Esch"? I've heard a few explanations, but let's hear it right from the source.
En Esch: For friends I usually go by “Nick”. My last name on the other hand is “Schandelmaier” a kind of complicated name and not what I wanted to use on stage. So for KMFDM a new name was using…”N” (Nick) and “Sch” (Schandelmaier) …En Esch.
Radio Nietzsche: You were once a member of KMFDM, how did you first meet Sascha Konietzko, and what led to you becoming a member of the band?
En Esch: I had moved to Hamburg with a girlfriend and we took over the lease on an apartment that was being rented by Sascha’s girlfriend. Through her he heard that a musician was moving into her old place. Coincidentally, at that same time, Sascha had just joined Peter Missing’s Hamburg incarnation of “Missing Foundation”. They were looking for a drummer for a gig a couple of weeks away. So Sascha came by and we talked it all over and decided to give it a go. After ‘Missing Foundation’, Sascha and I continued to work together on new material. We worked together enough to end up needing a name for our project. The name KMFDM was based on an old project he and some friends of his had come up with for a one-off show at an art opening in Paris. I later became friends with a painter, Udo Sturm. Udo Sturm was one of the friends from the Paris show. from what I’ve been told, Udo had taken words cut from random newspaper headlines. Ge arranged those words into “kein mehrheit fuer die mitleid”…which became known as “KMFDM”.
Radio Nietzsche: Was your time with KMFDM a happy time in your life, and what was it like to be a part of one of the most influential German bands of all time?
En Esch: I was happy for a lot of it. We had the same ups and downs that any close group of people go through. The idea of being influential hits home for me when I tour and meet people who have been following what I’ve done, what KMFDM has done, through all the years. Some kids tell me about how a certain song or a certain show changed their lives and that’s hard to explain, how that makes you feel. There’s really no words.
Radio Nietzsche: You left the band in 1999, what was the reasoning behind this?
En Esch: I didn’t actually quit, I rather didn’t go back when asked. There was a lot of negative energy between Sascha and Guenter Schulz and myself and we all decided on the phone to call the band quits. Then, only 2 days later, I heard that Skold and Sascha started a new project called “MDFMK“. 2 years later Sascha and I had a meeting in New York and he tried to convince me to re-join his idea of the new KMFDM. I was happy about my new creative freedom at that time and so I refused the concept of a fast reunion of the original KMFDM.
Radio Nietzsche: Right after you formed Slick Idiot with Gunter Schulz. Tell us a bit about this project.
En Esch: Right during the end of “KMFDM mark 1” I was already involved in a new project “Pizza Whore” later called “Barely Legal”. It was quite a commercial approach together with Trixy Reiss from NYC (artist and singer with the crystal method).
We had a top notch layer and manager but unfortunately didn’t go anywhere… I tried to come back to my KMFDM roots and I began to travel to Canada more often and jammed out with Guenter Schulz, the kick ass guitarist and musical genius of “KMFDM mark 1”. The result of our collaboration became known as “Slick Idiot”.
Radio Nietzsche: And when did you meet Mona for the first time and what led to you two getting together?
En Esch: We met the first time 1985 in hamburg during a Mona Mur show at the Klecks-Theater when I opened up for her with KMFDM.
Radio Nietzsche: How does working with Mona differ from working as part of a larger band like KMFDM? Do you approach it the same way or does your method change when it's just one other person as opposed to a larger group?
En Esch: Mona and I are basically on the same page and decisions are easily made. Sascha and I were very similar in the good old days.
Radio Nietzsche: You currently live in America, correct? How did you handle the recording of the album? Did you travel for the sessions? And is this type of schedule difficult for you; to live in America but have your other half so to speak in Germany?
En Esch: I spent over 15 years in the states and I lived in Chicago, New Orleans, Los Angeles, new york. recently I took a break from NYC to move to Berlin for a while. so I live very close to Mona in the moment. of course it is possible to work online with each other but the vibe of being in one room together is untouchable.
Radio Nietzsche: You have toured America before with Slick Idiot and KMFDM, would you like to do a tour as a part of Mona Mur / En Esch and do you see this as a possibility for the future?
En Esch: If the people in the states love our album we will tour the us sooner or later, no doubt.
Radio Nietzsche: What are your plans for the future with Mona and with your other projects?
En Esch: We’re looking forward to play a string of live shows throughout Europe with this material in the next few months. Please come and see us play, you’re gonna love it.
We will have our good ol’ friend Johann Bley playing the drums on stage. He’s a very talented programmer and used to play with people like “Juno Reactor", and "Holger Hiller“ There’s also an acoustic version of “Candy“ we’re gonna release online in a few days and an EP with remixes and outcuts in the making for a fall release.
Radio Nietzsche: Mona Mur vs. En Esch in a street fight, are you totally getting your butt kicked? She seems pretty tough, seriously.
En Esch: No way, she’s smooth.
Radio Nietzsche: Any famous last words?
En Esch: man geniesst den knochensalad mit remoulade.