ock bands that eschew the role of the bass player have been a thing since THE WHITE STRIPES came and shook things up in the early aughts. The impression that that pastey brother - sister team made can still be felt today with a band like KRASHKARMA who have been dubbed as (or did they dub themselves?) THE WHITE STRIPES OF METAL. However, in speaking with the band's guitarist RALF DIETEL, the bass sound that holds everything together in a band, has not been foresaken at all. When KRASHKARMA went from a four piece band to the dynamic duo of DIETEL and drummer NIKI SKISTIMAS, DIETEL noticed the absense of the bass immediately and did something about it. He created the Frankenstein guitar which included a bass pickup designed to sense only the low strings and a guitar pickup that senses all six strings. Thanks to DIETEL's ingenuity, the dynamic duo can hit the stage and the studio and sound like the full band experience despite their lean, mean setup. For the past couple of years, the duo have toured the U.S. and Europe non-stop, delivering an electrifying live show that goes beyond your average rock band experience. This is entertainment! Now, KRASHKARMA are on the verge of releasing their new LP MORPH - a testament to the duo's innovation and resilience. ROCKWIRED had a chance to speak with RALF DIETEL and NIKI SKISTIMAS of KRASHKARMA regarding their new release. Here is how the interview went.
The new album MORPH is coming out the end of this week, and I find it very exciting to see a full length from you guys after years of endless touring. Now, that it's almost out there for everyone to hear, how do you guys feel about the finished work?
NIKI: Oh man, we're so happy to have it out there finally!
RALF: It's been quite a process! I was mixing and mastering the album three hours before we left for the States.
NIKI: Yeah, we literally just finished it. And got it out in time for release. I'm pleased with the release and very happy with the finished product.
RALF: It was like having a kid at the very last second before the health insurance ran out.
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How long have you guys spent working on this album and where did you find the time to do it with your crazy touring schedule?
RALF: We started working on the first song two years ago.
NIKI: We do everything ourselves from the writing to the producing. We've had some pretty rigorous touring in the past couple of years and we were writing and recording in between all of that and it took place in between the States, Los Angeles and Germany. So It's been a process.
RALF: The writing and recording was all finsihed by the end of last year. About ninety percent of the work was done and then we started mixing and mastering it.
What inspired this set of songs? Where do these songs come from?
RALF: The album is called MORPH and it's all about morphing into a monster. The songs on this album describe how we turned from a four piece band into a two piece band. That change really wasn't by choice. It was due to a certain set of cirumstances. We could either quit or morph into something else, and that was what we did basically. It was do or die for us at one point. We had another tour lined up and we had to go on the road and after losing two members, we just decided to soldier on as a two piece. It's our survival instinct as a band that has informed the songs on this album. As a result of those changes, I built this guitar with a bass pickup and a guitar pickup that could make these crazy sounds. That one guitar sounds like several people are playing but it's just me on guitar and bass with this crazy pedal set up. That was the inspiration for this album.
NIKI: It also took us a minute to dial that in as a two piece of writing becasue in the past, when we were writing for a four piece. Even though RALF and I have always been the sole writers. This time we had to write for just the two of us, so RALF had to kind of re-learn his whole situation on his Frankensetin guitar and we had to find this awesome direction that we wanted to go in. This whole experience was brand new to us and that was why it took us a little while to find our niche within our new songwriting approach.
RALF: Everything had to be reduced to the max, but at some point I started writing different licks that made the guitar sound like several people were playing it.
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And the FRANKENSTEIN motif is something that comes through pretty strong through the band and it's music. RALF, talk about this FRANKENSTEIN GUITAR that you've created to help make the band's sound more of a signature sound.
RALF: Outside of playing guitar, I've played bass in several bands before this one. I just like to play music in general. When KRASH KARMA became a two-piece band, I was missing that bass sound. There are certain guitar players who put their guitars through these pedals but it never seems to do the trick. When you are playing bass, you need a root note and their cannot be chords and on the guitar, you are always playing chords so I came up with this idea of having two different sets of pick ups on the guitar - one that picks up only the root note on one string and the other picks up all of the strings. I've built a few versions of this set up and it is always the E-string that gets picked up so I always play the lowest string all the time or else I won't have a bass sound. That was how I started writing the riffs for the songs to incorporate the E and the A string. In doing so, this one guitar sounds like two instruments are being played.
And so far, what sort of reactions have you been able to guage from the new album from press and things like that. Have there been any reactions that have taken you br surprise?
NIKI: It's kind of happening right now as we speak.
RALF: The album is coming out Friday, but people have already heard it. We have one guy who has done a review of the album already.
NIKI: We're getting pretty good reactions so far. It's all happening now. So we can answer that question better for you next time.
And bring me back to the beginning of KRASH KARMA. How did this whole thing get started?
NIKI: KRASH KARMA got started back in 2009. We began the concept around that time and RALF and I had worked on projects in the past. I filled on drums with him for somehting and he helped me to produce some of my own solo stuff and at one point, we deicded to join forces and morph together and KRASH KARMA is basically about duality. It's about the good and the bad, the wind and the fire. It's all about duality in the world. It also brings the duality of male and female because we are now a duo. It just kind of worked out that way. In the beginning, we must've forshadowed that we would become this later because with a name like this, it makes complete sense for the kind of band that we are now. We started as a four piece and as we traveled around for a little bit, we realized that we wanted to shrink it down and make it better and this is what we've become.
Describe the songwriting process between you guys.
NIKI: The cool part about songwriting as a duo is that you would think that because there are less people in the band that you would have less opportunities, but you actually have more. So when RALF comes to me with a riff or a lyric idea, we can go any direction we want with it. We can go with his voice, or we can go with my voice. We can go where ever we want with it and we do. We go back and forth with things and once we get a good idea, then we go back and flesh out the lyrics and amke it into something that makes sense in the world.
RALF: There are always two parts to the songwriting, I feel. One is the lyrical idea and the other is the rhythm and riff idea. Most of the time, I sit with my guitar and come up with a guitar progression that I really like and then I come up with a melody for the vocals to go over it. Other times we sit in the van and watch a movie and then we come up with a cool line like "stranded on a sinking ship" and then we come up with more lines and try to fit thme in with the progression and the melody line that we have come up with. And that is how things get created - from the lyrical side and the riff side.
And from this new album, what songs off of it have you guys the most excited to get people to hear and why?
RALF: That's a hard question because it's like asking me which one is my favorite kid. I guess it's the kid that didn't shit in the driveway. Right now, I would have to say that one song that I'm exicted by is WAKE THEM UP because it was one of the first songs that we worked on, but we were never satsifed with the chorus. It was the first song that we worked on and the last song that we finished, so that song kind of provided the enitre framework for the album. That is what I'm most excited about, because I really love how it ended up. We worked on that song for two years almost and we had so many different versions of it, but in the end it all came together.
NIKI: I love all of the songs equally as well, being the mother. The first single that we releaed a few months back was STRANDED. We just love that song and it's going over really well on radio. Now, this time, we're releasing CHILDREN OF THE NEVER and that will be the second single that we put out from this album. Those are more of the radio friendly kind of songs. You've heard the album, so you know that some of the songs are radio friendly and some of them are not so radio friendly. It's important for us that we have both because we're not really a "radio" band. We want to do what we want to and that is how we want to write our music, but those two songs are ones that people ae catching onto very well.
RALF: Yeah, I think STRANDED is probably the best song that we have written so far, but I have to say that LEMMINGS is probably the best song on the album for me persoanlly. It has a very accessible, catchy chorus, but the song is super brutal. In essence, it sums up who were are as a band.
NIKI: It's the "krash" and the "karma", and I love that for sure!
How soon are you guys going to be hitting the road?
RALF & NIKI: Friday!
For how long?
RALF: Until mid-October.
NIKI: We're going ot be in the US until mid-October, so we've got six or seven weeks on the road. And then we go to Europe and then we will be back in the States, so we're going to be going back and forth. We'll be taking a Christmas break of course, but that's about it.
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Are there any dates on the US end of the tour that have you particularly excited?
NIKI: There are so many. We've been doing this for a while now and it's been a wonderful thing to see this thing grow. In certain cities like Denver and Colorado Springs, we can go there and we can see the growth in the fanbase and you can see that the scene is embracing the metal and the rock. There are few stops on the US wing of the tour that I'm really stoked about and we're just happy to see that the community is constantly growing. We love it.
With this album, what is the big idea? What would you like for people to come away with after they hear it?
RALF: I've always listened to music and somehow it always touches me and reminds me of something that happened in my past. I would like or hope that people that listen to it get reminded of things that touch them inside. This album is about making decisions in life and then realizing that life makes decisions for you and it's up to you to make the best out of it. I hope that music gives people strength to get through the day and master the situations that they get thrown in throughout the day. Music has helped me in my life to get through certain stages of my life.
NIKI: This album is all about waking yourself up inside and being aware and being alive and living your life to it's fullest potential and not taking any shit from anybody. That is kind of the whole theme of this album. It touches a little bit on the things that we are going through politically, but not in like one way or another. It's about seeing the whole spectrum of the world the way it is now and how people just need to be active and to make a stand for what you believe in and to stand for something. That is what we want to push out there in the world - Believe in yourself, believe in others, help your community and be strong together.
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