ver since THE WHITE STRIPES came up with the idea of cutting out the bass player, rock n roll seemed to have stumbled on a primal urgency that had been lacking in the years prior to their debut. The duo KRASHKARMA has the same kind of line up consisting of a male guitarist and a singing female drummer but KRASHKARMA boasts a punchy, theatrical heavy metal sound that electrifies on recordings and a live stage. Plus, guitarist RALF DIETEL and NIKI SKISTIMAS look so fucking adorable together. ROCKWIRED MAGAZINE reported on a show featuring these guys and the band VAJRA in our April 2017 issue. I can't quite remember what my reason for not being able to make it to their show at BURT'S TIKI LOUNGE was, but trust me when I say that I'm kicking myself for it now. It's been a couple of years since the band released their blistering LP PAINT THE DEVIL featuring such mesmerizing singles as GHOST IN THE MACHINE, VOODOO DOLLS and SAVE ME, but it's been enough to fuel anticipation and excitement for their recent Winter tour whose promotion boasted some clever, classic STAR WARS imagery. ROCKWIRED got a hold of these two over the phone as they were on the road heading to a gig in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. We talked about the current tour nd their plans to release a new album in the coming year. Here is how the interview went.https://www.facebook.com/krashkarma/
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How far are you guys into your tour at the moment?
RALF: We are in the second week of the tour with another few weeks ahead.
A few months back you guys had toured with the band VAJRA throughout the United States. VAJRA is a band that is near and dear to the publication however, I didn't get a chance to see you guys together when that tour came to Albuquerque in the Spring. What was it like sharing a stage with them?
RALF: It was awesome. ANNAMARIA (of VAJRA) was great and on a few of the dates we traded the headlining spot . We had a lot of fun with them . We toured with them all throughout the West Coast and all the way up North. We shared our fanbase with them. We were supposed to tour the East Coast with them but we had an offer to play a huge festival in Europe so we went there instead.
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It's been almost a couple of years since the release of your latest EP PAINT THE DEVIL. Now that there has been some distance since the release, how do you feel about that release now?
RALF: After all of this time, we set the bar really high with the release of PAINT THE DEVIL. We know that the next release needs to be better. We've been working on this for the last two years. We've got some bad ass songs that we are shopping around to labels.and managers. We feel good abotuthe new material.
How do you think that LP measured up to previous releases?
RALF: Our first EP had a certain metal element to it and on STRAIGHT TO THE BLOOD, we had a more alternative, industrial sound . When we recorded PAINT THE DEVIL we went back to our metal approach. The heaviest songs that we've ever written were on PAINT THE DEVIL but you also had the quieter songs that NIKI sings. The album was more diverse in some ways but definitely heavier.
And who helped you guys behind the recording console for PAINT THE DEVIL?
RALF: I did all of it. We have an old friend of ours who is a sound engineer out of Berlin, Germany who does all of our mixing and I've alwasy mastered our stuff. The process is bascially, NIKI and I in the studio writing and recording and then we got to Berlin where all of the finishing touches are put on it.
How easy or difficult is that balance being a performer and songwriter, with being a producer?
RALF: It's definitely not easy but once you write a song you have a certain vision for the songs. We are in the genre which is essentially the pop genre that THE BEATLES invented 50 years ago. You are putting together 3-4 minute songs that have a certain structure. When you write a song, you immediately start thinking about how you want to produce the song. So producing is almost an extension of the songwriting.
What was your musical background before KRASHKARMA?
RALF: I always played music. I played guitar when I was a kid and I started my first band. I grew up in Germany I joined a punk rock band called IZOR who were really big in Germany. After that I moved to Los Angeles and joined a band called INTANGIBLE who's lead singer was the son of GARY WRIGHT who sang that song DREAMWEAVER. I had also joined NINE INCH NAILS for about five weeks and that didn't work out. After that, I formed the band SUICIDE HOLIDAY. That was when I met NIKI and form there, the band morphed into KRASHKARMA.
NIKI: Before meeting RALF, I was in a band called ANAMASTIS which was more of a trip hop funk band. Outside of that, my first bands were things like all-girl punk bands. THE EYESHADOWS was my first band and then I was in another band called THE WELLS which was more classic, traditional indie rock. I've been hired to do a lot of studio work and some cover projects. As a chick drummer those are the things I always get called for.
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And what was it about the drums that spoke to you, NIKI? Normally that is the instrument that no parent wants their kid to play.
NIKI: I always wanted to play music. It's the only thing I've ever had a passion for outside of traveling. I tried playing guitar but it didn't work for me so I picked up the bass and that was cool but the first time I sat behind a drum kit and banged around on it, it felt good. I started out playing the hand drum and slowly progressed into sitting behind a kit and playing rock n roll. I studuied in New Orleans for a little while, but I was more on the funk side of things. I like all styles of drumming. Not just metal and funk.
And is doing both the singing and the drumming something you've always done or did this begin with KRASHKARMA?
NIKI: KRASHKARMA is my first time drumming and singing. It's been a natural progression. It started out with me playing drums and doing background screams. As I got more and more into songwriting, singing came more naturally I very much enjoy both singing and drumming. It's been a progression. It's not something that comes overnight.
And how did KRASHKARMA get off the ground?
NIKI: We met at the NAMM CONFERENCE in Anaheim. He was playing in SUICIDE HOLIDAY and I had started playing drums in his band when his drummer couldn't make it to certain shows. That band had a particular vision but had later decided to move into a different direction as a duo with a male guitarist and a female drummer. KRASHKARMA is RALF and I's vision. We had a full band when we started but it eventually morphed into what it is now. I think a two-piece is what we needed to be all along . It just came naturally. We didn't choose to be a two piece-band. It chose us. We're happy with the progress that the music is making and with what our creativity has been able to come up with.
RALF: The duo thing was not our intention to begin with. Once we were thrown into that situatuon it was the greatest thing inthe world. I couldnt imagine doing this with anyone else inthe world.
And RALF, from your perspective, what is it that NIKI brings to the table that makes KRASHKARMA worthwhile for you?
RALF: It starts with her presence on stage and ends with her ability to write awesome songs.
And the same same question goes to you NIKI in regard to RALF.
NIKI: The same two things that he said about me. Beyond that, he's an amazing producer. He is one of my favorite creative people to work with . He's got great ideas and new things to add and he implements them and the records and makes them sound amazing. We can do everythign ourselves and it is largely due to his abilities.
And have there been any reactions to your music that have surprised you or that you didn't see coming?
RALF: That we're not superstars. That's surprising.
NIKI: It's interesting to hear people talk about our music. We play throughout Europe as well as the States. We do everyting ourselves from booking to promotion. We're very D.I.Y. Companies have been involved with us in the past but we came to realize that they didn't do anything better than we were able to. We're ready and willing to work with the right people but we haven't found them yet. When we're in Europe they say we have an American metal sound and when we play America they say we have a European metal sound.
RALF: What they want to say is that we're very unique.
What is inspiring the new music that you guys are working on?
RALF: The most inspiring thing to me right now is the new guitar rig that I've been playing around with. Since we don't have a bass player anymore I built this Frankenstein guitar with bass pick ups. When I'm in the room writing with NIKI and playing one instrument, it sounds like there are three people playing. That is what is inspiring me. I'm wiritng stuff that doesn't necessarily sound like one person playing an instrument. It sounds more like two or three instruments. The music is simpler but it sounds crazier. If you hear it on the record you'd think there is a whole band involved instead of just two people. When you see us live, you'll get the whole idea. It's like "Holy crap! What's happening!"
On this current tour of yours, what songs are getting the most response and why do you think that is?
RALF: Thats a good question. We play the older songs that people know and we've put new songs ontot he setlist. The whole show really gets people going. No song is like the other song. The show starts with an intro and the it hits that crazy part where NIKI smashes her drumkit with a baseball bat and then plays harmonica. It's a very surprsiing show. It's a rollercoaster ride that shows the whole spectrum of our dynamics as a band. It think our show truly sets us apart form other bands.
NIKI: In terms of songs that people are asking for, NINE LIVES form STRAIGHT FROM THE BLOOD is one of them along with SAVE ME fromthe new record and TEARS OF GASOLINE. Those are the three pivotal songs that everyoneis waiting for. I guess VOODOO DOLL is on that list too.
Once you guys wrap up this tour, what is next for the two of you musically?
NIKI: To finish the album! We have songs now . Everything is recorded and we're shopping it around to see how we're going to release this album. In the past we've done everyting ourselves and only relied on a label for distribution. Now we want to kick it up a notch. We're looking for the right way to roll this thing out and looking for the right people to be involved. So yeah. Our goal is to finish the album.
BRiAN LUSH (FOUNDER, EDiTOR-iN-CHiEF)
CONTACT BRiAN LUSH AT: email@example.com