Monster smash

Zombie Nation proves that there's life after "Kernkraft 400."

Zombie Nation
HE WALKS BY NIGHT Zombie Nation takesa bite out of the Beach Party.

Photo: Steve P.

You may not know you know it—but you know it. “Kernkraft 400,” a 1999 track produced by Munich, Germany’s Zombie Nation, is possibly the most-played club smash of the last decade. But it’s also more than just another dance-floor track: The big, dumb and crude high-energy electro-stomper crossed over into the strange world of sports-arena music, serving as the theme song for dozens of teams (both here and overseas) and rivaling “Who Let the Dogs Out” and Gary Glitter’s “Rock and Roll (Part 2)” for playing-field overexposure. (A quick search through YouTube will provide plenty of amusingly scary arena singalongs.) Florian Senfter, the man behind Zombie Nation (he also works under the John Starlight and Spank! monikers), has moved on to build a substantial catalog of subtle and shimmering electrotech, including last year’s Black Toys, released on his own UKW label. The 32-year-old, who’s lately been working in the studio with electro poster boy Tiga, is in town to perform live at this week’s Beach Party.

“Kernkraft 400” was the first Zombie Nation release. What was it like to have such a huge hit so quickly?
The original mix was a very underground-electro sort of thing. But then this bootleg came up, like a football-stadium-chant kind of thing. When I heard it, I almost fainted. The song developed a life of its own, with a lot of record companies and all kinds of licensing things involved. Basically, I had very little control of the song anymore. It was enough to lead me to start my own label.

Okay, you’re off the hook for that one. But have you ever tried to re-create that level of success?
At first, I think I even went a little too extreme in trying to make nothing that would be even close to a big hit. But Black Toys is in the middle. I worked much more on the aesthetics of the sounds for this one, using lots of vintage ’70s equalizers and stuff like that. And I like to use samples—really short elements, maybe 20 in one song—and put them together as a kind of collage.

The result is certainly a lot more refined than “Kernkraft 400.”
It’s not the kind of album that jumps at you; you have to discover it. But people seem to like it, and I think because you really do have to listen to it, they like it in a deeper way than “Kernkraft 400.”

What is your live set like?
I don’t use a laptop—I bring all these machines along with me. My main piece is the Akai MPC 4000, which is a sampler and a sequencer, and then lots of effects stuff, like a filter bank and the Kaos Pad, and a drum machine and some other things. It’s a lot of cables. Sometimes I have to rationalize carrying all that stuff around, but in the end, when it’s all set up and on the table, it’s the best way to go. I just put my finger where it needs to be and it all works.

Zombie Nation performs at the Beach Party Sat 25.