From station to station

By: Johan Carlsson

After nearly splitting up, Rammstein suddenly returns with a new album. In June, Johan Carlsson listened to it and hooked up with spiky haired guitarist and founder Richard Z Kruspe as well as tall drummer Christoph Schneider, in a small hotel room in Stockholm to learn more about the new sound, internal issues, tape culture in East Germany – and cannibalism.
Finally Johan sings The Sounds' "Living in America" and Rammstein discover, for the first time, it can be heard in their song "Amerika".

The Wall
All six Rammstein members come from former East Germany. Behind the iron curtain, and maybe not the best place to go record hunting. Christoph Schneider reminisces:
– Yeah, back then we had more of a tape culture, and it was a bit hard to get many records. Everything came pretty late to the east, but if you were interested in something, you could get it. It’s not like we were living behind the moon like some people like to think.
Most of the members come from the metal side of things, but some like Christoph listened to other styles as well.
– In the 80:s we had the Neue Deutsche Welle. Many German bands came out and they used these new instruments like computers and keyboards. It sounded very electronic, and they had German lyrics. That was their entire concept, haha.
– For a couple of years it was very popular, and then it disappeared. But this influenced me a lot, I liked that music, and later also darkwave music like The Cult, The Cure and Einstürzende Neubauten, he says.
The more or less organised sound and electronic parts are something that sets Rammstein apart from many other guitar driven bands, and has always been part of the band's strategy of melding the aggression of metal with melodies. Richard Z Kruspe elaborates.
– Our keyboards were in the beginning more about making some noises, but we started to fall in love with the computer world. So we used it a lot more on the early albums, it was the new thing. We felt excited.
– But in the end you come back to your instruments again, you become more confident with them. You don’t need the electronics, you just play it on your instrument instead, he explains.

Sounds thieves?
Rammstein have of course never been better at playing than on the new album. They are considering the title “Reise Reise”, which roughly translated means “Travel Travel”.
– It’s about the whole life. This time, most songs are about love. And we had this song called “Reise Reise” and thought it might be the album title. I mean, we travel through all kinds of stations throughout life, which is interesting.
You worked with Jacob Hellner once again. Did you record it here in Sweden?
– Yeah, and in France. Guitars and vocals: in the south of Spain, says Christoph.
I have listened to "Reise Reise", and the album has a more direct feel, with more acoustic guitars and drums. Even some blues-like riffs can be heard on the track "Los". Richard tells me more about the new musical direction:
– We really tried to play more live on this album. The machine thing is not as strong, Kruspe says.
I heard some synths in the background.
– Yeah, but they are not as strong.
– We tried to use them less, Schneider chips in. This time it wasn’t possible to re-invent this thing once again. We tried to bring in more life. We tried new rhythms.
I mention that I heard shuffle beats on one song, and drummer Christoph lights up.
– Yeah, this is the first time we have used shuffle rhythms, he says, obviously thrilled that someone noticed.

There’s one song on the album called “Amerika” that might become the second single. It sounds a bit political, but Richard tells me it’s not.
– No, it’s not political at all. You know, everyone has a different opinion about America, but it’s more an ironic way to describe a culture that's everywhere. Not only the bad way, but also in a good way. Everywhere you go, you can’t miss America. And we’re playing on those things.
The chorus sounds suspiciously similar to that of Swedish band The Sounds' hit “Living in America”, and I bring it up. Christoph looks at me with a surprised look on his face.
– Really, I don’t know the song!
Richard, who is on his way to the bathroom, laughs.
– To me it sounds more like The Beatles.
He starts to sing "We all living in a yellow submarine".
Christoph investigates further, so I sing the Swedish song for him. "We're not living in America...".
– Really? It’s almost the same line!
I realize this was probably not a conscious move from them.
– No. Sometimes this happens… and they will think we have copied them. There’s so much music out now, that you’re bound to make something that has been done before, I guess.

Private parts
No strangers to provocation, Rammstein’s new single “Mein Teil” is about cannibalism. And cooked genitals. Christoph tells the fascinating tale about the German cannibal Armin Meiwes who was big news not long ago.
– The song is about two people who met via the Internet. To eat each other! A man was looking for a victim he could murder, and the victim did this by his own free will. It was a very weird story, and Till (Lindemann, vocalist) wrote a lyric about it.
– After these two people had sex, they cut off the victim's “tool”, and thereby the title “Mein Teil” (“My Part”). In a magazine they described it: they tried to cut it off, but it didn’t work. But they finally managed. And then they both ate it! He ate his own tool! After that, the cannibal did the rest of his job, slaughtered him and put everything in a deep freezer. The whole case was hidden for a long time, and each weekend he made a meal for himself, with potatoes and vegetables. He had the feeling that for the first time in his life, he had a friend. He was otherwise very alone, but he had a feeling of friendship for the victim.
Richard steps in.
– It’s very interesting to get into the psyche of him. His mother was so strong, and he was afraid of her. And she turned everyone away from him, so he couldn’t reach out to anyone. I think that, if you look at other murderers like Jeffrey Dahmer and Ted Bundy for example, when they killed, it was because they were afraid that their victims would leave them. And a reason for eating them was to keep them. Very interesting.
– The law didn’t know how to handle it, because the victim wanted to do it, Christoph continues. But they decided to give him a couple of years for lust murder.

Hard boys
The single is getting the remix treatment by Arthur Baker and British synthpop legends Pet Shop Boys. The duo has made two different versions, wittingly titled “PSB You Are What You Eat Mix” and “PSB There Are No Guitars on This Mix”.
– I liked it, Christoph says. Yeah. It’s dancey. And, for them, it’s kind of hardfloor. I expected a more soft mix. The problem with remixes is that you have to be very careful with the lyrics. Use them in the right way. And the Pet Shop Boys have made them a bit faster, to fit the dance beat.
With six members in the band, I guess there is a possibility for a lot of conflict. When I bring up the subject, they first laugh before Richard diplomatically gives an answer.
– Well, there are always good things and bad things. The good thing is that there are so many combinations of people in the band that you’ll learn a lot about yourself. It’s almost like a self-therapy group, and we’ve been through different stages of life, you know, both loving and the “can’t stand anymore” phases. In the end we always managed to come back, cause we feel that the band requires all its members.
When I ask if the rumours about the band splitting up after the last album “Mutter” are true, Richard silently moves the question over to Christoph.
– After the last album we had a crisis. We didn’t say we’d split up, but we had problems. We had to find new ways to continue.
– The band has been together for ten years, and we’ve never got to a breaking point, which is a good thing, Richard says.
– Yeah, but sometimes it can be very tiring, Schneider continues. You never reach any results, and then you have to find some common ground that everybody can agree with. Once we were talking about stage clothes, and we couldn’t find a direction, and in the end we came on stage with black jeans. The black side of democracy…
Richard goes on:
– Democracy… there is not one member in the band who is a leader that decides “that’s never gonna happen”. Of course, a lot of people try to be, but that one is immediately pulled back. All are part of the Rammstein process. It would be good if everyone found their specialties, but they all want to do everything.

Now my time with these two German, down to earth rockstars are almost over, but I quickly ask if I can get some more information about their life, as I know most of them have families, and presumably also other interests than music and pyrotechnics. Christoph snaps:
– I’m always in the band…
But Richard tells me that unfortunately he has no hobbies outside of the group.
– I’ve been searching for one! I think I could be interested in sailing. I think it’s something that would be good for my soul. I’m always happy when I’m on a boat.
It's pretty obvious that they really don't want to talk about their private lives, so I give up and we say goodbye. Then I walk through Stockholm and I can't help humming the chorus to "Amerika".


Rammstein Interview

By: Dante Bonutto

The following interview is one of the first published online with Rammstein for the promotion of Reise Reise, the group's new album. (Due in stores November 16th) Onto the interview...

The video for first single ‘Mein Teil’ was directed by Zoran Bihac, who also worked with you on the ‘Links 2 3 4’ clip; where did the idea for the treatment come from?

Flake: “Well, Paul came up with the concept in the first place, and his idea was that each member of the band should deliver a performance based on their original reaction to the song, their feeling about the music…”

Till: “Zoran had a good idea for the making of the video - he set up a big black box in a huge auditorium, and each member of the band could go into the box and do their own thing…”

Flake: “Zoran also decided to have each band member work on their own video independently of the others - they were all kept very much under wraps; indeed, even today, we still don’t know what the other band member’s videos are like…”

Till: “There’s one collective scene in the video, where most of the band members are on leashes, like dogs, and we’re all taken out for a walk on a big avenue here in Berlin. We’re almost naked, in broad daylight, during rush hour!”

Can you explain a bit about the personas you adopt in the video? Flake?

Flake: “Well, I can only say what I did myself, because I just wasn’t aware of the other concepts. For my part, I did my best to keep an open mind about everything, I did my own thing, and moved in my own way…”

Till: “The compromise we reached with Zoran was that each band member could bring their own ‘toys’ to the shoot, and they were free to play with those ‘toys’, to explore their own ideas, and that worked out well, but I don’t know what the other guys got up to… everybody did it their way…”

Flake: “The interesting thing is that video was all done in one take from beginning to end - there were no cuts & no breaks, so the clip runs through from start to finish with no interruption to the action…”

Till: “It was the recording of the video that was done all in one take, and then later it was edited together into what you see now…”

Is it true that one of the other treatments considered for the ‘Mein Teil’ video had the band playing the part of cannibals?!

Till: “This treatment would have been pretty funny! There would have been a plane crash, leaving the band members stranded on an island, and then the whole cannibal scenario would have kicked in. However, the idea turned out to be quite problematic because of the cost involved, so we had to go for a different option, and the video we have now is what we came up with…”

Flake: “It would have been very funny, though - Till would have been the chief cannibal, so to speak, and I would have been sitting in the big pot as ‘dinner’, while the other band members danced around! That was the plan…”

Was it hard to find a suitable treatment for ‘Mein Teil’ because the subject matter, although true, is just so gruesome & potentially controversial?

Flake: “The story in the song is so clear and it’s put forward in such a straightforward way that we didn’t feel it necessary to tell it again in the video, so we were at liberty to do something different…”

The general reaction to ‘Mein Teil’ as a song has been very positive, and yet it’s probably the heaviest, nastiest track on the new album. Were you surprised when it was chosen as the lead single?

Till: “Coming back after three years, releasing our first song as a single, we could have opted for a ballad, but we didn’t want to do that; we wanted our first new track to be musically tough, so we could arrive back on the scene with a bang!”

Let’s talk briefly about a couple of other new tracks – ‘Amerika’, for example; it’s a very catchy song with a lyric that will definitely raise some smiles, but is there a serious point being made here as well?

Flake: “We conceived ‘Amerika’ as a kind of Trojan horse, and we suspect that it’s going to get a different reaction in the States to the rest of the world…”

‘Amerika’ is the only track on the album containing English words & phrases; did you record a version with all of the lyrics in English? Till?

Till: “When we were writing the song there was a chorus in there that was in English; we didn’t set out to write the whole thing in English, but we liked it when we heard it, so basically we just kept going…”

“However, we also made a German version and then we looked at the two and decided to stick with the German one, because its more to the point; that’s what we wanted, so we simply went with the version that suited our needs the best…”

And ‘Morgenstern’ – what’s the story here?

Flake: “We don’t explain the lyrics to our songs - you hear them, you feel them, and the more we would try to explain them, the more the magic would be sucked out of the music.”

Till: “One of the problems with our music, if you don’t understand German, is that you read the lyrics as a translation, and so for this album I’m going to try very hard to make sure that when the words are translated into English, it’s done not just to a good standard, but by someone who has experience with literature. Also, I’m going to check through the translated lyrics carefully before they go up on the internet; hopefully, this will help people to get a better understanding of the music in general…”

Till, how do you come up with the lyrics? Do you like to hear the music first?

Till: “The process I normally follow is that I take the instrumentals out of the studio, check them out, and if I can’t come up with anything straight away, then I turn up the volume, listen to the music really loud, and just keep looking for the right lyrics or jotting down new lyrics in place of the ones I already have. In fact, for one of the songs on the new album, I wrote 24 different sets of lyrics before the band said it was OK!

“As you can see, they’re very critical! What they do with the lyrics is pretty much what happens to a car when it goes for an inspection; I present what I have to the guys then they give me a list of things that don’t really fit, or don’t seem to work – if we were dealing with a car, it would be a broken exhaust or faulty lights… and then finally, once all of the work has been done, they give the whole thing their seal of approval…”

So are you always writing down words & poems & phrases, keeping them in reserve until you need them in the studio?

Till: “About 80 per cent of the time, I have a pencil and paper with me, not always, but most of the time, and I’m very forgetful too, so I’m always taking down notes and ideas that I’ve got, and saving them on a file on my computer; then, when it comes time to start work on the next album, I open it up and I think ‘yeah, this fits, this works, this is what I’m looking for’…”

Till, your vocal performance on the new album seems to have moved to a higher level still – were you aware of this at the time?

Till: “Aware of it, no, but if it’s true then the impulse came from the band, from the music, which was more intrinsically melodic this time, and went to different places too; so I tried to adapt my voice to that, but - as I said before - I wasn’t aware of doing anything bigger or better, and I wasn’t always necessarily in favour of it, but that’s how it came about…”

Flake: “As a band, we told Till that he should take time out to train up his voice, to go to a monastery and take some singing lessons, and it turned out to be a smart move; it gave us the opportunity to focus fully on the music and allowed him to do the same with his voice…”

When you’re laying down vocals, do you need a certain kind of atmosphere in the studio? Candlelight? Darkness? What works best for you?

Till: “The most important thing for me is to have a nice view of things, and if I’ve got that then I can pretty much record anywhere. Let’s see… I need a lot of light too, that’s important, but if I have those things I could even record in the bathroom - it would work!”

Let’s talk about non-studio stuff for a moment; presumably, you’re now fully occupied with promo trips and sorting out the stage show for your tour in November…

Till: “We’ve just been out on a promotion tour that is coming to an end today; we’ve been all over Europe for the past couple of weeks…

“Now, we have two weeks off, and then we get into the really intensive preparation phase - we have to get the stage show ready, to sort out our costumes and the whole performance side of things…”

Flake: “We already have some ideas, though – for example, during ‘Amerika’ I would like to see bombs dropped on stage, and for ‘Meil Teil’ we’ll definitely eat a lot - in a well-cultured way!”

Till, are you thinking of new ways to set yourself on fire during the live show?!

Till: “Well, the question is ‘how far can you go?’ We’ve already done so much in this area, done it all, so to speak; so if there are new ideas, then we’ll certainly try them out, but we don’t feel that we have to do anything…”

Is it true that one special effect on the ‘Mutter’ tour was so realistic that you had to drop it from the show because it was too disturbing for the audience?!

Till: “The effect you’re referring to is when Flake set me on fire in a particularly dramatic way, because instead of putting the flames out with an extinguisher, there was actually flammable material in the extinguisher, which resulted in the fire enveloping me even more…

“So everybody runs and tries to put out the fire – they cover me in blankets, whilst around and about all hell is breaking loose… everybody’s screaming because they think I’ve genuinely hurt myself! But then I stand up, I’m not injured, and everything’s OK. The band didn’t think it was such a good idea, but I loved it!”

Flake: “Actually the band did like the idea, but the audience was so shocked by it that they didn’t know what to do, they didn’t know how to react, and girls were fainting two & three rows back. The problem was that the rest of the show became something of an anti-climax because the shock of that moment was just so extreme.”

Till, do you enjoy the feel of the flames? Has it become a bit of an addiction?

Till: “I’m not addicted as such, but when I’m performing onstage there’s a different chemistry going on inside, and if you add fire to that then it makes the whole experience even more intense. But it’s a good feeling, it gets a lot of the emotions flowing…”

The title of the single, ‘Mein Teil’, can be translated into English in a number of different ways; which is your favourite?

Till: “We like my tool.”

Flake: “We also had an idea involving war weapons, some kind of World War I scenario, with a battle going on and people dying and bombs exploding; all that would be happening in the background, whilst up close you’d see these generals bent over a map, dividing up territory, saying ‘that’s my part’, ‘that’s my part’, ‘that’s my part’…” [END]

Please note that this interview was translated from German into English. Also, this interview was provided to Blistering.com by an agency representing Rammstein. We have not paid for this interview nor have they paid us to post it, we thought it was a unique opportunity to hear from a band that would normally be out of reach due to high translator costs.


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