Rammstein, a dance metal band consisting of 6 very large, very intimidating East German men, are out to make their mark on America. They have played only 12 shows in the U.S., and they are already terrifying fire marshals everywhere — and delighting an extremely varied age-group of fans.
The energy of the crowd is almost electrifying as we wait for the lights to go down. The band walks out onto the stage, and the crowd begins to swell and scream. Lead singer Till Lindemann soon follows, wearing dark goggles that completely hide his right eye, and in place of the lens on his left eye is an eerie red light that shoots out a red laser beam about 20 feet into the audience. He looks like some sort of Cyborg gone insane.
They break into their first song, “Rammstein”, and with the line “ein Mensch brennt”, (which roughly translates to “a human is burning”) he is set on fire. The crowd is deafening in its response. This band is so tight live, that except for the power coming from the stage, you might be listening to the CD. With this kind of an explosive opening, it’s hard to imagine that the band would be able to top it later in the show….but they most certainly do.
Attending a Rammstein gig is more like going to a theatre show than a live concert. You don’t just see the show, you experience it; from the poignant expressions and raw pain given to us so clearly during “Seemann”, to the sadistic acts of “Bück Dich” (Bend Down) and “Bestrafe Mich” (Punish Me), this is entertainment at its best.
Rammstein’s literally explosive stageshow is not without its price, however. The band is under constant scrutiny for the amount of pyrotechnics that they use – complete with flame throwers and explosives. Every soundcheck in the U.S. is closely examined by at least 5 fire marshals in each state. As a result, Rammstein is forbidden to perform their fireshow at all in several states. As a matter of fact, it’s highly doubtful that the band will ever be back to play in the city of Chicago because their pyrotechnics were cancelled due to fire codes a mere 2 hours before the show. (But don’t fret – they will be back to Illinois.)
Considering their intimidating looks and penchant for fire play, one may very well wonder what the men themselves are like. They’re very, well…..nice guys! With Till Lindemann on vocals, Paul Landers on lead guitar, Richard Kruspe on rhythm guitar, Ollie Riedel on bass, Christoph Schneider on the drums, and Flake (pronounced “Flah kuh”) bringing in the keyboards, Rammstein is really a group of down-to- earth guys who truly appreciate their fans. They are even the type of men that you could take home to mother – provided that she hasn’t seen the stage show, that is! When asked if their onstage persona ever carries over into their real-life, keyboardist Flake insists: “It is just an act. We have nothing in common with our onstage characters.”
The members of Rammstein are very flattered and gracious – if not slightly puzzled – about the reception they are receiving from American audiences. “They don’t understand what we are saying,” muses Flake, “but they get into our music all the same. I think that they like to scream ‘NEIN! NEIN!’.” Rammstein was formed as a side project in 1993; but the members continued on with their individual respective bands until 1994, when they finally decided to get serious about Rammstein (the band didn’t even have a name for the first year). “We are not really surprised with our success though,” says Flake, “we have worked very hard to get where we are today.” And where they are today is pretty impressive: Rammstein has gone beyond double-platinum in Germany, achieved platinum status in Switzerland, gone gold in Austria, and is currently climbing the top 100 charts in Finland, Sweden, and Hungary. They are also, finally, starting to get air play here in the U.S. As a matter of fact, they’re currently #6 on the CMJ top 25 Metal Charts, and they are #32 on the top 75 Radio Airplay charts. By the time this article makes it to press, we should be seeing the “Du Riechst So Gut” (roughly, “You Smell So Good”) video on Mtv….quite an accomplishment for a foreign band that started out in America with only 2 songs on a movie soundtrack!
When Rammstein first started playing out, they received a lot of flack from the German press about their so-called “Nazi” image. One has to wonder if the German journalists had even bothered to listen to the band before making this assumption. In the previously quoted words of Lindemann: “The main thing is love, in all its shapes and variations.” Granted, it is certainly a strange, sadistic look at love and sex, but it IS love all the same, not some twisted “Nazi-esq.” point of view.
The lyrics to the band’s first album, Herzeleid, (which translates to “Heartache”) are much darker than the new album, Sehnsucht (or “Longing”). Sehnsucht, however, is more sexual. “I see Sehnsucht as a natural continuation of Herzeleid,” says Flake, “rather than something that is more this or more that.” As Flake also points out, the lyrics to the songs “Bück Dich” and “Spiel Mit Mir” are not about homosexual sex, instead they are about normal S&M and incest, respectively. “These themes are taboo in Germany, so we decided to break the taboo. We have no women in the band, so we use what we have….men.”
The band recently did a cover of the song “Stripped” for the upcoming Depeche Mode Tribute Album to be released in early August, 1998, by 1500 Records. “The cover was done in English,” says Flake, “because we like the song and we didn’t want to change anything. For this song it’s ok, but if we were to try to translate a Rammstein song to English….it just doesn’t work.” So the band has no plans to sing Rammstein songs in English anytime soon.
Rammstein has quite a schedule for the next 6 months: their summer is filled with festivals and club dates in Germany, then they head back to the U.S. in late August for another month-long tour. Rumor has it that they may also have the opportunity to jump on a large band tour in July in the U.S. And in the midst of all this, they are going to be doing pre- production on a new album as well. If you plan on experiencing Rammstein during one of these shows, be sure to get your tickets early – not only did they sell out every U.S. venue they played on this last tour, but the venues ended up turning away an average of 200 people per night!
The sheer power alone that emanates from this band is enough to ensure that you are swept away by the stage show. Even without the pyrotechnics, Rammstein, to many, could be considered one of the best live shows today. One may not understand the words, but there is no mistaking the passion of their music.
Date: July 1998
Source: Mean Street