For some it is incense and peppermints, for others it is sodomy and propane and if forced to file the enigma that is Rammstein into one of the two categories you kind of have to go with the latter though the members of Rammstein do like their peppermint. What Rammstein has done with the Metal scene is something akin to what Robert Maplethorpe has done in the world of photography, generally disgusted it yet completely enthralled it, I mean, you just can’t look away and after all isn’t that the hallmark of finely produced art?
Without exception Rammstein has been the only truly “new” thing to come to the music scene in general since the advent of Rap music in the early eighties. Having literally burnt their mix of classical themes, Heavy Metal, Industrial rhythms and high octane stage show throughout the heart of Europe the group set its sights on North America and soon after the Yanks fell to the Rammstein blitzkrieg as well. My god, it was phenomenal, when Rammstein arrived on the first “Family Values Tour” they managed to enrage and/or embarrass the lesser acts nightly ultimately becoming the most talked about group of the year. Easily Germany’s most significant Metal export since the Scorpions these Teutonic titans were only laying the groundwork for the future and now that future has arrived.
It is three years later, the flaming arrows, burning jacket, concussion grenades and yes the simulated sodomy, (complete with a flesh toned garden hose with which to spray themselves and the audience), have all returned and Rammstein is trekking across America as part of the “Pledge of Allegiance” tour. Bail money at the ready and music unlike any of their tour mates Rammstein will undoubtedly stand out and above again as they bring portions of their new “Mutter” album to life each night.
Rammstein speak and perform only in German which gives the music a brutality unapproachable in any other language but it does make it a bitch to do an interview as much of the question &endash; answer interaction is by necessity filtered through an interpreter. Undaunted Guitarist Paul Landers and I struggled on and by the end Paul had me convinced that America won’t likely see anything like Rammstein for many years to come if ever.
DAVID LEE: One of the most beautiful things that I have ever seen came when I was covering the first “Family Values” tour. Rammstein was set in the middle of this Rap-Rock music concert and I doubt that anyone there truly had a clue who you were. As soon as you took the stage twenty thousand kids just stood there in complete bewilderment, it was simply wonderful! (laughs) This time out everyone knows who you are and it will be a lot harder to shock ’em, can you do it?
PAUL LANDERS: Yes! (laughs)
K2K: Do you think you can hint as to how?
PL: The difference between the audiences for KoRn and Limp Bizkit and with Slipknot and System Of A Down is that we have less women in the audience, there are a lot more men. I think that a lot of people still do not know Rammstein and we are always meeting people who say, “I have heard about you but I have never seen you. . .”
K2K: Do you think that the higher percentages of males coming to these shows has anything to do with the Homo-erotic aspect of the band’s last tour, I mean it did create some talk! (laughs)
PL: I hope not! (laughs) I think that it is related to the harder music from Slipknot, it is mostly very hard stuff that women don’t like.
K2K: Do I have this correct, is everyone in Rammstein married?
PL: No, no. One is married but a lot of us have a steady relationship. I don’t want to say who or who not, it is a secret! (laughs) And when I say “relationship” I mean with women, none of us are homosexual . . .right now.
K2K: (laughing) Right now? Do you mean by the end of the tour, maybe?
PL: We will see. (laughs)
K2K: So I would imagine that you would like to see some more women in the audiences then, even if you wouldn’t pursue them because of your “steady relationships”?
PL: Sure! The best audience that I ever saw was for Lenny Kravitz, there were a lot of beautiful girls in the audience. Unfortunately, you can’t choose your audience.
K2K: I know that you did a tour with KISS and that means there were lots of girls around but then again you would probably have to fight with Gene Simmons to get at them anyway? (laughs)
PL: (Laughing) No, we didn’t fight with Gene.
K2K: “Mutter” is a beautiful but heavy record and a very “German” record and not just for the obvious reasons. It is very gothic and has a powerful Wagnerian tone to it, when you put “Mutter” together did you purposefully tailor it that way?
PL: Well, if you have just left your girl or your wife and you are dreaming of the next one you will imagine her to be a really smashing one with all of the curves in the right spaces and intelligent and charming and witty but what you end up with is not necessarily what your dream was all about. (laughs) As for the Wagnerian moments that came mostly from the Swedish producer who said, “You are a German band and I want to have you more Wagnerian” and we said, “OK, we can do that.” (laughs)
K2K: Well, you have done a good job with the suggestion because the only thing that you are lacking is a fat lady singing at the end. (laughs)
PL: We were afraid that it would become one of these cookie cutter shows that every one would start to copy and that is not what we want, fat ladies on stage everywhere! (laughs)
K2K: About the time that Rammstein was first beginning to have some international success there were many people who rushed forward to claim credit for “discovering” Rammstein and about this time I had a conversation with Rudolf Schenker from the Scorpions. Rudolph claimed to have given you a bit of help, is this true and will we have to fear that one day Rammstein will show up on stage in leopard skin spandex? (laughs)
PL: The Scorpions helped us in being able to know how not to be! (laughs) Actually, when you know them on a personal basis they are quite nice. It is really impressive how many people they were having in their audiences when they were performing at their peak.
K2K: I also spoke with them about having lived through the period of a divided Germany and how it is now to have the country reunified but they had a Western perspective whereas you grew up on the Communist side of the Berlin wall. How have all of the changes been reflected in the music that Rammstein makes or is it reflected at all?
PL: It has actually influenced us quite a bit, the fact that we grew up under socialism. I mean, even within your country there are differences, Americans are not the same on the West coast as they are on the East coast or in Texas and so it is in Germany. I actually do not regret that I grew up under Socialism because the more you learn about Capitalism and Imperialism the more you actually think that an alternative is not such a bad idea. Capitalism is not such an ideal system. After all the fact that Socialism failed does not mean that there is not an alternative to Capitalism. What I liked best about socialism is that there was no emphasis on money, money didn’t matter at all and in Capitalism money obviously rules everything. Money rules war and TV and of course the economy but that isn’t the case in Socialism.
K2K: How does the, as we Americans have seen it, the forced equality of socialism effect the art that you are trying to make amongst six individual artists, six individual minds?
PL: That is really another problem because a band is like a marriage and in a marriage or in a family there are relationships that just work, that have a certain harmony and there are others where it just doesn’t work. Actually we are lucky that the six of us have a relationship that does work very well and the good part, in the analogy to a marriage, is that all of us have work were often in a marriage there is tension if, traditionally the woman would stay home and the man would work, so in our band everyone has a job and it works.
K2K: So if everyone works who does the cooking and cleaning? (laughs)
PL: (Laughing) Everybody in the band has their specialties and one is looking for new guitar styles and another one is unique moments and another one is looking for a German influence another is looking for international influences and one is looking for no influences! (laughs) It is a good mixture, it is our trump. That is all completely irrespective of where we come from, whether we came from the East or the West or from China for that matter.
K2K: The art involved with the music portion of a Rammstein CD is very well integrated with the packaging, the CD booklets and the videos, do you take a full and active roll in all of that or are there people who handle the design of those things for you?
PL: Yeah. We try to always keep it unique because nobody needs a cover that somebody else has had before. We certainly try not to copy anything that we have done before, we try not to repeat ourselves and all of us are always involved in all of these decisions which actually hinders the decision making process. It makes it more lengthy and cumbersome to come to a decision.
K2K: So ultimately it is the wife who decides what gets done? (laughs)
PL: Yes! (laughs)
K2K: Were you actually submerged for these photos or is this some computer magic being used here?
PL: Most of the pictures, especially the ones that you would think were made by the computer, are real. It was fun, we had two days in Hamburg in a photo studio that had a big aquarium. It was heated and everybody had to be in the basin for two hours or more. In the beginning it was a little bit heavy but after an hour you start to like it. I have never before been in so much warm water, it was an experience. It was very pleasurable to have bath water temperature in a swimming pool and there was no chlorine in it. You were almost suspended because you had to almost float to create the effect for the photo and it was almost a feeling of being in the mother’s womb. The side effects of that, in other words, the feelings that we had from making these pictures was almost more than the photo could show or express. And the photographers were actually quite thrilled that they could take some pictures of live persons instead of some dead creature. (laughs)
K2K: When I first saw it the cover was obviously of a fetus in-vitro but then there are all the pictures of you guys “in the womb” as it were and knowing that there is always some sexual context to the band I thought about the old joke, “You spend nine months trying to get out of a woman’s vagina but the rest of your life trying to get back in” and here you have managed to do that! (laughs)
K2K: On your last tour through the States you were a favorite target of the local police and I know Till (Lindemann – vocals) spent a night of two in Jail for some of the things that you were doing on stage so I wonder if this time you haven’t brought a little extra bail money with you in case you are being watched again?
PL: The special effects that we have are always tied to a certain song and the special effect to which you are alluding isn’t in this tour. Among the thirty songs that are available we are only playing six so we just had to make a decision and we are not playing that one.
K2K: How much stage time will you have?
PL: Only thirty-five minutes.
K2K: That is it?
PL: Yeah, I mean we are the special guests of Slipknot and System Of A Down so we can not play a full headlining set.
K2K: So will you be able to come back after this “Pledge Of Allegiance” tour and headline?
PL: We were headlining in America just two months ago.
K2K: Yeah, but that was too short, we need more Rammstein! (laughs)
PL: (Laughing) Yeah, but we have things to do other than playing in the States. We have to play in Europe and in Europe we are quite successful right now. We are playing halls that are between five to eight thousand so it would be stupid for us not to play in Europe right now.
K2K: Yes but we Americans are very demanding and we want Rammstein and we want it now! (laughs)
PL: (Laughing) We are considering cloning ourselves, like the Blue Man Group or Stomp, it would be like a second Rammstein!
K2K: Just what the world needs, another Rammstein!
PL: Of course! (laughs)
Original source: KAOS2000
By David Lee Wilson, 2001