Wer zu Lebzeit gut auf Erden
Rammstein – With Germany’s biggest culture export on tour in America
USA: 8.56 pm
In four minutes, one of the biggest shows of young pop history will begin. Ten thousand Americans will sing with Rammstein, “Alle warten auf das Licht / Fürchtet euch / Fürchtet euch nicht.” The SZ-Magazine accompanied the band through the days and nights in Canada and the United States. Welcome to a journey that leaves scars.
Rammstein, Ein Leid: (A Song) “Wer Gutes tut dem wird vergeben / So seid recht gut auf allen Wegen / Dann bekommt ihr bald Besuch / Wir kommen mit dem Liederbuch.” (Whoever does good will be forgiven / Therefore be good in all your journeys / Then you’ll soon have visitors / We’ll come with the song book)
Thilo “Baby” Goos, event technician, Denver Coliseum: “That, my friend, is one of the biggest stages out there right now. 80 feet wide, 50 feet tall, a structure completely made of iron. Here, 100 loud speaker boxes and lights are hung on the roof of the hall; the crew lifts 55 tons of equipment with 120 Motors. The sound system has 380 000 watts. It has to boom. It’s Rammstein. The US trucking company uses two of the 24 Trucks alone for the two power generators we take with us. Those are two megawatt units and they guzzle more than 250 gallons of diesel from the tank every show. We need the generators so that the power doesn’t go out in the cities when Rammstein goes on. Is it eco-friendly? No. You have to make the decision: hot old concert lamps instead of cold light? You need electricity. Most productions today look like TV studios. Even the rock concerts. Ice cold. It works. But not with Rammstein.”
You need electricity. From below, out of the basement of the stage, fountains of smoke bellow through the grated floor up to the ceiling. From below, flames shoot up through the grate. From below, light shines through the metal grate. On the grate stands Rammstein singer Till Lindemann. He looks a little sad, like someone dropping in from the underworld. And this voice he has: like very bad weather. Maybe he hears voices himself? One is reminded of the “former cement and transportation worker” Franz Biberkopf from Döblin’s Berlin Alexanderplatz. Freedom? A panopticon. Cities? An excess. Life? You must face it, life, with force. Lindemann calls out “Links, zwo, drei, vier” and marches, as if he had a battery under each ass cheek, then he asks these many Americans evening for evening: “Können Herzen singen? Kann ein Herz zerspringen? Können Herzen rein sein? Kann ein Herz aus Stein sein?”
Artists beneath a circus tent
Rammstein formed in 1994 in Berlin-Prenzlauer Berg. Part of the musicians used to play in the legendary GDR-Band, Feeling B. Quickly, Rammstein, one of whose role models is the Slovenian art band Laibach, provoked German authorities and critics with their brute sound and other-worldly live performance of fire and light. Appreciation and fame came from abroad: US Film Director David Lynch accompanied his 1996 psycho thriller Lost Highway with the band’s music. The left-wing philosopher Slavoj Žižek said in an Interview of the taz in the year 2010: “Just as Charlie Chaplin in The Great Dictator had Hitler say only gibberish, ‘Apfelstrudel’ and ‘Wiener Schnitzel’, Rammstein sabotages the fascist utopia in an obscene way.” Rammstein are: Singer Till Lindemann (49), Guitarist Paul Landers (47), Guitarist Richard Kruspe (45), Bassist Oliver Riedel (41), Drummer Christoph Schneider (46), and keyboarder Christian Flake Lorenz (45).
The people in the concert halls here in America sing every word. They wince away from the fire. They sweat in the heat. They close their eyes from the light. Eventually, after these weeks of concert travels here in America, right before the flight in the early morning, lying in bed in room 1023 in the “Zaza hotel” in Houston, final certainty: That’s how bright it is, how hot and loud, when a planet is formed. On the right in the iron stage is a bunker for the pyrotechnicians. The people lurking around in this bunker during the show are moving through the bowels of a gigantic machine made of cables, jets, hoses and oxygen tanks. For example, the guitarist Paul Landers at his burning microphone stand in the song Asche zu Asche is standing on the grated roof of this bunker, the soles of his shoes just inches above the heads of the technicians, and you can see through the slits while Landers is standing above you, out at a show that tells a sad and funny story. It’s about darkness and about how the light comes into the darkness. The light with Rammstein, is for example a red heart stuck to Lindemann’s chest, beating in the pitch black of the coliseum: Minimal Art in a song that turns a corner with the weight of a bulldozer, Mein Herz brennt. Or it’s Lindesmann’s wings of steel in the song Engel, 110 lbs he’s wearing there, and at the end of the show these wings will spit fire. Or it’s the burst of flames with which Lindemann as a hellish jester cooks the keyboardist and white chalked big comedian Flake Lorenz in a big iron cauldron, until he jumps out and runs across the stage, his pants smoking.
Flake Lorenz, on the trip from San Antonio to Houston:“Everything that is created from an effort is shit. Listen to the music in the radio. Droning, whining, dull crap. Created from effort. Made by people who have to pay off houses. Dully moderated and introduced by people who have to pay off houses. Capitalism makes you dull. I haven’t made an effort for even 5 minutes in my life. You’ve got to decide. Good art isn’t created from an effort. But unintentionally. From pleasure.”
Memories of America itself will remain only as fragments after this journey. Green Denver and the Redrock State Park for example, as we had Richard Kruspe go stand naked in the rocks to get the lighting right, the park ranger warned: “Friends, if the cops come that’ll be at least 180 days in prison for every one of you!” The Mockingbird Lane in Dallas, the “Rockfish Diner” and the lunch with Lindemann in the broiling heat. Lindemann’s memories of the German Democratic Republic and his pen-pal Dschenja from Kazakhstan, who one day showed up in person and brought colorful plates from his home town as a guest present to the World Festival of Youth and Students. “Komsomol members here, Free German Youth there. The World Youth Festivals were organized so that young socialists would reproduce. It was just one big hump festival.” Young Till, a sensitive, stubborn boy. On March 19th 1970 he sees Willy Brandt visiting Erfurt on Western television, stepping to the window of the “Erfurter Hof”. For Hours the child yells through the house: “Willy Brandt to the window! Willy Brandt to the window!” His apprenticeship as a carpenter in “Operating sector 5” in Rostock-Schmarl: “A wood trunk, now make a window out of it, Lindemann! I will make you a window from a trunk by the end of the day!” Another journey fragment: taking a walk with Flake Lorenz through Huntington Beach. Flake’s dismay over the stillborn pueblo style houses under the Californian sun, guarded like the pentagon. Flake, cursing: “Who lives here? Who wants to live here? Madness. Dull.” The way in the middle of suburbia he suddenly says: “I used to live at Fehrbellinerstraße 7” So? “So get this; In the same house lived a Mrs. Fat and Mr. Meateater.
Is he kidding?
“I swear. Astrid Fett in one apartment, Wolfgang Fleischfresser in the other. I have witnesses too.”
But the show. But the light. But the fire. Everything is in place to the last millisecond. Cirque de Solieil minus escapism. “Berghain” plus lyrics. Till Lindemann acquires the so-called ‘pyro license’ every few years in a crash course in the Berlin Velodrom. What he then holds in his big, scarred hands, is something ambiguously delightful, namely this: “Permission and qualification to burn pyrotechnic ‘Sätze’”(Sätze = sets, sentences) Things can get loud elsewhere these days pretty fast. But Rammstein knows when to burn and when not, when the show should be a dream and when a nightmare. It was created in the heads of story tellers, this show, not in the heads of event dweebs. For example: Drummer Christoph Schneider. The father is an opera director, and at a young age Schneider heard of mystical concerts in the West, of flying pigs and giant walls. This is how the idea of a hell circus formed in Schneider’s head, a black theater. Keyboarder Christian Lorenz is the anti-epicist, his nickname Flake is a reference to the highly stubborn yet also lovable Wickie characters from the town with the same name in the TV-show. Flake is – actually – a delayed Fluxus-born, and at that, a walk taker like no one else aside from maybe Robert Walser. And as such: a radical one. One of his succinct, stunning sentences about life, just thrown out there on the way out of the hall back to the hotel: “You fuck. Or you don’t fuck. You can’t fuck a little bit.”
Till Lindemann has quite a few scars on his body and in his face, as for example he headbuts the microphone stand away with his forehead every evening. If you come near to this show, you have to say: It’s actually really dangerous. You have scars from sparks flying around, eye irritation from the light and smoke, burns from the spurts of flames. The darkness is the one thing, the light the other. The volume is the one thing, the whispering the other. The sorrow is the one thing, the humor the other. You won’t understand Rammstein if you can’t accept contradictions. It already starts with the fact that this monster-size special embassy of the German language was not brewed up in the big pots of the culture subsidization.
Goethe-Institut? Failed. Oh well.
Oliver Riedel, Breakfast, Huntington Beach: “Good things are created by friendship; bad things are created from bigotry. The band has always been something between friends, that’s the only way we’ve gotten through all the crises. We are somewhat extreme and contradictory. Everyone does it his own way. Narcissus and Goldmund. My mother still sends me a book by Hermann Hesse every year. My favorite author? Murakami.”
“Mich interssiert kein Gleichgewicht / Mir scheint die Sonne ins Gesicht” (I’m not interested in balance / The sun shines in my face): When many thousands of young people over the whole world sing along this German lyric, it’s because of an art project which was not subsidized by the state, but one that was censored again and again. The project Rammstein was formed in the early nineties in a practice basement in Prenzlauer Berg, it was an odd baby it was, founded by a horde of boys who like Opera and concept rock, who were schooled in Jazz, Blues and in Classic, but who had such rage that against them, West German punk looked just about as dangerous as, say, a not well-attended Easter march in a fine drizzle.
Paul Landers, after the concert in Anaheim on the car drive back to the Hotel in Huntington Beach: “Anger, Hate, those are great motors. Of course I hung around in the House of Young Talents back then in Berlin. Jazz. Dietmar Diesner, Volker Schlott, superb. Of course Jazz actually means trouble. Rebellion. Rage. That’s the Jazz that fell victim to the crybabies from the feuilleton; of course it isn’t corduroy trousers kind of music. Basically we six have known each other for thirty years. And as a band we’ve been for soon to be twenty years unimaginable without: Rage. That actually has nothing to do with the GDR. Or at least very little. You could rebel, hit yourself. But you’re angry or you’re just not. In capitalism there is evidently not one less asshole than in socialism. The resistance in the East had more corners; in the West it’s oilier. We stood in front of the House of Young Talents in Berlin. And we had rage. And the Fehlfarben, I assume, stood in Düsseldorf in front of the ‘Ratinger Hof’. And had rage. Right?”
Drummer Christoph Schneider encouraged Till Lindemann at the beginning of the nineties to no longer sing in English. “I heard that he writes poetry. And said: Dude, sing in German!
We are talking about – and you don’t have to curl your lips to speak this delicate truth – the rage of children of the educated class. Just for example: Till Lindemann as the son of GDR children’s book author Werner Lindemann and culture journalist Gitta Lindemann. Drummer Christoph Schneider as the son of opera director Martin Schneider, who today still teaches as a professor at the Hanns-Eisler University of Music in Berlin. Guitarist Paul Landers as the son of philosopher and slavist Anton Hiersche. A 78-year old, the father sat at one of the Rammstein concerts in December in the Berlin O2-Arena. Then he mailed his son Paul: “By pushing things out beyond the extreme, you take away the offensiveness of it. But behind the grotesque, the notion of something very serious and fundamental is not lost. You aren’t double- but triple floored. In Russian there is a term relating to that kind of art that is very difficult to translate: Sá-um, literally: deeper meaning. You have to consider the presentation along with it in order to get ‘behind the meaning’.”
No pathos without a deeper meaning. The song Engel, a hymn-like children’s song, about how a rational person slips away from religious belief. 10 000 Americans, singing along to every line, in astoundingly comfortable German: “Wer zu Lebzeit gut auf Erden / Wird nach dem Tod ein Engel werden / Den Blick gen Himmel fragst du dann / Warum man sie nicht sehen kann.” (Who in their lifetime is good on Earth / will become an angel after death / you look to the sky and ask / why can’t you see them) The chor of the Angels: “Erst wenn die Wolken schlafen gehn / Kann man uns am Himmel sehn / wir haben Angst und sind allein” (Only once the clouds have gone to sleep / can you see us in the sky / we are afraid and alone) And Lindemann and all these Texans gone crazy: “Gott weiß ich will kein Engel sein.” (God knows I don’t want to be an angel) Now the sawing riffs of the guitarists Kruspe and Landers, a euphoric beat, underlayed by something somewhat like whip lashes from the rhythm group, Christoph Schneider at the the drums setting clockwork-like beats like malicious syncopes and Oliver Riedel with his Sandberg-Bass, thin and tall bending over his instrument like a carnivorous plant over its prey. Can rock music that weighs tons have that, which cannot be translated: a “groove”? Strange, that that’s possible.
Richard Kruspe, on the drive from the Airport in Denver to Red Rock State Park: “America was always the dream. America has also always been my personal dream. I feel better in New York than in Berlin. Berlin pulls me down, New York pulls me up. When the story began in the press that we were supposedly right-wing, because Till rolls his R and we look archaic, that was bitter. Rammstein doesn’t have a right, but a left-winged history. We had skinheads beating the living daylights out of us – unlike all those gentlemen who comfortably use this high moral tone in the papers but who never actually lift their asses off their office chairs.”
Kruspe, who had dreamed of becoming a rock star since a young age, who reveres the Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour, Kruspe, who beams and enjoys the interaction with the people in the hall – who carries with him a deep, questioning soul. It’s possible that the song Mutter is too sentimental for one or the other Rammstein fan, the song in which live, Kruspe stretches the strings unusually longingly. But what would Rammstein be without Mutter? And what would Rammstein be if they didn’t break this elegy as well? Till Lindemann rewrites one of his most famous lines on the stage in Dallas. Instead of his mother he talks about whom? About his Mommy. “Werf in die Luft die nasse Kette / Und wünsch mir, dass ich eine Mutti hätte.” (I throw the wet chain into the air / And wish that I had a mommy.) Is he daft, that Biberkopf?
Michael Slade, Best seller author, sends a mail after the concert in Vancouver to Paul Landers in the style of H. G. Wells: “I’ve seen them all, Paul. I was even witness to Presley’s appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. Then the Beatles, then Pink Floyd, the Rolling Stones, The Clash, The Cramps. But what are you? You are something different. Europe has arrived. For me this evening was like my first evening at the opera, back then when I hitch-hiked through all Europe to Vienna. You guys are a crystal clear, really overwhelming experience. Down there, you five, the dark morlocks. And above, Flake: the Eloi!”
Singer and Poet Till Lindemann: Pain berserker, Döblin character, bad wolf? Behind masks and wounds a soft speaking man and a brilliant story teller, who almost panicky avoids fans – to work on poems and lyrics in peace.
Possibly Till Lindemann, who is only one of six in Rammstein, is at least a fine hint as an oxymoron. On stage a beast. And yet also a man who sits silently and as if shrunken in the shade of the pool bar of a hotel in Phoenix, over his writings, over his drawings, and we’re nicely drinking Budweiser against the tremendous heat, and not just one, but one after the other. His view suddenly falls on a thinly built raven that is peering into bread basked at the next table. He can’t look away from the bird, stares, says: “Look. Beautiful. A very slender bird. They’re everywhere here. Clever, slender animals.” He has drawings with him on handmade paper, dipped in tea, with fine ink dragons and puffy clouds on them. With them poems. Partly his poetry is for his grandson, the little Fritz. Partly it’s poetry that isn’t for any little Fritz in the world.
But always this poetry is without perfume; glass clear, bitter, audacious, sensitive stuff. Sometimes they become Rammstein songs, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they’re downright short stories. Sometimes there are only two lines, alone on a page, and it suddenly sounds like the collected works of Rainer Werner Fassbinder.
“In stillen Nächten weint ein Mann / Weil er sich erinnern kann”
(In still nights a man cries / because he can remember)
It’s unbearable to contemplate, isn’t it? Fassbinder and Lindemann! Marching together! Happiest, saddest rebellion! Qualified to burn pyrotechnic sets/sentences and images in this miserable, cowardly, self-pitying, subsidized to death, dumbed down world of German format radio, film and television 2012.
Till Lindemann, Rockfish Diner, Mockingbird Lane, Dallas:
“Everything good in my head is formed on the land. I have an apartment in Berlin, but sometimes Berlin gets me down. So I live a lot in my village, up North, between Schwerin and Wismar. Many of my friends who are here with us on tour live there too. My father is long dead. But my mother lives there. My daughter, Nele and her son, little Fritz is often there. We are one big family. I fish. I hunt. I stare at the lake. I sleep at night in the forest and listen. I listen to nature. Terrific, what you hear at night in the forest. It’s indescribably beautiful. I hate noise. I hate chatter. I expose myself to it, which is then pure masochism. And then I must protect myself from it. Noise drives you crazy. You’ll die in it.”
Leonard Cohen sings in “Anthem”: “There is a crack in everything / That’s how the light gets in.” Rammstein tells about this crack, and that’s just how it is with theater: If you’re lucky, and if you’ve seen a great theater performance, then this crack will be on your mind for a long time. But for that you first need inspiration. You need the calm language that Lindemann finds on the land. You need, as Paul Landers says: “Rage.” Then, as Richard Kruspe says: “The team. Take one of us away and you don’t have the band anymore.” All that together: the biggest culture export of the German language. Katharina Wagner would love to win the band over to play in Bayreuth. And Oliver Riedel just says: “It would have to sizzle there, crackle, even in the festival hall, sparks would have to fly. We can’t just go to Bayreuth and shit out classic Rock.” And then, evening for evening, the numbers come into your mind, the formulas to your soul, the production to intuition.
Nikolai Sabottka, Tour and Production Mananger, AT&T Center, San Antonio: “For Tills burning wings and all the fire we use lycopodium. It’s a ground up moss. A natural product. Eleven tones was the yearly crop in China. We bought four of those tones. After the last concert, so, tomorrow in Houston, they’re gone. When Till shoots the lycopodium through a flame, and we blow air into it from under the grate, it’ll burn off your pant legs. I always say: “Lyco ist für alle da!” The band could do it less expensively. But the band doesn’t want to. They are obsessed with it being good. And I’m not just saying that because I work for them.”
This production costs in total around half a million Euros per evening. Sabottka is responsible for the stage being on fire, not the hall. For that kind of job, no one is better suited than: a Westphalian. Sabottka is friendly, he only says what is absolutely necessary, but he says it, as you will soon see, with deliberation. Every day his hour to shine isn’t 9, when the show beings. But 4 pm. This is time and again the most delicate moment of the day.
At 4 o’ clock sharp, in every city, in every hall, six marshals of the local fire department appear. In the empty hall the pyrotechnic effects are demonstrated to them. They have seen a lot in their lives and yet they are still somewhat bewildered. In Anaheim the fire marshals are in a bad mood. They confer with one another. One says quietly to the other: “That’s fuckin’ weird.” There’s one question Rammstein is asked in record by American firemen and German feuilleton writers alike: Are they allowed to do that? In Anaheim five firemen are conferring with one firewoman, their superior. Especially the boss is not particularly pleased. There are endless discussions. At the end, the fire department toddles off. And Sabottka tells us, indifferently, in the tone of a 747-Pilot who completed a test emergency landing, “My job just now was to tell the fire department that we handed in all our applications according to rules. On that basis and on the basis of the demonstration earlier, we are determined to set off all the rockets starting at 9 pm. Just now there was a psychological extra problem: a female fire marshal. She was the boss of the five male fire marshals. There was no way she would let herself be made a fool by me in front of them. So I had to give her the feeling that her every doubt was correct, but that we have already preventively taken care of said doubt. As I have been successful in making this understandable to her, the show will go on stage today at 9 pm with all its accompanying pyrotechnic elements.” Pause. Then: “This is principally gratifying.” Unbelievable Sabottka. Super Sabottka. Save Greece? Let Ahmadinejad know? We’ve got his number.
For five weeks Rammstein toured like this through Canada and the USA, and those five weeks in turn were merely the finale of a concert journey which up to this point actually took three years. Two programs. Starting 2009, the dark ‘Liebe ist für alle da’ tour, with its shadows of being on the index of the crazy federal testing center for stuff that is dangerous for children or whatever. Since 2011 then the Best Of tour. Europe with concerts for example in London and Moscow, the two notable evenings in Paris in the Spring: Two times 17 000 people in the legendary Bercy, full to the brim with young people down in the arena and classically costumed, Christine Lagarde type ladies and gentlemen with graying hair up in the aisles: Culture folk, paging through the evening program, as if in the Comédie Française. Before that Russia, Scandinavia, England, Germany. Before that South America, Mexico City, Monterrey, masses of people, many of which who had set up tent next to the stadium weeks in advance: Rammstein is a universal phenomenon and unlike an artist such as Gerhard Richter, unlike a director such as Wolfgang Petersen, they must substantially trust not only in images and sounds, but also in the emotion of the German language, congenially woven into images and sounds. The people here obviously notice that behind the brute facade of the music, it is often an astoundingly quiet poetry that they’re singing along to: “Doch der Abend wirft ein Tuch aufs Land / Und auf den Wegen hinterm Waldesrand.” (But the evening throws a cloth upon the land / And upon the paths behind the edge of the forest.)
More than any, the last two weeks through the South of the USA are a delicate choreography of every-day life: The show has been running like clockwork for months. For the musicians and the technicians it’s become a thing of simple habit. Flake Lorenz says, as we’re sitting in a Chevrolet Malibu to escape the flight tedium and driving four hours from San Antonio to Houston: “I’m homesick. Touring is dull. Touring is not production. Touring is reproduction.” What is he homesick for? “For Jenny. My wife. For the kids. For my village in Brandenburg. Things like that.” What we’ve also learned in these days, between these explosive concerts: As sure as this band triggers a mountain of emotion, the little they, the ones that trigger this emotion, can live with the burden of having triggered it. A woman is suddenly standing in the street, in the restaurant, in front of the hotel, and starring at you: What do you do? How do you redeem, your room card already in your hand, in front of a hotel in California, what you promised years before in a song?
On top of that, the musicians fidget around daily in transit: Departure in the nine-seat Falcon, Arrival at the Airport, into the van, out of the van, into the hotel, out of the hotel, into the hall, show, aftershow party, out of the hall. Paul Landers: “People need two to three days until they get used to a place. If you don’t have those days, it drives you nuts. Your body is always traveling two steps ahead of your soul.” Flake, who tells us he used to have a check list of compliments from American fans in front of hotels. First on the list: “You are awesome.” Second place: “You are fuckin’ awesome.” Outside in San Antonio, Landers hurries from the River Walk back into the “Mokara Hotel”, coming out of a supermarket. They want to know what’s in his paper bag. “Wait”, Landers calls out, and disappears into the elevator. Then he sends a mail with a photo from his room. In the picture: red wine, an onion, dark rye bread, salami. He writes: “Nothing cooked, nothing fried, no waiter, no people. Magnificent. Greetings, Paul.”
Guitarist Paul Landers: “The motivation was always essential: Cause trouble. That’s how it is and that’s how it’ll stay. Rammstein won’t change. The weather on the mountain changes – but the mountain doesn’t change.”
Oliver Riedel, “Shorebreak Hotel”, Huntington Beach: “What I miss? Peace and quiet. Before the concerts I go backstage into these big mass shower rooms with the acoustic and play flamenco. Great acoustics. By doing that, I collect myself, so to say. The worst is the hotels and the restaurants. Everywhere Drum n’ Bass, House, nothing but popping and whirring and tweeting and looping. You can dance through these hotels, from the room through the hall through the elevator through the breakfast room and then out through the reception all the way to the street. Turn around in a circle, bob your head, clap your hands and groove it out. That’s terror.”
The show in Antonio, it’s the one before the last, sitting behind the stage in this salad of iron, cables and requisites, and suddenly you find this all less impressive than much more: touching. What they carry around with them. Into the hall. Out of the hall. Is it really possible that six Germans in their forties roll this iron cauldron onto the stage evening for evening to cook the thin man with the horn-rimmed glasses in it? Silly, when viewed from behind, these requisites. But from 9 pm onward they shine in the net of the enactment on stage. As if someone had breathed life into the things. Every evening it only takes a few minutes and you too are squirming in the web of this theater of songs. And one of them happens to be the song with the cauldron. Cannibalism in Rotenburg, not all that unfunny, and on that note, these bitter yet great lines: “Ein Schrei wird zum Himmel fahren / Schneidet sich durch Engelsscharen / Vom Wolkendach fällt Federfleisch / Auf meine Kindheit mit Gekreisch.” (A cry will ascend to heaven / It will cut through hosts of angels / Feather-flesh will shriekingly fall / from the top of the clouds onto my childhood.)
Guitarist Richard Kruspe: the rock star – who lived in New York for a long time and is considering moving back to the USA. “I know all the stuff that’s going wrong in America. But I love the tremendous pioneer spirit here. Just do it, not always this cold German phlegm.”
Christoph Schneider, “Palomar Hotel”, Dallas: “At some point we just stopped with the interviews and the German journalists. German journalists want musicians who are identical to their music and their lyrics. That’s why most German music journalists look like the bands they adore and the adored bands look like the journalists who adore them. That’s an agreement and it’s surely comfortable. But Rammstein has always been role-playing. I mean who looks like Till on stage? In the show we now have this marching-in entrance over the people’s heads, with the flags, with the torches. As beaten dogs we crawl over the bridge again to the center of the hall in the middle of the show. Finally, at the end, we say goodbye to the audience from this bridge. A three step: delusion – mockery of the delusion – farewell. German critics just see: flags and torches. And now they’re throwing a fit like the house keepers. Of course we eventually thought that was funny too.”
Rammstein’s last encore: Sex tourism, unfurled in the catapultuous stunner Pussy, and here in the battle cry of a depraved German (“I can’t get laid in Germany”) on the way to love paradise: “Schnaps im Kopf / Du holde Braut / Steck Bratwurst in dein Sauerkraut.” (Schnaps in your head / You fair bride / Stick bratwurst in your sauerkraut.)
Is one hearing this right?
Are they crazy?
If you don’t consider the Russian Sá-um at this point, the deeper meaning, well then you’ve most probably missed something again, and even if it is in the middle of Texas.
Alma, 23, born in Mexico, is sitting with her Husband John, born in Texas, on the patio of the bar “Rita’s on the River” in San Antonio. She is strikingly pretty, drinking a Budweiser Light and wearing a Rammstein T-shirt: “I will not tell you my real name, nor how long we drove, John and I, to attend this concert today. Several years ago I came to Texas illegally from Mexico. They treated me like dirt here. But you on the other hand have a Chance here. Do you know T. C. Boyle’s ‘América’? Everything about it is true. I think Rammstein makes music for people who follow their own laws, for people who fight. In Mexico they are loved like no second band. I love it when Till sings ‘Amerika’. There is a lot of rage and also a lot of humor in it, don’t you think? When he sings: “We’re making a nice round dance / Freedom is playing on all violins” This evening I will sing along to that song especially loud. My dad is here now too. I haven’t seen him for years. That tore my heart. We will all go to the concert today. I believe it will be the most beautiful evening in my life. Unfortunately I am getting tears in my eyes. We, chicas from Mexico, are a little sentimental.”
The crew, which is more than sixty people, plus for every set up and pack up 150 people from each respective city, the locals. Every concert ends at around 11 pm, the locals pounce on this metropolis like iron eaters. If you look into the hall at 12.30 am, it’s empty. One is reminded of Marion Brasch’s “Ab jetzt ist Ruhe” (From now on there’s silence), the novel about her Jewish immigrant family in the DDR. It’s one of the most helpless and therefore most beautiful books that has come out for a long time, an East blues, bitter, funny, really quite marvelous. Christoph Schneider is reading it at the pool and is lost in it. Flake Lorenz read it before him “as if tied to his chair”. In the book a dialogue between Marion Brasch’s brother, the author Thomas Brasch, and Heiner Müller. So Heiner Müller, who asks the expatriot Thomas Brasch how it is to be living in the West now. And he answers: “In the East the walls were made of concrete, and in the West they’re made of rubber.” One is reminded of Paul Landers and his words about the East and the West: Back then everything had corners, now everything is oily.
Bassist Oliver Riedel: The discrepancy between the masquerade and the person couldn’t be bigger. He searches and finds places to retreat to everywhere: the sea to surf, the plane to read, and the dressing room to play his acoustic. On the stage? Some kind of carnivorous plant.
Paulo San Martin, band and production assistant, backstage, Denver Coliseum: “The GDR was solidary to us Chileans. My parents fled with me in September 1973 from Santiago to the GDR. I was seven. Pniochet had revolted. Several members of my family were kidnapped, others were directly killed. 1978 I came to Prenzlauer Berg in the 5th grade. And there I was suddenly sitting next to Flake. So I’ve known him for 34 years. Together we’d always hang out in the same places, in the ‘Tacheles’ on Oranienburger, in the ‘Eimer’ on Rosenthaler, of course at ‘Schönhauser 5’. I love Flake, he’s the finest friend you can have. I do this job only for Rammstein. I wouldn’t do it for any other band. It’s a family thing.”
At the end, after the ballade Ohne Dich, the musicians stand before these rowdied up Texans in the Toyota Center of Houston. Till Lindemann, who has not said anything to the audience until now, he says, after all those nights here in America, only this: “Ladies and gentlemen: Rammstein. Thank you.”
Heike Krämer, band tour manager, backstage, Toyota center, Houston: “I’ve been on the road with a lot of bands. Are Rammstein something extraordinary? Absolutely. But I won’t say anything about that. Just this: They hold the door for a lady. You got it?”
Till Lindemann is standing in the catacombs in his black bath robe after the last show, facing Richard Kruspe, Lindemann with a beer, Kruspe with a cigarette. Lindemann’s right hand is badly swollen, his forehead is bleeding, and the eye liner is running down his cheeks. Tomorrow afternoon it’s back to Berlin. Some of the band members will then go straight to the East Sea. Children. Wives. Peace and Quiet. What does Flake have planned? “Nothing.” Kruspe? Sunflowers are glorious; they always turn into the light: Kruspe is planning to go back to America again. The first thing Lindemann will do when he gets home is craft the book for his grandson together, he’s practically obsessed with it. Shortly before the submission deadline he sends a mail with a photo from Berlin. On it, self bound and finished, a big dark blue picture book, on the front his drawing of the boy with the dragon, next to it a mouse, under that the grandfather Till Lindemann’s title for his grandson: “Dear Fritz, take my hand.”
In Döblin there are these following lines to Franz Biberkopf, and they are surely among the best which have ever been written in German: “We see in the end the man again standing at Alexanderplatz, very changed, battered, yet bent into shape.”
From now on there is silence.
A whiff, fine as a thread, of sulfur.
Original Source: Süddeutsche Zeitung Magazine
Text: Alexander Gorkow
Photos: Andreas Mühe
Translation by HaxorZ
Rammsein lyrics translations by Jeremy Williams