26th of November, 2013. INTERVIEW: A quite remarkable meeting: the two German world stars, Karl Lagerfeld and Till Lindemann, the singer of Rammstein, met up for dinner in Paris for the Condé Nast issue, “Quintissence”.
It’s not all that far-fetched, since he’s been visiting this small, four-star hotel on the Rue de Rivoli for years, says Till Lindemann. The view from the Tuileiren is simply unrivaled. And it’s clear within the first, few minutes that, privately, the singer of Rammstein – the internationally most successful German band – only has little in common with his menacing stage character, as you might expect. But it could only have been imagined that the man who spews fire onstage published a book of poems not long ago, and revealed his intellectual bourgeoisie background. The short walk with Till Lindemann and his girlfriend, Sophia Thomalla, leads to a very special meeting. At the Rue des Saint-Pères, another German world star, Karl Lagerfeld, is waiting for dinner.
Q: You have both issued books not long ago. Till Lindemann published a volume of poetry and Karl Lagerfeld, a book with his bon mots…
Karl Lagerfeld: Without my help, mind. But it wasn’t issued in German, as no translator can really get the proper tone. Not even I can translate my own stuff. It comes out like Thomas Mann in French, like pulp fiction.
Q: Is it correct, that you take on another personality when you switch languages?
KL: I don’t have a personality, I have three. One French, one German and one English.
Till Lindemann: It’s like that for me with Spanish. I’m under the impression that my blood boils hotter when I speak Spanish.
TL: Are you dreaming in German or in French?
KL: That depends on who is present in the dreams, normally it’s a mix.
Q: Both of you are considered the internationally most famous German artists. Do you ever think that you are representing Germany?
KL: But please, you shouldn’t exaggerate. “For Germany”, how does that sound? Like in a movie with Willy Birgel from the Nazi-era. It may be different for Mr. Lindemann here, who’s been living in Germany, I was out of there as fast as I could. My mother said, that a Germany without Jews is only a stink hole, a soup without salt.
TL: Do you remember anything from the war?
KL: Yes, yes, of course, but I never suffered from it. I was in Gut Bissenmoor, on the border of Denmark, where nothing happened. There wasn’t any television, so as a child, you didn’t get a lot of it. And they didn’t show us the newspapers.
TL: The latter sounds very familiar to how we had it, back in the East.
Q: How important is your East German background for you and your work, Mr. Lindemann?
TL: I am responsible for the lyrics in Rammstein. Childhood memories play a big part in the texts, and they are naturally influenced by the GDR. Hence the intricate way of expressing things, as it had to be done at that time.
KL: You can’t tell by your poems, I have read them. I thought it was impressive, it takes a lot of courage to write poems today.
TL: I leave my youth out of it, as a subject – I was in a sport’s school then. It wasn’t a good time, I have repressed that. Repression is sometimes a good thing, it allows you to move on.
KL: But subconsciously, some things remain, don’t they?
TL: Yes, but writing poems is similar to a psychoanalysis, and whoever tells you otherwise is only writing about hamsters and flowers. You retrieve coffins out of your soul, in which everything is locked in, and you open them all up.
KL: You were taught Russian in the GDR?
TL: Yes, why?
KL: My father wanted me to learn Russian, but I said: I only have talent for what I’m interested in. And I wasn’t interested in that. Father lived in Russia before the First World War and he loved it. Those were the happiest years of his life. We had to eat borscht once a week because of that, bleh. I hated it, it looked like someone had vomited onto the plate.
TL: Solyanka is also such a thing.
KL: Once again: bleh. But I really liked Russian literature. One of the first novels I read was, “War and Peace“.
Q: What was your first literary discovery, Mr. Lindemann?
TL: Wolf Biermann, who, as a member of the GDR Author’s Association, dared to criticize the government. That was an awakening and you had to read all of it since it was so unheard of. J.D Salinger’s, “Catcher in the Rye”, was also an important influence. It wasn’t allowed to be published by us, you could only get hold of it “under the table”.
KL: How did you get into poetry?
TL: Via Rilke, he was quite a big thing back then. Anywhere anything was happening – in the student clubs or cafés, at parties, jazz concerts and recitals. This really didn’t interest me much, but you could hook up with nice girls there.
KL: Strangely enough, the GDR had the reputation of keeping a culturally high standard.
TL: When it came to education, sure. You were brought up with Brecht and Goethe, but at the same time, force fed Marx and Engels.
KL: Oh yes, memories. I’m sorry that I don’t have my diaries from my childhood anymore, so I no longer remember all the details from that time.
TL: What happened to them?
KL: My mother threw them away when she sold my father’s house. She said: young man, it’s not necessary for people to know how stupid you are. I regret it, but on the other hand, I battle with too many memories in order to not to live in yesterday.
Q: Were you familiar with the GDR, Mr. Lagerfeld?
KL: It wasn’t my country. I found it terrible. My mother was a huge admirer of Goethe, so I knew all about Weimar. She had given her 1832 Complete Edition of Goethe to a student who had helped her moving houses. He wasn’t as stupid as I was and had also showed more interest.
TL: Oh damn.
KL: On the second or third day after the Wall had fallen, I traveled to Potsdam and photographed the Neue Palais. I loved Frederick the Great – not the one who made war, but the one who built the castles. Then we were off to Weimar. I knew the Goethe house inside out, as if I had lived there. For photographs, you had to pay five, eh…
TL: Mark, we had marks then.
KL: Exactly, pay five marks. Then a man came and made a scene, because the fee was only for tourists and I was there for work. After that, we went to a restaurant, and the food wasn’t good but the waiter looked like a morphine-crazed valet out of Docteur Mabuse. Actually, I wanted to tell my colleague about it in French, but inadvertently, I said it in German. The man smashed a plate over my head. Then came a lady journalist came along, a really stout woman wearing a sweater so wide-meshed, you could see her bra underneath. She said: it’s not polite to wear such dark sunglasses, you take them off. I replied: you take your black brassiere off first. Then she began making a scene as well. That was my GDR experience.
Q: On the subject of Choupette… Mr. Lindemann, you have a similar relationship to an animal as Mr. Lagerfeld has to his cat?
TL: I have a dog, but I am also a cat person. My sister is a bit more extreme, she’s got eight cats.
KL: Eight is seven too many.
TL: Now I just have a dog, Chulo.
KL: What was his name?
TL: Chulo, it’s Spanish and means “pimp”.
KL: Oh well, as long as he pimps for you, right?
TL: We fetched him from a shelter, and he was very arrogant in the beginning and behaved just like a pimp, so the name fit.
KL: In the city, a cat is better, they are so sensitive to their environment, and there aren’t any strong odors. But you are from the country side. Besides, you like to hunt, right? I could never shoot at anything that moves. My mother was always standing on the balcony and shot at birds. No, that’s not for me.
TL: My father shot pigeons with an air rifle, and they were later put in the pot.
KL: I participated in hunting twice, then I saw these critters on the tableau de chasse, and after that I can’t eat meat anymore. I’m sorry.
TL: It’s an archaic thing, indeed.
KL: I didn’t want to be reminded of what it was there on the plate when it was alive. But you’re an innocent soul from the country, have you ever seen how a swine is slaughtered?
TL: I do it every year!
KL: Terrible, now I’m not a Muslim, but I don’t eat pork anymore, not since I, as a child, saw how they were killed. They screamed, it was awful, I’m traumatized from it.
TL: But I don’t think that you can ask of a farmer or a dockworker, after hauling sacks all day, to have Tofu for dinner. But you are working with furs and skins?
KL: Yes, but I don’t know those animals beforehand. And you know, the people who are always criticizing this, they should go up to the northern areas, where the people are who live off hunting, and explain to them why they are all out of a job. The truth is always a matter of opinion.
TL: And she’s a little tart, the truth is.
KL: And there are truths that are best kept to oneself.
Q: On the subject of traditions: are you in fact celebrating Christmas?
KL: Me? Christmas is for children. My Christmas is that all the ateliers and studios are closed so I have a week’s peace and quiet, so I can sketch couture without being disturbed. But that is rather German, though. In France, you aren’t even allowed to celebrate anymore, or the other religions get upset. That’s what it’s like today. My Christmases in Gut Bissenmoor were splendid, I loved them.
TL: We celebrate large. Every year, I go out into the forest to steal a Christmas tree, even when the punishments for it are severe. That’s our tradition. You scout the tree during summer, and it’s aggravating when it’s already gone by Christmas.
KL: A German Christmas tree is something beautiful, with the silver globes and silver tinsel. Unfortunately, I wasn’t allowed to go to church as a child, not even on Christmas, since a fortune teller had foretold that I would become a cardinal. My mother found that appalling and said that she has not been pregnant for nine months to bring forth a priest.
Q: Mr. Lindemann, you once described sexuality as the engine of your work. How could that be interpreted?
TL: That’s awkward to talk about when my girlfriend is sitting next to me.
KL: Ha! That’s the second time he blushes during this conversation. Miss Thomalla and I can step outside for the duration.
TL: You stay here. The truth is – I’m extremely instinct driven. And writing texts can, of course, be a sublimation of that instinct. But you don’t have to do everything your instinct tells you to.
KL: Isn’t it frustrating, when you have the need, to only write about it?
TL: Not for me, I have lived it up long enough. Aren’t you motivated by desire?
KL: I don’t remember. My profession is to dress people, not undress them. Sex is a healthy, athletic activity for young people. Later on, it’s just promiscuous.
Read the whole interview in “Quintessence“, enclosed with the 2013 December issue of VOGUE.
Translated by Murray
Original Source: Vogue Online