When it comes to the world of metal music, it doesn’t get much bigger than German industrialists Rammstein. The band may currently be on a break, but founding member and guitarist Richard Z Kruspe is back with his side-project Emigrate, who are readying the release of their second album Silent So Long – the follow-up to 2007’s self-titled Emigrate.
Digital Spy caught up with Richard, plus Emigrate bassist Arnaud Giroux, to discuss the new record, the future of Rammstein, whether rock music is on its last legs and Rammstein covers on The X Factorâ€¦
It’s been a good seven years since the first album. How did you approach this one differently?
Richard: “When we did the first Emigrate record, I was surprised by the end because it sounded really classic rock. I always pictured our sound to be different. For this record, we did half the production in Berlin. As Berlin is an electro city, I thought this would have an influence on the sound. I always liked blending guitars and synths together, to give a moody kind of feeling.”
What is your songwriting process outside of Rammstein?
Richard: “I sit in front of the computer and start to layer things. I start mostly with the guitars, because I’m a guitar player, then synths or sequences. That’s how I learn to write songs. On the first record, we were looking for a sound where we felt comfortable. After the music was leading somewhere, I was quite surprised that it was so rocky. On the second record, this is more the sound I was looking for.”
The new album’s blend of guitars and synths give it a modern sound. Was this intentional?
Richard: “It’s so hard to say. I don’t really follow what’s modern. I just use things that speak to me. I need some kind of vision in any kind of song, and I have to touch someone with that. If it sounds modern, that’s cool with me. The only thing I really spent a lot of time on was the guitar sound. I was up to the point where I had to close down the studio. I basically re-did the whole record five times.”
Richard: “Yes, because I was looking for a certain sound and I couldn’t find it. I went bananas. For every song, I basically layered between 12 and 18 tracks of guitar. There was a lot of work that went into it. I was looking for something I couldn’t quite hear and I was sure I could spend the next five years recording guitars. So in the end, I closed down the studio and gave the key to one of our engineers. I said, ‘Do not give me the key again’. It was such a nightmare. I had something in my ear and I couldn’t hear it.”
How long did the new album actually take to come together?
Arnaud: “It took a while because we had to gather everyone. We wanted to mature, too. Sometimes it’s very good to come up with an album in a week, but for what we wanted to do it was a good thing to give us some space. It took a few years because we were all busy and we didn’t want to rush anything. We wanted to be sure that the songs were there and that the right moment would be obvious.”
Richard: “The good thing about this band is that I always felt there shouldn’t be any pressure. There should be always love and passion for what we do. There’s a lot of bands – especially in the old days, not so much anymore because the industry has changed – that had to do one record a year, even if they’re not getting inspired. A lot of s**tty music came out of this. So for me it was important that I was convinced it was the right time.”
Arnaud: “It calls you. The music calls you after a while.”
Richard: “Yeah. Most of the time I was writing in New York. Then I moved back from New York to Berlin, for personal reasons. I was always busy touring or doing other records with Rammstein. I always knew I would do another record with Emigrate, but I wasn’t sure when the timing would come. It really started two years ago, when we got back together and started to think of new ideas. In the beginning, it was a little bit unclear.”
The band also changed drummers during this period, right?
Richard: “The one thing I was trying to change was the drummer. We write a lot on computers but after that we go the old way, meaning we go into a rehearsal room as a band and play the songs. One thing I wanted was a new drum wipe. Not that I wasn’t satisfied with the first record, but I was trying to get something else, more wild and expressive. My guitar tech told me about Mikko from Apocalyptica. I knew them because they opened for Rammstein in the old days. I was never listening for the drummer in that band, but I called him up and he was really excited. We didn’t have a chance to try him out, so I was nervous bringing him in, but we got really lucky with this guy. He’s lived up. It was a great band feeling.”
Arnaud: “We wanted to have something very organic, as there’s way more electronic sound than the previous album. This was also why we really liked Mikko. The chemistry with the guy was also very awesome. But we were nervous because we never played with him, and we didn’t want to have a session guy. It was important for us that we had someone who understood the concept and we could get along with.”
Richard: “We rehearsed the s**t out of this guy. He was almost afraid that he couldn’t play in studio. He never went through such a German procedure (laughs).”
Arnaud: “A German schedule!”
Richard: “It was tough for him but he delivered great f**king sounds and I have a lot of respect for him as a person. He puts me to shame in a way, he’s so nice and humble.”
There’s some exciting collaborations on the album, including Lemmy, Peaches, Korn’s Jonathan Davis, Marilyn Manson. How did these come about?
Richard: “I always felt that Emigrate should have been the opposite of the Rammstein world. The Rammstein world is very closed. I come from an area in East Berlin, a couple of years before the Wall came down, where people were forming bands every day and everyone would collaborate. I like that idea. But for some reason after the Wall came down, that disappeared and I became a slave in this environment of Rammstein. OK, that’s the energy of Rammstein but I really wanted to also do something else.
“I thought Emigrate could be a great platform for people to collaborate, do whatever we like. We were too busy finding our sound in the beginning, and I was really insecure as a singer. But now, we’re much more mature about what we want to do and for certain songs, I was cool with somebody else singing. It’s a form of security and self-esteem that I developed over the years. For the Lemmy song, it was a really cute pop song and an obvious combination between MotÃ¶rhead and Rammstein, and he had to sing that! I didn’t think it was gonna happen but one day I got this e-mail with the song, and that’s it.”
Did the guests bring their own lyrics to the table?
Richard: “No guest singer was allowed to write their own lyrics.”
The lyrics on the record come across as very personal and dark. Can I ask you about certain songs?
Richard: “Actually, one thing I always liked about lyrics is that they shouldn’t be discussed. Since the early days of Rammstein, people were asking us and it’s such a shame as the listener – who are also part of the whole process of making music – come up with their own stories. If you explain things, you ruin the fantasy. I don’t like to do that.”
Arnaud: “It’s important that people come up with their own interpretation. You’re on a trip when you listen to the song and you feel connected with the lyrics. The words will create an image in your head, a cinema, and it’s not going to be the same for anyone. It’s nice to keep some mystery around that.”
Richard: “The only song where the theme is clear is ‘Rainbows’, which is inspired by my daughter. She’s 3 years old.”
The band logo is pretty striking on the album artwork. From what I can tell, it’s the Jewish symbol of the Star of David, altered into an “E” for Emigrate.
Arnaud: “Do you want me to answer that, Richard?!”
Richard: “Yes, it’s your turn!”
Arnaud: “OK, we have a polemic running about that at the moment. The logo doesn’t in any way represent the Star of David. The purpose was not this. The important thing in the logo is the circle that’s around the ‘E’, which actually represents more the concept of migration, emigration, cycles, life.”
Richard: “The ‘E’ is basically breaking out of the cycle of life. That’s the idea. When we started this band, I was emigrating out of Germany to America.”
Arnaud: “And that was also the case for me. We were in the same situation.”
Richard: “When I was looking for a name for the band, I found the word Emigrate written on the street on a piece of paper. It exactly described the situation I was in. The logo symbolises for me the circle of life, and the ‘E’ is breaking out of that. Being open, getting out of your comfort zone, getting other people in.”
Arnaud: “We never wanted to create any conversation about the Star of David. It’s really unfortunate that it looks like this. But it doesn’t mean anything.”
Richard: “I always saw a pentagram kind of thing. The Star of David never crossed my mind. Now when you and other people mention it, I can see it. But it was never meant to go in this direction.”
But does it concern you that some fans may misinterpret it, especially given its similarity to the Star of David?
Richard: “It never crossed my mind until one journalist told me, a German one, that he went to New York and had an Emigrate T-shirt on, and somebody screamed at him. The first time I put those two pieces together, I felt ‘F**k’. The meaning of the logo was totally based on my personal life, on music, and had no political meaning whatsoever. If people are offended by the logo, I can only say that was not our intention at all.”
Arnaud: “If there’s hidden messages in the Emigrate concept, it’s not in the logo where they will be found. The logo is something we are thinking about right now because of the confusion.”
Richard: “Only recently, for the first time in eight years, I had to think about it. I like to provoke – rock music should provoke – but definitely not something I wasn’t aware of!”
How much did moving back to Berlin influence you on this record, having relocated from New York?
Richard: “I think every city has an influence on you. Everything you do has an influence on you. A city has a certain kind of energy, and yourself has a certain kind of energy, and they mix together to become a different energy that influence each other.”
Arnaud: “There’s something very organic about cities. When we were in New York, our ideas were slightly different. It’s a great city for inspiration, but it’s a bit harder to stay focused there because so much happens that you can be very easily distracted. Berlin is still creative but you’re on the German clock. It’s about being disciplined and focussed.”
Richard: “See, I say the opposite. For me, I’m most focussed in New York. Berlin is so distracting to me. Everyone is different and brings their own chemistry with them. I have a love-hate relationship with Berlin. It’s much more distracting than New York because I have so much on my mind there that I can’t focus.”
Moving on to Rammstein, is there a new album in the works right now?
Richard: “No, not at the moment. We had a little gathering a couple months ago, just to see where everyone is at. It was interesting because I was afraid they’d want to do a record, as I’m not ready for that! But everyone was really cool and it was the first time I’d played them some stuff from Emigrate, as they asked me to. It was really cool and we decided to give it another year and get together next September, and see where everyone is. But for now, we’re all doing our own thing. I think Till’s (Lindemann, singer) doing a solo record, Flake (keyboardist) is writing a book at the moment.
“I don’t know what the other guys are doing. Even though I could use it right now, financially, Rammstein is what it is and it’s so much stronger than every individual in it. Somehow, I had to give up and leave it as it is. It always had its own rhythm and we never produced one-year records, ever. We always took our time and Rammstein is the only band that could headline a festival without putting any records out. It’s a great situation to be in because there’s no pressure. That’s what I like; I don’t like to be forced. I used to live in f**king East Germany, I got forced all the time.”
Talking of headlining festivals, did you see any of Metallica at Glastonbury?
Richard: “No, I’ve not been to any festival this year. I’m in construction right now.”
Do you miss the festivals while you’re in the studio?
Richard: “Of course. Yeah, the biggest thing I did was two years go – we played in front of 750,000 people in the middle of Russia. I mean, if you can do that, I think you can do anything! I’d never seen so many people in my life. I came out on stage and it looked like the movie Braveheart. They had all those huge flags.”
What’s that feeling like, walking out on stage and seeing 750,000 people in front of you?
Richard: “It’s like having two orgasms at the same time.”
Arnaud: “Oh, to be that loved.”
Are you planning to go out on tour with Emigrate?
Richard: “It’s a thought that’s growing in my head. I don’t want to be pressured about it. Right now, I just like to create music. It’s hard these days as the music industry has changed so much. If people want to make money, they have to go out and play live. I said I don’t have to do that, because I have it with Rammstein. My passion is being in the studio, creating music with people that I like, and that’s my focus. In the beginning, I said I didn’t want to do it (tour), but now it’s a thought that’s starting to grow.”
Did you know that a Rammstein cover was attempted on The X Factor in Russia?
Richard: “No. I’m not following it at all. I’m not a big reality show guy. I think the whole concept goes so against what I believe. I don’t think any one of those people, at least in Germany, ever have a chance to develop their own music creativity because all the f**king contracts are damaged. It’s all about milking, miking, f**king milking. They’re just a product that gets thrown away. I don’t think that’s the right thing to do. I feel sorry and ashamed. It’s just so not the way that I would go.”
Arnaud: “But good luck to the guy who wants to cover Rammstein and matching with Till. That’s going to be a tough one.”
Richard: “Nothing’s impossible, I don’t know.”
Arnaud: “Yeah, nothing’s impossible.”
Do you follow the charts at all? We recently had a new rock band, Royal Blood, go to No.1 with their debut album. It could be the start of another rock revival.
Arnaud: “I think the rock scene was always there. It’s like a submarine – it goes deep and then back to the surface. It’s cycles. From what I understand, Royal Blood are not far from The White Stripes, basically a drummer and a bass player. It’s just about good music and the contextual mood worldwide. There’s moments when you’re totally ready to hear some rock, and there’s moments when you want to slow down for something more accessible and less rebellious. Everything goes in cycles. Rock n roll was never dead; it was just sleeping, or taking a dump.”
Richard: “There are certain countries that lead and other countries that follow. England always had a certain amount of time for things. We have to watch what’s happening. It would be great. I love rock music.”
Arnaud: “It’s also a reaction. When you have a bit too much of something, there’s a force to compensate. Maybe there was too much of something on radio, that people are now ready to hear something different.”
Richard: “I think England is the only country where 50% of rock listeners buy vinyl. That tells a lot about the behaviour here.”
Arnaud: “Long live the UK.”
Richard: “God save the Queen!”
Original Source: Digital Spy
BY ADAM SILVERSTEIN
24 NOVEMBER 2014