Rammstein are banging away, shouting maniacally in German and burning stuff in arenas all over the UK at the moment. Here is an interview with the whole band about everything from albums to touring to not splitting up yet.
The world is currently experiencing difficult times… is this the perfect moment for a Rammstein to re-emerge?
Richard Kruspe: “My feeling is that in difficult or uncertain times, when jobs are harder to come by and money is tight, people are quite open to music, to entertainment in general, so actually it’s a good time to be putting out a new record.”
Paul Landers: “There are certain moments when it’s comforting to have something to rely on, something that won’t let you down, and we hope that Rammstein is that immovable object…”
History shows that the band prefers to record in residential studios rather than close to home in Berlin – why is that?
Christoph Schneider: “We’re not especially inspired by the music scene in Berlin, so even for pre-production, we prefer to go out into the countryside…”
Paul: “Plus, there’s just too many distractions in Berlin, we know that our domestic lives would intrude on the task at hand – besides which, some of our best ideas often come outside of work hours, when the band is relaxing together over a meal or a drink…”
Schneider: “And not just ideas about music – we can also discuss the artwork, the videos, the live show, all those topics are best talked about informally…”
Oli Riedel: “This time, though, it was more difficult for us to find a studio because a lot of the residential ones just don’t exist any more, so we were facing kind of an emergency situation. We did think about going back to Studio Miraval in the South Of France, which is a place we’ve had good results in before, but that was being rented out by Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie!”
Paul: “So we ended up putting down the drums in a studio in Los Angeles, and that was a great experience, but for the rest of the recording we relocated to a studio just north of San Francisco, and that was a very different story. The area we were in seemed to be populated mainly by pensioners, and there was lots of barbed wire all over the place! It’s never a problem for us to be cut off – we actually like that – but the specific part of the West Coast we ended up in just wasn’t very stimulating – there was no vibe to pick up on.”
Rammstein comes across as an ordered, well-planned set-up. How much spontaneity is involved with the recording process?
Schneider: “By the time we get into the studio, we pretty much know what we’re going to do, the plan has been set, so the spontaneous side comes in earlier, during the song-writing phase. This time, every morning, we had what we jokingly referred to as ‘morning sports’, where everyone was allowed to present their ideas and we jammed together on those, to see which ones made sense. Then we went into pre-production to define those ideas…”
And what about decision-making within the Rammstein camp? Everything seems to be decided completely democratically…
Schneider: “Well, that’s just our way of working – sometimes it makes things very simple and sometimes very difficult, especially when you have three people wanting to do things one way and three people another way. Sometimes I feel like we’re running our own little country!”
Oli: “With so many creative people involved, we’ve always found this the best way of finding a general direction…”
Paul: “And one of the hardest things is deciding exactly which tracks should make it onto an album, and this is something we try to do with as little emotion as possible. Each of the musicians makes up their own list of 11 songs, the ones they want to see on the record, then a tally is taken, and the songs with the most votes overall are the ones that are included on the final track-listing. Really, this was the only way for us to do it; we’ve been debating these songs for the past three years, so now we just had to go for it, to make the decision with as little stress as we can manage…”
At times, and this is well-documented, there has been a certain amount of tension in the studio; how did the band members get along this time?
Schneider: “I would say there was a smoother atmosphere this time around, but I think it’s inevitable that there’s going to be a certain amount of tension because each guy in the band has his own opinions; and actually, that’s a positive thing – it means there’s always different ideas to be discussed…”
And what about producer Jacob Hellner, who you’ve worked with since the very early days – what particular qualities does he bring to the project?
Schneider: “Well, Jacob’s a valued part of the team because he gets involved early, during pre-production; he helps the band to determine which ideas have the most merit – and he continues to occupy this role in the studio. He’s very much a hard-worker, he puts in seriously long days, sometimes just working with two or three musicians at a time…”
Oli: “He encourages us to go in a particular direction when the band itself is uncertain which way to proceed; if half of us want to do things one way and the other half another way, then Jacob’s opinion becomes a crucial element…”
Richard: “He worked with me on the Emigrate album as well, so I guess, he’s really become a part of the family. And, you know, this new one wasn’t an easy record to make, it was tough for us to achieve a consensus, so it was important to have him there psychologically as much as technically. Also, Till more than anyone didn’t want to bring in a new person, and that’s a really important consideration, because Till needs to feel really comfortable to get the best out of himself as a performer – he needs to retreat into a world of his own…”
What themes have you addressed on Liebe Ist Fur Alle Da?
Richard: “Well, Till tends to sing about the dark side of life. There are a couple of songs on this record that are to do with the band itself, about the return of Rammstein, and they have a different flavour, but generally it’s the darker side of humanity that he chooses to explore…”
Schneider: “The overriding theme, I would say, is extreme forms of love…”
Flake Lorenz: “And love can interpreted in many different ways; for example, sometimes love that isn’t received can lead to tragic situations – mass murders, school shootings, terrible events like that. Hate is the negative form of love, like hot and cold…”
Paul: “As for the music, we wanted to tone down the ‘epic’ side a bit, to get back to the roots of Rammstein – to a harder, fatter sound. I think both the fans and ourselves felt that it was time for a change; not a huge change – just cleaning things up and getting rid of some unnecessary stuff. I guess ‘streamlining’ is the word… You know, we had been listening to quite a bit of heavy metal, bands like Dimmu Borgir, we like a few of their albums; Schneider even bought himself a double-bass drum, and we had a lot of fun seriously rockin’ out. These were the first demo recordings that we made for the new album, but when we listened back to them, we felt that they just weren’t special enough, that a lot of bands were doing this kind of music, and doing it well. So, in the end, we decided to revert to a more familiar Rammstein sound…”
How would you describe that ‘Rammstein sound’?
Richard: “Well, I guess it comes from the players, from the chemistry between us; that’s why a lot of bands get back together again – to try to recapture the special chemistry they had in the first place. There’s also a technical aspect to the sound, of course, but essentially it’s the musicians…”
Schneider: “It’s very pleasing for us when we’re in the studio, listening to the recordings or the mixes, and we realise that we’ve successfully captured that ‘sound’ again. It gives us a real sense of achievement.”
Paul: “The best way I can describe ‘the sound’ is this: when certain people I know make themselves a heavy, strong black coffee, they say that it’s time for a ‘Rammstein coffee’!”
With the more orchestral parts on the new album, have you tried to add more light and shade on this record?
Flake: “Well, we’ve been using orchestral parts on our recordings for some time now, and on this album we were working with the Babelsberg Film Orchestra under the guidance of the Dresden Symphony Orchestra – we’ve always felt it would be a shame not to make use of such a beautiful sound just because we’re a rock band.”
Richard: “That’s right, the orchestral influences have always been there, but actually, this time around, we decided to bring in horns as well as strings, which represents a different flavour for us – it’s almost like a horn orchestra, you can hear this on three of the songs, and yes, there were real musicians playing the horns…”
Would you say this new album has a more organic sound?
Schneider: “Yes, I would, but that’s really a development that started two albums back, with ‘Reise, Reise’ – not just in terms of the drums, but the whole sound of the band. For me, this shift in approach has really added to the music, as it gives us a more versatile edge.”
Oli: “I think anyone familiar with our past recordings will notice that, this time around, all of the instruments are just that bit more defined, especially with respect to the keyboards.”
Richard: “I bought 28 boxes of equipment out to the West Coast from my home studio in New York, and I really had the time to try things out, to experiment, and actually one of the biggest differences I noticed was in the electricity supply – the difference between the US and Europe. There just seemed to be a different kind of energy!”
Richard’s statements and his solo record under the ‘Emigrate’ banner left a lot of people to speculate that he was leaving the band – any weight to that speculation?
Schneider: “No, none at all. He pursued that project when there was a natural break in Rammstein activity…”
Richard: “That’s right, the band was taking some time off, and that gave me the opportunity to do something that I’d been thinking about for some time – to make my own record, to sing on it, write the lyrics, and fortunately I had the time and the freedom to do that, but there was never a question of leaving Rammstein. I’m glad that I made the album (‘Emigrate’), it was a great experience, and I enjoyed all of the promotion, but I didn’t take Emigrate out on the road; it was always agreed that once that project was complete, I would focus once again on Rammstein… my heart is 100 per cent in this group. Making the albums can be a long and painful process, but the results are always worth it in the end, and that’s the most important thing.”
What can people expect from the forthcoming world tour? How do you top what you’ve done in the past?
Flake: “Well, we’ve got a great set of new songs, and we’ve had time to think carefully about just what kind of a live show we want to put on, so we’re confident that we’re going to be able to take things to a new level…”
Oli: “I would say there’s more excitement than pressure. We enjoy the planning of the live show, and because we haven’t been on the road for a while, we’re looking forward to playing some of the old tracks again…”
Richard: “You have to find a starting point, and for us the starting point is the songs, the music, and then there’s the title of the album, which generally leads to some visual ideas; and then other people get involved, and they bring their own thoughts with them, so it’s a process, one thing leading to the other. But the motivation to improve on what we’ve done before essentially comes from the music…”
Oli: “And when we can visualise that music, then we know we’ve got it right!”
What are your plans for the rest of 2009 and beyond?
Flake: “It looks like we’ll be on the road for two years starting this Autumn…”
Paul: “And I’d like there to be as many as seven new songs in the live set. With a band like, say, AC/DC, they can add maybe one or two new numbers to their show, but it’s the classics from the past that the fans are demanding to hear; I hope that with us we can still place the emphasis on the most recent material… although I’m sure ‘Du Hast’ will be there!”
Richard: “I’m really looking forward to getting back out on tour in November, because I’ve now recorded three albums back to back – Rosenrot, the Emigrate album and this new Rammstein record – so it’s time for me to hit the road again, and as far as I know, we’re planning about 200 shows, including festivals, and then we’ll find out how the new tracks work live, how they interact with the audience. That’s when the songs really come to life…”
Original source: ThrashHits
Photo: Paul Brown