Former Olympic swimmer, Till Lindemann, now lead vocalist of Rammstein, sings romantic lyrics on stage while engulfed in flames from head to toe, as keyboardist Flake breaks fluorescent lighting tubes over his bare chest. Why, you ask? Because “we think the idea of pure rock music tends to be a little bit boring,” says founder and guitarist Richard Kruspe. “We use visual elements such as pyrotechnics to enrich the music and enrich the show. So it becomes more theatrical.” Throw in some whipping, flame-throwing, not to mention music, and you have Rammstein’s recipe for international stardom.
Formed in 1993 in East Berlin, Rammstein sailed to great heights in their native Germany within a couple of years and have since taken the rest of the world by storm. Having just finished up performing throughout the US, supporting Korn in their Family Values tour, the members of Rammstein — which in addition to Till, Flake and Richard, include Paul Landers on guitar, Oliver Riedel on bass, and Christoph Schneider on drums — took a few moments of respite from their firestorm to chat with NY Rock’s Gabriella.
NYROCK: Let’s get the unpleasant part out of the way first. The German press has repeatedly accused you of having a fascistic leaning…
RICHARD: I think it would have been fair if the press would have asked us about it instead of spreading rumors that we are fascists, Nazis and God knows what. I think that is a terrible way of abusing the power of the media. Blackballing somebody, spreading vicious and unfounded rumors and then wondering why the band reacts less than pleased. Sometimes it really makes me wonder if the journalists ever realize what they’re doing with accusations like this. Accusing a band of having fascistic tendencies attracts a fascistic audience even if the band is not fascistic at all.It was never an issue in the States, the audience took our show for what it is: entertainment, a great show. And they’re not trying to find a political meaning in everything. Germany can be really uptight about things. You know, I think most of them just weren’t smart enough to realize that a show with a lot of pyrotechnics is simply that — a good show. Not everything is political, but it is a very German thing to try and find the proverbial fly in the soup. Plus we’re German. So, of course, they can’t like us.
TILL: There is a perfect explanation for this: Narrow mindedness.
NYROCK: You had a hard time getting airplay in Germany. You sold out stadiums and headlined festivals, but airplay was something else…
FLAKE: The political aspect, they tried to make us political and it’s really strange if they’re trying to find something political just for the sake of it, just for the sake of being able to ban us. It’s media hysteria. It’s OK if one of the DJs or VJs doesn’t like our music. Fine. You can’t please everybody, but in order to do his job he should do it right and not try to label us and put the lid on us.
OLLI: That’s exactly the point. All we ask for is that they’re open minded, but they abuse their positions. I think a DJ or VJ is working in customer service. If he only wants to play the music he really likes, he should stay at home and listen to his albums. That’s like journalists dissing bands just because it’s not their personal taste. I consider that highly unprofessional.
RICHARD: That didn’t happen in the States at all. The people there are far less uptight about things. They take it easier. They see a great show and they come to enjoy the show and that’s that. They don’t try to read anything into it.
NYROCK: I heard some rumors about how you treat critics. You handcuffed one editor to a chair and put some pyrotechnical stuff around him and let him be found by his colleagues while you were busy performing as the headliners of the festival…
FLAKE: Ha ha ha ha! That’s right, but he deserved it. He didn’t treat us fair in any way. He abused his position to dis us. He dissed and slandered us all the time and we were just biding our time, you know. We knew we could wait that out. But the funniest part about it was that it was the festival of the channel where he’s an editor — and we were the headliners.
RICHARD: He certainly got what he deserved. It didn’t hurt him in any way. We were not violent but he was the laughingstock for a while. Maybe it will help him to think about things. Maybe it will help some other band.
NYROCK: What happened between Ozzy Osbourne and Rammstein? The grapevine had it that Ozzy was angry because you played a joke on him and had a bigger light show than the master himself…
RICHARD: He was under the misconception that we were his support. It was a festival and we were the co-headliner not the support, but obviously nobody had dared to tell Ozzy and he was slightly pissed off that our show was bigger than his.
NYROCK: That was all?
RICHARD: Not really, but the rest is even more ridiculous. It’s simply a joke.
NYROCK: That sounds intriguing…
RICHARD: Basically it was a mistake, a simple mistake. And Ozzy didn’t kick a big fuzz. It was his wife, Sharon.
NYROCK: So what happened?
RICHARD: One of our crew members, a roadie, forgot a wire. Our pyro-show needs a lot of preparation and equipment and he simply missed a wire. During Ozzy’s show it fell down. Basically, nothing happened. You know, just a wire fell down. Till and I were standing around on the side of the stage, watching the show and all of a sudden Sharon showed up and started yelling. She accused us that we tried to ruin his show. It was crazy. I really did like his show. I think their guitarist is one of the best.
NYROCK: Your fan base in America didn’t just grow; it seemed to explode. How did that happen?
RICHARD: I don’t know, but the same thing happened in Europe. Fans appeared from out of nowhere. You know, it just goes even faster in the US. The States are simply more fast paced and not as laid back as Europe.
NYROCK: I’m a bit surprised that you didn’t release an album with English lyrics for the US…
FLAKE: We toyed with the idea and Till tried to sing some lyrics in English but it just didn’t sound right. I remember that I used to go to see Bob Dylan concerts when I was young. I didn’t understand a word but I still went to see him. I think it’s the music and not the lyrics.
OLLI: You know it didn’t matter where we went, what language the people spoke. The reaction we got was the same almost everywhere. I think the songs we did for the Lost Highway soundtrack helped a lot, “Rammstein” and “Heirate Mich” (Marry Me). [The inclusion of these two songs came about when the band asked David Lynch to direct their first video. Lynch was too busy making Lost Highway at the time, but became so enamored with their debut album Herzeleid(translated as “Heartache”) that he included two of the songs in the film.]Sweden was particularly funny, they tried to sing along with a Swedish accent.
NYROCK: So, the German lyrics don’t seem to be a problem…
RICHARD: Not at all! You know, I’m really surprised how many people could sing along. But, you know, most of us grew up behind the iron curtain. When we started to listen to music, and especially American music, we didn’t understand the lyrics and it wasn’t really important. I think the feeling they get from the songs is what is really important. Maybe hearing them in another language helps to add some mystery.
NYROCK: You almost seem to have a cult following…
RICHARD: I wouldn’t call it a cult following and I don’t see Rammstein as a cult. We’re a band with six musicians and nobody is a leader or a cult figure. Of course, Till is the singer so he get’s more of the spotlight, but that’s normal. Every singer is in the spotlight.
NYROCK: You’ve toured America once [in late 1997], so your current slot on theFamily Values tour wasn’t completely new. What was your impression the first time?
RICHARD: I think the most important thing for all of us was that we had a connection with the audience, that we didn’t need the pyrotechniques and all that to win the audience over. It made me very happy to realize that it was our music that the people liked. There’s nothing wrong with pyro effects, as long as the music is still good and strong, but I guess there’s always the danger to neglect one for the other, it’s pretty hard to keep a good balance between giving a good show, a great spectacle and just good music.
NYROCK: It’s hard to imagine you without all of the special effects: fire, bombs, lights, the works. Why did you leave it out?
RICHARD: We were touring, going from state to state and every state has different laws and the people take their jobs very seriously, even worse than in Germany if you can imagine.
NYROCK: Was it an issue that you’re German?
RICHARD: Well, I think it was more an issue that we were foreigners. They were really careful — in Santa Ana they confiscated our equipment, not the musical equipment but everything we needed for the fireworks, the whole pyro show. It really sucked, but we learned that it’s impossible to organize it from Europe. So we’re better prepared for this tour.
TILL: This time our audience got music and fireworks on top of it.
NYROCK: You’ve begun to work more with keyboards and samples in your music, than with heavy guitars…
FLAKE: That’s right and that’s how we’ve planned it. I think it is less stressful, less strenuous to listen to our songs. You know, if you listen to five or six songs with heavy guitars it can be annoying. So, samples sound definitely better.
RICHARD: I think it’s important to keep a certain balance, and I think our development as a band definitely points in the right direction. We tried something new and if we don’t like it anymore we’ll try something else. It’s always easy to go back, but it’s a lot harder to go forward.
OLLI: There aren’t many guitar-focused albums people listen to — I mean listen to them from the first to the last song. After a while guitars can become annoying and you switch them off, but we didn’t really say goodbye to the guitar sound.
NYROCK: Do you think your success in America will alienate your German audience?
RICHARD: Why should it? We toured a lot in Germany and Europe. We were always present and now America is a new challenge for us, but that’s again a very typical German thing, the jealousy. I don’t think our audience, our fans, will mind it but our critics will, of course. They can’t say, “Cool, a successful German band, they made it international!” They’re too jealous to do that.About a year ago most Americans couldn’t name a German band — except maybe Nina [Hagen], Kraftwerk and probably the Scorpions. I’m really proud of our success in America, but I’m sure some people in Germany will claim that we were pushed.
NYROCK: Doesn’t the touring wear you out?
RICHARD: Yes, it does. I think it’s time for us to take a break. If you’re playing too much, too often, if you’re always on tour, then you can’t be really creative and you lose a lot of time. Your life seems to rush by. You have to take time off to write new songs. You need to relax and kick back. You need to be able to grow bored, at least that’s how it works for me.
NYROCK: But isn’t a gig something creative?
RICHARD: Yes, it is and at the same time it isn’t. At a gig you just repeat what you did. You’re playing the songs again, but writing the songs, putting them together is the real creative action.
NYROCK: So how do you feel about America? What’s the big difference between Europe and America?
OLLI: America is a great goal for me. It is high on our priority list — as opposed to Japan. Japan would be too much hassle for me. And the big difference…
RICHARD: The women! American women are far more outgoing and open than European or German women. They come up and talk to you and they don’t make a big deal about it.
Original source: NY Rock
by Gabriella, November 1998