After one wet night out in town, the singer of Rammstein Till Lindemann and the strong man behind Pain and Hypocrisy Peter Tägtgren, fantasized about making a song together. After 15 years reality struck and that resulted in the Lindemann project. The album “Skills in pills” according to Till is mostly about fucking.
INTERVIEW WITH TILL
When I enter the luxurious hotel room, Till is standing by one of the windows, looking out over the roof tops of Stockholm. The tall German in a suit have adopted a powerful pose with his arms crossed. I can’t help but wonder if he chooses to stand with back turned against me as a part of some sort of power struggle, to show who’s in charge of this interview. Before I get myself seated I ask him which one of the two couches he preferred to sit in.
– Take the black one, Till answers. I just farted in the white one. That is why I am standing by the window to get some fresh air before you entered.
Then he gives me heartwarming welcome and I quickly come to turns with that the front figure of Rammstein is more easy going than I first thought. The second part of the duo is unfortunately sick with something that looks like the flu. Because of that, Peter Tägtgren will get his say in this interview on another occasion during a phone interview. Even if being sick, both me and Till are surprised about his absence. Peter is known for working hard even when not getting enough sleep or food or when he is sick.
– Even if it is dreary to do this promotion all by myself today, I am glad he decided to stay in bed, says Till. Peter is like a locomotive, when he gets going he is hard to stop. When in the studio together I asked him, after working for 14 hours, if he also wouldn’t go to bed. The answer was always “I just have to finish this one more thing.”
So you don’t share Peter’s obsession with work?
– No, because of Rammstein I have learned that you have to make a decision when a song is finished, even if there are more suggestions to it. Otherwise you will keep on going forever and you might end up producing a bad song, killing a really good idea. Peter has definitely been the creative source of ideas during this project. I’ve took the role as project Manager and the one who made the deadlines.
Pain have many times been compared to Rammstein sound wise. How much similar music taste do you and Peter share?
– There are some essential differences. Which is an important factor to make this collaboration interesting. Peter’s background is hard rock, so when he writes music he always wants to barge in with the electric guitars. I am more goth and I want to start with the piano or the strings as an intro. I rather surprise the listeners with the help from sound of guitar riffs instead of serving them with right away. Peter’s been open to my ideas and we have been able to plan every details since Peter is playing every single instrument himself. He even plays the drums. I thought we were going to use the drum machine, but the record is a craftsmanship from the beginning to the end.
The album “Skills in pills” have been kept behind locks and bars until only a few hours before this interview. Then I got listen to the ten songs for the first time. And I think I have identified three significant themes for the lyrics, an assumption that gets Till all fired up. First up: sexual preferences.
– That is correct. I have a bottomless box filled with stories on this matter. Many of them are of course personally experienced, but I also get a whole bunch of dirty anecdotes told to me. Most often it is hard to transform them into something concisely you can sing about, but the concept itself is something I let out all the time. The album probably is probably about something else than fucking, since life itself is more or less about fucking. Or the lack of fucking. By the way, last night I got very inspired by a guy who told me a story about an accident he witnessed in Berlin. A girl fell of her bicycle and then knocked unconscious. Of course the guy called an ambulance to take care of her. But me, I started writing down an idea of what could have happened instead. What if you start the scenario of the girl falling off her bike and then this one guy witness the whole thing. As the listener your first thought might be that the song is about a hero, doing the right thing. But instead of helping, the guy starts to look around, making sure that he is alone with this girl and then he rapes her! And for the chorus you could sample the cheerful tunes of Queen’s song “Bicycle race”. Really slapping the listener in the face.
Till is now humming the melody of Queen, laughing out loud. After that he starts thinking about how the song would end. Maybe the rapist has to do the Tour de France, under death threat, with no saddle? Then we start talking about the second theme: doomsday romance.
– It is strange how some people don’t seem to accept that the world we know, soon will be gone. I don’t think we will realize that the world has ended until way afterwards it actually happened. I do wonder what kind of decisions we would make if we found out that we only had one day left to live. Perhaps everything would just continue as normal. The world we live in is obviously the one we chose to live in.
I then reconnect to the themes again. The third one: criticism of society
– There are no criticism towards the society on the album, says Till with a puzzled face. I see, you interpret the title track “Skills in pills” and “Praise abort” that way. It is amazing to hear all the different interpretations of my lyrics. One man had this totally awesome theory about “Skills in Pills”, that it was about the music industry. Then I just didn’t have the heart to give him another explanation and destroy his illusions about the song. I can tell you this much, “Skills in pills” is straight up about the skills in using pills. When I grew up in East Germany behind the wall, as kids we couldn’t get our hands on drugs. Therefor we had to come up with our own mixes of pills through experiments with the medicines available on the market. For example you could take two pills for motion sickness, three pills for headaches and one caffeine pill. Then you wrote down the effects of your intoxication and compared it against your friend’s effects. All the kids were all very driven and read all the medical dictionaries to learn more about active substance in different medicines.
The story about how the whole Lindemann project begun is not that complicated. Peter and Till got drunk together.
– Rammstein were in Stockholm for the mixing of the “Mutter” album (2000). We ended up at Pub Anchor (translator edit: well-known hard rock pub) when we were introduced to Peter. I have always loved Pain so we started talking about the possibility of me doing guest vocals for an upcoming album. The year after we talked about it again, but both of us were busy touring, so we postponed it. And it went on like that year after year. When we performed at Bråvallafestivalen 2013 (translator edit: festival in Sweden), Peter and his family came by to say hello. I then told him that we only had one more month left on the tour. After that Rammstein will have a two year break, since some of the members had babies. I suggested that we finally should make that song we always talked about and Peter gave me a slight nod. Then I picked up the phone and made serious business of the whole thing, a few days later Peter sent me an all instrumental track. Then in September of 2013 we started the whole thing.
One song turned into five and the duo felt that they had enough tracks to release an EP. During their first contact with the record label resulted with a demand for a whole album and the production pace had to be turned up a notch. This led to some unconventional work methods.
– One time we had half an hour to finish because I had to catch a train to Arlanda airport. I really wanted to record the foundation for this idea that came to me during this day, but Peter said that it was impossible to put something together that fast. I then asked him to start a click track in my headphones and record my singing. The steady rhythm of the click track almost made me rap. Peter gave me a mistrusted look, stopped recording and then gave me a lift to the train under a somewhat strained atmosphere. I almost forgot about the recording. Around Christmas Peter sent me a file with an intro that reminded me a bit of Depeche Mode and I rejoiced within. Then my singing appeared and I recognized that it was a result of my experiment with the click track, he built the whole thing around that. I only had to enter my bathroom to add the natural reverb effect, using my iPhone. I sent it to Peter and he worked on what I gave him and finished up “Praise abort”.
Am I right when I say that you never had the chance to work like that with Rammstein?
– Never. When I introduce an idea to Peter he says: “OK, let’s do it!”. When I present ideas to Rammstein I have to be well prepared. There will always be debates and sometimes we fight about it. It is pretty tiresome to present to three or four people, a lyric you are really proud of and the only reaction you get is “redo it and make it better”. Especially when every one of them have their own opinion about what counts as “better”. It has happened that I had between 35 and 40 different versions of one lyric before it’s gotten through this filter.
Speaking of your lyrics. Rammstein is the most successful German speaking band in the world. What was your motivation to do the entire album in English?
– The answer to that question is simple. I wanted Peter to understand what the songs were about. Otherwise he might have composed a polka for a song about cancer. Besides that, it is refreshing to use brand new words. After writing about 80 lyrics in German, I had to start thinking long and hard so I didn’t repeat myself. Writing for this album was like entering an empty room and start rearranging the furniture with an unlimited budget. Of course I also want to distance myself from Rammstein by singing in another language. Why make something new if it will still remind you of the old?
What is the next step for Rammstein?
– We decided a long time ago that we will meet this fall, probably by the beginning of September, and start working on a new album. As soon as I am done with my part of the whole thing I will then return to Peter. Rammstein is really important part of my life but working with Peter is so much fun that I want to make it my first priority for every possible opportunity I get. I was really touched the other day when he described me as his second big brother, which he gained later in life. As with most musicians, it is just something we usually say about each other all the time, but coming from Peter I really believe him. We are friends before anything.
INTERVIEW WITH PETER
Your biography by the record company, describes your first meeting with Till as a dramatic story. Apparently you saved his life when a motorcycle gang wanted to beat him up, for hitting on one the wrong girl.
– Most of it is true, says Peter Tägtgren. But it wasn’t the first time we met. It was somewhere up in the northern parts of Sweden and we visited an illegal club. A fight broke out and I had to break it off. After that, me and Till became closer friends. Sadly we have been thrown out from several places. Well, at least I have!
Till mentioned that you had a hard time to decide what you should call your project. What suggestions did you have and what made you decide to go with Lindemann?
– For a long time we wanted to call ourselves Kunts, but that was already taken. Then Till really wanted it be Krauts because he so German, but that one was also taken. Everything we came up with, we googled and everything was taken, so the search for a name took a lot of time. Then someone at Universal suggested the name Lindemann and I immediately said no. Shortly after that they invited us for dinner at Sturehof (translator edit: fancy fish and seashell restaurant) in Stockholm, where they paid for wine that cost 6000 SEK (translator edit: approx. €645), in an attempt to loosen us up a bit. Then the Lindemann suggestion was brought up again and I still said no. The representative for the record company begged that I would accept. He told me that no one ever have turned down that much money just because of a name. He had to fly back Germany without anything except for a big fucking bill from Sturehof. But in the end, we still haven’t decided on a name. I eventually gave up so we didn’t have to think about any longer. And we just cannot use the name Lindemann-Tägtgren without being a law firm.
Don’t you think that it is typical in a business deal, where a German and a Swede are involved, that it is finally the Swede who gives in?
– Oh, I hardly ever backs down these days so I can let this one pass! It is just a name. Between me and Till it was never a conflict what so ever about this. If someone comes up with the best idea, we go through with that one.
When Till talked about your time in the studio he pretty much gave the impression of you two being two cozy fishermen on holiday at a cabin. Is this also how you remember it?
– Till is really a fisherman. When I was editing he went fishing. When I was done I had to call for him through the window and tell him to get back in and add something.
You two seems to share the same vulgar type of humor.
– We are like brothers, we laugh at the same things. The funniest thing about Till is that when he is rewriting his lyrics because of some word that doesn’t fit in. He then giggle the whole time like a mad professor. Then he walks in to the mic booth and starts singing something totally unreasonable that he put together, and you start thinking if you can really get away with that. And then you remember all the other sick things we already have and you just go for it.
What kind of reactions have you encountered regarding the lyrics?
– Up till this point we have made around 150 interviews and we have noticed that the girls that have talked to us gets the lyrics more often than the guys. Many of the lyrics can be seen as sexist, if that is how you choose to see it, but most girls understood that the lyrics are not sexist. One guys was completely wrecked about “Praise abort” and was wondering about what the fuck we were doing. Till don’t like to take away the reaction from people, but he was pretty much forced to try and explain how the song was about a friend of him who has seven kids. Till is wondering if his friend ever regrets not using a condom every here and there. The song is not heavier than that.
What are your plans for the future?
– We are having a meeting next week with some crew people to get ready for the first time we will hit the stage. But it is not too serious at the moment, we move forward gradually. We are not set to go on tour just yet and play the festivals this summer. First we have to play some clubs and have a proper sound check, to get the feel to it and how it all works. By the end of September we might just play at Jocke’s pizzeria or some other place that might want to have us there.
Original source: Sweden Rock Magazine iss. 5, p.46-49 (2015)
By DAVID JANNATI
Photos: Sandor Lubbe, Matthias Matthies
Translated by Anna Hellblom