When the singer of Rammstein, Till Lindemann, comes to Paris to promote his project, Lindemann, together with Peter Tägtgren of Hypocrisy and PAIN, who has become his friend as well as musical collaborator thanks to some rather memorable partying, it feels like home to him. He loves the charm of Paris, the refinement of France, the delights of the Parisian restaurants and the good wine. He says as few words in French, a language he’d rather be speaking than English, as if he’d mastered the tongue like Molière. After having had a meal of good Parisian food, they are in excellent spirits, in complete symbiosis with an obvious complicity and a shared delight for silliness, and ready to talk about what brings us together today, and, for that matter, a pleasant chat about music and life. There are some moments, as they explain to us in the interview, that you don’t have any hurry to see the end of. So, we are taking this advice to heart and we’ll try to share it here with you.
Just like with Richard Z. Kruspe’s project, Emigrate, Lindemann is a breath of fresh air for Till. The huge war machine that is Rammstein is certainly efficient and devastating, but the arsenal is also sometimes heavy to carry, diminishing everyone’s desire for the common good. It’s time for Till to relax a little, to seize the opportunity for this duo, initially not intended to produce an entire album, but to have fun, sing about sex, drugs and alcohol – as the opening track suggests on Lindemann’s debut album, called “Skills in Pills” – but also about deep emotion, by addressing the most solemn issues, such as close friends dying and time passing by too quickly. All of this before going back to his position as the front man of Rammstein at the end of this year.
As for Peter, he’s the musical mastermind behind Lindemann. The multi-talented instrumentalist has been given the task of channeling Till’s melodic ideas and incorporating them into his musical world, a world of heavy guitars, New Wave keyboards, electronic percussion and lavishly scathing orchestrations, the essence of his experiences in Hypocrisy and PAIN, where he’s already doing everything.
Radio Metal: In the biography given to the press, it says that you two met in a bar in Sweden in 2000, where Peter saved Till from a fight with a guy because of something with an ex-girlfriend. Is this really how it happened?
Peter Tägtgren (guitar): I think I was in the right place at the right time, or he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. He and Flake were goofing around and I guess they got themselves into a fight about something, and when my brother and I arrived, they had begun throwing bottles and insults, so I intervened… Well, I guess I really did show up at the right time! It would surely have come to blows, but I calmed them down enough so no one got hurt. After that, we hit the Jägermeister and my brother’s moonshine and started to become friends, kept in regular contact, saw each other and so on.
Is this partying attitude and booze galore at the center of or, at least, behind the making of this album, “Skills in Pills”?
Peter: There has been some alcohol involved in the making of this album, I believe. But I think we were drinking like grown-ups, like normal people (laughs), because creativity was the primary engine for us. Of course we had some wine, beer and pretty much anything liquid while we were working on it, but we didn’t really have the time to think about partying or things like that. Primarily, he came up from Berlin to see me at my studio and we really tried to work on the stuff we had to do and if there was any free time, we had barbecues and things like that.
What are you both contributing from your personalities?
Peter: I don’t know. I’m thinking both…
Till Lindemann (vocals): I don’t know either (he says in awkward French). I don’t speak English very well. I may have rusted a bit. Mein Englisch ist nicht gut! (laughs)
Peter: I do think we are both visionaries, in a way. We have a lot of ideas in our heads. It’s great when two people with the same drive meet, then I think anything can happen. The whole thing, and this album which was never supposed to be, has happened way faster than we thought. It was just supposed to be something simple, like only one or two songs, but here we are! (chuckles)
Till: I tried putting some gothic metal ideas into his head, there. This is apparent in the songs, or at least I hope so!
Peter. Yeah! But some songs have their own sound, rather than gothic or metal. Grown-up hard rock, or something like that. It’s strange. We tried all these different things and it just became what it is. There’s nothing new, most likely you have heard it all before, but we did it our way. This is our worlds meeting.
Initially, this project was only supposed to be “a short-lived collaboration” between the two of you, and you “had no idea you were going to release a whole album, but it became more and more important”. So, how did it become a real project?
Both: I don’t know! (laughing)
Peter: I don’t know, and it was very strange. Everything was so easy… Well, not easy but it was easier than what we normally do when we are creating music. I mean, from the beginning, I said that we would do one or two songs that we’d keep to ourselves, just to listen to from time to time, to impress ourselves or whatever. (giggles) It became a snowball effect. Suddenly, we had all these other ideas, he got ideas and I got ideas, and soon there was four or five songs, and we were there, thinking, “Oh shit! What is happening?” That’s how it began to piece together. We could easily discuss everything, and there was no pressure. I pushed him a little at first, and then we both did…
Till: We have kept things relaxed…
The project is called Lindemann, which makes it look like a solo project…
Peter: That’s his fault!
Till: You, being French, understand my love for red wine, and there’s this big company called Lindeman’s, so we took their name for the project. That man came the other day and gave me a bottle of red wine, really rich, magnifique. It’s from Australia.
Peter: Yeah, but it’s called “Lindeman’s” with only one “n” at the end, not two.
Till: So I said, ”See! It’s an international name. Let’s take it!”
Peter: Yeah. (laughs) No, but we didn’t have a name and someone suggested it and we said, “OK, we’ll take that!” Because we didn’t have anything else!
Till: We tried really hard to find a name. We thought of Crowds of Flies on Penis…
Till: Yeah, Cunts… We had so many names flying through the air that in the end, we couldn’t decide. Most good names are already taken, or already registered on a domain, so it was really hard to find a good one. Nowadays, everything is already taken because…I don’t know, bullshit.
Peter: If we had called Lindemann “Tägtgren”, it would have sounded like a law firm or something…
Till: Or a branch of IKEA… (chuckles). Tägtgren Furniture!
Can you tell us about…
….about your work and your way of interaction in the making of this album?
Peter: I’m sorry, could you repeat that?
Till: What, are you drunk? I understand! Maybe you should go and learn English and come back once you’ve learned your lessons!
Peter: OK, I’ll see you in five minutes! (laughs) No, but the thing is that we had nothing planned. The only thing I had planned was to do this one song with him to see how it would work out with another person. And the first song was really quickly done! Almost too fast! I thought, “Is it over now? What happened?” Then we had some ideas for a next song. I could come up with a melody or other, and that put him into gear and he started writing lyrics. Sometimes, he sang them into his cell phone, sent it to me along with a click track and then I would put music to it. There were so many different ways we were doing things. There was never one specific way.
Till: And we have totally different backgrounds…
Peter: Yeah, completely!
Till: In terms of recording, there were so many ways to do it differently than what I am used to, completely different experiences. Therefore, it was necessary that we agreed on whatever crap, and that took a bit of time, but it was resolved in the end. Now, we are quick enough when we work together, because we had worked it all out and how Peter edits and mixes the vocals with the rest of the music. Even when it came to song structures – as to where to put choruses and verses – we had completely different opinions: what is the part C, what is a bridge, was that a pre-chorus, post-chorus, intro… All these names of parts which have nothing to do with the songs.
Peter: It took us half the album, I think, to figure out how to be attuned to one another and to understand ourselves with these things. But those were just minor issues. OK, it could be a bit painful. Sometimes it was, “No! NO! Not another chorus!” and I was like, “What? This is not a chorus! It’s a bridge or a break!” and he went, “What? No, no, no!”
Till: Sometimes when we were talking, he could say: “Please, change the deck to get it in C!” He was on a different wavelength and it happened that I felt I was completely out in left field. Genre had nothing to do with it, or what do I know…
Till: And I thought, “How could he tell me I’m wrong? I have made it perfectly clear what I had in mind!”
Peter: On the other hand, sometimes…
Till: I was completely out in left field…
Peter: I thought I knew what he wanted and then he changed his mind without telling me! And then he said…
Till: That’s what they all say…
Peter: Exactly. But I think, yeah, if you’re completely out in left field, then I will misunderstand you and you are going to misunderstand me. Now we know better.
Till: We really did find a good way of working, yeah. Quite easy and laid back. We recorded everything at Peter’s. His studio is in a nice spot next to a lake. I could open the window and fish directly outside the studio! I kid you not: I alternated between fishing and singing! Best recording session I have ever done. Grand plaisir!
Peter: Yeah, making songs is not all that complicated and it’s fun to see what comes out of nothing. It’s like a flower opening and, “Wow!”
Till : That’s what they all say…
Peter: Oh god… Here, have some wine, that will give you something to do. To drink, I mean! (laughs)
Your first promotional photo showed you as a bizarre pair of newlyweds. Peter, you had a wedding gown and Till, you were the groom… Does this say anything about the roles in this duo?
Till: Hey, you wanted it to be the other way around? No way! (laughs)
Peter: Well, it was…
Till: Or maybe that would have been even better! (laughs)
Peter: Hey, you aren’t allowed to hit people in dresses, OK? (laughs) No, it was very…
Till: That’s a song by Alice Cooper! (singing) “I am in jail in a wedding dress…”
Peter: Oh, yeah, yeah. (Someone provides them with more to drink) I think it’s provocative. People see it in various ways. It is open to interpretation…
Till: We come to France and we get served peanuts and red wine…
Peter: We do put on a show. There is some trickery here! (laughs)
Regarding this spirit of provocation present throughout the album: you said wanting to shock and provoke was intentional. Do you think people need to be a bit shook up these days?
Peter: I think that when we chose the picture, we weren’t intending to shock people. We just thought, “What the hell!” At least for us. Then we said, “Perhaps this one can represent the entire project.” So the shock effect came second. I mean, we were not trying to provoke or anything, because when these pictures were taken, we just wanted to have good photos, a bit different from those usual ones, with four or five guys standing around, “click” and that’s it. We wanted something different.
Till: There are a lot of clichés and stereotypes when it comes to press photos, especially on the metal scene, with people crossing their arms over their chests and posing like that… We wanted to come up with something new and, ultimately, we weren’t really interested in being provocative.
Peter: Not really. It’s just art.
Till: It came out of nowhere, we had fun with that. We were sitting on a stuffed deer and that’s how it happened. It came to us during the process.
Peter: So we went further with the photos, and there’s going to be a kind of book that will accompany the CD. This is as much art for the eyes as for the ears. Each song has its own image.
This aspect can also be found in relation to the music, and a song like the eponymous, “Skills in Pills”…
Till: This is something that comes from my past in East Germany. In short, we couldn’t find any drugs so we gathered that pills would do, and we had to ask ourselves what kind of pills we could make into a cocktail. So, we had something that was medicine, something that was for parties, and then we began mixing our own cocktails, we grounded it up, poured some beer over it, or vodka or brandy, and then down the hatch. We were conducting various experiments, some that were completely crazy, and others more soothing. We could achieve any mood we wanted because we were skilled in pills. That’s where it comes from. But we really like it when people have different views. We imagined the record company would go crazy because of what happens to the download, but people have so many different takes on the meaning of the songs, which is really interesting and we wanted to leave it like that. We want people to think for themselves about what’s behind it all. If you start explaining things, people could get disappointed and say, “Oh, it’s that simple? How boring. I’ll pass.”
Peter: Every lyric is like an open book, I think, because there are so many different interpretations. I’m sure Till had an idea about what it’s supposed to be about, but when we listen to the people with whom we are doing interviews, they’re all like, “This song means this, could you confirm?” and we answer, “Oh, it could be that!”
Till: We get surprised when people have their own views. This is fun!
Peter. So, it’s better to leave things be instead of explaining too much.
This album has its fair share of madness. Is that because you felt freer when starting a new project for which people wouldn’t have expectations, as to compared with your respective bands?
Till: You’re right. We didn’t have any limitations or pressure, no one telling us what to do or giving us directions. It came out of nowhere, from our guts, from the depths of our hearts.
Peter: I know that I pushed myself harder with this than I have ever done with anything I have been involved in. Perhaps because it seemed new and I had something to prove to myself, or that I had something to prove to Till. Or that I wanted to prove I could do things on my own, without having fifty people in the studio, each doing a thing here and a thing there. So many bands go into a studio with an assistant for the midi, another assistant for the percussion, a wizard for… And I just wanted to prove that we could do everything ourselves if we had the right frame of mind. Is that the wind?
Peter: No, it’s a train.
Till, usually with Rammstein, you’re singing in German. Why did you decide on singing exclusively in English this time?
Till: I don’t know. He needs to understand what I’m singing about, so it was necessary that I made something he could bounce back the music to. I wanted to be inspired by this bullshit.
Peter: For many songs, he just sent me the lyrics and it was necessary that I could get inspired in order to write the music for it. So, had it been in German, I would have… I don’t know, I can’t even pronounce the stuff, so I can’t get into a flow, not really…
Till: I could write a poem about cancer and he would set it to a polka, so he needs to know what is going on in the lyrics. It’s that simple!
The songs, “Home Sweet Home” and “Children of the Sun”, offer reflections on the fleeting nature of the human existence. Is that something that scares you?
Peter: The only thing certain in life is death. It’s the only thing you can be sure of (giggles). So, as you get older, you have the feeling that, “Uh! Life goes too fast!” And with “Children of the Sun”, it’s like when you have this special moment and want to keep it forever but there’s so much stress because you know it won’t last that you don’t fully enjoy it. So, what’s the point? You always want to preserve the moment, sit down and say, “Aah,” with a glass of wine. This is “my time”, or whatever. And then you start to say, “Oh shit, time is running out…” I think it’s a bit like that.
Till: This song, in particular, is set at the scene of a sunset, which lasts five minutes and then it’s over. I watched people gather en masse on the beach, watching the sunset and saying that it was a great time, but it was over so quickly. It doesn’t last much longer than it takes to drink a cocktail. And you know it’s over, so you can’t enjoy it. This is an absurd situation. It’s just a matter of keeping the point in the song and hoping it will remain forever.
Till, sexuality has always been one of your favorite subjects, and this time is no exception with songs like “Ladyboy”, “Fat” and “Fish On”, giving the impression that you are pretty much obsessed with the issue. How come?
Till: Yeah, I have had so much sex in my life that I have externalized it somehow. This is the easiest way to make it stand out. If I search for a topic to write about, it always comes out, ready to use! And there will be even more in the future! Just you wait…
Last year, Richard Z. Kruspe told us how Rammstein had to compromise on many things and that could be frustrating at times, and, ultimately, how his own Emigrate project was a kind of liberation. Is that something you recognize with your own project? Do you understand him?
Till: I understand perfectly. Rammstein is a big corset that asphyxiates you, but in my particular case with Peter, we never even planned to do an album. It was just a matter of doing a song for a PAIN album and it turned out to be great fun. It’s a relief for me to sing in English, because now I have a brand new tree to pick cherries from, with words, choruses, etc. So it was a big step in my creative world and it allowed me to venture somewhere else. I have absolutely no reason to complain about the situation in Rammstein. There is a lot of pressure and we need to keep our cool. We are six people with different tastes, different interpretations and different opinions on everything we do, whether it’s life situations, songs, recordings, whatever… Even just going out to dinner together is a complete nightmare to organize. “Are we going to this restaurant? Is it safe to eat fish? What hotel are we staying in?” Doesn’t matter. But with my project, it’s pretty easy. This guy is a band by himself. There’s only one asshole to stick your finger in, so it’s fairly easy to manage. And this is a guy who doesn’t lose his head.
It’s important to get along in a collaborative duo, but also to share some influences and musical visions. Peter, has your work with your industrial project, PAIN, helped you in any way, to find the musical connection with Till’s artistic sensibility?
Peter: I think we’ve both been influenced by Clawfinger at some point. I think we have fairly similar backgrounds. I really like the gothic stuff too, I listen a lot to the Sisters of Mercy, Fields of Nephilim and such, but I have never really made any gothic stuff in the past. Till brought that in and it was really great. I think it influenced me to compose the way we did it this time, on this album. It’s hard to explain. Things just got done, and it was so fucking easy, it was incredible. I never tore my hair, saying, “Oh, how do I fix this?” Some things did take more time, you know, it took a while, this, but there was never any stress to make it work. As I do with my own stuff, I can bang my head against a wall because I can’t find a solution as to how to finish a song. But this was completely different because we never discussed it as an album that people would actually listen to or whatnot, it was more just for ourselves.
Till: We realized over time that this project could become something special. After the first four or five songs, we said, “OK, we’ve got something here.” Everything prior to that had just been fun in the studio. I tried to get him to head in a more gothic direction, trying to get the melodies to fly and not to go too fast with the guitars because he’s the type who wants to bring back the riffs. So, we fed each other ideas and twenty years’ worth of experience each. It worked really well, I believe. We aren’t reinventing the wheel, but we have made some good songs.
Peter: From our point of view, we actually have reinvented the wheel in regards to how we work. For me, it was really fun to work on this album. There’s a lot more stress when I make records with other bands. Of course, I like to write music and work with them too, but this was so easy… So, I hope we can bring that back with us into our respective bands when we’re about to work on our own stuff.
What can we hope for in the future for project Lindemann?
Peter: Heart problems… Hospital stays…
Till: Clearly, this project has a future. We will certainly continue in the future, but I don’t know when or where. I’m returning to the Rammstein family in September/October and resume work. We will start pre-production and rehearsals so we’ll see what comes out. But I believe there’s more things to come [for Lindemann].
Are you going to tour?
Peter: We’re thinking about it, yeah. We don’t want to say too much, because we’ll have to see what the reaction is from people, whether they are interested or not.
Till: We are planning on playing live, but we don’t know how, when or where. This has more of a punk rock feeling, light-hearted rock’n roll, or perhaps we’ll do something more imposing. We haven’t got an idea. Wait and see what happens.
PART II – RADIO METAL: First impressions of “Skills in Pills”
Until returning to normal business later this year, the Rammstein family won’t have time to get bored – only months after the guitarist, Richard Z. Kruspe, released his side project, it is singer Till Lindemann’s turn, together with the multi-instrumentalist, Peter Tägtgren (Hypocrisy, PAIN). The two met in Sweden fifteen years ago and had the time to talk about the possibility over the course of a few evenings with a rather high ethanol content, ultimately leading up to this project, “Skills in Pills”, that we today have the chance to preview before we talk to the two. Mischievous and ironic, as expected, Till provides the texture for the quite peculiar musical universe Peter Tägtgren has created at the helm of this dark, industrial-symphonic metal vessel of range and ambience.
01. Skills in Pills
The title track launches full speed into an electro-metal range, strongly reminiscent of Rammstein with the typical keyboard atmospheres, an energetic rhythm hammered out by head-on drums and a diabolically catchy chorus. It’s fast, melodic and to the point. There are two constants on this album, that we will have reason to come back to, that belong in the world of Rammstein: the tuning appears very low, providing a substantial weight, while the vocals are entirely sung in English, making it even more obvious that this is an international project. (Till is German and Peter is Swedish.)
Tägtgren’s trademark is even more imprinted on this, the second song. The powerful and icy main riff, which is so typical of Swedish Death Metal, is tempered by characteristic Rammstein features, such as the deep bass vocals in the chorus as well as an electronic, slow interlude, emphasizing the title. The chorus is impressively effectual and catchy, the melody is swaying, almost melancholic, while the subject of the song appears playful.
Sex is still the topic in this ode to full-bodied women. An extensive intro with a church organ, also recurring later in the song, a slow, heavy and decadent rhythm making the low tuning justice as the strings soar. The credo is still explicit: “I hate it skinny/I like it fat/you giant boobs are wunderbar”. The unexpected arrangement is almost symphonic with an entire string section, posing as a stark contrast to the overall rhythm of the martial drums. The Lindemann project further sets the standard for their songs, but still with rather traditional structures (intro-verse-chorus-bridge).
04. Fish On
“Fish On” brings us back to Rammstein again: the drums are straight and simple, the strange and crazy keyboard effects are worthy of Christian “Flake” Lorenz, and additionally, powerful vocals in the same spirit of a track like “Ich Tu Dir Weh”. This song too is rather fast paced and energetic. Till recounts for his addiction to women, of all shapes and sizes, as long as he can be part of their world. There’s also something different, more poetic about this….but we won’t spoil the pleasure of you discovering his particular art of creating sensual metaphors for yourselves.
05. Children of the Sun
“Children of the Sun” touches on a more serious subject, a melancholic and touching number about the transience of life and the passing of time. The intro riff is an onslaught, both epic and effective in a grandiose setting signed Tägtgren, who delivers a guitar performance very close to Hypocrisy even if the sound remains unique to Lindemann. A delicate melody, lamenting strings against an emotional vocal backdrop, and the lyrics are sensitive and subtle… There is no doubt that Peter and Till are reaching to touch the heart.
06. Home Sweet Home
It doesn’t get any better on the second part of the album with this piece that with a sad heart tells the tragedy of watching a relative gradually die of cancer, something both members of the band have experienced. Arpeggios, dark, electronic drums, choirs, an outstanding chorus with deep and intense emotion. The whole atmosphere is emotional, sad and ominous.
Having had the wind knocked out of ourselves after these two very emotional songs, we get back our spirits by a dancing cowboy, jumping into a both joyful and macabre shuffle about the decadence of a Western trailblazer who falls victim for his own illusions. The drums are tinged by a 1980’s sound during the verse, there are female vocals in the bridge (a bit like “Sonne” by Rammstein), horse noises and a brief but wacky incursion of a banjo… Welcome to Western kitsch, Lindemann style!
08. Golden Shower
Now Till hasn’t sung about sex for a while, so he returns to business in full force with the ambiguous “Golden Shower”, which isn’t ambiguous at all, as he explains himself. It begins at the gates to symphonic metal before it returns to Rammstein rhythms with a “Hey!”, a very Manson-esque summon to a heavy, electronic sound. There are a lot of different elements in this song but it carries through with a certain coherence. The unusually traditional arrangements will eventually persuade us that Lindemann wants to bring us back the alternative rock of the 1990’s, after having visited the 1980’s. A nice touch – the sounds of an urination for a splendid finish to Till’s beautiful prose.
In “Yukon”, Till speaks directly to the American river of the same name, recalling a trip he made to North America in the summer of 2014, and during which he was alone with Nature. It keeps a slower mood, melancholic and with symphonic elements such as strings, but also a piano, creating a sort of bombastic description of the greatness of nature. It’s only a brief encounter.
10. Praise Abort
Time for Lindemann to conclude their first epos and this is, of course, done with irony and provocation, the two key elements on this album. Till sings about the misfortune of a man who hates his life as a husband and father, cursing his wife and children while envying his friends who have succeeded in life and are driving fancy cars… The song begins with an a cappella of depravity: “I like to fuck but no French letter/Without a condom, the sex is better/Every time I get it in, a baby cries and sometimes twins” connected to a kitschy electro-dance rhythm, that diametrically contrast the particularly dark bridge of distorted guitars that will come back later in the song. Till gives the final proof of perfectly mastering his technique: the chorus is as ironic as possible (“I hate my life and I hate you/I hate my wife and her boyfriend too”). With an unstoppable and classy melody, Lindemann closes the album the same way it began, and this without losing any quality.
11. That’s My Heart
The bonus track on the special- and deluxe editions is a little peace offering with piano, strings, a children’s choir and toned-down guitars supporting the chorus. A ballad that allows Till to show that behind all the obscenity in several of the songs, there is a tender heart beating, even given the rather silly nature of the song.
Much closer to Rammstein than Hypocrisy, Lindemann’s first instalment (due for release on the 19th of June in France) is a wonderful playground of black and lusty humor, Till’s powerful voice is capable of surprising nuances while still keeping that grain of his Machiavellian character. We laugh and we cry, but mostly, the ten songs, cleverly orchestrated by the Jack of all trades, Tägtgren, are shining distinctly by their effectual, varied arrangements and their implementation of a very solid beat, although at times suffering from somewhat weak drums. The sometimes moving, sometimes bombastic orchestral arrangements running through the whole album, are signed Clemens “Ardek” Wijers of the symphonic black metal band, Carach Angren, who helped the duo with this feature. The group’s first effort definitely has the potential to appeal to a broader audience due to its catchiness, and may appeal to Rammstein fans as well as to the general public because of Tägtgren’s perfectly distilled metal, which will please even the choosiest.
By Julien Peschaux, 23rd of February, 2015
Translation by Murray/Schnitz
Photo by Tomaso Baldessarini, Stefan Heilemann