Lindemann: “I am born a troublemaker”

It was on a night in the purest “Sons of Anarchy” style when they met 15 years ago in Stockholm, Till Lindemann, Rammstein’s frontman, and Peter Tägtgren, founder of Hypocrisy and Pain, and a respected producer (you can read the story in their joint interview for the 373rd issue of La Heavy). However, it hasn’t been until now that their friendship has given the first musical fruits in the form of this project and its debut “Skills in Pills”, which combines the musical aspects both from Rammstein and Pain. The musical press has been summoned in mid-May to conduct interviews face-to-face with both members in an centric hotel in Madrid, albeit Peter didn’t came “because of sickness”, so Yorgos Goumas ended up chatting with the German musician in a terrace at Santa Ana square.

I was accompanied by one of our colleagues, huge fan of his band, and of course Till, promptly noticed her by greeting her first (“las damas primero” [ladies first], he said in Spanish) kissing her hand like a gentleman. Once he ordered beer for everyone, I could start the interview.

The lyrics of this album continue being provocative and perverse like the ones from Rammstein…

– I can’t avoid it. I am a trouble maker from birth and they flow naturally from me.

Could it be because you are German? It always seemed to me your people have a very particular relationship with sex, from the very hard porn to the brothels with animals that exist in Germany…

– I think this involuntary image of sexually depraved that Germans show is due to their low self-esteem. It is a way to hide their insecurities; you know: “the dog that barks doesn’t bite” (laughs). Well, I am the exception, of course (looking at my colleague through his sunglasses), because I actually bite. No, really, the further south you go in Europe, the more you notice men’s nerve, their macho-latin cockyness. When the time comes for courting a woman, they go forward without hesitation. Esto es tener “pelotas” [That is having “balls”] (he says in Spanish). What to say about your women? (He gave my colleague another knowing look). They are much more ardent than northern women. However, Italian guys have more nerve than Spaniards (more laughs).

But don’t you believe Germans are more open-minded or at least have less taboos than people from southern Europe?

– Honestly, I don’t know, but I promise to investigate the subject because it seems an interesting idea to me.

Well, regarding this project. The last Rammstein album was in 2009, so I suppose you were craving for doing something…

– With the album “Liebe ist für alle da” we were on a worldwide tour for about 4 years, so I wasn’t exactly stopped. Initially, I had no intention of doing anything outside Rammstein except for a small collaboration on a Pain album as a guest singer. You see, since Rammstein have always worked with Swedish produced Jacob Hellner at his studio “Big Island Sound” in Stockholm, and since the local rock scene is small, I had always met Peter in bars, and between Jaggermeister shots we always said that we had to do something together, but it always seems more drunk talking than anything else. Until in 2013 we crossed paths again at a Swedish festival (Bravalla Festival), and I told him that I was going to have at least one year off with Rammstein after Wacken, so he could send me material. No sooner said than done: he sent me an instrumental that later became the song “Ladyboy”. At first it was going to be for the new Pain album, but when he read the lyrics, Peter got stunned, since it does not exactly fit with what he usually does in Pain. On the other hand, he got intrigued and he started sending me more of his ideas. One thing led to another and I ended up going to the studios he owns, Abyss Studios, where we finished the album.

How is working with Peter?

– He is a workaholic. When I would finish my recording session of the day I would go fishing, since there is a river next to the studio, while he would spend the entire day in front of the computer or the sound board.

Weren’t you interested in seeing how he worked?

– The technical side of a recording leaves me indifferent. Writing lyrics and singing is my thing, and those technical things distract me. Moreover, it is too late to start learning. Peter got into this world when he was 16 years old and he is a machine when it comes to making mixtures, adding effects and playing all the instruments. He does not allow anybody to be at his side when he works and I believe I was the only one able to work shoulder to shoulder with him. And I felt like an intruder. He is extremely independent and he doesn’t admit help from other people, so I had a hard job convincing him to bring Stefan Glaumann, a person that has worked with Rammstein in the past, to help him out with the mixtures. On the other hand, Peter was interested in knowing how to reproduce the orchestral sounds that we added to the album, so he got in touch with Clemens “Ardek” Wijers, the keyboardist of Carach Angren, to whom Peter made the mixture to their latest album (‘This Is no Fairytale’) I don’t know if you know them, but they blend Black Metal with very epic orchestral parts and sound majestic without having to use an orchestra. You should see the processor they use; it’s as big as a van. When Clemens sent us the parts with the orchestra and chorus, we could hardly believe they were just samples.

You mentioned the song “Ladyboy” earlier, the song is about homosexual promiscuity, and given that you already “touched” this subject before in songs like “Man Gegen Man” or “Mein Teil”, not to mention the cover of the first Rammstein album (‘Herzeleid’, 1995), my colleague thinks that…

– .. I am gay (another look and a slight smile).

No, she thinks you have a fixation on them.

– I have always been interested in the hottest, unusual and scabrous aspects of life, especially when it comes to love and sex. Subjects like fetishism, what others call sexual deviations, the different sexual preferences, sadomasochism… All this things have always fascinated me, so the easiness gays get to have sex grabbed my attention. There is neither drama nor much sentimental complications: two gays can be friends, go on a trip or to the movies and afterwards fuck without problems. Friendship and sex together, what else can you ask for? Obviously, I am generalizing and there must be taken into consideration that I always use humor and sarcasm in my lyrics, and they should never be taken literally.

I know what you mean, since one of my best friends is German and has a very Teutonic sense of humor.

– Teutonic humor. I like the sentence. Let’s cheer to that (he cheers with my mate first). ¡Salud! [Cheers!] (In Spanish)

I know you have 3 sons, so composing a song titled “Praise Abort” is another sign of that Teutonic humor.

– Totally. I wrote the lyrics based on the experience of a friend of mine who has 7 children and has to work day and night to support them. We don’t know how he does it, but every time he gets a new girlfriend, bam, he gets her pregnant. We call him “The pollinator” (laughs). We just filmed the video for this song and it will make a big fuss. It is going to be very controversial and I think we can’t even make a milder version to be shown on TV. I can already see the directors of the label rubbing their hands, since it can happen what always has happened with Rammstein. Every time one of our videos got censored, it meant even more advertising and more money.

There are also songs that reference North-America, such as “Cowboy” or “Yukon”, and since you have already sung songs with related themes (“Amerika” from the album ‘Reise, Reise’) I wonder if the USA is a country that fascinates you.

– “Amerika” was a song critical of the political/cultural influence of the USA, and “Yukon” is inspired by a two week excursion that I did by that river together with a good friend of mine. We started from Dawson City in Canada to Anchorage in Alaska. The silence that prevails there has impressed me a lot, aside from the landscape, of course. The other thing that grabbed my attention was the lack of darkness, since I was there in the summer when the sun does not set. The only negative thing is that there were a lot of huge mosquitoes, but the experience was tremendous and it inspired me to write a lot.

You already have two poetry books, did you write more during that trip?

– Of course. I never stop writing. By the way, I am looking for a translator to translate my books into Spanish.

In that moment a gypsy kid approaches us selling sunglasses and Till shows a lot of interest. He also asks my colleague if she wants a pair of sunglasses, but she politely refuses. He chooses a pair for himself and asks him in Spanish how much they cost. The gipsy says 15 € but Till shows 10. The seller tells him that no less than 12 euros, but Till insists and finally buys them for 10.

Where did you learn to haggle?

– In East-Germany, of course. All western items were forbidden and besides there was enormous scarcity and contraband was the norm, everyone had to haggle sometimes for the most basic products. If authorities would caught you introducing even music tapes secretly, you would end up in jail and you would get branded as a traitor to the system.

Were you indoctrinated?

– Me and everyone. In school we had to study politic subjects, then watch the news of the state channel or read the articles of the official newspaper of the state, and then write essays. Obviously, everybody was against the western imperialism and in favor of the regime. Their indoctrination labor was so good that I was totally convinced about everything they told us without questioning. You could see me participating in socialist youth marches wearing the typical attire (similar to the one of Komsomol, the communist youth of the Soviet Union or the one of the Cuban Pioneer’s movement) shouting out slogans against the West. The brain-washing was such that I was convinced I would someday go in Western Europe, including Spain, to annihilate the evil capitalists.

I suppose that you had a huge surprise when the Berlin wall fell….

– They gave us the image that in the West prevailed drugs, moral decadence and boundless inequalities. The first time I entered the west side I was surprised that there weren’t corpses on the street, junkies, beggars and whores all over the place, and similar stuff. Everything was clean and organized. I still remember the first time I entered a western supermarket because I had to leave after 2 minutes due to feeling overwhelmed by the multitude of different odors. An eastern supermarket would be always half-empty, so our senses were not used to this sensory flooding.

I suppose you have already heard about the critics related to how the rest of Europe is still paying the price of German reunification…

– It is a very complicated subject. Look what is going on in Greece now that it’s demanding reparations for the second Word War (Till does not know his interviewer is Greek). There is a lot of agitation and it is something that makes me sad, since we have many friends in Greece. Imagine, the headquarters of the Rammstein Greek fanclub were seized. The owner and president of the club lost it all but he maintained pride and didn’t call me asking for help when he needed it most. We, as Rammstein, found out later and I assure you that we would have done what we could to help him out. All this saddens me.

Time is pressing so my question is: when will there be a new album with Peter Tägtgren and with Rammstein?

– In September we start preproduction with Peter for the second album and simultaneously I will meet Rammstein to start planning the following steps.

“Translator’s note: Based on previous interviews, we think Till’s answer was misinterpreted, since there were no mentions in other interviews of any concrete plans for a second Lindemann album.”

Won’t it be difficult to combine both things?

– Since I am the vocalist and songwriter, I leave the composition to them in the rehearsal room, so we could say I have more free time. Our priority now is finding a new studio and rehearsal place, because since we were on tour during four years, we had to sell the others. We use to get together in Christoph’s house (Schneider, drummer), on the outskirts of Berlin, where he has a small studio. But to rehearse with all the pyrotechnic paraphernalia, we need an industrial building.

How are you going to surpass your previous shows? With so many effects and pyrotechnics, people will probably expect more and more….

– I don’t have a clue. Everything in due time. First we will focus on the new album and later we’ll think how we’ll set up live shows.”

By Yorgos Goumas
Translation by: Maya Ehlodf (Affenknecht) and Snake (Affenknecht / Rammstuga)
Photo: Matthias Matthies

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