JOINED IN MATRIMONY
What do you do when your successful band is going to rest on their laurels for a while and you do not know with what to fill the free time? Maybe phone an old friend, who also happens to be a musician, to see if he’s not too busy. Why not ask if he’s keen to put something together?
Till Lindemann, the singer of Rammstein, and Peter Tägtgren (Hypocrisy, Pain), came to that situation, and from the two twisted minds, an album with the title, “Skills in Pills, came into existence. The music was surrounded by an aura of mystique and mystery in order to prevent any chance that not even one song would be ‘leaked’ onto the internet. A whole bunch of wild stories are circulating about the two gentlemen. Both men enjoy a dubious reputation and are not easily scared. It was also the case of how they would react and how talkative they would be during any given song while presenting their brainchild to the press.
It was in the beginning of January when Pär Hulkoff, frontman of the Swedish industrial combo Raubtier, was the first to talk about this and was the first to let his tongue slip. The boastful guy hit himself over the chest and came out with the fact that he belonged to the select few who had had the opportunity to listen to a few short snippets from the duo’s upcoming CD.
ONCE UPON A TIME…
Eighteen months ago, the two protagonists talked about a joint project for the first time. Rammstein were intending to have a break. A live DVD would be awaiting the palliative new work. The fans have nothing to worry about, because Till told us that the German Industrial flagship will return to its musical tracks this year.
LET US RETROSPECT
We are in the year 2000 AD. Rammstein was in Stockholm at the time, to put the last finishing touches on their new album, ‘Mutter’. Singer Till Lindemann and keyboardist Flake Lorenz were in the mood for a nice time in the evening. Accompanied by a few cute girls, they went to a club that was mainly frequented by bikers. Till’s girlfriend for the night happened to be the ex-girlfriend of one of the regulars of the club and a violent confrontation was about to happen. Then, in the doorway, appeared an angel in the form of Peter Tägtgren. He managed to calm things down and as of then, he and Till became best friends. Not that they ran at each other’s places all the time, but they kept in touch on a regular basis.
During the break, that they’d decided to take for themselves, everyone in Rammstein had the chance to do with this free time what they wanted. Richard Kruspe took the opportunity to release a second Emigrate album. Since they first met, it came up every time that Peter and Till should make an album together. One of the things discussed was a new Pain album where Lindemann would sing a few songs. But always remained vague plans and ditto promises. However, Lindemann saw his chance and contacted Peter. They saw each other during one of last summer’s festivals where Rammstein were playing and shortly after they started to exchange ideas with each other. They took their time. There was no external pressure. Apart from their close entourage, nobody knew that there was something in the works. Initially, the intention was to record one or two songs. But soon, they already had five or six songs, and after a three-month break, more songs came. Now, they have a record deal in the pocket and “Skills in Pills” will be released as a huge long-player.
THE CHURCH IS OUT OF BOUNDS
In the song, “Fat”, there’s a church organ playing. Not exactly a given. During the good old days, people sat behind the organ and everything was recorded on the spot. But church attendance is not addressed here. Peter is a persona non grata in those circles. Some technical tricks in the studio provide the organ effect.
GROTESQUE AND BURLESQUE
The first words that come to mind while listening to Skills in Pills are grotesque and burlesque. The music has something big, an inflated rhetoric. Everything is put on thick paint and enlarged. It’s all excessive and theatrical. Lindemann chooses the themes and his offensive lyrics largely to follow the musical structure. You get a brightly colored palette of hilarious and ludicrous extravaganza that kicks everyone in the stomach. Their working method remains generally the same. Peter starts with an instrumental passage and Till tries to come up with the matching lyrics. Occasionally, it differs somewhat from the pattern and it is Lindemann who sings first – generally this happens in the bathroom – and Tägtgren composes a bit of music to it.
THE HONECKER HARLEY
That they ran into each other at a bar that was frequented by bikers, wasn’t unlikely. Both gentlemen are, or were, motorcycle lovers. Peter is the type of man who’s called a ”High Speed Demon”, and loves fast machines, and, in his own words, is likely to sooner or later kill himself on his motorcycle. That’s why he sold his bike. Till lived in the former East Germany. If you wanted to buy a car, you got placed onto a waiting list and it could take years – up to fifteen years! – before you could buy a car. For young guys, a motorcycle was the only alternative. The most popular brand was MZ, or Motorradwerk Zschopau. Later, after the Wall came down, Till was one of the first people who could buy himself a decent car. When he is on tour with Rammstein, he’s very keen to have a ride on a motorcycle. For example, when he is in Italy, he likes to drive with a superfast Ducati along the road.
When it comes to having a party, then these two gentlemen have a reputation to uphold. A dissolute lifestyle and with age beginning to take its toll, these days they have switched over from alcoholic drinks – ‘the Jägermeister debacle’ and ‘the Candle Competition’ – to red wine. The hangovers last longer and they need more time to recuperate. On the inside, they still have the attitudes of young boys and drink themselves trashed as if there’s no tomorrow. In the morning when they wake up and the agony sets in, they know they should not have done it in the first place. Then it’s just a matter getting through it.
It’s not set if there’s going to be a tour or a series of concerts, but it’s one of the possibilities. If that would be the case, then being in each other’s company would end in a total nightmare. Because they want to outdo each other. They are even thinking of having a medical team along on stand-by every night, before and after the show. That should be enough to survive this tour. About the candle incident – whoever holds their arm for the longest time in the flame of a burning candle – Peter himself cannot remember this. He was too drunk and only remembers that he lost the challenge. The only thing what he and Till can remember is the pungent smell of burning human flesh.
ENTERTAINER VERSUS GOD
The lyrics are hot topics and current issues, as are the billion pills in the pharmaceutical industry, women with curves, gender awareness, the fleeting nature of our existence, our physical vulnerability, sexual excesses, overpopulation – but also an immense respect for nature. Remarkable, because of last year’s religiously affiliated events that ruled the world news, but religion is not addressed. For both of them only life, here and now, matters. They try to enjoy it as much as they can.
There is not one single belief that appeals to them. They are entertainers and artists and the main goal remains: to be creative and to have a good time. Rammstein has a few songs on their repertoire about religion. Just like many other countries, Germany experienced a major scandal with abuse of children by priests and that affected Till strongly. Otherwise, it’s not important to them. Life is too short to ask yourself questions about life and death.
About ‘Ladyboy’, Lindemann states: “If you are into this stuff, you’re probably a happy guy. Just dicks and holes, with no drama! Gays are laid-back about sex: there is none of this living-together shit and being responsible for the family.” It’s more of an expression of hope for him. He wants to get rid of heartache, break-ups in relationships and family dramas. “Everyone is looking for happiness and wants to share this with his or her partner, but that brings so much complications and problems. Man was not made to love. We are and remain beasts. Animals have no love life, only primary needs. Man puts himself up against natural limitations. Partners of the same sex who go along with this imposed form of society, and marriage and to have children, and it seems that it is kind of accepted. Who does succeed, like in ‘Ladyboy’, to take out the love-aspect of a relationship, has really much less to worry about.”
‘The transformation from human to human/machine is not that far off’ – Peter Tägtgren
It would not surprise him to get a little push in the right direction. Man goes through different phases. The prediction of the end of the world in 2012, actually meant the start of a new cycle, which will accelerate the evolution of mankind. People are already walking around with microchips implanted in themselves, so where is this going to end?
The transformation from human to human/machine is not that far off.
If we were to believe all the predictions, then it’s not looking good for planet Earth and its inhabitants. Between now and 50 year, will we all be gone? According to Peter, that’s not the case. The earth exists since millions of years and life is adjusting itself to new circumstances all the time. Every century, a new ‘correction’ appears that should make everything viable. Maybe we will have big disasters coming at us, decimating the humanity in numbers, but there will always be survivors, he is firmly convinced.
The kind of work that Peter does forces him to plan everything very precisely. He also has other projects running, including his own projects, Hypocrisy and Pain. Add all this together and it is an absolute requirement to maintain an overview and to have the control over it. His agenda is full in the upcoming year. For Till, it’s the opposite. He does not look much further than a few weeks and focuses on the here and now. Every day is a new beginning for him, whilst Peter already knows what he has planned for March 6, 2016.
On Peter’s menu of the day is, besides music, food, sex and wine. Not necessarily in that order. Sometimes some of these things are mixed into one or two of the other three things. His great example is George Constanza of the sitcom, ‘Seinfeld’. He has sex, while having dinner and, at the same time, listening to a report of a sports game. He’s interested in sports, but he does not practice one himself.
Except for sex, because this counts as a sport too, according to Peter. In fact, this is the number one sport.
A LIFE AS A BRIDE
The first picture that emerged was particularly challenging and grotesque. Peter is portrayed as Till’s bride. And if we may believe Peter, his butt still hurts. If Peter didn’t have long hair, Till could might as well have been the bride. Hereby, provocation is the core idea. The duo intended to surprise in an artistic and artful way, to offend, to provoke annoyance. And they have really succeeded. Whoever noticed the details, sees a lot of references to the songs. And this is only just the beginning. The release of the CD goes together with a photobook, a modern fairy tale, a bizarre cartoon. A real work or art, unique in its kind. The few insiders who already have seen it, were speechless and perplexed.
A CELEBRATION OF THE FLESH
There has been a lot of debate lately about women with curves. For Till, it’s very clear: fat women are sexy. Only the women themselves are not conscious about it and don’t believe in the erotic power they radiate. The more flesh, the better, is what counts for him. He does not choose a voluptuous lady for his preferred one-night-stand, but a woman with pretty, arched curves: the younger version of Brigitte Bardot, the French sex symbol of the sixties. Peter sometimes does not see the need to spend the night with one specific woman, it could be six or seven ladies. Their appearance is not so important to him. What matters is that they are good in bed.
PASSION FOR COLLECTING
Peter collects all sorts of merchandise for children from the seventies. He has a room full of toys, games, characters, pictures… It’s incredible what has been produced in the seventies to keep the children from their mothers and fathers, and happy. Till has a small, but nice, collection of animals in formaldehyde. He is really fascinated by it. There is a museum in Berlin where a large collection is exhibited. The animals are dead but in this way, they still get some sort of existence, an eternal life. He sees himself ending up like this, but preserved in vodka. In ‘Fish On’, there is a reference to ‘Moby’s Dick’. The Islandic Phallic museum in Reykjavik owns about 280 pieces in the biggest collection of penises. He has to go visit this, for sure. A giant whale penis specimen would not look out of place in his collection. The museum is also looking for donors of human penises. Could be something for Till. Then his own penis will be drowned in booze too and that part of him will also have its ‘eternal life’.
LINDEMANN SKILLS IN PILLS
The search for a name for the project of Till Lindemann (Rammstein) and Peter Tägtgren (Hypocrisy, Pain) turned into a cavalry road. In the end, they opted for an obvious and simple solution. Till puts, literally and figuratively, the most weight on the scale. Nevertheless, the duo did its best to keep the Pain content in the right pace with that of Rammstein’s. English lyrics. Apparently that is still the most appropriate to be internationally recognized. It does not matter which language he speaks, he does not mince his words, that is an understatement. To demolish sacred cows and breaking the last taboos are amongst his favorite pastime. Of course there will be shocked reactions, but he who tempts himself to this, is a fool himself. Don’t forget that Lindemann had a difficult childhood and nobody really knows if he’s processed all of this, even today. But does not everyone have the need to have a steam valve? Thanks to the bombastic and inflated music, the grotesqueness of the words is even more magnified. To the extent that you discover the humor in this. Even if you put certain lyrics into image fragments.
The stamp of Tägtgren is more difficult to define. In tracks such as ‘Fat’, ‘Home Sweet Home’, ‘Cowboy’, ‘Yukon’, ‘Praise Abort’, and the bonus track ‘This is my Heart’, he sure knows to surprise. Sometimes he gives, consciously or not, the recognizable Rammstein elements a free pass or whether the center of gravity lies in the middle of both. For example, in the opening and title song ‘Skills In Pills’, in ‘Fish On’, or ‘Golden Shower’. The industrial landscape will shake in its foundations when this album is released, but do not worry. For the fans of this genre we have a tip. Let your imagination run wild and thoroughly enjoy all the facets of this monumental long player.
Rock Tribune Magazine Belgium June 2015 (Part 2)
By Paul Van De Gehuchte
Translation by team Rammstein Belgium
Editing: Maya Aster