The most unusual, as well as exciting constellation of the year has to be Lindemann. Peter Tägtgren (Hypocrisy, PAIN) and Till Lindemann (Rammstein) joined causes to record the already much posted about, “Skills in Pills”, while commuting between Swedish Pärlby and Berlin. The result: a monster of an album and a band that perhaps even has something of a future. In an informal conversation, Till and Peter talked to Metal Hammer about what Lindemann means to them.
Out of fun sprung seriousness – not very quickly, but rather, after years of beating around the bush. The two protagonists from LINDEMANN, Peter Tägtgren and Till Lindemann, talk about how much time and effort it took from the first idea until the originally unplanned album took form.
It’s been a long time since the first idea of the band, Lindemann, to the finished product. Have you used this time to get to know each other personally?
Peter Tägtgren: Not only that, but we have also needed the time to synchronize our calendars. We’ve been friends since 1999 and we have met with each other as often as it was even possible, and we’ve been calling and sending text messages. Two years ago, I went to a couple of Rammstein gigs before Wacken; Till had invited me. We met and he said that he was due to go on a break and that we should realize our plans. It started that way and with only one song at first.
Till Lindemann: Before we went about it, we met up in Sweden at the Bråvalla Festival, but we had friends and family along and we couldn’t talk much. I said, “I’m going to have a break for six months up to two years, let’s do something in the meantime.” Peter didn’t put much faith in that initially, since we’ve promised this to each other for almost ten years. But a few days after Wacken, I actually rang him up. I said, “Send me what you’ve got.” Four weeks later, I received a file and worked on it for a few days – that was what would become ‘Ladyboy’, our first track. I think that Peter was almost annoyed at first because I said, “Let’s post it on the Internet and see what they say.” Peter never did that, though, but he sent me more files. It just kept rolling on.
And then you met?
TL: No, we did that only after another five or six songs. We simply sent ideas back and forth for the duration.
PT: Till wrote the lyrics and I wrote the music.
TL: I worked with my Logic system and he, with Pro-Tools. I loaded his stuff into my system and worked on the song. Admittedly, the first few demos were pretty bad. Nonetheless, suddenly, we had five songs and that begged the question: an EP or a Mini Disc? I declined, to gain some more time to think about it, but Peter insisted: “Let’s make an entire album!” I didn’t think it was such a brilliant idea. But then I visited his studio and began commuting back and forth. That was great, it was like weekend getaways. I was busy doing other things during the week, but from Friday morning to Sunday evening, I could be at Peter’s and in the studio. His studio is right next to a lake so it was really like having a vacation.
Did the pleasant atmosphere in Peter’s studio help the project along?
TL: At least it helped with not wanting to cut short the studio time because you didn’t like the place. The atmosphere was very nice, even if the studio itself was rather dodgy (laughs). Somehow, it all fit together, it was the perfect working conditions. Additionally, everything went very quickly as Peter brought in an enormous amount of experience and I could describe to him how I like to work. Subsequently, we only needed a few weeks and a few sessions before it really clicked.
How does it feel now, when it’s clear that there actually is an album, and a band, both totally different from what you do with your other projects?
PT: Quite honestly, we don’t really appreciate that. Before, there wasn’t a record label, no management, no one else was involved and that was nice.
TL: It wasn’t easy for Peter to bring this to the public, to show what we had and have them respond to it. I, on the other hand, had a good feeling about it from the beginning. For me, it was this mix between Gothic and Metal, colliding like in a great big accident, that’s so exciting.
Was it decided from the beginning what the sound on the album should be and that the vocals would be in English? Or how did you discover this mix?
PT: No idea. Learning by doing, I’d say. Originally, we only wanted to make a song or two. All the rest came about when we got inspired by the lyrics in relation to the music. It was sort of a snowball-effect. The only thing we knew was that we wanted it to be clearly separated from Rammstein and my own projects, Pain and Hypocrisy. For Till, obviously, that’s only possible to a certain extent when it comes to Rammstein. But it was interesting to work on the lyrics, and Till was like a kid in a candy store with all these new words and phrases. We often laughed whenever he’d sung something. Sometimes, before he even started on the vocals, he’ throw in the towel whenever something didn’t work out. Then I said, “Come on, let’s try it,” even if I realized: Oh God, this will never work.
TL: Obviously, I wanted to explain to Peter what the lyrics were about.
PT: Sometimes, he sent me the lyrics for one of my music files. Under other circumstances, I just received a lyric that he’d recorded on his Smartphone in the bathroom, and I built the song around that. So we worked in many different ways.
So it was completely different from how you normally work?
PT: Yes, completely different. There wasn’t any such thing as pressure, we were just experimenting.
So there’s a lot of freedom in the album? That you could go ahead and do what you wanted, without the pressure from other band members or the record label?
PT: And without any pressure from the fans. We could just try out everything and do the craziest things.
TL: For me, it was like the time when we started the new band project and Rammstein was still very young. You just played, everything was allowed, it was like free style, there were no limits. So, there still aren’t any limits in Rammstein, only the expectations from the fans, on like artwork, music and concerts. This is a playground in the middle of No-man’s-land.
In which it’s also a lot easier to decide on things, while there’s just two people involved instead of five or six others?
TL: You are very right. It was a big relief for me.
So now, when the music and the lyrics are done, how will the visual elements, namely photos and artwork, be perceived?
PT: The ideas all come from Till. I have only helped a little with this.
TL: We simply divided the tasks. Everyone did what they do best. I brought along this experience from Rammstein. Peter was heavily involved in all the aspects of the production, while I took care of the visual design.
PT: Every idea was discussed back and forth, regardless of whether it came from me or from Till originally. That was the easiest for us. The photo shoot in October was really a lot of fun, since we didn’t have any idea where it would all take us. Four photographers were present.
TL: We had an idea…
PT: No professionals from big firms, but friends. This is how Stefan Heilemann crystallized as one of those who would be doing the most work for us. The others were then chosen to do press shoots and such things. Then Till took the photos and edited them. A mind blowing task!
Frankly, no one had expected a collaboration between Till Lindemann and Peter Tägtgren. But now, when the finished result is here and with perhaps even more records to come, it’s obvious that this is a perfect combination – Till as the lyricist and vocalist, Peter as the composer and producer. Why did we have to wait so long for a collaboration like this?
PT: Because we quite simply had too many other things going on.
TL: Every project has its own designated time. But I was rather sure about this thing. Even my colleagues predicted it: “Whenever he’ll get bored, he’ll go to Peter Tägtgren and make music with him.” I’ve had this idea in my head for quite some time, and finding the time to do it was the only problem for me. As it always has been and always will be: Rammstein comes first. But I was certain that I wanted to do this project with Peter. I had a clear vision of what I could be singing to this massive wall of guitars, bass and sequencers. And this is exactly what I appreciate with Peter’s music and his composing. I wanted to make it even better than he could himself, and thus, we weren’t discussing lyrics, but melodies. And then, when you one day come to the realization that these visions have come true, it is a really good feeling.
So only Till is doing the vocals and Peter is not doing any singing, right?
PT: That’s right, and that’s how we envisioned from the beginning. Till’s the captain of the ship; of THIS ship…
TL: Yes, on THIS ship, that’s to be said.
PT: This experience is really a true relief for me and it would also be the only plausible solution on stage. I’m so tired of being the frontman. And Till is one of the best in the world. I can hide behind him. That is the perfect situation for me because then I can concentrate on my music and on the production. If you split up things the way we do, only good things can come out of it. When I’m working on my other projects, there’s always a lot of stuff I have to take into consideration. You notice it only a couple of months after the release of an album when you realize: Damn, I could have done that a lot better. With Till, we’re two producers, so to speak, who both know exactly what we want. We always find an agreement; everything that we decide on makes sense.
Now, even if you’ve quite obviously known each other for ten years, there are surely character traits in the other that you didn’t know about, or?
PT: Till is the biggest crybaby I know (laughs). No, but honestly, we joke a lot with each other.
TL: All day long.
PT: We’re like brothers who horse around all day long.
In a project like this, are you bickering a lot about details, melodies or such? Are you taking everything seriously?
TL: In the beginning, everything is pure sunshine, of course…
PT: Like newlyweds: I love you (laughs). And then later on: you fucking bastard, I hate you!
TL: Bickering will come with time, probably. Right now, we’re still at our honeymoon stage. No angry words, everything is harmonious and runs by itself.
PT: The good thing is that what ticks Till off doesn’t bother me and the other way around. He often says, “Do what you’d like, I don’t care.” Everyone has their own role in this project.
Are you often thinking about where this project could take you? And how far you want to push it?
PT: There aren’t any plans at all once the album’s released. We thought that stage was splendid, since no one knew about the project and we could make rather loose plans about videos and such things. We sometimes asked ourselves if we should be thinking like a band? Or should we just make sure that this would be a cool album?
Peter, are you playing all the instruments on the album?
PT: Almost. But Clemens from Carash Angren played a crucial role too. He helped me with the string sections, he makes movie scores and such otherwise. He’s responsible for all the orchestral parts.
TL: Except that Peter played all the instruments, produced the record, recorded it, edited it – everything.
PT: That was also what made this so easy, if we wanted to change something in the arrangements, we didn’t have to call whomever band member in order to try it out.
TL: Peter is an absolute workaholic, he can sit for 14 hours in front of the computer. I have no idea how people can do that, I would go insane after two hours. But he was still sitting in the studio when I got up at night to go to the bathroom. I stood on the terrace and saw that the lights were on in the studio, since Peter had some unsolved problem or other and absolutely wanted to fix it. He gets a bit crazy when that happens and it is rather intolerable for other people.
So this is why you have produced quite a lot of bands in the last few years…
PT: Yes, I know, but I do try to take it a bit easier and enjoy life more. But there’s always these calendar appointments that I have to check off.
Till, what was the hardest thing for you — was it to sing in English? There are only a few, rather short, English strophes in Rammstein, but here, you are singing in English throughout. And you know better than anyone how greatly the German language differs from others.
TL: The biggest effort was to gain the necessary self-confidence. I wasn’t sure about this at all. That’s why I suggested in the end that we should release something on the Internet and wait for the reactions. But Peter, and a few other people around me, encouraged me. I wrote the words first, only to then adapt them into vocals, which was a rather strange way for me to go about it. But this way, it became a much larger international attempt, right from the start.
PT: Do you miss the German lyrics when you hear the songs?
To be honest, whenever I hear Till singing in English, I translate it into German. As a German, I immediately associate his voice with German lyrics. But I suppose that international listeners see things very differently. This could be really interesting.
PT: We haven’t heard any reactions at all to that yet. But perhaps no one says anything if they don’t like it. I thought from the very first song: Yes, that’s it! This is really cool! So it’s deliberately kept very raw. You immediately recognize the attitude.
TL: We have exaggerated it a bit and I have also tried to ease up on some of my accent, but somehow, that’s part of the charm.
PT: I think that’s what people want to hear. They aren’t interested in someone sounding like an American.
That wouldn’t befit Lindemann at all.
PT: Exactly. It would be foolish to change that. The only thing with which we have been really particular, is the correct use of grammar. So that no “you is” or somesuch slipped by us.
The only question I ask myself, after I have listened to the songs a few times is, should this be taken seriously or should it be humorous?
TL: It’s good that you ask yourself that, that means we have done it properly.
PT: It should make you think. It’s like an open book.
TL: The listener is forced to read a little between the lines to understand the irony. The audience takes Rammstein way too seriously at times, to the point that we’re misunderstood. People should read more between the lines there too. It’s a large bandwidth, what you are singing and what it could mean. The topics are very multi-faceted and just as different as the reactions that we’ve gotten in the past few weeks.
PT: Every song has a very different meaning for different people. It was funny to hear just how different the opinions were for any given song. Sometimes, we just sat there and thought: Oh, that’s right! It could surely mean this too! It’s a good thing to be open to everything.
I think one of the most harmonious songs is ‘Yukon‘, after I read that you were there on vacation. You can see the scenery before you when you listen to the song. I could really imagine how you felt when you were there.
PT: It was like that for me too, when I wrote the music to the lyrics. I put down his words in front of me and composed the music to it, and soon, this feeling of distance and seclusion came over me.
‘Fish On‘ is also quite a sensational song.
PT: And this song has quite a quirky genesis too. The listener probably won’t hear it, but it was in a rather strange way that this song came about. There are completely different parts in it, and to put them all together was a pain in the ass. It just happened, while we were experimenting with the arrangements, with the strophes and the chorus. But it all came together in the end. Till had some lyrics and wanted to record them to a Click Track – but he began rapping, like Beastie Boys.
TL: I told Peter: “I have a strophe here, and for the first time in my life, I want you to write music to an already finished melody.” I wanted to have the written word and then compose the music around these words, instead of our usual way of making the music first and then finding the appropriate words. The only problem was that I was a bit short on time, since I had to go to the airport. So I said to Peter: “Just give me a Click Track.” Of course, I had absolutely no experience with working this way, while the Click Track required some kind of rap-singing. The freestyle raps often start out with a drum loop. So, I simply sang two strophes and then forgot all about it almost right away. But three months later, Peter sent me a file with this sequence and his music. It sounded fabulous. When my voice came on, I remembered this short singing session again. Peter had already written a chorus, too. It was a really cool experience.
PT: Then Till put vocals to the final take and we had a new song.
TL: There was only a few parts that were changed, the chorus and the intro, for example. Additionally, we developed a C-part, it was a little like with LEGO pieces.
PT: Half of the rest of the tracks are built like LEGO. The longer we worked on an idea, the crazier it got. We became more confident as time passed and also tried out really crazy things.
What is the biggest goal you want to achieve with this record? I suppose that you just wanted to have fun with the songs from the beginning. Although, now it’s a serious project…
TL: It’s in the human nature that whatever you do, you want it to have a positive outcome. Otherwise it would be useless to do it at all. No one makes shit deliberately. Naturally we’re hoping for favorable reactions. It’s not as if it’s Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’, but we have written a really good album. The whole process of the genesis of the project was a lot of fun since it was all made under vacation-like circumstances in something of a holiday paradise.
Are you going to take something from this production along to Rammstein?
TL: Yes, guaranteed, but I won’t tell you about it (laughs)!
… perhaps the idea of experimenting with English lyrics in Rammstein?
TL: You never know what will happen in the future, but only the German language belongs in Rammstein. Of course, you could examine the lyrics like ‘Pussy’ and ‘Amerika’, but I’ll leave that up to the German division of my main band (smiles).
And you, Peter? Are you taking something with you from this project to your other work?
PT: I brought with me my 20 years’ worth of experience and I was, thanks to Till, motivated to become better than ever before. When I got the feeling that it was good enough and stopped, it was never as good as it is now. Besides that, I wanted to show Till that I could make things just as well as anyone. It was a helpful kick in the ass.
It’s very interesting that Till, being a part of a democratic band, and Peter, who’s a lone wolf, work so well together.
PT: I don’t have an ego, neither does Till. We have only done what we thought was right for every song.
Peter, how do you feel about the fact that this project is called Lindemann?
PT: The thing was: we didn’t have a name for this project.
TL: Tägtgren would have made a good name too.
PT: After we’d made a few songs, it was obvious that we needed a name. Both of us texted stupid band names to each other for months. A lot were just for fun, but some were honestly meant.
TL: It’s incredibly hard to find a good name these days. We had a few good ideas, such as “Way Outs” and “Kraut”, and, what I thought would be the perfect name, “Stockholm Syndrome”. But we decided on a single word, and most of them were already taken or were registered to domains already.
Are we going to see you live, somehow, somewhere?
TL: First we have to see how this thing plays out.
PT: Then we have to wait for the reactions to actually know – in case we’re going to do it – how much interest it would generate; and not only 50 people in a pizza joint. We’ll have to wait and see before we can make any decisions for if and in which framework we could tour. It’s difficult to estimate at the moment. But we still have time, we’ve got the whole summer ahead of us to make plans.
BY Thorsten Zahn, Metal Hammer Deutschland
Special thank to Nicole Vargo for scans