Most men become smaller when you get closer to them. Not Till Lindemann. The frontman of Rammstein is sitting in the bright hotel suite in Munich like King Kong in a nursery. Giant hands. A neck large enough for two. But in a good mood. The first album by his new duo, Lindemann, is done.
SZ: You have just released your first album without your band, Rammstein. And listening to “Skills in Pills”, it’s evident: Sex is, as always, an obsession for Till Lindemann.
Till Lindemann: I keep getting that thrown at me, that everything always revolves around sex and fetishes.
The lyrics are about fat women, ladyboys and bodily fluids.
I believe that when people are intensely occupied with something, they’ve either had too much or too little of it. I haven’t even tried to analyze what the case is with me. It’s just there. And it’s easy for me to release it.
Why are you suddenly singing in English? Rammstein has brought the rolling “R” to the world, and from Mexico to France, the fans are singing along to your German lyrics.
English sounds more elegant. “Fuck“ or “Ficken“: there’s a difference. German is harder. Angrier. Borderline insulting. If you compare languages with fruit trees, then the German tree has been picked clean in my opinion. We have made some 70 or 80 songs with Rammstein. English is a new tree. You pick the low-hanging, heavy fruit first and work yourself up. I didn’t know at first how the fanbase would react. Would they send me to hell for this? Luckily enough, the first reactions have been positive.
Your partner in this project is the Swedish metal musician, Peter Tägtgren. How did that come about?
I’d planned for ten years to record a song with Peter. I like him. Once, on a dreadful night of Jägermeister, we made the promise: one day, we’re going to do something together. You know how it is. The booze is talking while your arms are around each other’s shoulders. Then, in 2013, I said: Hey, I’ll have some time off soon. That was three weeks before Wacken, the last concert with Rammstein. Shortly after that, he sent me the first song, “Ladyboy”. The lyrics formally poured out of me. I was sitting with a notepad in the kitchen while I had a duck cooking in the oven. When the bird was done, so were the lyrics.
Did you ask permission from your band mates before commencing on this project?
I did. And if they’d said no, then I would not had done it.
Rammstein has been around for 21 years and it’s the most successful German rock export ever. What’s your relationship like these days?
Still very friendly and warm. Despite this, we’re trying to keep a distance from each other since we know that there will be a big get together soon enough again. The older we get, the higher the emotions run.
What can you do about it?
Talk. Talk a lot. We are always giving ourselves therapy. Otherwise it wouldn’t work since we would just be arguing. It’s exactly like in a marriage.
And the project with the Swede?
That’s the mistress whom I’m shagging every evening at the moment and it’s a lot of fun. But at one point or another, I have to go back to the wife.
So Rammstein won’t die?
Rammstein is absolutely not going to die. The band is always number one. But the comparison with the wife lags a little since I don’t have to sleep with the boys.
And that’s what the tour parties are famous for.
What can I say? I have to let off some steam after a show. It’s too much adrenaline in the body. Most times, the promoter arranges for a club. And there, drugs and alcohol are playing a part too.
You are 52 years old.
I don’t party as hard as I used to. The balance is important. What you really want is to go home and spend time with your family and friends. But in a way, the parties are also part of the job. And bread-winning always comes before fun and God.
Are you a man of faith?
No. I’m as atheist as they come. If anything, I would call myself a Vitalist. I believe in the inner desires. Women. Fishing. Hunting. Everything that’s fundamental, even if it’s seen as offensive in our society. I’m convinced that things would be very different if more people only followed their desires instead of subverting them.
No idea. Maybe we would have a never-ending Oktoberfest with a lot of fights and drunkenness. I say Oktoberfest since we are both here in this Bavarian place.
Your lyrics are often about abysses. The Rammstein song, “Wiener Blut”, tells the story of the pedophile, Josef Fritzl. “Mein Teil” is based on Armin Meiwes, the so called Cannibal from Rotenburg. How, in your opinion, does perversion come into the world? Is it because people are suppressing their desires?
These things will always happen. They’re outside the norm. I don’t know if Fritzl would have acted any different if he had gone fishing. I just read about it and immediately thought: Pen, paper, Rammstein!
Are you looking for such stories?
Absolutely. It’s horrible when it happens but I’m grateful for it since I get it handed to me.
You have some experiences with violence too.
Yes. We had a lot of right wing trash in Mecklenburg after the Turning. It was a huge problem, even in the countryside. I grew up with pub brawls. You got pummeled at some dance because one village apparently couldn’t stand the other. But the violence that came with an ideology, and an agenda, was new. That had nothing to do with innocent brawls.
Are there still situations when you say: “‘nuff said”?
Indeed. But I have learned to pull myself together. You always have to be on the lookout, left and right, should someone be standing there, taking your picture. You can’t even fart anymore without it being posted on the ‘net. And I need to be careful because it’s not just about me, but also about my colleagues and the whole machinery that is Rammstein.
You find your peace at home. You live in the countryside, just like your metal colleague, Peter Tägtgren.
Correct. He lives in the middle of Sweden in a giant house, turn of the century building style. With arched windows and a lot of bay windows, right next to a lake.
It used to be an asylum. There are some musicians who claim that the place is haunted.
I’ve heard that. It’s a really wicked place. Allegedly, some really nasty stuff went down there during the Nazi time. Today, Peter’s family lives in the house next door. That’s a similar model to where I live in Mecklenburg, where half of my family lives in the village. The similarities made us connect from the very beginning.
Why are you living on the countryside?
It is – how do you say it – my comfort zone. It’s where my old friends are and where I go fishing and hunting. It’s where I write. I have an apartment in Berlin, but I couldn’t stand to be there all the time.
My attitude towards living in the city has fundamentally changed. I used to think people who went to their summer houses only during the weekends and picked daffodils were cowards. However, I think it’s very nice that I have the choice.
What does your house look like?
Like a Museum of Natural Sciences. I collect stuffed things: birds, snakes, preserved animals, skeletons.
And animal heads on the walls?
No, I am not a trophy collector.
You have a grandson. Have you taken him hunting yet?
Not yet, but we have been fishing.
Is it close to your heart to show the child the wild nature?
Oh, the heart. I’m just happy when I can show the boy new things. Personally, I’m inclined to extremes, which is why I always have to ask myself: is he old enough? Could we eviscerate an animal together?
Perhaps because it’s a learning experience?
Absolutely. I would take first graders to an abattoir. Then they would know what they eat. When I was little, that was completely normal. When it was time for slaughter, three- to twelve-year-olds came along. Some had to take out the intestines, others to stir the blood. Today, a lot of kids have no idea what a hen looks like. They think eggs grow on trees.
How often do you go hunting?
Depends. If possible, two or three times a week.
What does it give you?
What it gives me? I don’t even think about that. I put out nets when I was a kid, and brought fish back home, being commended for how good the pike tasted. That was a big recognition: I had helped to put food on the table.
Good old days.
I’m not nostalgic. I just think that people should think about who and what they are criticizing. Half of the world has become vegetarian in the last two decades and those who still eat meat have to justify themselves. And what about these so called vegetarians who drink milk? Or the cheese lovers who scold the meat industry? Have they ever asked a cow if she wants to live in the slammer all her life and have someone to come and pull at her tits every day?
Despite your archaic childhood experiences, you come from a bourgeois family. Your father was the famous child book author, Werner Lindemann, and your mother, Gitta, was a journalist.
Our house was always full of guests who worked with the written word, who painted or were musicians. It was a jumble of culture and the arts.
Your father died in 1993. Is he still present in your life?
Yes, through my mother, since he‘s still so present in her life. My father and I never had an easy relationship.
You were at odds with your mother earlier as well, right?
Surely. She can be quite sarcastic and scathing at times, and I think that’s a product of those days. I was running around like a headless chicken after the Turning. Before that, I had an ordered life as a basket maker. It was a terrific job, a real handicraft. I had enough money, didn’t have to work that much, I could devote myself to music, painting and organizing happenings. Everything was very stable. And then, chaos.
When children are at odds with their parents for years, it often comes to a breaking point. And then, with some luck, you’re able get to know one another again later in life.
Absolutely. My mother and I have also had a period where we took a break. We had to reinvent ourselves and I had to become a new son. Talking, being affectionate, touching: we had never done that before. I was at sports school and then I moved to Berlin rather early. I have always loved my mother, but not like I do now, not this heartfelt.
How did you approach each other again?
That was when my father died, since the whole family got together then. We realized that everything could be over in a minute. We’re family, whether we want it or not. And this small picture we have to frame and care for.
You have written two poetry editions. Does your love of language come from your parents?
I’m convinced. They always found it very important that I read.
Which were your first books?
I started out with fairy tales. My father collected them: Czech fairy tales, Persian, Japanese, Indian, French. The first novel that I’m aware of that I devoured was “The Catcher in the Rye” by Salinger. Then I stumbled over Bukowski, who was taboo in the GDR. When you got your hands on anything by him, you had three days to read it, then it was the next man’s turn. I have never since seen such thumbed and greasy books.
What was it that touched you in “The Catcher in the Rye“?
The despair of the youth. That was my life, from a to z.
The hero, Holden Caulfield, keeps failing spectacularly whenever he tries to approach a woman.
Everything went wrong for me too. I was totally a late bloomer. It didn’t change until 18 or 19. I believe that you’re afflicted with the deepest wounds during this time. If anything goes fundamentally wrong in the youth, it leaves scars on the soul.
What scars do you have?
Definitely from girls. From being rejected. And since we’re speaking about authors: I once read about Brecht, that he circled his Mariechen without ever getting around to it. Maybe that’s why he became so obscene. For us in the GDR, he was the author, with the “Three Penny Opera” and “Mother Courage”. I came to learn just exactly how lascivious he was much later.
“The Seduction of an Angel“ wasn’t on the curriculum of schools in the West either.
Lovely, isn’t it? Hang on, how does the end go? „Schau ihm nicht beim Ficken ins Gesicht, und seine Flügel, Mensch, zerdrück sie nicht.“ [Don’t look him in the eyes when you fuck, and, for God’s sake, don’t suppress his wings – translator’s interpretation] Have a guess where I read that the first time?! On a sex site on the Internet! They have to be kidding me, I thought, that’s not Brecht. But it was. Old horndog.
Is it diminishing?
The occupation thereof.
Not with me. Luckily.
But isn’t it also a curse to be so driven by desire?
The problem is not the desire, but the fact that at one point, you can’t fulfil it anymore. That’s also the tragedy of Goethe; with age, he couldn’t realize his love for this very much younger woman the way he surely must have wanted to. On the other hand, out of this kind of pain, great art is born. It was surely a shitty time for Goethe, but not for us.
You yourself have a girlfriend of five years, who’s half your age.
Are you faithful?
Now I have to watch my words. Well, the impairment here is love. It puts a damper on the boner. And how you go about this is up to everyone for themselves. When you travel a lot, it’s a doddle, there are a lot opportunities then.
Opportunities that may present themselves for a world renowned singer, that a normal man cannot even imagine.
What can I say? It’s a boyhood dream.
Till Lindemann, 52, is the singer of the band, Rammstein. Leipzig born, Lindemann has, during the course of two decades, done more for the love of the German language in the world than any other living artist. The son of the children’s book author, Werner Lindemann, has published two poetry volumes, “Messer” (2002) and “In Stillen Nächten” (2013); writing with the same laconic coarseness about the topics that he also addresses in his musical lyrics: sex, violence, sickness, death. And more sex. In his youth, Lindemann was a competitive swimmer and came close to participating in the 1980 Olympic Games for the GDR. After that, he worked, among other things, as a basket weaver before he joined his first band, “First Arsch”. Lindemann has a daughter and a grandson.
Original Source: Süddeutsche Zeitung
Interview by Marc Felix Serrao
Photo: Aram Radomski