Till Lindemann pours out sexual perversions and provocations in his music with Rammstein. Now he’s making his solo debut.
To begin with, Till Lindemann looks straight at me from across the table for several minutes.
He tightens the black suit jacket around his body and stares as if he wishes I’d been one of those abortions he sings about in ‘Praise Abort’. Or something that could be pissed away during a ‘Golden Shower’, only to mention a few of all the sexual perversions he confesses to on his first album outside the framework of the band, Rammstein.
”You don’t understand! I’m not obsessed with sex. It’s a provocation, it’s a humor, and it’s the small, savory spice in the stew that will make people listen up. It’s supposed to catch your attention. Nothing else,” he snaps.
The interview, which I have sought for weeks, conducted at a café table at Oranienburger Strasse in the middle of Berlin, is on the verge of slipping through my fingers in the sweltering heat that’s been sticking to the German capital for several days. Strategically, I have placed the CD ‘Lindemann’ — on its cover the world stands in flames in the presence of two, grotesque looking men, Till Lindemann and his Swedish partner, Peter Tägtgren – next to the recently published volume of the singer’s two German poetry books in simple, black typography.
”I can’t work for hours in a studio, that’s so boring”
My symbolical placement on the table of Till Lindemann’s artistic work, one of the most original and definitely most successful German artists for decades, does not work. Lindemann does not take the bait.
The heatwave has apparently made Till Lindemann, whose hair is dyed bleach blond, ice cold. He looks up and down the street, turns to Peter Tägtgren and stubbornly tries to ignore my presence. When I ask about the difference between the Germans from the old East, like himself, to those from the West, he replies by irritably asking his partner: “Aren’t you different in Sweden too?”
Even if Peter Tägtgren is a fascinating musician, it’s not for him that I’m here. I never realized that he’d flown in from Sweden to take part in this interview. But with all the attempts at approaching the buttoned-up Till Lindemann to chat about sex, German poetry, East vs. West and Rammstein, falling flat, there’s nothing else to do but to change tactics. And address Tägtgren.
”He”, as the Swede consequently calls his German partner, who does not address his friend any differently, begins to listen. And watch us.
And then suddenly, he throws himself into the conversation with something other than just curt negations and single words.
”I was a good swimmer when I was young. So, I got to attend one of these elite boarding schools, where the GDR was training athletes. That was fine. I was taught discipline as if I had been a soldier, and that serves me well. Because I quickly lose focus and concentration. I can’t work for hours in a studio, that is so boring,” says Till Lindemann.
Fly fishing and fly-specking
When he was done singing about his fascination for fat ladies or the positive impact of pills in Peter Tägtgren’s studio in the village of Pärlby, northwest of Stockholm, he sat himself on the windowsill and fly fished straight into the lake beneath. All the while the Swede was “fly-specking for hours with the songs on his computer,” according to the singer.
”It was liberating to be there and fish, because he was working with headphones on so I couldn’t hear anything. I know, it sounds like a paradox when you’re the singer in Rammstein, but I hate noise. I prefer to be out on the countryside here in Germany, at my house in a small village up north,” says Till Lindemann, who arrived to the café on a bike from his apartment in Prenzlauer Berg.
And now, with a completely different kind of friendliness, he signs autographs and poses for selfies with a couple of blue collar workers who have recognized him. It’s not a coincidence that he cares for the labor class in the eastern part of the once divided Berlin.
”I’m an Easterner, to the core. I’ll never be anything else. If I have some errand in West Berlin, I always say, “I’m off to the West”. My children actually do the same, which maybe is a bit strange. But it will surely die out with the next generation; after all, we’ve lived in a unified Germany for 25 years now,” says Till Lindemann.
He took part in the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Wall last year and looks forward to, as does the whole country, the anniversary of the German unification in October this year.
”Yes, with a mix of joy and fear. These celebrations are a bit like celebrating Christmas and Easter and everything at once. You celebrate, but no one knows exactly why. It’s not that I’m particularly nostalgic about the old GDR, but there were values in that country that shouldn’t have been wiped away. People were secure and there was none of that fear of the future as there is in Germany today,” he says.
Till Lindemann sings in English on the album ”Skills in Pills”, as opposed to Rammstein, where everything is in German. A huge feat for the singer.
”We were taught Russian in school in the GDR, not English. It wasn’t until I was on tour with Rammstein in the US that I started learning English. I sat next to the bus drivers when we traveled for 30 hours from Chicago to Seattle. Those guys were completely mad and could do a trip like that on two cups of coffee and one stop for a piss. However, they spoke English all the time, and I sucked it all up. After that, I sat down with the dictionary and taught myself. I had very low self-confidence to sing [in English] on a whole album, but I’m very proud that I made it,” he confesses.
And so, we’re back to the lyrics, which were slaughtered in the reviews in his native Germany for sounding more like a pubescent school kid’s hot sex fantasies than a mature man’s poetic reflections.
If only I were a little bird
”They only look at the surface. There are also love songs, a description of a close to religious, wondrous experience of nature on a river where I went canoeing and fly fishing in ‘Yukon’. That I express myself in images is yet another nod to my upbringing in East Germany. You couldn’t sing that you wanted to get away from the shitty country, so the songs were something along the lines of, “If only I were a little bird that could fly south.” We continued that tradition in Rammstein and perhaps we used some other euphemisms so as not to get too personal. But a lot is self-experienced. The thing with the pills are, for example, about the “pill parties” we had in my youth. Everyone brought pills from their parents’ cabinets without having the first clue what they were. But we took them all, anyway,” Till Lindemann recalls.
When Rammstein tried to break in during the years after the fall of the Wall, no one was interested in listening to a punky rock band singing in English. But instead of giving up, the band decided to give it a last chance.
”We thought that if they didn’t want to hear us in English, then we would damned well sing in our native German. And in addition, make the music as extreme, angry and brutal as possible, like really heavy, marching East German with a lot of hate. Of course, with a lot of black humor and irony above all the German, but not everyone got it. But it all changed in a heartbeat. I’m still extremely grateful for the good fortune I’ve had. I have no idea why it happened to me,” says the suddenly subdued Till Lindemann.
But with intellectual movie makers, such as David Lynch and Lars von Trier, as well as millions of people the world over falling in love with the very original, German expression, it soon became the country’s largest, internationally cultural success since the Second World War. And a fundamentally East German success to boot.
”Now when you mention it, it’s something that I’m really happy about. My old countrymen in the ‘decommissioned country’ deserve vindication. But I’m really just a simple boy from the countryside, who never strived for success or to be interpreted in all manner of ways,” says Till Lindemann, who a number of times has explained his flamboyant performances on stage with Rammstein in Wagnerian thunder, lightning and gesticulation with what can best be described as stage fright and the wish to not be seen. Deep inside.
”I think that is why I write poetry,” he says and picks up the little black book.
”It’s a lot easier for me to write poetry, which just flows from the brain and the heart, while the songs are hard work. You have to work your way towards a good refrain every time, because the refrain is the heart of the song. But you don’t need a chorus in a poem. That’s liberating,” he says about his quite often romantic poetry.
Brecht and Goethe
With nature metaphors and a worship of the morose, he writes in a German tradition, inspired by some of the country’s big names, like, for example, Lindemann’s heroes, Goethe and Brecht.
”Of course, we had to read a lot of Bertolt Brecht in school, he was a hero in the old East. But we only got to read the political texts. Later, I found out, he also had a dark side and wrote a lot about sex. So it’s not just me,” Lindemann declares and continues to speak at length and with enthusiasm about the great German names of the Romantic Period.
An apparent inspiration for his poetry editions, where there’s always something else lurking beneath the surface. Even in a poem with such an innocent title as ‘Elegie für Marie Antoinette’, the bitter humor jumps out in the demand for oral sex with the decapitated head of a queen.
”When you write that way and use provocation deliberately in order to get people talking, it can backfire. Like it did at the massacre at Columbine High School, for which we got the blame since the perpetrators liked Rammstein and had completely misunderstood our songs. We got a lot of hate and the accusations for being Nazis, which we continually have to live with, became massive. It was a tough time but we didn’t change our artistic expression and I still prefer to let my songs and poems be up to each and every one to interpret, even if humor and satire are difficult things,” he says.
Do you feel guilty about what happened?
”Certainly not. It’s the easiest thing in the world to blame artists for all sorts of problems. But that’s bullshit! I have to be allowed to express myself the way I want to. About sex too. It could be argued that sex takes up too much of our time. In any case, on the Internet, among all the rest of the garbage.”
And now, Till Lindemann has seen to it that the virtual world gets a good dose of sex again, with “Skills in Pills“.
Original Source: POLITIKEN.DK
Interview by By Erik Jensen, Berlin. July 18, 2015
Special thanks to Maria Andersen