“On Quiet Nights”: The Road from “Du Hast” to Poetry

The release of the volume of poetry by the frontman of the band, Rammstein, became quite an event. The first 10,000 copies sold out on the first day of publishing, and people were already waiting in line for an autograph at 8 AM. Natalia Lomykin met Till Lindemann to talk about why he decided to publish poetry.

The book is a heavy black-and-white volume in two languages, and it has sold nearly 15,000 copies in just two days. I saw a couple of them just before the interview. The white pages are in German: rhyming, heavy, sometimes a bit too forthcoming. On the black pages are the Russian translation: often broken in rhythm and rhyme, but accurately conveying the essence of the poems. As the translator’s preface states, “in these often violent texts, he nevertheless, first and foremost, serves us his heart on a platter… ”


Natalia Lomykin: The book looks great. But as millions of fans already know your lyrics by heart when singing your songs, how come you felt the need to publish a book of poetry?

Till Lindemann: This is a different animal entirely. The words aren’t tied to a certain piece of music; they’re not related to music at all. This is something that has been written in a completely free form.

-Is this in response to a father’s wish for his son to become a poet?

-You know, talking about my father, I kept telling him, “if I can’t be something useful, I can always become an author” (laughs). He was always annoyed by that, and he thought that I didn’t take what he was doing seriously. (Ed: Till’s father was Werner Lindemann, a writer, poet, and author of 43 books, among them children’s books.)

-Can you relate?

-In part. When it came to artists, there were always those who fought the system, and my father had to write a lot of books promoting the socialist ideas. And, besides that, he wrote children’s books too.

-In one interview, you mentioned that you are happy to have two daughters, because if you had sons, they’d surely want to take after you. What’s wrong with that?

-Oh, I would not wish a life like that for my son (laughs)! But I do have a son, actually. And he is very different, completely different. My daughter grew up to be just like me. In fact, now I have two daughters and two sons.

-There is no mention of any sons on Wikipedia…

-No, fortunately. There is already too much false information there. But one good thing with Wikipedia is that it makes me younger (laughs)!

-So, I won’t ask how old you are.

-Yeah

-You mentioned that artists tend to go against the system. What is freedom for you? Afterall, it’s still one of the key concepts for a musician.

-Of course, there are different kinds of freedom: freedom of speech, of expression, to speak one’s mind… Remember the days of the GDR? You had to use all kinds of allegories to say anything. That means, you had to hide whatever you were trying to say behind a lot of double entendres. It’s complicated. On the other hand, it did have its advantages: it forced us to constantly keep searching for a way to get away with anything, despite censorship, and have people understand what we wanted to convey. And now? We have the technology for supplying information, so the manner of writing has become somewhat different. The approach has changed. For me, even though the times have changed, the skill is still there. But not in political texts these days, but in lyrical. I sometimes use words that don’t exist in normal language. For example, when I want to describe a female creature, I can use something like “triangle loins”, and in German, that sounds poetic. In short, all these restrictions have taught me how to think in metaphors.

-So, that is to say, that for you, freedom is primarily the freedom of language? What else? In Russia, too, it’s very important to be able to determine the boundaries of freedom, and to know when they are being constricted. As a man of two systems, on one hand growing up in the GDR, and on the other, having the liberty to address millions with very provocative statements, maybe you could advise us on how to evaluate tolerance in society?

-It’s evident that it’s important to know the limitations. You need to feel where to start and what you will be able to finish. But we must ask ourselves whether there are things you should not say or do. Puting it bluntly, the more liberties you take, the more come to you. It’s a two-way street. All in all, considering how modern means of communication are developing, the freedom on the internet has become almost without boundaries. I don’t know where that will lead, but sometimes, it does feel like some restrictions would be in order.

-Is it harder to write provocative songs? Is it difficult to shock an audience?

-Oh, for sure! People have become harder to shock with art, they have the opportunity to see everything, to know everything. From an early age, children have access to things they should not see, but sometimes they do. So, you take a subject and think, yes, that’s it! This is truly shocking! And those same youngsters look at it and yawn indifferently: boring! And you realise you’ve grown old (laughs).

-Your popularity here in Russia is enormous. There is this Rammstein-inspired clip on RuNet that has become hugely popular this autumn with a tremendous amount of views. If you haven’t seen it, I can show you. And just the possibility that Rammstein shot a video in Russia is taken very seriously and with a lot of enthusiasm.

-Well, what can I say, we’re working on it.

-However, this summer, after the incident with Putin’s portrait on a t-shirt and a golden phone, you said Rammstein would never set foot in Russia again. But in less than six months–

-No, no, no (Till interrupts in Russian). We never said this. It’s the internet again.

-So you were happy to come to Russia to promote your book?

-Still am! I love Russia and I am always happy to come here. What with everything else that was going on: it’s bullshit. And I’m not interested. In all honestly, there is always someone somewhere who writes some crap about me. No need to pay attention. So, I came here not only with pleasure, but with great pleasure.

-I know you were supposed to attend the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow with the national swimming team, but that never happened. Is that a regret?

-First of all, there were a lot of swimming competitions back then, and I was often in the Soviet Union. There was a regular Russian-German game, where the Soviets sent an invite to Germany and the German team came to Russia. I knew both Moscow and St. Petersburg at the time. And Novosibirsk! We spent two days on the train. I think that was the only time I ever slept on a train (laughs). We had tea out of a samovar on this special train, what’s it called, titanium? And there was a granny in every car who served us tea and told us off when we were too noisy so we, of course, were very noisy. And then came the announcement that the Olympic Games would not be held in Los Angeles, or Sydney, or any other capitalist country where we’d never been, but in Moscow. Bah! Moscow again! Boring! (laughs). But then I suffered a very nasty head trauma and I had to give up my career.

-What role does sport have in your life now?

-I’ll tell you one thing; all of Germany has gone football crazy. And I don’t watch football. I’m appreciative of Germans loving football, because when the national team is playing, the whole city is empty. It’s a pleasure to drive on the streets! No people, no cars, no police (laughs). This is my favourite time for walking; it’s a ghost town.

-And most importantly, to get home before the game is over.

-For sure. It’s all very different after the game. Well, as for me, I like to watch swimming, because I am a swimmer myself. And to make fun of them, indeed.

-Back to the book. Tell us a little about it, and about its structure. What kind of literature is it, and how did it come about?

-Actually, this is my second book, the first one is called “Messer”, and it’s not published in Russian yet. I hope that it will be. For that one, I had collected material for twenty years. “On Quiet Nights” was written a lot faster, in less than five years. It was published in Germany three years ago.

-And it sells well?

-It sold well for a volume of poetry in Germany. I think it’s a good thing. As for Russia, it’s a fantastic success, and the bookstores have already sold out the entire edition.

-Your agent is giving me the sign that I still have one last question, and your fans would never forgive me if I didn’t ask when the next Rammstein concert in Russia will be?

-I can show you (Till pulls the phone out of his pocket and opens the Calendar). Look, June: first it’s on the fourth in Tallinn, and then the 9th, 10th and 11th, in Russia.

That same evening, the Moscow actors of the Gogol theatre did an Avant-guard performance of Lindemann’s poetry – equally dynamic and provocative. Dramatized, with light effects and custom scenography. And all of this was, in fact,  a private screening for a single viewer, although the place was packed.

Original source: RBC.RU
Date: 21 November, 2016
Author: Natalia Lomykin
Translation: Murray/Schnitz

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