An adventurous combo: Till Lindemann, the singer of Rammstein, and Joey Kelly of the Kelly Family, are long-time friends. Now, they’ve made their way through Alaska together. A conversation about their unique friendship and precarious moments in Grizzly country.
There are few things that tell more about a friendship than the way two friends greet each other. In the case of Till Lindemann and Joey Kelly, you can deduct this: they can stand each other even after three weeks in the same tent. The embrace is short, but heartfelt, when they meet in the bar of the Ritz on Potsdamer Platz for our conversation about their canoe trip down the Yukon and their friendship. “Gin and Tonic all around?” asks Lindemann as the interview begins. Certainly!
Mr Kelly, how many Rammstein albums do you have at home?
Kelly: All of them.
And how many Kelly Family records do you own, Mr Lindemann?
Lindemann: None. My daughter had quite a few of them, though. Joey used to supply me with them.
It was because of your daughter that the two of you came to know each other, right?
Lindemann: That’s correct. Backstage at the MTV Awards. My daughter was a fan of the Kelly Family, and I wanted to get her an autograph. Our tour manager went to the dressing room of the Kelly Family and asked if we could come by. At first, they thought we wanted to take the piss. But they welcomed us warmly anyway. Joey and I soon started talking and we’ve seen each other on a regular basis ever since.
What did you talk about at first?
Kelly: About sports.
Lindemann: How much we love it and how much we hate it.
Kelly: Till has been an athlete his whole life, and a competitive swimmer when he was young. And I have been in extreme sports for twenty years, serving as a counter point to music.
How often do you see each other?
Lindemann: Often, but always very briefly. A day or so. We go out for dinner when Joey is in Berlin, but then he has to move on the next day. That’s one reason that we made the canoe trip on the Yukon. It was clear: no one could go anywhere and we would be stuck with each other for two, three weeks.
Whose idea was the journey?
Lindemann: Joey talked me into it. He’d already been to the Yukon four, or five times. He’d talked a lot about it and showed me pictures.
Kelly: But I had always been there during the winter. An icy desert, scenically incredible, the temperature plummeting to minus 40 degrees at times. I wanted to experience the river with Till during the summer when it’s more beautiful. But more dangerous too, because of the wildlife. It’s Grizzly country.
You started to practice nine months in advance, right?
Kelly: Indeed. The Yukon may look harmless, but if you should fall into the river, your life is on the line. The water is ice cold, you lose your equipment and your canoe is gone. You have to prepare for those things. And the Rhein was ideal for that. It is the most travelled river in the world, and all the boat traffic makes a lot of movement on the water.
Lindemann: We had four sessions with two coaches. Once, we paddled all the way from Cologne to Koblenz…
Kelly: Additionally, we have practiced by ourselves too. Till on the Mecklenburger Seen and myself, at home, in Cologne, every week.
And you really did experience a life-threatening situation on the Yukon.
Lindemann: That was during a flash flood. Suddenly, there were currents on all sides. The canoe went up on a sand bank, got stuck sideways and water flushed in. If you’d capsized then, it would all be over, the water is extremely cold.
Kelly: Till would have pulled through in an emergency, since he’s a swimmer. But me?
Lindemann: In a moment like that, things are rushing through your head, but first and foremost, you have to reach the shore. We jumped out of the boat and managed to push it back in the right direction. I was terrified, but I didn’t want to let on. I didn’t want Joey to notice that I was scared, and I don’t know if he was.
Kelly: Oh, I was… (laughs)
What did the division of labour on board look like?
Lindemann: I had the nice job as the helmsman in the back, I could even be a bit lazy from time to time. But Joey was paddling like the Energizer bunny in the front.
Kelly: That hardly made us move, since I have such thin arms. But when Till made a stroke, you could really feel it: now we’re moving!
Mr Kelly, how come you absolutely wanted to make this journey with Till?
Kelly: It’s not easy to find a partner with whom you’d get along in an extreme situation. Your true character shows on trips like these. Either you’re thick as thieves afterwards, or you never want to see each other again.
Were you sure it would work out?
Lindemann: Yes. The good thing was that we have a lot to talk about, but we could also stay silent for a whole day, without the other one chewing your ear off. The scenery demands a certain calmness. You’re sitting there and you are getting overwhelmed. A chatterbox with an eternal commentary about all things left or right, would be extremely disturbing.
When you were talking, what about?
Lindemann: Everything under the sun. We had little bouts at times, when we poked fun at our celebrities in the TV- and music industry. We both have our experiences with the A-, B-, C- and D-list celebs (laughs). That was a lot of fun, and we laughed a lot.
Do tell, please.
Lindemann: Oh, we’ve just had a lot of encounters that are truly bizarre. Maybe not with celebrities per se’, but rather with the aspiring artists or actors. They try to make themselves extremely important, wrapping themselves in the Red Carpet and wearing it as a turban.
But you’re not dropping any names, of course?
Lindemann: Absolutely not.
Kelly: I could name one.
Kelly: Or two!
(Lindemann laughs even louder.)
Bring it on!
Lindemann: Rather not…
Kelly: Oh, it’s worth it! One of them actually turned into something positive: Florian Silbereisen. I kept asking myself, how the hell did he get a woman like that? (laughs all around.)
Kelly: ….and I’m continuing to make some music with my siblings…..
Lindemann: Because you want to get to know Helene Fischer?
Kelly: We were at a television taping with Florian Silbereisen. Before the performance, Silbereisen came to us and told us that he and his sister were huge Kelly Family fans. To the extent that they had slept outside venues to get the best spots at the concert. He got me there! And I thought: what an astonishing man, Florian is! I can change that quickly (laughs). And then there are guys like Wendler, of whom you think: that’s so not my case. And when you meet him backstage, you think: it’s in fact even worse.
Does the number of friends grow larger or smaller when you’re famous?
Lindemann: Indeed, you get more friends, but not all of them are sincere. Of course, there are the so-called arse-kissers. Luckily, Joey and I are at an age where we could sort them out a little. I have ever only had a handful of friends, and I knew them even before Rammstein took off. Besides Joey and my bandmates, there really aren’t many more.
How many good friends do you have, Mr Kelly?
Kelly: Two, three, four… (points at Lindemann.)
Till Lindemann belongs among them?
Lindemann: I’d certainly hope so.
Kelly: Of course.
Do you know the names of your respective children?
Lindemann: Of course! I’m the godfather of Joey’s oldest, for coming on two decades now. But you simply cannot come visiting with a gift for one child and not the other two. That’s why I decided to be the godfather of all three of them.
What did you learn about the other that you didn’t know before, after sitting so closely together in a canoe?
Kelly: Most of all, the feeling that we can rely on each other was strengthened. We don’t keep up a façade, Till and I. We are who we are. Weathered men who live our lives the way we see fit, and we both do our own thing. We complete each other.
Lindemann: I learned a lot about Joey that I didn’t know before. We were at the Yukon for a long time, and then you open up the closet and talk about yourself. It’s apparent to me: when you are like Joey, who is so hard on himself, you had to have a history, and not a particularly bright one. He’s like that because his childhood and youth have shaped him that way, and his family. He had to have superhuman strength. It is admirable.
Mr Lindemann, can you understand Joey Kelly’s ardour for pushing himself so hard? As you yourself were a competitive swimmer in your younger years?
Lindemann: I started when I was eight. I know how hard it is to acquire the willpower and endurance necessary, and to incorporate these attributes. The GDR coaches and the so-called officials drummed that into us. What I admire about Joey, is that he has a switch: he’s this nice family father, and then suddenly, this absolute sports monster. I don’t know anyone who’s such a beast.
Kelly: Till is a lot worse.
Lindemann: Oh, nonsense!
Kelly: Till is the frontman of the most successful German rock band in history, he’s a poet and an entrepreneur. Despite all this, he remains rooted in the ground, he hasn’t gone mad or taken off. I’m famous between Flensburg and Konstanz. But when you’re travelling in Alaska with Till….
…even the bears know him?
Kelly: Pretty much. You will hear Rammstein everywhere. It doesn’t matter where in the world you are. If you’re in Punta Arenas in Chile and have climbed the last summit, there sure as hell is a shop there where you could buy a Rammstein t-shirt.
Could that become annoying?
Kelly: Not for me. I always buy the things.
Mr Kelly, when you want to talk about something that bothers you, to whom do you turn? To a good friend, your partner or to a therapist?
Kelly: I have never had a therapist in my life. I think that sports is my therapy.
Lindemann: Joey only talks to himself. While he runs a marathon race (laughs).
Kelly: Last week, I came back from a small run, and I had 16 days to think about what I was doing with my life. If everything really is the way I think it is.
What was the result?
Kelly: (laughs) I’ll carry on the way I have so far!
Mr Lindemann, at what times do you contemplate life?
Lindemann: When I have a glass of wine, or when I hunt or fish. I’m of the firm belief that you are your own best therapist, through primitive, archaic means. I go out into nature or to the ocean and have a conversation with myself.
So, you won’t find Till Lindemann at a therapist’s couch?
Lindemann: I personally believe that oftentimes, it’s wasted money for a luxury problem. I have never seen anyone who’s gotten any better from it. I know people who’ve come back from their therapy session and I can’t recognise them anymore. They’re not the people I knew. I find it hard to cope with the way these people have changed.
In what way?
Lindemann: One turned into an egomaniac, or egocentric. Because some therapist told him he was something special. Also, when you work in a group of people, such as a band — whenever five people say what you’re doing is crap, and you’re the only one who wants to follow through with your idea, then you’re abandoning the democracy and the collective spirit. Then it doesn’t work anymore. So much for that. We could go on forever about this therapy-crap.
So, please answer this real quick: What could you never lie to a friend about? First: that their car is ready for the junk yard?
Kelly: No problem.
Lindemann: We have more than one.
When they aren’t paying their debts?
Lindemann: It depends: if he tells me that he cannot, because of a certain reason, then there’s no problem. I can deal with that. It’s harder when they’re trying to wiggle their way out of it.
Kelly: I have stopped lending money to friends. You lose them, and you’ll never hear from them again.
Does money destroy friendships?
Kelly: Yes. I’m not talking about 5,000 Euro. I talk about five-digit sums and up. This was the case for me, and with someone that I knew very well. And I had just told him; mind, the loan is expired, get in touch! No reply.
Lindemann: Five-digit sums? I think I’m in the wrong business.
Next: If your friend has sex with your partner.
Lindemann: Rather with an ex. Should it be with the current one, then you’d probably do…
Kelly: I don’t know, I need some time to think about that…
Is it allowed to criticise a good friend? A silly example: “Your hairdo looks awful”.
Lindemann: I would be happy if someone enlightened me!
Does this kind of honesty belong in friendships?
Mr Lindemann, two words about Joey Kelly’s hairdo?
Lindemann: (looks quickly at him) I’d say, Old School.
Mr Kelly, what do you think of Mr Lindemann’s hairdo?
Kelly: He always looks good.
Are there differences between friendships with women as opposed to those with other men?
Lindemann: I don’t have any friendships with women.
Kelly: Neither do I.
Would you say that it’s in principle impossible?
Lindemann: I think if you’ve already had sex with her, then perhaps. But it has to be all over.
So that the tension is gone?
Lindemann: The tension is omnipresent. It’s always just under the surface, and at the latest after the tenth Gin and Tonic, it raises its head.
Kelly: Same with me.
If you could choose a character from a book or a film, who would you like to be friends with?
Lindemann: I’d take Max and Moritz.
Kelly: Don Corleone from “The Godfather”.
Your Yukon adventure is over. You’ve already mentioned that you want to take on the Amazon and the Nile. How far along are you in those plans?
Lindemann: Very far. We’re going to the Amazon next year, with our sons. A father-son project.
Is there something about friendships that you want to share with your sons?
Lindemann: A tough question. Friendships are like love, you can feel it when it’s there. You’ll get disappointed, you’ll get abandoned and you’ll learn something new. Life teaches you that. You can never say that they have to be completely loyal and open and receptive, and willing to sacrifice themselves.
Everyone need to find that out for themselves.
Kelly: I learn a lot more from my kids than they do from me. The twenty-somethings of today are so astonishingly communicative, and connected at so many different levels. How they can even handle it, it’s insane.
Is it possible to give children advice, when their lives are so different from one’s own?
Lindemann: You could share a certain life experience, which they can’t find in a Wikipedia search. It’s a good thing when you as a father have a tight bond with your child, and could share some of the basic things in life: everything will be alright. And additionally, you could tell them that a few things will never change. Real heartache takes at least a year to heal. They have to accept this from the beginning. Those are the important things.
Source: Playboy Germany
Date: Oct, 2017
By Alexander Neumann-Delbarre and Philipp Nowotny