A scene like in a western: Flake Lorenz and Till Lindemann have some time off during the production of the RAMMSTEIN record ‘Mutter’. They drive to the Swedish province north of Stockholm with a few friends. A small village pub, the beer is flowing in streams, the air is vibrating. “Weird music was played and the whole pub was full of local bikers”, says Lindemann, laughing. The homely atmosphere threatens to flip when the ex of one of their companions picks a jealousy-driven quarrel. A typical village pub fight is about to break loose but someone gets in-between unexpectedly. “That's the guys of RAMMSTEIN, they are ok”, says Peter Tägtgren loudly and plainly. The situation calms down, the night takes its course – and ends up eventually in Tägtgren's home with a few bottles of liquor from his brother's distillery.
14 years after this memorable evening, two protagonists from then pose for a special picture. The artistic shot – it shows Till Lindemann and Peter Tägtgren as a morbid bridal couple – is the precursor of a product of a special friendship whose cornerstone was set in Sweden. Lindemann and Tägtgren kept in touch over the years, spoke repeatedly about projects – in order to present with ‘Skills in Pills’ a record together. A piece, that much can be revealed beforehand, on which the musicians are able to melt together the best of their diverse worlds into a highly melodious gothic-industrial-metal-alloying of the extra class.
The two don't actually need an introduction. Till Lindemann has been setting international benchmarks as the singer and frontman of RAMMSTEIN for twenty years. With a concept that encompasses all aspects of their artistic work, RAMMSTEIN have created an own music genre as a live and record artist. Moreover, Lindemann is rightfully considered one of the best German poets, his naturalistic lyrics have already filled two books of poems. Then again, the Swede Peter Tägtgren made death and black metal history with PAIN and HYPOCRISY. A never-tiring all-rounder who plays every instrument and produced everything in his legendary studio The Abyss in the past 20 years which is not only of distinction in Scandinavian metal.
Two special musicians, who have pooled their collected experience consistently. The way for the project opened up when RAMMSTEIN stood before a longer break and Tägtgren and Lindemann met again at a festival in summer 2013. The first song the two then recorded was ‘Ladyboy’. A song about Bangkok's she-male-dominated red light scene, according to Lindemann “the saddest scene of the world”. “From this moment on, everything came together automatically”, Peter Tägtgren remembers. “Till participated actively in the arrangements, from the very first day it was a wonderfully inspiring cooperation”.
A lot of material was created in the following months, which was eventually recorded by both in Peter Tägtgren's The Abyss studio north of Stockholm. In a thoroughly unconventional way: “The production had a certain vacation disposition”, says Lindemann, “Peter's studio is located directly next to a lake. I was able to cast my fishing gear from the window and while we worked something would bite now and then.” The fish would be smoked communally in the evening in order to discuss the results of the day during dinner. “Normally we are at least four or five people in the studio, of which every single one has different ideas which have to be coordinated somehow. It was much more stress-free and organic between us.”, says Tägtgren.
But it wasn't always that easy, there were definitely obstacles that had to be overcome. The greatest one was the language: Till Lindemann sings in English on an entire record for the first time. “At the beginning, I was concerned about that”, he says. “Then I realized, though, what an exciting, completely open field the foreign language offered to me. It was important to me to keep the lyrics as simple as possible so that they can be understood all over the world, also in Chile or Russia. Nevertheless, I didn't want to lower sights qualitatively and that was the challenge.” Considering this, it is a true surprise that Lindemann succeeded to transfer his very special humor to an unfamiliar language on ‘Skills and Pills’. In a very simple but effective way. Best example: The title song, a cynical-scornful piece about the fact that there is a suiting pill for every situation from birth to death in our meritocracy. “That goes back to someone I met briefly after a party”, Till explains. “This guy was radically against illegal drugs but took pills against and for everything all day long.”
This ironic pill hymn is highlighted by industrial sounds and a slowly ascending choir. Martial beats and powerful riffs alternate with quieter parts, eventually flowing into an awesome instant-hit-chorus: “All the left is right / All the black is white / All the fast was slow / All the loose is tight”. A record which bears witness to the fun, the freshness and the special energy of its production process begins this way. Lindemann sings as melodiously and diversely as ever before, the choruses are highly memorable, the production is powerful. “This guy is magical”, Lindemann says about Tägtgren. “I have some production skills myself but what he is doing here is simply unbelievable”. In order to give the songs the fitting frame, Tägtgren used some small tricks. He didn't cut the drums with click which makes the music sound more organic automatically. And for the opulent string and orchestra parts, he secured the cooperation of a Dutch friend, Clemens Wijers, who inflated the arrangements to the size they now have on the record.
Beside this contribution, there are no further collaborators on ‘Skills In Pills’: Peter Tägtgren recorded numerous instruments, Till delivers the vocals and of course the lyrics. “Peter is like a candy shop.”, says Lindemann. “You feed him with some ideas and before you know it he has written the corresponding song.” For example, Tägtgren has never written a ballad in his life and wasn't excited about the idea of doing so. But Lindemann thought that the record also needed a slower track. Thus, he convinced Tägtgren to try it again. The result is ‘Home Sweet Home’ which gives the record a completely different color indeed and creates room for the next attack. Another time, Lindemann showed Tägtgren an Adele song and brought him on the right track for the opening piano motif of ‘Yukon’, a continuously crescendoing epic which was inspired by Till's canoe tour through Alaska and Canada. That's the special thing about Tägtgren: This man can probably imagine nothing that he would dislike more than Adele of all things. “I don't have to prove anything to anyone but myself”, he says. “It's about pursuing new ways.”
The record profits enormously from this open-hearted attitude: ‘Cowboy’, a song about a guy who gets older and realises that he cannot resemble the macho cowboy he always wanted to be, the enormously forceful ‘Children Of The Sun’ or the caustic ‘Praise Abort(ion)’: ‘Skills In Pills’ is incredibly thrilling, hilarious and textually substantive – however in some texts so explicit that some moralizers will have their laughter stuck in their throats. “We will certainly go to hell for this record”, says Peter Tägtgren, laughing. “We are concerned about so many dirty stuff that we can only hope that people will understand the humor behind it”. Understanding is the keyword of the record in any case, not only concerning the humor: ‘Skills In Pills’ is the document of a collaboration deeply informed by mutual respect and friendship – and every second of the record proves it.