German-Swedish pact (interview)
This article was published in the May 2015 issue of the magazine "Aardshock". The original was published in French.
At the moment, Rammstein is in deep hibernation and it doesn’t look like they will wake up any time soon. After years of relentless touring and recording the members do have what looks like some time off. One is filling the gap by becoming a father, or is writing a book. The other – like singer Till Lindemann – uses the occasion to make a wish come true. He recorded an album with Swedish musician and producer Peter Tägtgren and will see the light under the project name of "Lindemann". Titled "Skills in Pills".
Usually musicians meet kindred minded spirits in a local record store or through an advert in a music magazine or on the internet. In the universe where Till Lindemann marches, things go slightly different. Swede Peter Tägtgren appeared as a real saviour just at the moment Till was about to get a serious beating. Nowadays Till seems to be laughing about this "It was in the year 2000. We were in Sweden for the mixing of the ‘Mutter’ album. One night I went clubbing with a few nice Swedish women. We landed in a bar which was frequently visited by a local motor gang. One of those guys was the ex-boyfriend as one of the accompanying ladies. The atmosphere became really grim and I was closed in by a couple of guys. In my mind I saw myself waking up in the local hospital or worse. Right at the moment the first punches would fall, the door swung open. It was Peter Tägtgren. He intervened and explained who I was "He is cool". It worked. They left me alone for the remaining of the evening. Naturally I was grateful. And the experience created a bond. We were good friends from that moment on".
The Swedish hero adds that they knew each other longer but only superficial. "I knew Till of course from his involvement in Rammstein, a band I absolutely adore. He knew me from the production I did through the years en from my own band Pain and Hypocrisy. We shook hands backstage at a festival, but that was it. After that memorable evening in Sweden we met more often. We both love Jägermeister passionately, so more than once it evolved in a binch. Every time it ended the same: we looked at each other with blood shot eyes and promised we’d start a music project together". But it didn’t happen. Tägtgren was busy with his bands Hypocrisy, Pain and Bloodbath. In the course of time he also developed himself as renowned producer for groups as: Sabaton, Dimmu Borgir, Immortal, Amon Amarth, Children of Bodom, Amorphis and Celtic Frost. The recordings were partially done in his own The Abyss-studio. "Despite our good intentions it just didn’t happen" Lindemann continues. "Peter’s agenda poured over and I had my hands full with Rammstein. After the 2013 performances we all felt we deserved a well earned vacation. This intermission gave us the chance to accomplice some personal ambitions. Christian is busy with a book, Richard continued on his project Emigrate. Other are busy with the umpteenth Rammstein DVD. A few colleagues recently became father. When I had recovered a bit, I remembered the plans with Peter".
The respective Peter laughs as he remembers. "One day the phone rang.. It was Till. If I was still interested in working together? I thought he was joking. Our intentions were always made when we were both drunk, so I never took them serious. Till however really wanted to do this. He was particularly impressed with my work with pain. So I went to work. I continued to work on ideas I collected in the back of my mind. In the time the studio was not being used by other bands, I recorded it all. I played all instruments myself: guitar, bass, drums and keyboard. When the base was ready I sent everything to Till. He started working on the lyrics from there". Everything was done in secret Lindemann tells. "I really wanted that. And for the same reason I liked Peter taking all music on his account. The less people were working on it, the smaller the chance of something leaking out. We did not publicize anything because we wanted to work on it as quietly as possible. I didn’t want any hyped expectations in an early stage. So for a long time it was a secret hobby. It could just be that the project artistically would not be viable. In that case we wanted to leave it behind us without much fuss. Fortunately it all went optimal. Moreover, not least thanks to a Dutch musician: Clemens Wijers who had a big contribution on the elaboration of the orchestral arrangements. A huge talent, that boy. Peter had worked with him before. He liked it so he got involved as well". The singers laughs. "I am glad with the Dutch contribution. This country has been good for me anyway. As you might know I wrote two poetry books the last couple of years. The Netherlands was the first country that published its own translation. I even went to Amsterdam to do some interviews. It was quite an experience to see my writing in another language".
In preparation of this interview I’ve heard five rough mixes, they sound like a fine mixture of Rammstein and Pain. "Skills in Pills", "Fat", "Fish On", "Home Sweet Home" and "Golden Shower" are simple straightforward pounding songs. Peter Tägtgren hastens to say that the rest of the album has more colours and therefore is more varied. "There are some more complex songs, giving some more musical adventure. The section you have heard is not quite representative". In textual terms the songs sound familiar as well. Just as with Rammstein, it’s all about sex. "Golden Shower" needs no further explanation. "Fat" is about sex with voluptuous women. "I’m triggered by bizarre things that come to me via the media", he says with his familiar sonorous voice. "The TV-news is an endless source of inspiration. In the past I’ve been inspired by the story of the two men who agreed to eat one another. Or the story of the Austrian man who held a girl in his basement for years. I got the idea for "Fat" after watching a documentary about so called ‘feeders’. Men who feed up their wives so they can’t do anything anymore. It gives them a kick. Or it arouses them. I have no idea. Taking care of their fully expanded wives becomes a day job. I find this like that fascinating". Lindemann adds "Fat" is also a tribute to big women. "We’re still living in a world with a very compelling ideal of beauty. Fat women are still pushed in a corner. They are rejected based on how they look. With this songs I want to encourage them. ‘You are worth being here, show yourself’. And yes, I love a fuller woman myself. Curves have a nicer feel than skin over bone".
The singer tells that there are a few lyrics on the album that have a more serious nature. Like the title song "Skills in Pills". "It's about hypocrisy in modern society. The use of drugs is still being rejected in broad sections of the population. While the same people are often addicted to all kinds of pills prescribed by doctors. The use of booze, how excessive it may be, is widely accepted". He explains "Home Sweet Home" is about losing someone dear. "In the past years a lot of people in my surroundings have died. Mostly as a result of cancer. I'm not being pitiful about it, because I know everyone is confronted with it sooner or later. I noticed "Home Sweet Home" was important to Peter for the same reason. He as well recently lost someone close to him to the disease". The song "Yukon" does have an entirely different background, he explains. The title refers to a river in North-America. "I made a three week canoe trip with a good friend last year. The first two weeks we didn't encounter anybody. We were thrown back on ourselves completely. It was a great experience. The past years have been very intense. Loud music all the time. Full venues. People who want all kind of things. And then suddenly this silence. For weeks. I enjoyed it intensely and wrote the lines right after I got home". After a short break: "I never had the urge to sing about politics. Of course I know that there are all sorts of things happening for instance in the Ukraine. But it does not inspire me to pick up my pen and write a firm text. I rather create a slightly disturbing fantasy world. In the single case I am writing about reality. I'll find a subject close to home. I believe I find political issues too complex to summarize in a song lyric".
It’s striking that all lyrics are sung in English , while Till Lindemann is known for his world famous for his typical teutonic diction. It seems there were some good reasons to abandon that the singer explains. He really wanted Lindemann to stand out on a few key points of Rammstein. Another language was one of the obvious ways. "I made this album in close collaboration with Peter. He doesn't speak a word German. I did not want to translate everything word for word during the whole process. While it is necessary that he knows what the scope of it is. If you want to finish a song you have to know what's the lyrics are about. Lyrics and music should interact like that. Furthermore I found it a challenge to express myself in another language". The first notifications about the album were accompanied by a controversial picture of a ominous-looking Lindemann and a Tägtgren looking half female half deer. It's a style that will have its sequel in the art work of the album reports the singer. "For each songs we made a matching photo. It was hard work to come up with something original each time. The CD is going to look very interesting. Who doesn't like the music, can marvel at the artwork"
When I talk to the two gentlemen, it is unclear how the future of Lindemann will look. There are no solid plans to go on tour. "I keep a large part of the year free" Tägtgren reacts. "If the album is received well and creates a demand for performances, I can go on the road. The same goes for Till. I would obviously like nothing better. It would feel very bleak to release an album without being followed by a string of nice shows. We will have to wait. The only thing now is there will be separate showcases in a few major European cities". Just as uncertain is the future of Rammstein, till Lindemann tells. "There is currently very little contact with each other. There is no need for that either. I recent years we have spend so much time with each other, we give each other space. I think we need that time to rediscover what Rammstein means to us. When a band totally takes over your life, you lose sight of that at a certain point. We made it a good habit to meet once a year. To see where things are at that moment. Are there any new ideas? Do we want to go on tour? The last couple of times nothing concrete came out of it. We parted as good friends. Without any new plans. There are rumors going around we have split up. I want to contradict that explicitly. Rammstein still exists and I am sure we will release another album some day. Until then I enjoy myself with other adventures. Like with Lindemann".