Metals best kept secret (interview)

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This interview was published on on 15 May 2015.


NOTE: A big thank you for this translation goes out to Jeremie Vasseur!

Wrongly proclaimed as a solo breakaway of RAMMSTEIN’s singer, LINDEMANN is the fruit of a collaboration between Till Lindemann and producer/multi-instrumentalist Peter Tägtgren (PAIN / HYPOCRISY) and his first album “Skills in Pills” is due to come out on June, 22th. Sumptuous mixture of industrial and gothic influences, beginning from start to end with lyrics that would remain a milestone (“Golden Shower”, “Praise Abort”, “Ladyboy”), we caught the duet during its promotional tour in the capital. Appointment set in a luxurious hotel room with a Till Lindemann smoothly recovering from a flu and a Peter Tägtgren hanging from his cup of coffee.

When did you start to compose together?
Peter: We became friends around 2000, but it took us ages before both our agendas cleared out! (laughs) RAMMSTEIN spent 15 years without a single break, to record albums, go on tour… When the opportunity to meet up occurred, we didn’t hesitate. We recorded this album over a period of a year and a half.

Initially these songs had no commercial aim, you were just doing it for fun, weren’t you?
Peter: Yeah! (laughs) Actually we didn’t expect to write so many. You know it’s always rewarding to compose with other persons...
Till: I just wanted him to upload a title online, just to see the peoples’ reaction. Especially because I sing in English... (sigh) You know I had the impression of starting from scratch again. I didn’t know if the fans were going to love it or even if I was able to! It was a real challenge. Peter really believed it would work out.

Was it the source of a major discussion between the two of you?
Peter: At the beginning we did it without thinking. We mostly saw its practical aspect actually, I wouldn’t have understood a thing if he had sung in German! (laughs)

This album features a strong identity. We clearly hear RAMMSTEIN as well as PAIN or HYPOCRISY...
Peter: For the first title we wrote Till had given me a direction. He had a very precise idea of the music he wanted, it was for the song "Ladyboy". It’s the first song to be produced, the rest came very naturally, it had a snowball effect! Sometimes he sent me lines of singing around which I constructed the music... Our priority was mainly to not be too close with RAMMSTEIN, especially in the vocals.

Till, I found an interview of you in which you were saying to hate being at the end of the production line with RAMMSTEIN, having to write songs already musically achieved. I suspect it was a relief for you to work with Peter?
Till: Yeah, we worked differently. A few songs were written as you said, but we developed a true way of working together. By lack of time it happened that I had to sing on a beat box and let him compose the rest because I had to take the plane! It was a premiere for me!
Peter: Yeah, for me too!
Till: I recorded myself on my mobile in my bathroom in order to get some reverb and I then sent the files to him so that he can assemble the demos...
Peter: No matter it’s been 20 years I write lyrics, it’s not comparable to what Till does. When you write lyrics on ready music, you are limited, which is why we found it better that he gives me texts so that I can construct the music around them. It’s quite a unique operation, but I think we’re going to keep it in the future.
Till: By letting me writing the lyrics he had to cede some of the copyrights, but well...
Peter: (laughs)
Till: He wanted to keep all for himself!
Peter: WHAT?! (laughs)
Till: It was a real issue, but now he is obliged to share! That’s why I wrote the lyrics (laughs)

Peter, what did you think when you received the lyrics of “Ladyboy” which is thus the first song you guys composed?
Peter: (laughs) Let’s say that today nothing may surprise me anymore from him! Yeah, I have to say that he put the bar very high with this title. But you know with time I learned to read between lines and to detect his humor, I hope people know how to do so when listening to the album.
Till: I remember he told me: “But are you serious? You’re really going to sing that?” (laughs). I hate to say it isn’t the same thing to read something on the paper and to listen to it...
Peter: Yeah that’s it, I received his texts and thought: “Ok, it’s damn crazy…” but when he sang them it was… raw and straight!

It’s true that the lyrics of this album are very... flowery?
Till: It isn’t on purpose, it comes all alone!
Peter: You psycho! (laughs)

There are some that are magnificent after all...
Peter: Yeah, more serious songs like "Yukon", "Children of the Sun" and "Home Sweet Home". The feeling is different, but they are awesome.

It was as easy for you to write a ballad like "Home Sweet Home" for example?
Till: I had to force him to do it because he had never written a song like that. He wasn’t even seeing the point to put it on the album. Apart from the topic it addresses, this song is important to me because it contributes to the eclecticism of the album. We go through a range of styles, texts, atmospheres… It’s the first ballad he ever wrote in his life! And it is splendid!

It is obvious that this project is more a collaboration than a solo album, what many people initially thought. Why LINDEMANN?
Till: It’s just a name!
Peter: Yeah, people will better understand after listening to the album...
Till: When we named our band RAMMSTEIN, it caused a big wave of discontent in Germany, people were saying to us: "But how dare you? With all these people who died in this explosion?" But today nobody thinks about that, it has become a label, the name of a band, it will be the same with LINDEMANN. I have to thank Peter for that by the way, we didn’t find any better!
Peter: It wasn’t even his idea!
Till: All the good band names were taken!

I understand that sharing wasn’t the strong point of Peter! (laughs)
Till: Yes, it’s complicated for him! (laughs)
Peter: Yeah! (grabs a cup of coffee) It’s mine! Don’t touch! (laughs)

The advertisement of this project was made by the publication of a simple promo picture, a bit strange with you Peter on the body of a horse wearing a wedding dress… What was the concept behind that?
Peter: A new couple is on the market! (smile) We wanted that it symbolizes a kind of musical marriage. I don’t know, when we saw it we immediately thought that people must see this one first. We knew it would make them react: "But what is this thing?"
Till: With underwear on the floor... Just to give a little foretaste of what was going on...

Will you go on tour?
Till: We think about it, yes!
Peter: Yes, it’s one of our projects. Before that we want to wait and see what people think about it, then we will know what we can do with it. To what extent can we drive this project… With which musicians will we go, these kinds of things. We’ll see. If it becomes a necessity we will do it!

Peter, you work with many bands as a producer, you got your own studio… What does motivate you to work on somebody’s music? A feeling? Matching personalities?
Till: He trains to mix! (laughs)
Peter: No!
Till: Excuse-me Peter! (laughs) I’m sick as a dog, I need to compensate by being mean to you! (he bangs on the table) AAAAH!
Peter: Yes, your turn! (laughs) It was great to work with Till because he’s very creative. I had never written with someone who had so many ideas, he is very talented when it comes to structuring a song for example. Move about the different parts, transform a verse into a chorus, we tried everything until it works out! There are songs which demanded a big amount of work, especially on the choruses, there are others which were easy to write, too... But it went smoothly after all.

When two universes and two very strong personalities like yours meet and work together, is it the source of many compromises?
Till: He doesn’t have a strong personality… (burst of laughter) More seriously we learn a lot from each other. You know after being the leader in RAMMSTEIN for 20 years, it was great to change a little bit of the environment. Well, of course when you change of studio every time you meet new people but it’s temporary, you have no time to learn, you somehow hang on the branches. This time we really spent time together. I learned a lot about recording methods and I taught him how I usually work… We complemented each other!

Yes and RAMMSTEIN is a really a big machine compared to a brand new project like this one...
Till: I was like holidays, really! (smile) I have seen it as a big break of two years. In my head it wasn’t as if I was working on another project, I was free! Especially because Peter lives in a brilliant small place where people often go on holidays… The studio is situated in front of a lake, in the middle of the woods… in a gorgeous setting! We just had fun making music. There were never pressure, stress, or dispute issues… We composed and then we went fishing, we were having barbecues… and we were banging chicks in the woods!
Peter: Yes, that’s it! (laughs) Actually it was a clear advantage of telling nobody what we were up to. No one was here to put pressure upon us! It was the best thing to do. We were very productive, the day after his first arrival he was already recording the vocals for 3 or 4 songs. It was very impressive.
Till: It went fast, yeah!
Peter: I have to say that you were very prepared!
Till: Yes, it’s true. I have much practiced the songs in my corner. While cooking, reading books, having a shower with the music that had composed Peter in the background… Additionally I didn’t have to worry about the treatment my voice would receive because Peter is ace at that.

Being someone very productive, does this album contain texts that you had put aside for a while?
Till: It was more like a plunge in the deep end of the English language, which anyway offered a very broad range to play with. "Ladyboy" was written in a day for example!
Peter: I remember that we restructured the song on the phone, didn’t we?
Till: Ah yes! (laughs) I think the most complicated song to make was "Yukon".
Peter: (sigh) Aaah "Yukon"...
Till: It was like a lego game, the intro went after the chorus, we changed it all!
Peter: It took me a while to be satisfied with this song, it didn’t have the same brightness as the rest of the album.

This question might sound silly, but did you envisage to sing on the album, Peter?
Till: (burst of laughter)
Peter: Leave him laughing! He is crazy!
Till: Do as if I’m not here! (laughs)
Peter: No and I was very glad to not have had to do it. Really!
Till: But I thought about it at the beginning because I love what he does. I often warm up my voice with his music by the way before getting on stage. All these motions, these big basses, and this twangy voice: "Gnagnagna!" (Till performs a nice imitation of Peter) You see the genre? (burst of laughter) No, I’m kidding. He’s a very good singer, but in my head, I wanted that a gothic atmosphere. In the beginning we both wanted to sing on a song, but from time to time I started to have a very precise vision of what I wanted to do with his music. Eventually, it worked out very well and I’m very pleased with the result. There is metal, gothic, sadness, melancholia, and humor too. It’s grotesque, ironic… I really hope that people will manage to read between lines.

We suspect that this project will go beyond a unique album, right?
Till: Oh yes! This autumn I will meet up again with RAMMSTEIN, I look forward to seeing the family again, Peter will go back to his projects but I think that within 4 or 5 years… I don’t want that it stops here, we had too much fun for that!