Return of der Kaiser (interview)

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This interview was published in issue number 1568 of the UK Kerrang! magazine.

Original

Till Lindemann does not look like a man who has been awake since long before dawn. He doesn't betray the appearance of someone whose morning has been inconvenienced by British Airways, whose Christ-0-clock flight from Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris to Heathrow was delayed by several hours due to a flat battery. He certainly doesn't give the appearance of a man who claims to "hate" talking to the press, and thus very rarely does so. Instead, he sounds like a man who loves to tell stories. On an overcast Wednesday afternoon in Central London, Till Lindemann is telling a tale about the man sitting alongside him. Till first met Peter Tägtgren in the autumn of 2000, when Rammstein were in Stockholm mixing their third album, "Mutter". At this time, Peter was the vocalist and guitarist of the Swedish death metal group Hypocrisy, and the two men would meet in clubs after work. It was during one of these occasions that the Swede came close to saving the German man's life. Till Lindemann was in a biker bar with his Rammstein bandmate, keyboardist Christian 'Flake' Lorenz. Flake, "as usual, was drunk and was starting trouble, antagonising the big boys", Till says. But this time "it was real trouble, a really intense situation". Flake had deliberately torn the felt of the bar's pool table, and the bikers were in the market for blood. What's more, it looked like they were going to get it. Flake, says Till, "always starts trouble and I always have to jump in". Fortunately for the Rammstein frontman, however, Peter Tägtgren entered the hostelry and somehow managed to calm the situation down. Following this Till and Peter retreated to Peter's house and "got wasted on moonshine — homemade schnapps and homemade liquor". The pair kept in touch. Till Lindemann rose to the position of frontman of one of the world's most iconic and popular metal bands, while Peter became the producer of no fewer than a hundred albums, including works by Children Of Bodom and Dimmu Borgir. Thirteen years after the scuffle in the biker bar, the pair decided to write a song together. Peter composed the music at his home studio, the Abyss, in northern Sweden, while Till sent in lyrics from rural Germany. The first song the pair wrote was called "Ladyboy". Ask Till Lindemann if he's ever had a personal experience with a transsexual and he'll answer, "Oh yeah, sure," in a manner that suggests he's been asked if he can tell the time. It was on Hamburg's notorious thoroughfare the Reeperbahn, he'll explain, and he and a friend and "some girls" were in a flat smoking weed and drinking beer. He thought he'd got lucky with one of the girls, only for him to discover on closer inspection that all was not quite as it first appeared. "l was like, ‘Holy moly!"' laughs the German, pulling his hand up to his shoulder as he recalls his surprise. Then he has a think. "But [transsexuals] are amazing," he says. "You have all the great stuff in one place. You have the boobs and the pussy and the..." here Till Lindemann points to his own crotch “...you know, the guy part. If you like that kind of stuff, it must be amazing. You get two in one!" This is absolutely brilliant, you stop and think: Till Lindemann is properly bonkers! The singer himself puts it this way. “I have two lives,” he explains, as if, you know, everyone does.
When Till Lindemann is setting himself on fire at venues such as London's O2 Arena or New York's Madison Square Garden, and Download’s main stage, the Rammstein frontman admits — with a theatrical wave of his hand — that he "has people blowing smoke up my ass and kissing my ass and all that kind of stuff". "But then I go home and it's completely different," he says. "Of course there are some people who like to continue this lifestyle, and they have their entourages and all of that stuff. But I go home and I spend most of my time in the countryside, and I go to the super-shit drug store to buy things, and I spend time with my family. It's all very normal. It's back to the ground, and it's super-easy. It takes a couple of days to get back into your second life, but it's really important that you do so, otherwise you go crazy." But on this day, in front of Kerrang!, Till Lindemann will embrace the public side of his two lives. Today the 52-year-old Berliner, who looks like Bryan Ferry and Herman Munster were melted down and reformed together, is seconded for fewer than 24 hours in the luxury of Park Lane's Metropolitan Hotel, the lodging du jour for the discerning rockstar. A man who when not On Duty likes to fish for pike and cook pasta and squid is this afternoon taking lunch at the impossibly exclusive Nobu sushi restaurant, and with delighted exasperation is now telling Kerrang! about “all the beautiful women in there". He sighs heavily and talks of "the beautiful women with their long legs and skirts and panties and stuff". "Sex is everywhere," he says. "It makes the world go around." Sex is everywhere, it seems, not least on Till Lindemann’s mind. Following the recording of "Ladyboy", he and Peter continued writing. Four or five songs followed, at which point the German travelled north to the Abyss studios where the pair would record the written material and fish at lakes so close by that they could cast their lines from the studio window. Till asked the other five members of Rammstein to give what he now describes as "a project" rather than a solo album — this despite the fact that this project arrives this summer under the moniker Lindemann - their blessing, which each man did. Part of the deal was that, for the first time in his career, the lyricist would sing his songs entirely in English. This is why today your reporter is sitting in the foyer of the Metropolitan listening to an album that features lyrics about the pleasures of urinating on your lover, of having sex with girls who are obese, of the sex lives of cowboys and transsexuals, and, even, the desirability of abortion. Yet, somehow, material that in other hands might appear perverted and depraved — and certainly very clumsy — here benefits from a mischievous touch that sometimes even borders on the fully hilarious. “Thank you," says the vocalist. You do sound like a man obsessed with sex, though, Till. "I don't know why everyone is making such a big deal about this, all this sex thing," he says. "This is how we're made, yet no-one dares to speak of this! I don't find it that much of an effort to write about these things at all, in fact it's a very easy subject to write about." Do you get laid a lot? "Yes, sure," he says, like, ‘What's the problem?’ "But when I was younger I didn't get much. When guys are young, most of the time they can't get laid. Maybe later they try to catch up. Maybe it sticks in their head a little bit. “Maybe when I was younger I didn't get enough sex, and now that I'm older I get too much," he says. "Perhaps that's why I'm always thinking about it."

It is, then, very difficult not to view Lindemann the "project" and Rammstein ‘the band’ in purely sexual terms. If you like, this New Thing is an extramarital affair, while the band for whom he has sung for 26 years is now an ageing and increasingly unattractive wife. When this is put to Till, it takes not a beat of a fluttering heart for the frontman to catch the questioner's drift. "I know what you're about to say!" he exclaims. Go on, then. "That you should leave your old bitch at home and take off with this new big-titted beauty!" Well, er, I wasn't quite going to put it like that. I was going to say more, like, with this new Lindemann infatuation catching your eye, how do you keep Rammstein from becoming old and stale? Listening alongside Till, Peter raises his head and says, quietly, "Don't say anything stupid." If you want to say something stupid, please do. But instead, Till Lindemann merely smiles and gathers his thoughts. "Whenever we're about to get together as Rammstein, I always look forward to seeing those people again," says the singer. "I'm always excited to see what it is that we come up with. But I'm scared at the same time, because we're getting older and getting more tricky in our behaviour. We're becoming more bitchy and picky and cheesy. Everybody has their issues and their own tastes. Everybody wants to say something. So, we have all these opinions coming up, everyone has their say, and it makes it really hard to produce music. There's too much talking, too much arguing and infighting about stuff. And I'm a bit scared of this situation because with Lindemann I'm coming from something that was just so easy-going and peaceful and laid-back. [This side-project] is the beautiful, big-boobied young girl, and Rammstein is the nagging wife with the boring food and the really bad sex. "But," he concludes, "you stay together for the benefit of the kids." This, though, isn't quite true, and Till Lindemann knows it. As he says, "The reason that [Rammstein] has lasted for 20, 25 years is because we talk and talk and talk." Since 1989, the group has shed not a single member, itself an extraordinary achievement. Theirs is a democracy — "and it is a proper democracy," explains their singer — that actually predates the democratic institutions of the east side of Berlin, where the sextet formed. In their earliest days the sextet would play on the communist side of the Berlin Wall, and would be required to audition before state authorities that would decide whether or not to grant them a license allowing them to perform in public. Be sure of this: when it comes to earning the right to express themselves as they so desire, and in a manner others take for granted, the members of Rammstein know more about it than most. "We've learned to communicate, and to let everyone have their say," says Till. "Sometimes it's really boring, sometimes it's a pain in the ass, but it is important. By talking with the band I have learned how to deal with the problems that come up in my private life. I have learned how to communicate, because communication is the key. You have to talk about everything. That is why no-one in the band has ever said, 'I want to leave this shitty job.' Talking about everything is the secret to why we've survived so long." Over the course of more than a quarter of a century, Rammstein has become a union built of sinew and bone, iron and steel. Because of this, Till can have his affair with the "big-boobied beauty" that is his and Peter's brilliant "project", can enjoy the ease of it all, the freedom it affords. He can savour without guilt the giddy flutter of this new romance. It is something that can even exist in some kind of harmony with what by comparison might be described in its most unflattering light as his dayjob. But when night falls, Rammstein is the place that Till Lindemann is bound to call home.