Worlds collide (interview)

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This interview was published on 28 May 2015 on Artistdirect.


There's nothing quite like hearing Rammstein singer Till Lindemann's booming croon over a gnashingly gorgeous soundscape from Peter Tägtgren of Pain and Hypocrisy. That chemistry makes Lindemann's "Skills in Pills", out June 23, such a heart-wrenchingly hilarious and heavy exercise in musical alchemy. The German vocalist and Swedish musical jack-of-all-trades have been friends for a long time, but one day they just decided to hit the studio and cut a song. It snowballed from there, and now they've got an industrialized metal opus that's as fiery as it is funny. Nothing's off limits, and most American listeners really get to experience Lindemann's English singing here. The words might shock you or make you laugh to no end. Either way, you're in for one of the year's best rides when you swallow Skills in Pills. Rock doesn't get more addictive. Given how incredible and inimitable this offering is, we spoke to both Till and Peter about the record, canoeing in the Yukon, a sequel idea for Trainspotting, why they loved this interview, and so much more.

Skills in Pills is amazing!
Till: Really? Thank you so much!

You found a creative middle ground to do what you both do, while expanding it at the same time.
Till: There's nothing more to say, my friend [Laughs]. You just hit the nail right on the head, exactly. We can all go home!

Was the impetus to both expand and merge your respective psyches?
Peter: To be honest, we didn't really think anything when we started. We didn't say we were going to do an album together. We just said, "Let's try to do one song and see what it sounds like." For us, it was nothing really planned.

Was the chemistry there immediately?
Peter: As soon as we started to send files back and forth, we thought things were coming out very easily. We connected very well right away. It was just a snowball effect. One thing led to another and another. All of a sudden, we had twelve songs.
Till: I told Peter, "Let's do one song, then put it on the internet, and let people decide if it's good or not. Maybe we continue after that." Peter's a greedy bastard, so he won't give it away [Laughs]. We recorded another. Then, we had a second song and a third song. He came up with the idea, "Let's make an EP." After we had enough for an EP, he was like, "Let's make a whole f***ing record!" [Laughs]. Within a year, we made the kind of progress in writing and recording that other bands would take a decade to do because we were really efficient in working. It was really fast, and we learned a lot from each other.

It feels like you guys have been making music together for twenty years. What did you respectively learn from each other?
Till: I don't need to learn anything from Peter, but he learned a lot from me [Laughs]!
Peter: He's in la-la land, you know?
Till: For me, it was really new and good in the same way. I just had one person to fight with in the recording room instead of five so for me it was like a vacation [Laughs].
Peter: We didn't really push anything to anyone. All of these things we came up with just came naturally like ideas or changes in songs. Till would come up to me and say, "Hey, why don't you take this part away and put this one in?" I'd say, "Okay, why not?" We'd try it and see if it worked. Then, it'd be like, "F*** yeah! Brilliant!" We'd keep on going like that. We're always full of ideas.

It can be hilarious at points, but it's visual and cohesive. Do you see a thread throughout, or did you just lock into such a good chemistry everything fit?
Till: We tried to cover all of the corners of life. All of these topics are authentic and original. On the one hand, I think I speak for many people with a lot of the humor and sarcastic stuff going on. It's melodramatic at times. It's a lot of levels in energy and feelings. I think it's a roller coaster. On the other hand, Peter always calls this record a party record and compares it to Billy Idol and things like that. I can totally agree with that too, so you can take a lot of moods.

Till, American audiences have always felt so much emotion and power in your lyrics, but they didn't know what you were saying! Now, they get to hear it. It adds another dimension for your fans in primarily English-speaking countries. They finally get to see what's going on...
Till: I really hope for that so much my friend.

There's a great balance lyrically between those emotions and the music. The instrumentation and sonics work towards this constant motion that makes you want to listen from start-to-finish.
Till: You're making my neck swollen now [Laughs]. All of these compliments! Thank you very much.

How did "Children of the Sun" come together?
Peter: I don't know what came first the lyrics or the music.
Till: I remember the music was first.
Peter: I think I had this violin melody in my head that I needed to get out. I started building heavy guitar things around it. You want to have the black, white, and everything in between. If it goes soft with a violin, then it goes super heavy with a guitar with down-tuning. Then you get something extraordinary in my opinion. For me, music has always been about pulse. You need to have a good pulse and the right BPM shift. That's really how it started with the music. With the lyrics, it's a little different.
Till: I can bet. It was a certain song. Peter sent over a file. One of my girlfriends liked the song a lot so I decided to work on that [Laughs]. The other girlfriends don't like it, and I was in trouble. It demands a hard lyric. The third one decides to be really romantic on that, so I go for that! We have to f*** around a little bit, or it gets really boring [Laughs]. You have really good questions by the way. You're the guy!

That means a lot, thank you! What's the story behind "Yukon"? It leads into "Praise Abort" perfectly.
Till: "Yukon" was the one in the mountains. They're so different from each other. It's a good color on the record. I ended up in Canada with a friend of mine last summer. We were on the border to Alaska in the Yukon. It was really inspiring so I had to write something about it. I called Peter from a ghost town up north in Canada, and I told him, "We started a canoeing trip down the Yukon." He was like, "What where are you? What the f*** are you doing there?"
Peter: I had no idea he left. He's one of those guys who can disappear for a couple of weeks, and nobody knows where the f*** he is. That's how he is.
Till: I wrote him some sketches of the lyrics, and he started sitting on them. Then, he wrote some really good music around it. He starts with the piano. It's like the start to a Martin Scorsese movie or something. He really set the mood of the lyrics.
Peter: I got in the mood of being on that river and in front of it when I read the lyrics. Sometimes, it works, and sometimes it doesn't. I was really inspired by that.

It's another different moment for the album. A record should venture to various places so the listener doesn't feel stuck in one place.
Till: No, life is a roller coaster, you know?

If you were to compare the album to a movie or a combination of movies, what would it be?
Peter: It would probably be Trainspotting or something like that.
Till: Trainspotting 2! That would be the movie for the album!

Why do you say that? The record isn't that depressing...
Till: [Laughs].
Peter: It's not depressing!
Till: It's a lot of being in bed with Skills and Pills and so on. We're going to shoot a movie anyhow.
Peter: We created these pictures for every song title and tried to combine them with what Till is singing and we put them in photos. There have been a couple on the net, but there are s***loads more. Till worked really hard on it, and every song has a photo and you have the lyrics on the other side. That's the booklet. It's a 360-deal. You're getting good music hopefully, but also you get a lot of good stuff.

It harks back to when an album could be a full experience.
Peter: Yeah!
Till: I miss those days.
Peter: It's a lot of money, but we don't give a f***. We want to give people the best thing possible.

When was the moment it made sense?
Till: For me, it was definitely after the ballet was done. He and I listened to it at the ballet. He comes from the metal section, so he's always like, "This ballet is lame!" A good record needs a good ballet to bring it to the people. He came up with the masterpiece with "Home Sweet Home", and then I realized we have something special going on here.

It's the perfect midpoint!
Till: Yes!

Have you written more music?
Peter: We haven't stopped yet [Laughs]. We keep going. There are a lot of ideas in our heads. I guess now there have been promos and video shoots. Till has spent s***loads of time on pre-production for the video and with the photos for the booklet.
Till: The title of the second album is Do Not C**k [Laughs]. You know the sign on the garage, "Do Not Block" think of it this way!

Do you always have this much fun?
Till: No! It's about you. You're kind of different, I promise! We blame it on you [Laughs].

What are you most looking forward to? How is it going to come together live?
Peter: We don't know!
Till: All I can think of is taking a vacation from this [Laughs]. Or getting the check from Warner! Let's check out The Maldives or something. Making the record was a piece of cake. That was fun. It's the contracts, artwork, promotions, and all that which is what we work our a**es off on.

When's the next canoeing trip?
Till: I go to New Zealand next summer [Laughs].