– from station to station

By: Johan Carlsson
New Rammstein photos by: Olaf Heine

After nearly splitting up, Rammstein suddenly returns with a new album. In June, Johan Carlsson listened to it and hooked up with spiky haired guitarist and founder Richard Z Kruspe as well as tall drummer Christoph Schneider, in a small hotel room in Stockholm to learn more about the new sound, internal issues, tape culture in East Germany and cannibalism.
Finally Johan sings The Sounds' "Living in America" and Rammstein discover, for the first time, it can be heard in their song "Amerika".

The Wall
All six Rammstein members come from former East Germany. Behind the iron curtain, and maybe not the best place to go record hunting. Christoph Schneider reminisces:
– Yeah, back then we had more of a tape culture, and it was a bit hard to get many records. Everything came pretty late to the east, but if you were interested in something, you could get it. It’s not like we were living behind the moon like some people like to think.
Most of the members come from the metal side of things, but some like Christoph listened to other styles as well.
– In the 80:s we had the Neue Deutsche Welle. Many German bands came out and they used these new instruments like computers and keyboards. It sounded very electronic, and they had German lyrics. That was their entire concept, haha.
– For a couple of years it was very popular, and then it disappeared. But this influenced me a lot, I liked that music, and later also darkwave music like The Cult, The Cure and Einstürzende Neubauten, he says.
The more or less organised sound and electronic parts are something that sets Rammstein apart from many other guitar driven bands, and has always been part of the band's strategy of melding the aggression of metal with melodies. Richard Z Kruspe elaborates.
– Our keyboards were in the beginning more about making some noises, but we started to fall in love with the computer world. So we used it a lot more on the early albums, it was the new thing. We felt excited.
– But in the end you come back to your instruments again, you become more confident with them. You don’t need the electronics, you just play it on your instrument instead, he explains.

Sounds thieves?
Rammstein have of course never been better at playing than on the new album. They are considering the title “Reise Reise”, which roughly translated means “Travel Travel”.
– It’s about the whole life. This time, most songs are about love. And we had this song called “Reise Reise” and thought it might be the album title. I mean, we travel through all kinds of stations throughout life, which is interesting.
You worked with Jacob Hellner once again. Did you record it here in Sweden?
– Yeah, and in France. Guitars and vocals: in the south of Spain, says Christoph.
I have listened to "Reise Reise", and the album has a more direct feel, with more acoustic guitars and drums. Even some blues-like riffs can be heard on the track "Los". Richard tells me more about the new musical direction:
– We really tried to play more live on this album. The machine thing is not as strong, Kruspe says.
I heard some synths in the background.
– Yeah, but they are not as strong.
– We tried to use them less, Schneider chips in. This time it wasn’t possible to re-invent this thing once again. We tried to bring in more life. We tried new rhythms.
I mention that I heard shuffle beats on one song, and drummer Christoph lights up.
– Yeah, this is the first time we have used shuffle rhythms, he says, obviously thrilled that someone noticed.

There’s one song on the album called “Amerika” that might become the second single. It sounds a bit political, but Richard tells me it’s not.
– No, it’s not political at all. You know, everyone has a different opinion about America, but it’s more an ironic way to describe a culture that's everywhere. Not only the bad way, but also in a good way. Everywhere you go, you can’t miss America. And we’re playing on those things.
The chorus sounds suspiciously similar to that of Swedish band The Sounds' hit “Living in America”, and I bring it up. Christoph looks at me with a surprised look on his face.
– Really, I don’t know the song!
Richard, who is on his way to the bathroom, laughs.
– To me it sounds more like The Beatles.
He starts to sing "We all living in a yellow submarine".
Christoph investigates further, so I sing the Swedish song for him. "We're not living in America...".
– Really? It’s almost the same line!
I realize this was probably not a conscious move from them.
– No. Sometimes this happens… and they will think we have copied them. There’s so much music out now, that you’re bound to make something that has been done before, I guess.

Armin Meiwes is sentenced to 8,5 years in prison.
Photo by: AP

Private parts
No strangers to provocation, Rammstein’s new single “Mein Teil” is about cannibalism. And cooked genitals. Christoph tells the fascinating tale about the German cannibal Armin Meiwes who was big news not long ago.
– The song is about two people who met via the Internet. To eat each other! A man was looking for a victim he could murder, and the victim did this by his own free will. It was a very weird story, and Till (Lindemann, vocalist) wrote a lyric about it.
– After these two people had sex, they cut off the victim's “tool”, and thereby the title “Mein Teil” (“My Part”). In a magazine they described it: they tried to cut it off, but it didn’t work. But they finally managed. And then they both ate it! He ate his own tool! After that, the cannibal did the rest of his job, slaughtered him and put everything in a deep freezer. The whole case was hidden for a long time, and each weekend he made a meal for himself, with potatoes and vegetables. He had the feeling that for the first time in his life, he had a friend. He was otherwise very alone, but he had a feeling of friendship for the victim.
Richard steps in.
– It’s very interesting to get into the psyche of him. His mother was so strong, and he was afraid of her. And she turned everyone away from him, so he couldn’t reach out to anyone. I think that, if you look at other murderers like Jeffrey Dahmer and Ted Bundy for example, when they killed, it was because they were afraid that their victims would leave them. And a reason for eating them was to keep them. Very interesting.
– The law didn’t know how to handle it, because the victim wanted to do it, Christoph continues. But they decided to give him a couple of years for lust murder.

Hard boys
The single is getting the remix treatment by Arthur Baker and British synthpop legends Pet Shop Boys. The duo has made two different versions, wittingly titled “PSB You Are What You Eat Mix” and “PSB There Are No Guitars on This Mix”.
– I liked it, Christoph says. Yeah. It’s dancey. And, for them, it’s kind of hardfloor. I expected a more soft mix. The problem with remixes is that you have to be very careful with the lyrics. Use them in the right way. And the Pet Shop Boys have made them a bit faster, to fit the dance beat.
With six members in the band, I guess there is a possibility for a lot of conflict. When I bring up the subject, they first laugh before Richard diplomatically gives an answer.
– Well, there are always good things and bad things. The good thing is that there are so many combinations of people in the band that you’ll learn a lot about yourself. It’s almost like a self-therapy group, and we’ve been through different stages of life, you know, both loving and the “can’t stand anymore” phases. In the end we always managed to come back, cause we feel that the band requires all its members.
When I ask if the rumours about the band splitting up after the last album “Mutter” are true, Richard silently moves the question over to Christoph.
– After the last album we had a crisis. We didn’t say we’d split up, but we had problems. We had to find new ways to continue.
– The band has been together for ten years, and we’ve never got to a breaking point, which is a good thing, Richard says.
– Yeah, but sometimes it can be very tiring, Schneider continues. You never reach any results, and then you have to find some common ground that everybody can agree with. Once we were talking about stage clothes, and we couldn’t find a direction, and in the end we came on stage with black jeans. The black side of democracy…
Richard goes on:
– Democracy… there is not one member in the band who is a leader that decides “that’s never gonna happen”. Of course, a lot of people try to be, but that one is immediately pulled back. All are part of the Rammstein process. It would be good if everyone found their specialties, but they all want to do everything.

Now my time with these two German, down to earth rockstars are almost over, but I quickly ask if I can get some more information about their life, as I know most of them have families, and presumably also other interests than music and pyrotechnics. Christoph snaps:
I’m always in the band…
But Richard tells me that unfortunately he has no hobbies outside of the group.
– I’ve been searching for one! I think I could be interested in sailing. I think it’s something that would be good for my soul. I’m always happy when I’m on a boat.
It's pretty obvious that they really don't want to talk about their private lives, so I give up and we say goodbye. Then I walk through Stockholm and I can't help humming the chorus to "Amerika".