In early 1996, Rammstein were not the globe-straddling, pyrotechnic-exploding colossus we know and love today. They were a Ramones support act.
The sextet's debut album Herzeleid had been released during the previous September, but no one was buying. “After we released the first record, nothing happened,” keyboardist Christian "Flake" Lorenz told Metal Hammer. "Nobody wanted to buy it because nobody knew about it. We just played and played and played, and slowly the people in the crowd got more and more."
Towards the end of 1995 the Berliners headlined their own dates, but otherwise they were a warm-up act. They toured Germany with darkwave pioneers Project Pitchfork, and travelled to the Czech Republic, Poland, Austria and Switzerland with Swedish metallers Clawfinger. Then, as a new year broke, Rammstein hooked up with the Ramones for six shows on the German leg of the New Yorkers' ¡Adios Amigos! farewell tour.
By March they'd played another series of headline dates on the winter leg of the Herzeleid tour, climaxing with a show at Potsdam's Lindenpark on March 3. And then it was off to London to appear on MTV's flagship Hanging Out show. It was to be the band's first performance in the UK, and their debut TV appearance. Nothing could possibly go wrong, right?
Wrong. After an intro by VJ Lisa I'Anson in which she refers to Rammstein as "David Lynch's favourite band" and "very large, very big", the band launch into Wollt Ihr Das Bett In Flammen Sehen?, and it's pretty clear they've arrived in the UK fully-formed, with that now-familiar thumping riff in place.
On the down side there's no real show to speak of, with the pale flames superimposed on the band footage a poor replacement for the real thing. There was a reason for this. This performance was broadcast on TV, where lighting is tightly controlled, so the band was asked not to use any stage effects.
Till Lindemann, of course, had other ideas. During the band's second song, Du Riechst So Gut, the singer deliberately punctured a blood capsule, leaving fake bloodstains on his nostrils... and MTV cut away to a station ident, presumably leaving the band to finish the song unwatched.
It wasn't the only time Rammstein woulds run into trouble with MTV. The following year, the broadcaster decided not to air the promo for Engel, the first single from their second album, Sehnsucht, after it scored poorly with a focus group.
Rammstein's subsequent protest was an unusual one. Ahead of their appearance at the Hurricane Festival in Scheessel, near Hamburg, the band captured MTV Germany's artist relations manager Bernd Rathjen, gaffa-taped him to a chair, tied a smoke bomb to his leg, and detonated it.
Happily, this incident, described by German MTV managing director Michael Oplesch as "obviously a PR strategy for Rammstein," didn't do any lasting damage to either the victim's leg nor Rammstein's career.
I'Anson's remark about David Lynch eventually made sense. Lynch and Trent Rezor selected two more Rammstein songs, Heirate Mich and Rammstein, to feature on the soundtrack to the director's 1997 arthouse movie Lost Highway, and suddenly a whole new audience opened up. That same year, Sehnsucht turned them into stars across Europe, dragging the first record along for the ride. They would never look back.