Hammer is sitting in the lobby of a five-star hotel in London, listening to Till Lindemann sing about golden showers. As the Rammstein singer booms ‘cunt’ down our headphones, we imagine what the businessmen around us would make of all this – ‘this’ being Skills In Pills, the debut album from Lindemann, Till’s new side-project with Swedish multi-instrumentalist and Hypocrisy mastermind, Peter Tägtgren.
When we share this thought with Till later, he creases up. Seemingly seven feet tall, the 52-year-old German is one of the most physically imposing people in metal, yet it quickly becomes apparent that, for all the onstage insanity, in real life he’s soft-spoken, polite and, dare it be said, gentlemanly, proffering his arm on the way to his room where the interview will take place. In contrast to Peter’s chatty and business-like demeanour, Till is more intense, sometimes shy, but his twisted humour reveals itself as we’re led around to the hotel’s side entrance and into the lift. “This feels a bit like a hooker situation,” he grins. Gentlemanly, indeed…/o:p
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It follows that the duo’s album is just as multifaceted. Skills In Pills seems to reflect the different aspects of Till’s personality, boasting playful, smutty songs like Ladyboy and the aforementioned Golden Shower, with the bleakly beautiful Children Of The Sun and Home Sweet Home also in the mix. Peter’s years of experience producing for the likes of Dimmu Borgir and Children Of Bodom have given it a tight sound, with a metallic crunch and industrial heart beating beneath a hooky, Euro-synth lustre.
In their fancy suite, Peter recounts how the Lindemann project began. It was September 2013, as Rammstein wrapped up their explosive Liebe Ist Für Alle Da tour.
“Till invited me to a festival in Sweden, just before Rammstein were going on a two-year break,” Peter recalls. “He said, ‘Let’s do something!’ I sent him the files for the first song and a couple of days later he sent it back with vocals! It went so smoothly that we had to try another. And another. And another…”/o:p
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While Peter’s been busy with different musical projects over the years, Lindemann is Till’s first ever major musical departure from Rammstein. That makes this collaboration kind of a huge deal. So, the question must be asked: what has the dynamic been like between these two similarly eccentric, yet delightfully unique characters?
“There is no dynamic,” says a straight-faced Till. He glances at Peter and they start cackling. They share the same sense of humour, but there is obviously something special going on here…
The story goes that their friendship began years ago when Peter rescued Till from getting beaten up by a jealous boyfriend and his mates. When we comment that we know who we’d rather have on our side in a bar fight, Till smiles shyly, as if he’s unaware of how terrifying he is.
“That fight was all about [Rammstein keyboardist] Flake,” Till admits. “He started shit, like he always did in those days because he’s a tiny guy and nobody ever harms him. He knew somebody would save his ass!”
So basically, this is a kinship born of fights, frolics and partying?
“Why does everybody think we party all the time?!” Till asks Peter, feigning exasperation.
“It’s not like we quit drinking… just not when we’re in the studio,” clarifies Peter, before gesturing to Till and adding, “Although he always has a few beers when he records.”
“It’s good for the voice,” says Till seriously.
“That’s what she said,” whips back Peter.
“The point was to have fun,” Peter adds. “We wanted to do a couple of songs, see what we could learn from each other. Then suddenly half the album was done and it wasn’t just a hobby any more. We had to try and keep it a secret!”/o:p
In 2015, that’s no small feat. So far the guys have managed to keep things mostly under wraps, revealing, prior to this interview at least, only the project name, a date and a single image of themselves dressed as a bride and groom – a truly odd couple. But Till tells us he initially wanted to use the internet to gauge fans’ opinions, rather than spread the word.
“I wanted to put the first song up online, to see how people would react,” he reveals. “It was really strange to sing in English because I’d never done it, except on a couple of stupid songs, like [controversial Rammstein hit] Pussy. Peter encouraged me, but I was unsure. I wanted feedback from fans, but he didn’t want to give anything away, which in hindsight was good because otherwise – ” he snaps his fingers “– the box is open, y’know? It was great; a year and a half of no pressure, nobody on our backs.”
Was this freedom from expectation the main appeal of doing a project outside of Rammstein?
“It was a total vacation,” stresses Till.
“And just to create something together,” adds Peter. “We’re from different worlds – he’s more into the gothic style and I’m into metal. We learned a lot from each other, helped each other a lot. I think Till sings a lot more on this record.”
“We don’t have these melodies in Rammstein,” Till explains. “Sometimes it’s just the bass and drums and no hook, so it amounts to this talk-singing [known as Sprechgesang in German]. I wanted EBM, Depeche Mode-style sequences, so I pushed Peter to do it and he came up with some great stuff. And writing songs can be hard. You go to bed with it, you dream about it, you wake up with it… and at the heart of it is the chorus. If you find a good one, you never have to work again,” he adds, at which Peter starts crooning, “Laaaast Christmas…”
“…I gave you my heart,” sings Till back to him, before adding with a chuckle, “Asshole!”/o:p
The more time spent with this curious twosome, the more it becomes clear that they have an understanding of each other that runs a lot deeper than mere musical collaboration, and that their roles within Lindemann are ones that they have taken with relish. While Peter wrote and played all of the album’s music, the filthy lyrics are all Till’s.
So now that they’ve seen what they can do together, how far are they planning to take it? A single and video are on the cards, promises Peter, and gigs look to be a possibility, too. But when asked if he still enjoys performing live, Till goes quiet and shakes his head, almost imperceptibly – a little sadly, even.
“But I have to,” he sighs after a heavy silence. He does, however, say that if Lindemann were to play live, he wants a stripped-down show: “I think it’s better when it’s just pure energy, rock’n’roll, no pyro,” he says. “Leave all this bullshit behind and just play the songs.”
Colour us intrigued – the frontman of one of metal’s most shamelessly showy bands labelling pyro and ballyhoo as “bullshit”? Given the nature of Till’s day job, this statement is perhaps a little worrying, and with Rammstein guitarist Richard Z Kruspe telling Hammer late last year that he didn’t know what the future held for the German titans, it adds further uncertainty to when or even if we’ll see the six-headed pyromaniac monster rise again. Luckily, though the other Rammstein members are indeed off doing their own thing at the moment, it seems, according to their frontman at least, that that chapter hasn’t been closed just yet.
“We’re all still in touch,” he reassures us. “We don’t see each other, but that’s the point – it’s a vacation. We’re all going to meet back in Berlin around September, October.” Perhaps the wheels on the Rammstein machine will start rolling again sooner than we’d thought…
In the meantime, metal’s newest odd couple are still in their honeymoon period. They’re enjoying the freedom to make music on their own terms, however and wherever the hell they feel like it. So what’s the endgame for Lindemann?
“That we’re gonna get sued and burned for the lyrics,” laughs Peter. “But I’m just going to pretend I don’t understand any English.” We won’t tell if you don’t.
SKILLS IN PILLS IS OUT JUNE 22 VIA WARNER/o:p
Lindemann’s debut boasts some pretty freaky subject matter, but they’re by no means metal’s first band to get kinky with their lyrics…/o:p
JUDAS PRIEST: EAT ME ALIVE (DEFENDERS OF THE FAITH, 1984)
As we explored in Hammer 268, Priest’s ode to bondage, S&M and all things naughty landed them in hot water with the PMRC, who blacklisted the song as a part of their Filthy Fifteen list. Needless to say, they were overreacting just a bit.
NINE INCH NAILS: CLOSER (THE DOWNWARD SPIRAL, 1994)
Our Trent didn’t beat around the, er, bush when it came to wearing his cock on his sleeve. As sexually charged as they come, Closer is alternative music’s ultimate ode to doing just about everything other than making love.
SPINAL TAP: SEX FARM (THIS IS SPINAL TAP, 1984)
‘Scratchin’ in your hen house/Sniffin’ at your feedbag/Slippin’ out your back door/Leaving my spray’ goes the lyric, and just like that, Spinal Tap had mercilessly turned a spot of innocent crop-harvesting into something decidedly more… sexy.
GUNS N’ ROSES: PRETTY TIED UP (USE YOUR ILLUSION II, 1991)
Allegedly inspired by guitarist Izzy Stradlin’s experiences with a dominatrix, Pretty Tied Up features enough nods to hanging, whipping and pain to make that geezer from Fifty Shades… wince. It’s also a massive tune.
GOREROTTED: STAB ME TILL I CUM (MUTILATED IN MINUTES, 2000)
Um… yeah… we don’t even know where to start with this one./o:p