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|Lindemann: 'People Think We Want to Be Provocative But It's Just Our Way to Express Ourselves' |
On June 23 2015 Lindemann released their debut album "Skills in Pills." Not to be confused with a strict solo venture, as the name might suggest, this project is a collaborative effort between metal masterminds, Till Lindemann (Rammstein) and Peter Tägtgren (Pain, Hypocrisy).
Till's stimulating lyrics interlaced with Peter's dark, heavy, enigmatic soundscapes to create a powerful entity called Lindemann. One of the notable staples of this project is that it features songs composed entirely in English - a first for Till Lindemann. Till's English lyrics retain the provocative edge and humor that German fluent fans have come to expect from his work with Rammstein. Peter Tägtgren composed and performed all of the music on the album, a showcase of his expansive musical talent.
The album draws its name from Till's youth in East Germany when conventional drugs were not available. A person's skill in mixing of pills to get high became a sort of warped chemistry experiment - it required just the right balance of each drug to work correctly. For some, the musical combination of Till and Peter may prove to be a euphoric sonic experience. In the following interview, Till and Peter tell UG about the creation of their unique debut album. Till also talks about future plans with Rammstein.
UG: We're here to talk about "Skills in Pills." That album is great. How has the reception been on your end?
Peter: It's been really good, surprisingly good in fact. It's overwhelming to be honest. Was started this as kind of a hobby thing, doing one song for ourselves and that was fun so we did another songs and then all of the sudden we had a full album. So, there was no thought behind anything. We just wrote it for ourselves.
Till: 5 min before we called you, we got the message that we were number 15 on the Billboard Charts which is amazing for us as a newcomer.
That's amazing, especially considering that it was just a "hobby thing".
Peter: Yeah I mean we didn't really expect anything from anything because when you write for yourself and you don't think about the outside and you have no pressure from nobody, you just go at your own pace and do your own thing.
Just listening to the humor in the songs, it sounds like it was a fun album to make.
Peter: Absolutely, making the album was pure pleasure. When the album was done, that's when the work started. You know, you have to take care of photos and covers and take care of press and take care of videos, stuff like that. When all of that happens then it's like, whoa what the hell did we start?
How was this project different from your other bands? The artistic freedom must have been a nice change of pace.
Peter: I think that is the difference, kind of. When you have no clue what you're doing, there was no focus for doing what we did. All of the sudden now it's getting blown up in ways we didn't expect, and then you think maybe we should have done it better. But I guess it's good enough. We don't think about what we're doing. You just go with the flow with your heart and there's no reason to think about what other people are thinking about it. Just follow your own heart.
I understand that Jägermeister may have also been a driving force behind the writing of this album.
Peter: I won't say no to that. We try to not take things so serious and that helps sometimes.
Till: Peter is a Swedish guy and liquor is very expensive in Sweden but whenever he can reach a Jägermeister, he's on it.
Peter: Mostly we drink moonshine.
The writing process was different in that you wrote a lot of the stuff via email. How was that process?
Peter: It was hard in the beginning to read each other's song structures because we have different words for different things, you know. But when we finally got that sh-t out of the way, it rolled very well. Till flew a lot of times to my studio from Berlin. He was going back and forth a lot when we were doing vocals and stuff like that. Most of the stuff we did via telephone or email or SMS as far as setting up the structure of the song so that when he came into the studio it was just ready to rock.
How long did this album take to put together from its inception to the finished product?
Peter: One and a half years. I had some Hypocrisy tours and Till had a book that he published at the same time. So we were not in a hurry to make the album. We were just enjoying ourselves and coming up with ideas here and there and putting it together. So it took one and a half years but it was very spread out.
You did a lot more than just write and record an album. You've got a photo book coming out and you did the video for "Praise Abort" which was awesome.
Peter: Thank you, now were doing another video next month.
What song will that be for?
Peter: We haven't decided yet but hopefully it turns out as good as this one ["Praise Abort"]. We have a crazy director, his name is Zoran Bihac, and he comes up with all these weird ideas. The first time I ever met him; he pointed at me and said "you are a pig." I was like "What?" so that's why we became pigs in the video.
There was some strong imagery in that video which is warranted because there is a lot of strong imagery in the music as well.
Peter: Yeah we just shuffle modes and feelings into the songs. We are not afraid to go outside of our comfort zone. So we try different things and if it works, cool, if it sounds like sh-t, we don't care. We just throw in anything that makes our d-cks hard, you know. Maybe some people get p-ssed or whatever but we shuffle the cards and see whatever comes out comes out as long as we have a good gut feeling about it.
The biggest distinction about this album was Till singing in English. Till, how was that process for you?
Till: Yeah it was kind of challenging for me. I never really did it before, like for a whole record. So I did the first song and put it on the Internet for Peter to get some feedback and his opinion. Then we decided to do one more and see what happens. In the end I really felt more self-confident about writing everything in English. I got a lot of help from English speaking people and even Perter encouraged me a lot because he had been in English for 20 years already. For me, the problem was I grew up in East Germany so we never spoke English in school besides translating Sex Pistols songs and stuff like that. So it was really hard in the beginning. Actually I learned a lot on our American tours with Rammstein when we played with Slipknot and Korn and Limp Bizkit in the '90s. That was my speech school, kind of.
So it's fair to say that music was kind of your door to the English language?
Till: Yeah, kind of. We had to listen to the radio at night when nobody was around. It was not really allowed to listen to songs from capitalist countries. So we got our East German and Russian musicians - so it was kind of strange in those days. But of course we could get West German radio and they spoke German like we did so they played the Who and CCR [Creedence Clearwater Revival] and T Rex and the Ramones and stuff like that. So then of course we would catch some words and try to translate the rest with like a dictionary. So it was really from the basics.
The album has a sort of spooky Alice Cooper vibe at times.
Till: Oh thank you very much, that's quite a compliment. For coincidence, Alice Cooper was my first record I bought in East Germany. I had to pay almost a month's salary for it because we couldn't get any records from the west. So it was the first record I bought on the black market.
Growing up in that environment must have been an interesting experience.
Till: I tell you. I still can't believe it sometimes you know you look back to 20 years before and you can't believe what happens now. It's really amazing.
I don't think the lyrics on "Skills in Pills" wouldn't have flown back then.
Till: No. They certainly wouldn't. A lot of people think that we do it on purpose like to intend to be provocative, but it just happens. Peter writes a riff and then I jump on it with the words and it comes out of the stomach, straight away. I get inspired by the music. Even in Rammstein, people always think that we want to be provocative and shocking and stuff but it's maybe just our way to express ourselves. And in the end it's good, because these, maybe "obscene" things, they make people listen to it and go, "What is he saying? C-nt? In the chorus?" It makes people listen to it. It's an interesting part of psychology.
It can be fun to crawl into other people's minds and create characters to sing through.
Till: Yes, we have so many colors in our rainbow. We have a description of a North American river, the Yukon, on there. We have two love songs on it. So we called the record "Skills in Pills" - it's like a pill box. You can choose a color and see what happens. There are all different moods and feelings in there and maybe you get cured by some song, maybe "Ladyboy." [laughs]
You two are still writing new songs now even after the album has been finished. This project still has some good momentum.
Peter: The brain is going on full, like always, just trying to be creative and trying to find stories. For lyrics, Till can just watch the news and get some ideas. Those ideas are always piling up in the brain and when it's time to get them out is when you grab a pen and start writing. The same goes for me with riffs and melodies and stuff. It piles up in my brain and when it's overfilled, it's time to start writing. But I think we have some good stuff. We have some left over stuff as well that we didn't have time to finish for the album.
Have you given any thought to touring?
Peter: We've talked about festivals. Maybe touring is not our cup of tea but maybe we can bring it out on festivals and play. It definitely won't happen this year because we're still getting into so much stuff, like promos and things like that. We want to get the promo stuff out of the way. We're going to do another video next month, as I said before. But the brain is still going full so maybe we do another record, maybe we play live, we'll see.
Has this project rejuvenated you to go back and work with other projects like Rammstein, Pain, or Hypocrisy?
Till: It was kind of a vacation. We worked hard but it was fun which was a totally different experience for me. Normally, if I am with my Rammstein guys in the studio, it is a hard piece of work. So working with Peter was amusing all the time. Besides the traveling to Sweden up and down all the time was a joy. I really enjoyed it a lot. It's hard to describe. It was fun and I was laughing all the time. He lives on a beautiful landscape in Northern Sweden; straight in front you have a lake. So I went fishing out of the studio window and it was like going on vacation. It was beautiful. I'll pass it off to Peter to talk about the Pain/Hypocrisy situation, I have no idea about that.
Peter: Yeah I have no idea. I just want to enjoy the summer now because when you live in Sweden the summer is very short. So I want to enjoy that and the promotion that we're doing. Maybe by the end of August I will know what I want to do next, if I want to write some more Lindemann stuff or... I don't know. The book is open. I might do some production work for a band in September but we'll see.
Will this project go on hold when Rammstein is in the studio?
Till: I don't know. I have to jump around between the tables now. We start pre-production with Rammstein in September but of course I want to continue to work with Peter. You know, one is English one is German, and I think I can do it, like serving both masters, in the end. I don't know yet but there is a lot of work in front of myself.
So this Lindemann project will continue.
Till: I wish it to continue. It's easy. We have no expectations. It's totally easy going. We have no pressures and we can really do and say whatever we want. It's a pretty cool situation for us.
Was there a certain audience that you were trying to reach out to with this album?
Till: I don't know. Peter is more of a metal guy and I'm more from the gothic side of the moon. So it's going to be a good mix of everyone we hope enjoys the album.
Is there anywhere you won't go with this project?
Peter: No. All of our doors are open. It's always nice to try something different. You don't want to write yourself into a corner. I think it's always good to have an open mind where you're not afraid to try new things. Of course, sometimes you're going to fail and people are going to say, "What the f--k is this sh-t?" I think the most important thing for the person creating the art is to ventilate the ideas. All of the bands who have been around for 20 years or so, they all have this one album that everybody hates. That's where they tried to do something different. But it's a necessary thing for an artist to ventilate those ideas. It's like when you order food and they put all the spices on it, maybe it's not so good then.
You've made some brave choices on this album - it's definitely got some heavy spices on it. I'm not sure that anyone knew what to expect with this album but the people have spoken and you've made a great album.
Peter: I think people might be a little more open minded because it is a new band and they didn't have any expectations of what it was going to sound like. Of course you can always think of what might happen when two musicians get together and guess what it will sound like. But we have a lot of freedom still because we have only released one album and nothing is written in stone as far as what kind of music we are playing. So maybe that's a benefit and we can keep going crazy with synthesizers and keyboards and sh-t and guitars tuned way down low. This has been the lowest tuned guitars I have ever used on an album before in my whole life. So we just mix everything from left to right and we can put it in a big pile and we have the freedom to do that.
It's it difficult to separate riffs and musical ideas and channel them into specific projects? I would imagine it's easy for Till with one band composing in German and the other in English.
Peter: Yeah the English lyrics was a big difference for Till because he was even dreaming in English when we were working the album. So he really got into the English language. I remember when I moved to America and started dreaming in English. That's when you know you are becoming a different person. I had been dreaming is Swedish all my life and then after a couple of month living in a America I dream all of my dreams in English. When I write an album, I focus on the band I'm working with and then I get into the mood of that band - whether it's a Pain album or a Hypocrisy album, I get into that mood first and then I start writing for it. So there is rarely any overlap between the writing for the different bands.
Are you still in the mood to write songs for Lindemann?
Peter: Yes, definitely. It's going to take a while to wash it off, I think.
Would Rammstein ever write a song in English?
Till: I don't think so. It's like asking the Buddha to kill a pig or something. I think it's not going to happen.
What has been your fondest memory of this project so far?
Peter: I think the process of making the record was the nicest thing for me. It was exciting and it was new and Till's ideas fired me up to become better. He kind of pushed me to push my envelope to become a better writer. He's very picky and if he doesn't like it, he tells me and then I have to redo things. It just makes me a better songwriter. That was the most exciting thing for me.
Till: For me it was different. Peter is a workaholic so he sits in front of the computer for like 14 or 16 hours a day. So I had nothing to do in this time except for sing some lines into the microphone. So I went outside to the lake and it was frozen and I started ice fishing on it. He always shouting out of the studio window, "Come back, you a-shole! You have to sing this d-mn line!" and I was sitting in the cold and thinking about something and started ice fishing. It was very amusing. Of course, these guys up north in Sweden, everybody knows each other. So just for the fun of it we decided to go to this party place in Stockholm. But I refused to go because it was a long ways and you have to drive maybe 6 hours or take the train and it was really annoying to go there. So he calls this guy with a helicopter and so we jump into the helicopter and went out to the bar in Stockholm. It was really kind of cool.
Peters got connection in Sweden.
Till: He's got all the connections. You know what I mean, all the connections.
How has this project helped you grow as musicians and will that bleed into other projects?
Till: To me it was really interesting to see another person work with music programs. Normally in these days, everybody works with music programs, Pro Tools or something like that. In my life I've seen a lot of people working on the computer with those programs but in Peter's case, it was just amazing how fast and efficient a person can work with a system. It was really amazing. Plus he's playing all the instruments. So no other person can open their mouth and make opinions. It was just the two of us and he worked very fast. It was Yes or No and continue working kind of relationship. He's a f--king genius when it comes to playing all the stuff in the studio. He did it all himself.
That includes mixing and producing as well.
Till: Yeah every f--king thing. It was incredible.
Peter needs a vacation.
Till: He definitely needs a vacation.
How about you, are you ready to go back into the studio in September?
Till: Yes sir. I'm ready to go back with Rammstein in September. First we have to look for a rehearsal room and then start working. It's like a long train, it needs a long time to get started but once it's rolling, it's rolling. We just need to heat the engine now.
Interview by Justin Beckner
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