Rammstein: Pussy Whipped | Revolver

Rammstein: Pussy Whipped

German pyromaniacs return with a ballsy new album and one of the most explicit music videos ever
Rammstein 2009, Paul Brown
photograph by Paul Brown

When Rammstein chose the song "Pussy" as the first single off their new album, Liebe Ist Für Alle Da (Vagrant), they knew that it presented a unique challenge. With lyrics—performed in both English and German—such as "You've got a pussy/I have a dick/So what's the problem?/Let's do it quick," radio was unlikely to touch it. To make matters worse, the band embraced a video concept so daring, so bold, so—ahem—balls out that MTV's programming execs would probably be more inclined to air footage of RNC chairman Michael Steele's painfully awkward rap performances.

"We decided to shoot a porno!" exclaims Rammstein guitarist Richard Z. Kruspe.

And by God, that's just what they did! Not some watered down, late-night Cinemax reject, not some creatively edited bit of fluff that covers up all the naughty bits, but an honest-to-goodness piece of adult filmmaking that features full-on penetration, female masturbation, and no less than six money shots—one for each band member (ha ha, get it?).

"We knew we could have made it safe," says Kruspe, who played a young wild man who pulls his sex partner out of a large trunk. Each musician—Kruspe, vocalist Till Lindemann, guitarist Paul H. Landers, bassist Oliver Riedel, drummer Christoph Schneider, and keyboardist Christian "Flake" Lorenz—took on a different, archetypal porn character, including the suave man-of-money, a masochistic submissive, and even a digitally-modified transsexual. (While Kruspe and Landers both say that they performed their own sex scenes in the "Pussy" clip, there are reports that the band members used CGI to comp their heads onto porn-star bodies.) "When you're going to do this kind of video and make this kind of statement, I feel like you have to do it right," Kruspe continues. "Otherwise, it's not the same idea. And let's face it, we'd never have gotten the kind of numbers we've gotten if we'd done an MTV version."

And those numbers are astonishing. Rammstein decided to post the video on the adult website Visit-X, and in the first week, they garnered 6.5 million views. "So who cares about MTV or radio?" Kruspe says with a laugh.

Rammstein have always been iconoclasts. Even in the world of heavy metal—where "weird" passes for normal, and if you're not going against the grain, you're pretty much going nowhere—six East Germans belting out punishing, mechanically precise, balls-heavy industrial metal stand apart from the crowd. Throw in a singer who delivers his native-tongue lyrics in a theatrically deep, guttural voice; a pyrotechnically-intense show that's been known to include the faux penetration—using a four-foot dildo—of the group's keyboardist; and music videos that have featured the bandmates as werewolves, Snow White's dwarves, and of course, porn stars, and you've got the recipe for what might be the biggest joke in the world.

But in the last 16 years, Rammstein have, time and time again, demonstrated that they're not a band to be laughed at. Laugh with them, sure—they did record a song called "Pussy"—but always remember that they fill stadiums in Europe and draw respectable crowds here in the United States (even when fans can't understand the lyrics). They've been featured on successful movie soundtracks, and their records sell well both abroad and on this side of the Atlantic. They've toured with bands like Korn and System of a Down, and they count musicians like Dave Grohl—of Nirvana, Foo Fighters, and now Them Crooked Vultures fame—as avowed fans.

With Liebe Ist Für Alle Da, the band's sixth record and first in more than three years, Rammstein hope to build on their already sizable success. It follows an extended hiatus from the studio, as well as from the road, and both Kruspe and Landers describe it as a difficult album to make. Be that as it may, it's one of their strongest efforts to date. Critics have rightly accused Rammstein of sometimes hewing too close to a standard formula on their previous records. But Liebe's collection of songs is positively eclectic by comparison, making for one of Revolver's top albums of the year.

"When we first went into the studio, I wanted to make the hardest record we've ever made," says Kruspe. "But everyone had a hand in writing, and while that created a lot of problems, it also, I think, might have helped make it so diverse sounding. A lot of ideas went into this record."

REVOLVER Whatever possessed you to release "Pussy" as your first single?
RICHARD Z. KRUSPE
We wanted to do something different. And there was so much potential for the video!
PAUL H. LANDERS We've reached the point where we can do whatever we want, and we wanted to demonstrate this freedom.

Were you concerned that it might not get any airplay?
LANDERS
Quite the contrary. We'd actually been hoping that it'd be difficult to see the video. Today, you can get everything you want to see within 10 seconds on YouTube. This video isn't there, and that makes it special.
KRUSPE We've always been dependent on MTV or the radio, and we always faced the problem of, "You can't do this; you can't do that." But there's always another way. We figured that since no one would play it, we'd just hook up with a porn site. In the first week, 6.5 million people saw it. That's why I like this band: We prove that anything's possible.

The video is about as explicit as you can get. Did you guys do your own stunts?
KRUSPE
I can only speak for myself, but yes, it's me!
LANDERS It was definitely us. We went to a bordello in Berlin, and we were sitting in the waiting room having a few drinks to work up our courage. We were pretty anxious, but after it was over, I was pretty happy.

Happy because it was over, or happy because you had sex with a porn star?
LANDERS
[Laughs] Happy that it was over. Making a porn is a mechanical act. It doesn't have a lot to do with actual sex, and I think that's why it always looks so stupid.
KRUSPE Honestly, I think it was the most interesting thing I've done in a while. I thought the whole porn industry was rough and dirty and cruel, but when I got to the set, I discovered that it was the most caring environment and very professional.

What did you friends and family think?
KRUSPE
I've not heard from my mom, yet. My father left me a message today saying I should call him, and I don't know what that means! My daughter, who is over 18, and my girlfriend, they were both laughing their asses off. They thought it was the funniest thing they've ever seen.

"Pussy" is a good example of Rammstein's sense of humor.
KRUSPE
People never think that Germans have a sense of humor. Yeah, 80 percent of our songs are dark, but I think you need a balance. Everyone likes to have a laugh. It's part of being human, and it's part of being German, too!
LANDERS We've gotten used to the idea that anything we think is funny shocks other people. We do a lot of things a lot of people would be ashamed or afraid to do. They might think about it, but we actually do it. We have no inhibitions in this regard. For example, when we started out we were playing small clubs with maybe 50 or 100 people in them. Right before the show, I'd sneak through the audience with a hood over my head and a small gas can in my hand, spreading the gas between all the people. Onstage, Till would simply toss a firework into the pit and the whole hall would be in flames. People were shocked, but we considered it quite normal. We were kind of disappointed when it became so crowded that we couldn't do it anymore because we'd be risking people's lives.

What was it like writing and recording Liebe Ist Für Alle Da?
KRUSPE
It was hell.

It was hell?
KRUSPE
Yeah, it was hell. It actually started out pretty good. We had a little cottage house in the German country. We were all in a little room writing together—and we were coming up with a lot of ideas. Unfortunately, we didn't have any complete songs, and that's when the problems started. We couldn't make any decisions, and nothing was being completed.
LANDERS We lost our bearings. It was like going on vacation with 50 children. It's hard to keep track of them, if they've eaten, brushed their teeth, that sort of thing.

What was the problem?
KRUSPE
We had so many people involved in the writing process and everyone had their own opinions. There were six captains driving the ship, but it wasn't going anywhere. Sometimes we'd break the group into smaller groups just so people could get stuff done. But then we'd get back together and start arguing again.
LANDERS Once, in mid songwriting, I completely lost my musical sense of taste—I couldn't tell good from bad. I felt like a cook who has to create a completely new dish and can't taste anything. It was very difficult.

How did you survive the process?
LANDERS
The real breakthrough came when we ditched 30 of the 50 ideas that we started with. We focused on the remaining 20. Imagine an area with a number of trees. A single tree can grow big and strong, but if you've got several, they stay small and weak.
KRUSPE I can only speak for myself, but I learned that it was important to get away sometimes. I like being on the team, I like believing in the team, but I realized I'm not really a team player. I like being the captain, and in a band, everyone's the captain. So with distance, I'd see things more clearly. I realized it was just bullshit ego and stuff, not very important in the end. Also, I felt that we created something big with Rammstein—something bigger than our own egos. It's like a religion—if you're in the band and you see Rammstein as being more than you, if you serve the band instead of letting the band serve you, it's easier to relax. I mean, it'd be such a shame to lose something we built because we had differences of opinion.

Was there a moment when you could tell that you'd moved past the problems?
KRUSPE
No. Never. There were problems until the very end. Even now that it's over, we're figuring out the live show and there are arguments. I don't think it ends until we're finally on stage playing the songs. That's when you can just do your thing.

Now that it's done, how do you feel about the record?
KRUSPE
I don't have enough distance to say. Every time I listen to the songs, I have mostly bad memories. At the same time, I think that maybe it's the way Rammstein make music. Maybe we have to go through all this frustration. But if you asked me right now if I'd want to do it again, I'd say never!
LANDERS I just hope we didn't throw away 30 hit songs!

I've got to ask: Do you all even like each other?
KRUSPE
[Laughs] At the end of the day, we're all friends and we all like each other. We don't hate each other. But there's something about the band, an intensity, that's just too much sometimes.

You mentioned the live show. It's been years since you toured America. Any good news for us?
KRUSPE
Yes, we're coming back.

What kept you away from the States for so long?
KRUSPE
Two of the big reasons had to do with geography and economics. We don't draw as many people in America as we do in Europe, and America is much bigger than Europe. So to play the amount of shows we'd need to play in order to make it feasible would be so exhausting. We need a break. The other problem is that in Europe, we play in 20,000-person venues, but in America, we play in 2,000-person clubs. It's very difficult to fit our whole show into those smaller clubs. Everyone expects the big Rammstein show in America, but in the past, we often couldn't make it happen. To us, that's not really Rammstein—it's like KISS with no makeup.