When we spoke to Rammstein guitarist Richard Z. Kruspe recently about A Million Degrees, the latest star-studded record from his solo project Emigrate, we also talked to him about his main band and its long-gestating new album — the group's first in 10 years — which is due in 2019. The German pyromaniacs are notorious for their heated arguments and resulting long hiatuses; the latest studio sessions, he said, have been smoother and less contentious than in the past. Of course, there has still been fighting, Kruspe admitted — but "in a very civilized way." Find out the details below.
AT A TIME WHEN ROCK PERFORMANCES CAN BE PRETTY STRIPPED DOWN AND STRAIGHTFORWARD, RAMMSTEIN ARE STILL HOLDING THE BLOWTORCH HIGH FOR THEATRICAL ROCK & ROLL.
RICHARD Z. KRUSPE We're just doing what we like. But there's just nothing to say so much anymore. Rock is dead. It's sad, I know it is. But sometimes you kind of have to make peace with the facts of reality. Every time I'm listening to what's new and it's definitely not rock.
IT'S HARDER THAN EVER FOR YOUNG BANDS TO BREAK INTO THE INDUSTRY, BUT GROUPS LIKE METALLICA, TOOL, SLIPKNOT AND, OF COURSE, RAMMSTEIN ARE STILL BIG BUSINESS.
There are always going to be these old dinosaurs that have a certain kind of performance that will survive. I'm talking about the new generation rock. What happens at the moment is that kids these days don't have that feeling when they play their favorite rock tracks to annoy the parents. Guitars are not annoying anymore so what they're using, especially in Germany, they're using their voice, the lyrics, which basically mostly happens in hip-hop. They start to rebel against everything, and hip-hop is the soundtrack. It's all about hip-hop at the moment, which is hard to me because hip-hop was always kind of a music that I couldn't relate to. If I got to a festival and see a hip-hop group play, I'm so bored. That's one advantage rock still has over hip-hop. There's a visual and sonic connection between the band and the audience.
IS THAT WHY IT HAS TAKEN SO LONG FOR YOU TO FINISH THE UPCOMING ALBUM?
We're still in the process of working on it. Everything we do takes so long. Rammstein is such a different cosmos than any other band. I mean, we're all basically in a room fighting for each fucking sound and that takes forever! It's so funny. But it has to be this way. There's no other way, you know. There are seven guys in the room going through each detail of the song. It's exhausting, but it's exciting at the same time. At the moment, we're going through the last polish. We had some test mixes made from certain big names and I wasn't really happy. I wasn't happy about the mix and the guys decided — I don't want to put any names here — but the guys decided on one certain name and I couldn't sleep. I woke up and I went, "I can't believe they want to do that. The mix was not good." At the last second, Rich Costey made a mix and, bang, it was there. I remember back in the day, our old producer Jacob Hellner, was trying different mixers and I think that Rich did a remix of "Du Hast." And I remember thinking it was unbelievable. He was able to put certain instruments in certain spots and I was amazed. He just nailed it.
HOW WOULD YOU COMPARE THE SOUND OF THE NEW ALBUM COMPARED TO PAST RAMMSTEIN RECORDS?
What we were trying to do in the beginning was to actually have more of a live feeling to it. When we started to do the record we were playing together in a room using electric drums and everything came through studio speakers. We were almost in a living room playing very low in volume and we found we could actually perform much longer that way than if we were using loud amplifiers and real drums. We could play for eight hours and not get home with headaches and say, "Oh man, I'm too old for this shit."
SO YOU WERE BASICALLY JAMMING AS OPPOSED TO BRINGING IN FULL SONGS AND TEACHING THEM TO THE OTHER MEMBERS?
We all realized that this could be a certain moment to not be so controlling. We're trying to open up a little bit. Usually, Rammstein is extremely controlled and there's not a lot of room for creativity. I didn't record my usual eight tracks. I only did two Richard tracks left and right. That was a new thing — almost like you had to play much tighter. If you record eight tracks, you have a certain advantage because it gives you a certain kind of sound, but you almost cheat because you can't hear the playing anymore. So I was much more focused on playing than how it sounds like.
AT FIRST, YOU WEREN'T INTERESTED IN DOING A NEW RAMMSTEIN RECORD. WHAT CHANGED?
When we started to come back in 2015 to decide what we wanted to do, I wasn't up for having a new Rammstein record at all. But we made a deal and said, "Let's get together with no record in mind and see how it works while we're playing." I didn't really have anything written and then I went back to my tracks that I had written for other stuff. I played them for the guys and I was surprised they liked them and wanted to make these into songs. So there are all these different moods than we usually have, even though you can tell it still sounds like Rammstein. But the songs are more melodic. We took a lot of time actually to arrange the songs and we experimented with a lot of harmony structures in the songs, which we haven't done in the past because before it was all just to capture Till's voice. This time, I had the possibility to bring some melodies and some vocal lines in there. It just was a different process this time so it sounds to me not like any other Rammstein record.
IT'S BEEN WELL REPORTED HOW MUCH RAMMSTEIN FIGHTS IN THE STUDIO TO MAKE EVERYTHING PERFECT.
Yes, and that's why I was not really looking forward to doing a Rammstein record. I was thinking about the whole process. I know what's happened in the past. And what I did was I brought one of my dear friends and also the producer of the last Emigrate record and our front-of-house guy, Olsen Envolltini, into the Rammstein world. My thought was to change up the dynamic and energy in Rammstein. Olson is very musical. He's multi-talented. And by him being there, the energy changed between me and Paul [Landers, Rammstein's other guitarist] drastically. I don't know why. It's almost like being in couples therapy. It's not about going there and getting advice from the therapist. It's more about, if you go to a therapist and sit in front of the other person, all of a sudden you're listen to what the other person has to say, rather than while he's saying something and you're thinking of a strategy to fight against him. So, all of a sudden, I was listening to what he had to say and he was listening to what I had to say. Individual-wise, we're really, really different. Black and white. If he says, "Yeah," I say, "No." It's always the same story. But somehow we need that for the Rammstein cosmos.
IT SOUNDS LIKE THE PROCESS WAS MORE AMICABLE.
It was more about listening and thinking, "OK, you know, you might have a point." Or, "Yeah, you have a point, but I don't agree with that because I see it a different way." It was more grown-up and not so much, "Fuck you!" "No, fuck you!" Maybe we've gotten older. You can learn so much. Music is such a fragile thing So, yeah, there was arguing, there was fighting, but in a very civilized way.
CONSIDERING THE CONTENTIOUS ENVIRONMENT, IT'S AMAZING THAT NO ONE HAS QUIT IN ALL THE YEARS YOU'VE BEEN TOGETHER.
You know how many times I've thought about it? [Laughs] God! The funny thing is, in the old days it was also part of security. I was like, "What if I leave and I can't pay all my bills and everything?" Everyone had financial responsibilities. But a couple years back we made an agreement in the band that even if someone quits he still is on the Rammstein payroll. So this is not an argument anymore. It crazy, but if you take away the financial situation and you just look and see the things that you have achieved, in a way you can overcome the evil parts. In the end, everyone wants the best for the project, it's just there's different ways. And if you start to find the compromises and you still can live with the quality that comes out of it, I think there's no way to quit.
YOU'VE SAID IN THE PAST THAT THIS MIGHT BE YOUR LAST ALBUM WITH RAMMSTEIN.
It's funny because Rammstein brings out the best part of me. I'm the most creative when I'm around those guys. I'm different creatively when I'm by myself doing Emigrate or working with other people. But right now I feel like by finishing my Emigrate record and the Rammstein record at the same time, maybe there's something else for me to do in life than just playing in a band. There must be another challenge in my life, maybe something that has nothing to do with music. That's how I feel at the moment. I would love to experience like some other thing to life — not just playing and blowing up stuff onstage.