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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, August 13, 2010 - Volume 38 Issue 33
'Richard Kruspe Of Germany's Rammstein Exclusive To The SGN'
Arts & Entertainment
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'Richard Kruspe Of Germany's Rammstein Exclusive To The SGN'

by Maggie Bloodstone - SGN Contributing Writer

Richard Z. Kruspe was born smack-dab in the middle of the Summer of Love, June, 1967. Perhaps he should have burst from his Mutti's womb in a crash pad over a head shop in Haight-Ashbury, but instead, he entered the world behind the Iron Curtain in Wittenberge, East Germany. There weren't a whole lot of good vibes to be had in the GDR in those days (what with that totalitarian thing and all), and among the few bright spots for young "Reesh" were what few Kiss LPs he could scrounge and his discovery of the guitar. But things changed drastically when, at the age of 22, he found himself in the middle of a political demonstration upon emerging from an East Berlin subway. He was arrested, jailed, and tortured for a week, after which he decided "later for this shit" (or the German equivalent) and split to West Germany by way of Hungary & mere days before the fall of the Wall (no doubt the one time in his life his timing was off). Within the next five years, the former Kiss devotee would gather together five other East German expatriates (Olli Reidel, Christoph Schneider, Till Lindemann, Christian Lorenz, and Paul Landers) and form that country's most formidable sonic force since Nina Hagen hit her first high C: Rammstein.

If he had been born even 20 years earlier, Richard could very well have ended up in the pantheon of influential rockers that ignited the musical renaissance of the '60s-'70s. At the very least, considering Rammstein's signature predilection, he may have preceded Jimi Hendrix in setting his Stratocaster aflame live in concert. But things turned out just fine for the gifted Cancerian, employing his songwriting and guitar skills in the service of the Rammstein Army alongside Field Marshall Lindemann and a platoon of other "extreme angels" (in his words).

I suppose I shouldn't have been as surprised as I must have appeared when told Richard had agreed to an interview with the SGN prior to their appearance at Quebec City's Summerfestival. After all, this is the same bunch of bombastic Berliners that got their butts busted in Boston due to a jaw-dropping simulation of anal copulation onstage during the '98 Family Values Tour, and the same pack of pernicious Proles that have performed songs about hermaphrodites ("Zwitter"), homoerotic cannibalism ("Mein Teil"), pussy ("Pussy"), incest, Lustmord, and necrophilia (too many to name). Not to mention referring to their 16-year partnership as a "six-way marriage" - minus the sex, that is. Rammstein is all boy, make no mistake. In fact, they're so masculine they can wear full drag on occasion and give not one ratte's arsch if anyone suspects them of being & you know. And they have maintained an international following that includes more females and GLBT folks than any average metal/industrial/punk band (outside of, say, Marilyn Manson).

I queried Herr Kruspe on some of these points, wishing we had had another hour or so to explore the appeal of Rammstein for gals, Gays, and sundry other social misfits, because I ended up visualizing the American Spirit he offered me as a big-ass spliff and the pre-fab dressing room a Greenwich Village basement flat with beanbag chairs and Pink Floyd on the quadraphonic sound system. (Far freakin' out.) Richard and his comrades may have missed out on rock's most eye-opening era firsthand, but they remain its logical heirs, spreading their ferocious gospel of transgression like the "extreme angels" they are.

Maggie Bloodstone: Well, first thing we would love to know is: When can we expect you in America?

Richard Kruspe: Good question. [Laughs.] Actually, we talked about it today, a lot. What we plan to do right now, is a lot of things - we're not 20 anymore, so things have changed for us. At the moment, it looks like America is the only market where we cannot provide the same show as we play in the rest of the world. [1, see footnotes at the end of the article] So, we have to be balanced, like, what makes financial sense? One of my dreams is Madison Square Garden - just to play one show and to feel out, like, if there is a need for us, are people waiting for us, what can we do, what would be the next step? It can change, nothing is set in stone, nothing is confirmed, but we've talked about what's the best thing, so the fans are happy and the band is happy. But I'm a big supporter of the American market.

Bloodstone: I know that you've recently become un-indexed. [2] What happened to change their minds?

Kruspe: I don't know. [Laughs.]

Bloodstone: They decided you weren't harmful to minors anymore?

Kruspe: I didn't understand it in the first place! To my understanding, when we came out with the first single [3] and we did it the way that we did it, I think people got a little, ah, worried, in a way, or they were trying to "punish" us because of what we did. There are two reasons why the record came on the index: one was the lyrics, and that one picture, I have a girl and -

Bloodstone: - the "spanking picture." [4]

Kruspe: The "spanking picture," yes. Now, that is not for me, so I couldn't understand it in the first place. The only thing I could have thought was, they were looking for something to "punish" us with later. But then again, there was nothing where I thought, "Oh, we're so provocative." It just happened, and I was like, "Oh, whatever." I don't really want to talk about it, because it doesn't really have any impact on us anymore. The only thing I can think of is, it was a kind of "punishment" because of the first single, the way we did it, we put it on the porn site, and we had like 14 million clicks in two weeks. [5]

Bloodstone: As this is a Gay newspaper, I really should ask at least one "Mann Gegen Mann"-related question. [6] What kind of a response did you get from your Gay audience from the song and the video?

Kruspe: Actually, Till showed the lyrics to our Gay community, to our friends, just to make sure, because if you talk about something that you not really are, it's always kind of hard. Sometimes you cross the line, you don't think about it, but it could be offensive. If you do something because it's your experience, it's fine, but if you write something and you're not actually a part of it, I think you should make sure that everything you want to say is right. So he gave the lyrics to some friends, and they were very approving.

Bloodstone: I would say he was bang-on, actually.

Kruspe: There's not so many people I do like when they write in German, but he's one of those where I think, wow, he really has a natural talent for writing stories. Especially what he did with these lyrics. I'm proud of it.

Bloodstone: He's very good at placing himself in someone else's skin, as it were.

Kruspe: Yeah!

Bloodstone: There has always been a definite connection between heavy metal and Gay culture. Is there anything in particular about Gay culture that has inspired what you do - outside of "Mann Gegen Mann," of course?

Kruspe: I don't look at the world like that, like "Gay culture," "metal culture." That was also my problem when I was young - I never felt connected heavily to one way or one group of people. Growing up in East Germany, having your life so controlled, you have a natural need to break out and stuff. But I always like the song structures and melodies of pop music - it was like, can I tell my friends I like Depeche Mode? [Laughs.] So I never was part of any kind of group.

Bloodstone: I'm sure I'm not the first person to discover this about Rammstein, but what you do appeals very strongly to my own personal "inner male." What is it about Rammstein that you think appeals to women the most?

Kruspe: I think that Germany has a certain kind of culture, as we know, and it is kind of controlled, cold, manly, I would say. & I think it's the only country that we call the "Fatherland." Every other country is called the "Motherland."

Bloodstone: I think that's right, yeah.

Kruspe: If you talk to me right now, I'm a big believer in getting myself in balance between the female and the male side. I have a female side too, obviously. But like if you see Rammstein as this total thing, there's a lot of German qualities, like the way that we play and the way that we are onstage, it's almost like you play a role & but the problem is, as a musician, there's only one role you can play. It's not like an actor; there's only one role in your life for you as a musician. Especially playing in this band. Where it comes from, I would have to go back to childhood. & I think, when people choose to make this kind of music, there is aggression in you that wants to get out. I see a lot of female aggression [in our music], too.

Bloodstone: Oh, yes. Female aggression is channeled differently - it's very often turned inward, while male aggression is often turned outward & which is why mass murders tend to be male.

Kruspe: Okay, I'd go with that. And maybe that's how we show our male feelings, through the band. And German culture, and the texture of our language is really tough. When we started the band, we realized that in German music is based on the one - the words are based mostly on the one. English, for example, is based on the in-between, like a word like "phoTOgrapher": Da DA da da. Germany: "PHOtograph." [Thumps table.]

Bloodstone: DA da da!

Kruspe: It's all on the one. It's those elements that turn out to be really male.

Bloodstone: Speaking of female fans and what appeals to them, are you familiar with the genre of "slash fiction"?

Kruspe: What's that?

Bloodstone: It's a form of fanfiction.

Kruspe: I don't even know what that is. [Laughs.]

Bloodstone: It's sort of a literary sub-genre mostly on the internet, and mostly written by heterosexual women, interestingly enough. It's stories that people make up either about real people or fictional people, like Harry Potter, or Spock and Kirk. And there's this sub-genre called "slash," because that's the more sexually charged literature, and it's called slash because of the pairings - Spock/Kirk, like that.

Kruspe: Never heard of it.

Bloodstone: Okay, so that wouldn't mean too much to you & but you guys are very popular [in slash fiction], by the way.

Kruspe: Really? [Laughs.] So, people take like, characters from reality, and turn them into stories?

Bloodstone: Yeah.

Kruspe: Oh, okay.

Bloodstone: Well, there's a certain remove from reality & of course, the writers don't know you, so they can't say, "This is definitely about Richard and Till." They make it very clear this is fiction.

Kruspe: Nothing wrong with that. & I'm a big believer in if you do any kind of art, it's always inspired by something else. When I was young, and we had arts class, my teacher would always try to explain a picture, and I always had my own story, and I was so disappointed, because my own story was so much better, and so much more glamorous than whatever they came up with. [Laughs.]

Bloodstone: And they put upon you that somehow, your view is "wrong."

Kruspe: Exactly. So yeah, I have no problem with that & it's good. I've never been there, and I kind of stay away from the internet sometimes.

Bloodstone: That's probably wise. [Laughs.]

Kruspe: Sometimes, it gets too personal, and they're, you know, making up stories about my personal life, and in the beginning, I felt like it would affect the way that I see life & like, people would talk about what kind of father I am, and about my daughter.

Bloodstone: Most of it [fanfiction] doesn't go that far.

Kruspe: At the end of the day, we all scream for love. We all want to be loved.

Bloodstone: Right. Rammstein is such a beautifully cohesive unit, which happens so seldom in any group of artists & myself, I compare you to my other favorite band, The Who. [I show him the tattoo of The Who on my shoulder.]

Kruspe: Ah! I never got to see them live, though.

Bloodstone: I did, but it was after Keith Moon died - but it was still The Who. But they were four very disparate personalities, and they were very often fighting with each other, but together, they created this incredible thing, and I see the same with Rammstein. It's almost as if you would still find each other, even if you were in a different time period, but knowing that - and this is something I, personally, would like to know - do you think, if you had all been born female, would you still be Rammstein?

Kruspe: No.

Bloodstone: Well, okay then. [Laughs.]

Kruspe: No, because I think that females fight in a different way.

Bloodstone: Yes, we do. [Laughs.]

Kruspe: And the funny thing is, as humans get older, they do not have so many female friends as male friends. For some reason, when a woman gets older, they are not having so many female friends. Maybe it has to do with relationships, or marriage, or whatever&.

Bloodstone: That's probably true. & I've always had more male friends. Well, 90% of my friends are Gay, anyway&.

Kruspe: A strong woman, they always tend to have male friends, and not so many female friends. For some reason, they're not connecting, or it's boring, or whatever&.

Bloodstone: Exactly. I never could connect with a lot of women - it's like, "Why is this stuff important to you?" Not because of sexuality or anything - anybody asks me "what" I am, I say, "It depends on who's asking."

Kruspe: That's fair enough. [Laughs.] No, but to answer your question: To stay together in a band for almost 16 years now, it is the most difficult thing ever. For a man and a woman to stay together is a hard thing in itself, but you have sexuality. In a band, with six males, you don't have sex as an, um, "compensation" for fights or whatever. But what I'm trying to say is, it's really, really tough to stay together. Every day is a battlefield, to try to think about the bigger picture, and try to get away from this energy that we have. We have a great creative energy, but it's also really destructive. It can cause damage - we never really fought physically, and sometimes, I think maybe we should have, but it's just not part of us. We try to verbalize, but the older we get, the less communication we do, and the passive-aggression comes out. It's hard & like, the last record, we almost broke up because of that. You have an energy, you have a chemistry between those guys & for example, in my other band, I hated the bass player.

Bloodstone: You mean Emigrate? [7]

Kruspe: No, no - it was one of my first bands. We replaced the bass player, and got one I really liked, but the energy wasn't the same anymore. So, I had to bring back the old one that I hated, just to keep the chemistry! That's one of the biggest investments you have in a band & is this chemistry, and if you start to change things, it's not the same anymore. And you can see it in so many other groups - I don't know anyone where I feel like, wow, that's actually a better move. Even with one of my favorite bands, like AC/DC&.

Bloodstone: Oh, yeah. [Inwardly headbanging and yelling, "AC/DC rules!"]

Kruspe: I love them, I loved Bon Scott, and I think the connection between Bon Scott and Angus Young, it was great. When Brian Johnson came along, it wasn't bad, but it's not the same for me anymore. So, for me & one of the reasons I moved to New York, was to get away a little bit, you know?

Bloodstone: Has there been any one moment during the tour you would consider particularly gratifying?

Kruspe: Gratifying? What's that?

Bloodstone: Satisfying, fulfilling&.

Kruspe: [Makes thinking sound.]

Bloodstone: Something that made you go, "Yes! Yes!"

Kruspe: Yes, of course. & Like, we hadn't played for such a long time, and that was one thing I was really looking forward to, 'cause we had a break, and I had my [Emigrate] record, and then another record, like three times in the studio. And I think, after all those years, coming back, I realized that Rammstein is like an old wine - the older it gets, the better it gets. [Laughs.] And people are so loyal, they were waiting for us, and that was a good moment, when I felt like, we're still there, and we can still get kind of edgy, and people appreciate that. 'Cause sometimes you feel like, "Is it worth it, what I'm doing?" Blah blah blah. & Even if you do a record, there's so much thinking, so much strategy, so much talking - it's always so complicated with the band. It's just & those moments satisfy you, being onstage and seeing the people appreciating you.

Bloodstone: Finally, do you have anything you'd like to say to your Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual/Transgendered audience? Because they are out there! [Laughs.]

Kruspe: You know, there's nothing in particular I have to say, like, you know, just try to be as happy as possible! [Laughs.] Do whatever you would like to do, and do not let yourselves be censored.

Bloodstone: Works for me! Epilogue: As I was leaving, I briefly allowed my long-closeted "fangirl" side to surface, and told Richard that I had some friends outside waiting for the show, and they wanted me to tell him they loved him. He put his palms together, gave a little bow, and said, "The love is returned." What did I tell you? There's your Summer of Love baby, right there.

#1: Due largely to permits regarding pyrotechnics. (See: The chill factor following the deaths of 100 Great White fans at The Station nightclub in 2003.)

#2: Germany's "Index of Restricted Works." Shortly after the release of Rammstein's Liebe Ist Für Alle Da last October, Ursula von der Leyen, head of the Federal Ministry of Family Affairs and the conservative Christian Democratic Party, directed the Federal Dept. of Media Harmful to Young Persons to rule the album unfit for minors, which meant the band was unable to play certain songs in concert in Germany. The album was recently removed from the "restricted" list.

#3: "Pussy," which included a triple-X video featuring the band's heads digitally superimposed on the bodies of porn actors. (I found it charming that he did not seem able to say the word "pussy" in front of me.)

#4: In the artwork for Liebe Ist Für Alle Da, Kruspe is depicted with a naked woman over his knee, apparently administering open-handed "discipline."

#5: http://visit-x.net/rammstein/ (I very much doubt he's exaggerating the hit rate.)

#6: Pro-Gay song from the 2005 album Rosenrot. The video featured the band, apparently naked, and many obviously naked male bodybuilders. Is regularly taken down from YouTube, despite the complete lack of overtly sexual content. Go figure.

#7: Richard's other band, formed in 2005. http://www.emigrate.eu/

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