This is a translation of an article that appeared on Friday 6th July 2012 in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung.  Its author is Alexander Gorkow, and the photo below was taken by  Andreas Muehe.  This translation will be a work in progress due to the sheer volume of words it contains.  Update April 2013:  I've enlisted the help of a good friend, Sabine Jones of SJ Consultancy, who just happens to be a Rammfan and German translator, so we can work much faster on it together!  See update below if a repeat visitor.


(First line of the song Angel:)  THOSE WHO LIVE WELL ON THIS EARTH

Rammstein - on tour in America with Germany's biggest cultural export.

Contents 6th July 2012

This Magazine is completely dedicated to a rock supergroup:  Rammstein are Germany's biggest misunderstanding - yet at the same time they are Germany's largest cultural export.  The band don't really like speaking to journalists that often (or not at all.)  The photographer Andreas Muehe (32), and the editor of Seite Drei (Page 3) of the South German newspaper (Süddeutsche Zeitung), Alexander Gorkow (45), have known the band for years.  For the first time, the band has allowed unrestrained access to glimpse their life and their work:  Mühe and Gorkow accompanied Rammstein over several weeks on their tour through Canada's arenas and those in the US.  Gorkow recalls "many, many hours spent with pensive, musical and, at heart, totally belligerent anarchists."

Enjoy reading this article!

USA, 8.56 pm

In 4 minutes one of the greatest shows of recent pop history will begin.  Ten thousand Americans will sing along with Rammstein, "We are waiting for the light/ don't be afraid, it'll be alright."  SZ Magazine accompanied the band through days and nights in Canada and the United States.  Welcome to a journey that will more than leave its mark (scar?). 

Rammstein, A Song: "Do good things, you'll be forgiven/So trod a path that is well driven/You'll soon receive a visitation/we're coming with songs of creation."

Thilo 'Baby' Goos, event technician, Denver Coliseum:  "That, dear Rammfan, is one of the biggest stages currently touring.  24 metres wide, 15 metres high, made of pure steel.  100 loud speakers and many lights will be hung from the roof of the hall.  The crew's pulling 50 tons of equipment high into the rafters using 120 motors.  The PA system takes 380,000 watts.  It has to blast out.  This is Rammstein.  Two of the 24 trucks alone have been reserved by the US Trucking Company for two accompanying generators .  That's 2 Megawatt units each sucking around 1,000 litres of diesel from the fuel tank for every concert.  We need these power supplies so that lights don't go out in local towns every time Rammstein comes on.  Eco it's not.  You must choose between hot, old concert spotlights or cold light?  In which case, you need power.  Most of today's productions look like TV studios.  Same for rock concerts.  Ice cold.  But not Rammstein's." 

You need power.  Deep below, from the cavern below the stage, fountains of smoke belch out through the floor's metal grating right up to the rafters.  Flames also shoot out from below up through the metal grating.  Light shines up from underneath through the metal mesh.  On this grating stands the Rammstein singer, Till Lindemann.  He looks troubled, like someone dropping in from the Underworld. Add to this the voice; like very bad weather.  We wonder, does he himself hear voices? The “former cement and transport worker” Franz Biberkopf, starring in Döblin’s Berlin Alexanderplatz springs to mind. Freedom? A collection of curiosities. The cities? An excess. Life? You must face it, life, slamming right into it, Lindemann shouts out, "Left, two three, four" and starts marching, as if he had two battery packs underneath each butt cheek, asking all these Americans night after night, "Can our hearts sing out proud? Can a heart burst out aloud?  Can our hearts be pure and lone? Can a heart be made of stone?"

The people in the concert halls here in America sing along to each of the questions.  They move away from the pyrotechnics.  They sweat buckets in the heat.  They close their eyes from the bright lights.  At some point, after all these weeks of touring in North America, shortly before their departure in the early morning to lie down in Room 1023 of the Zaza Hotel in Houston, one thing will be certain:  it is so luminous, so loud and so hot, as if we were attending the birth of a new planet. On the right hand side of the stage there is an inbuilt bunker for the pyro-technicians. Whoever crosses this bunker during the show is exploring the entrails of a gigantic machine made from cables, nozzles, hoses, oxygen tanks. While performing the song Ashes to Ashes, for example, guitarist Paul Landers is standing in front of his smoldering microphone stand on the metal mesh atop this bunker, the soles of his boots only millimetres above the heads of those technicians below. They watch a show telling a sad and comical story through the slits in the metal mesh whilst Landers stands above them. It’s all about darkness and how light creeps into darkness. In Rammstein’s concerts, light may be represented by a red heart attached to Lindemann’s chest, beating in the pitch black concert hall: minimalistic art in a song which rides the corner with the weight of a bulldozer, My heart burns. Or in the case of Angel, it may be Lindemann's wings of steel, as it’s fifty kilograms he’s carrying, and at the end of the show these wings are going to spit flames. Or it may be flammable bursts, with which Lindemann, as the clown from hell, is cooking keyboarder and whitewashed mega-comic Flake Lorenz, in a giant iron cauldron, until he jumps out and rushes across the stage with smoking trousers.

Flake Lorenz, during the drive from San Antonio to Houston: “Anything made under a lot of pressure is shit. Just listen to the music on the radio. Whining, annoying, dull crap. Created under pressure. Produced by people who have to pay off their house mortgages. Introduced in a rather dull manner by people paying off their mortgages, for Capitalism numbs you. I have never made effort for five minutes in my entire life. You got to make a decision. Good art can’t be created under pressure. It can only be done unintentionally. Through passion.”

Only fragmented impressions will remain of America itself. The green of Denver and Red Rock State Park on the one hand; on the other, the Park Ranger issuing a warning when Richard Kruspe is asked to stand naked between the rocks in order to be photographed: “Dude, if the sheriffs come, each of you would face 180 days in jail.” Mockingbird Lane in Dallas, ‘Rockfish Diner’ and lunch with Lindemann in baking heat. Lindemann’s memories of the GDR and his penfriend Djenya from Kazakhstan who, one day, turned up in person and brought coloured plates from his home as a present to celebrate the World Festival of Youth and Students: “Komsomolets here, FDJ (Free German Youth) there.” The World Festival of Youth and Students wa organised so that these young socialists would proliferate. That was a hell of a shagfest.” Little Till was a sensitive, single-minded boy. On 19th March 1970, he watches Willy Brandt during a visit to Erfurt, stepping to look out from the window of the “Erfurter Hof” on West German TV. For hours on end, the child is shouting around the house “Willy Brandt, come to the window! Willy Brandt, come to the window!”. He remembers his apprenticeship as a joiner in “Factory Section 5”, Rostock-Schmarl: “Here’s a tree trunk, now make a window out of it, Lindemann! I shall make you a window out of a trunk today”.  

Another fragment of America: walking with Flake Lorenz along Huntington Beach. Flake’s shock at the developers’ pueblo-like, still birth conurbations under Californian sun, guarded like the Pentagon.  Flake swears: “Who the hell lives here? Who the hell wants to live here? This is mad, this is dull.” And then, suddenly, he bursts out into the backdrop of this pacific suburbia: “I once lived at Fehrbelliner Strasse 7”. “Yes, and?” “Now sit tight: in the same house, there was Mrs Fat and Mr Carnivore.” 

Is he taking the mick? 

“I swear. Astrid Fat in the one flat, Wolfgang Carnivore in the other. I even have witnesses.” 

But the show. The light. The fire. Everything’s in its place with split-second precision. Cirque du Soleil minus any escapism. Berlin nightclub “Berghain”, plus poetry. Till Lindemann acquires the so-called pyrotechnics’ licence in a crash course every few years in the Berlin Velodrome. The piece of paper he then holds in his big, scarred hands is something wonderfully ambiguous, namely: “Permission and licence to burn pyrotechnic devices.” It’s easy for others to make a din. But Rammstein know exactly when it has to burn and when it doesn’t; when the show is supposed to be a dream and when it turns into a nightmare. This show was born in the heads of storytellers, not in the heads of event simpletons. Another example: Drummer Christoph Schneider. His father is a Stage Director of the opera and a very young Schneider had already heard of mystical concerts in the West, of flying pigs and gigantic walls. Thus, very early on, the image of an infernal circus, a black theatre formed in Schneider’s head. Keyboarder Christian Lorenz, represents the anti-epic, and his nickname Flake refers to the highly stubborn but endearing personalities in the German TV cartoon “Wickie” [the Viking] from the village of the same name. Flake is actually a late child of the Fluxus [art/theatre] movement, plus he is a walker like no other, except maybe Robert Walser [German-speaking Swiss writer born in 1878, who went on mammoth mountain hikes.] And at that, he’s a radical. Sentences commenting on life just spat out whilst walking back from the concert hall to the hotel: “You f**k. or you don’t f**k. There can’t be just a little bit of f**ing.” 

Till Lindemann is scarred all over his body and face because he headbutts the heavy microphone stand every night. If you get close to this show you have to admit, it is actually rather dangerous. You get scarred from sparks flying around, your eyes get irritated by the light and the smoke and you get burns from the bursts of flame. 

Darkness on the one hand, light on the other. High volume on the one hand, low volume on the other. Sorrow on the one hand, humour on the other. You are not going to understand Rammstein if you are not prepared to accept that there are contradictions. This monster-sized unique message of the German language hasn't been concocted in the colossal cauldrons of cultural subsidies. Goethe-Institute? Up yours.