Interview with Richard Kruspe of Rammstein: Giving It To America

One week before Rammstein were heading to Chile to kick off a tour of six South American cities and one U.S. date at Madison Square Garden, guitarist Richard Kruspe called me from his hotel room in New York City.

I was pretty excited to speak to him, since I haven’t heard much from Rammstein in many years, except for their album releases. But what makes me feel that way is because I only saw them once, about 10 years ago on the Family Values Tour, and to this date, I remember their performance like it was yesterday.

I especially remember the part of the show where the keyboardist was posed doggie style on stage and singer Till Lindemann enacted as though he was “giving it” to the him from behind, with a long hose that came out of his pants and shot, what looks like something liquid, into the keyboardists’ backside. That’s a memory I don’t think will be leaving me… ever! There was also their eccentric pyrotechnics and a heavy-ass set of songs.

This time around, Rammstein decided to only play a small handful of dates, but something tells me they’ll be back for more soon enough. Tickets sold out in less than thirty minutes for their performance at the World’s Most Famous Arena. This will be the only U.S. show by the Berlin-based six-piece band, who has not performed in America since 2001. The band’s most recent album, Liebe Ist Für Alle da (“Love is there for all”), was released in November 2009 and hit number one on charts across Europe, and entered on the Billboard Charts at number 13—the highest chart entry for Rammstein in the United States ever—and boosted their worldwide catalog to over 16 million albums sold. Rammstein’s live show requires about twenty 18-wheelers, packed with pyrotechnics, flame-throwers, bazookas and enough armaments to level a small country.

Here’s what Richard had to say….

First and foremost, I think what’s on everyone’s mind is, why did it take so long for you to return to the states?

Out of so many things why, we did like a two-year break after our Reise, Reise. When we toured the last time, we just [needed] a break. The band needed the time off. After two years, I was doing my solo project, then I took another two years to do the record, and for some reason, as you get older, touring isn’t a high priority anymore.

A few years ago I suggested that we should do something big. Right now, people can see what we do in Europe, and we play such bigger places in Europe than the rest of the world. And at the time we thought that it’s a shame we can’t bring the whole show to America. We chose to play the Garden, the agent wasn’t sure if we could sell it. Then, we asked them again about a year ago, and we decided to give it a go.

Well, we sold out in 20 or 25 minutes, and I was shocked. It was such good news. I was actually jumping up and down in my apartment when we found out. We didn’t know what to expect. But, the reason it took so long is because making the record took long and the European tour, it all took a lot of time. We became much bigger in the rest of the world than in America and it was hard to bring our entire show with the stage and pyrotechnic with us, it’s a whole visual thing. Since we were bigger everywhere else but in America, we just didn’t think America would make sense to go to. We knew we had a lot of fans here, we just couldn’t figure out how to bring a big show to the states. We couldn’t play small clubs.

Of all of the cities, why did you pick New York City?

The Garden has history and it was a dream that I had—and the rest of the band—to play their once. As a musician, you just want to play the Garden, I don’t know what it is, but you just want to play there.

On that note, why only those few cities in South America?

Some countries have capacities to do our show and some don’t. We haven’t really played a full show ourselves in South America. We opened for Kiss once in South America. We played one time in Mexico and I’ve never seen anything like that. To see thousands of Mexican people singing in German is so amazing, I was like, “Wow!”

There’s always been lots of controversy surrounding the band, how has it been since the new album came out?

When we had the first video with the “Pussy” song, well, I think you’re talking to the wrong person. When people find controversy, to me, I think it’s funny. The video of “Pussy” is something I found funny. I showed the video to my kids and they were laughing too. I can’t really understand where [critics] are coming from. We are choosing certain things, we always had a dark side and we are interested in certain things. I guess that’s why people think we are controversial.

When we first started in our own country, we got blamed for being sympathizers of right wing direction. That hurt a lot because deep down we are a band, and if you are going to put us in a direction, we are liberal. There was lots of misunderstanding especially with the German generation at this time. It has changed a lot in the last six to eight years, but coming from German history, there’s always a lot of guilt. There’s certain kind of jokes you just can’t laugh at. Also, it comes from education, and there are certain things you shouldn’t do as a German. And we’ve overstepped some boundaries. I was never aware of things where I was hurting anyone.

We do believe if you want to make true art, you have to follow your instinct. Everyone in the band has morality, and there are certain things we’d never do. But Germany is still wounded by its own history. That’s why there was some kind of misunderstanding. But I think this is over. I think also, since the last World Cup, things have changed. When we had the World Cup, even people who felt it was not cool to have a German flag on their car were driving around with the German flag. The new generation Germany is getting much more a balanced feeling of its identity than it was a couple of years ago. It’s important that you have a balance of feeling to your own country.

Where do you get your inspiration from when writing music and in your live performances?

Obviously, it comes through life. It’s through good and bad things. We grew up in East Germany. It comes through how you see and go through life and all the good and bad stuff you experience growing up. When you start to write those songs we always attracted to the darker side of life as opposed to the happy side. If you write a song, all of a sudden the song goes in one direction then you have to follow up where the song wants to go, and then it comes kind of naturally, there’s certain things you want to visualize. And then every song gets what it deserves.

And in our live performances, obviously in the beginning, we had the language problem and people didn’t understand what we were saying. Then we started to experience with visual effects to make certain things clear. It’s like a big theater. You try to visualize things and then people understand more because we couldn’t communicate it any other way.

Rammstein’s latest studio album is available now via Universal/Vagrant records. The band will be playing at Madison Square Garden on Saturday Dec. 11. Tickets are sold out, so, we wish you the best of luck in your search for tickets on the Internet.