At a relatively short notice I was informed that the Rammstein guitarist Richard Z Kruspe would be in town talking about his new solo project Emigrate, of which only few dedicated Rammstein fans will have heard so far, and considering how big of an effect into the modern music scene his main band has had so far, it would've been approaching idiocy to miss the chance to probe him about his new solo project and how it affects his relationship with the Rammstein guys. I was walked into a fancy bar of an equally fancy hotel, where Mr Kruspe was meeting with the biggest music media in Denmark, including Soundvenue, Gaffa, Heavyjam and of course yours truly. After the obligatory major label contractual signings (basically me agreeing not to sell the interview or post it online in an audio format), we got straight down to business, and it soon appeared that Emigrate is much more than just a 'side project' for Kruspe, it is a major part of him which showed through his dedicated and well thought out answers to my questions. It became very clear that it is most of all his band and that he can do whatever he wants with it, and without it he couldn't be in Rammstein anymore. Speaking with his distinctly German English accent, Mr Kruspe came across as a very intelligent and indeed an experienced man in interviews, probably having done dozens if not hundreds before this one.
RF.net: Hi and thanks for doing this interview with us! I think the vast majority of our readers know you as the Rammstein guitarist...
Richard Z Kruspe: That's who I am, sometimes!
RF.net: ...and very few will know anything about your new project Emigrate. So if you could start off by telling me a little bit about how this project came together?
Richard Z Kruspe: It basically came together out of moving away or leaving my old world and entering a new world for me, which was New York in 2001. At this time, I'm in some unbalanced situation with Rammstein, and I felt I had to distance myself a little bit from the band. I was quite bored playing my role again and again. So I needed to move out, needed to have a challange. A new purpose, basically. So when I came to New York I was re-inspired by the city, by all the experience and new influence that I got from the city. Then I started to write and moved into an old firehouse which had a lot of history. It was quite interesting to live there - I'm still living there. I started to write music and sooner or later I realized that I had to do something that I always had wanted to do, basically singing. I never had the courage to do it, I was always trying to hide it basically. There was a time when I said to myself "Right now it's the time to do it". That's why it all came together.
RF.net: Should I interpret that then that Rammstein is kind of on a hiatus right now or what does that mean in relation to them?
Richard Z Kruspe: With Emigrate, I always try to explain it that basically Emigrate is the cure of Rammstein. Emigrate brought back the balance for Rammstein, it was really important because Rammstein has their own kind of rhythm, and I'm a little bit too fast sometimes for the band. So I had to cut my speed in half to fit into Rammstein, and that's why Emigrate was born.
RF.net: Lets say I was a huge Rammstein fan - what do you feel Emigrate would have to offer me?
Richard Z Kruspe: Nothing.
Richard Z Kruspe: No. Because I think... well first of all I have to explain why I do make or write music, and that's a really selfish thing to do. So when I started Emigrate, I was asking myself the question: does the world need another record? Does the world need anything new? I'm always thinking about that because there is so much music around. Then I realized that I needed this record so badly, I needed to do it for my own health, for my own sake, and that's the main purpose. That's something I have to do to survive. So doing this, I would not think about what other people think, or what they would think about my new thing. It was a really selfish thing, and that's why I'm saying nothing, because in the end of the day, it was important to cure Rammstein back, and it was important for me to complete myself as a songwriter in Emigrate, to start something new. That's the most important thing for me. If people appreciate it, it's fine, if not, it's fine too.
RF.net: If we look at your lineup, you've got some pretty known names there with the Clawfinger drummer and Axel Bauer bassist. How did you meet these two guys?
Richard Z Kruspe: Actually Arnaud Giroux, it's a French guy, I met him in New York, and we had a little bit of the same kind of history. Like he came to New York, got married there, and he was kinda by himself. He was looking for something. We met and we had a deal together basically saying I help him with some stuff, he helps me, so then he came to my studio and he was impressed by the stuff that I did, and said "listen, lets do it. Lets write together". He was the guy who recorded my vocals in the beginning. Henka I met when I played with Rammstein on a tour. I always loved his childish smile, that he had on when he was playing. I played him the demos from Emigrate and he was really into it and wanted to be a part of it. The other two guys were friends from Berlin that I always liked to do something with but hadn't had a chance yet.
RF.net: So you are about to release your debut album in September...
Richard Z Kruspe (cutting in): I will say 31st of August because this record has been ready for a year, so I don't want to think it's september [laughs]. But something always came in between us. We really took our time to basically put a team together that could survive another 3-4 years. These days, music industry is changing so fast that if you sign on a big major label, you don't know if they will be there in the next two weeks. For me, this is really something that I do free of choice. I mean Emigrate is the first thing I did in my life that I have not felt pressure. That's why I said nothing earlier. I feel not pressured that I have to prove anything for anyone, except for myself. Not to record companies, because I am financing it myself, not to my management, not for anyone else, just for myself. That's what it is.
RF.net: How long have you been working on this album? Had it previously just been talk to create an album, or have you been working...
Richard Z Kruspe (cutting in again): No no no, I was always working in the beginning, like I said I moved in 2001 to New York, when I actually made the choice, the decision to go there. And then I started to write the songs. But in the beginning obviously I was advanced in writing music, but as a singer I was like a baby. So I was really frustrated about this imbalancing going on. And I was like.. [pauses to think] I was really frustrated, and then I thought in the beginning that maybe I should use a singer, and then my bass player came and said "You wrote the songs, there's no-one left who can sing those, you have to do it". So it helped me to just conquer my fear basically, that there is nothing I can do, I just have to do it. Singing is all about attitude anyway. You have to kind of bring that onto tape, that's what it is. But you have to go there, you have to be in a state of mind to actually do it, which was new at the time for me. So you can't really say how long I took because it was a lot of involvement in the beginning, trying things out, I never really had time.. it was just two weeks or three weeks because I was back recording with Rammstein and touring with them. It was always a time in between, so it's hard to say how much I actually worked for it. But I worked a lot!
RF.net: Obviously the people who have heard the album so far are few and far between, so could you please tell us a little bit about the album as a whole, what it will sound like?
Richard Z Kruspe: I was surprised actually how, at the end of the day when I was listening to it after not listening to it for a long time, easy listening it is, kinda. I always thought I had a much darker side. This sounds kind of like rocky, in a way. I was surprised myself because I am not a big rock fan. I mean I am in the old days, but then I moved to a different world and then I was thinking like: "Okay, it's interesting because I am a big believer that an environment has a big influence on music anyway". So I was thinking about New York City and I thought about the history of rock music in New York. There's always sometime each year when a new band comes up from New York and people go "Wow, that's the new sound of New York City!" And then you see that it's the old sound from five years ago. So basically what I am saying is that New York's sound never changed. So maybe this also has had an influence on my record. I don't know, it's interesting.
RF.net: You mentioned before New York as one of your influences for the albums. If we speak strictly musically, what would say were your influences for this album?
Richard Z Kruspe: There's people that I admire, that I appreciate music-wise. But they are so far.. like I love Jimmy Page as a guitar player, I love Bon Scott as a singer, I love Jeff Buckley as a singer, I love Trent Reznor as a lyricist. They are people at extreme that I like.. but it's not that I'm into it. I wished sometimes that I could be more focused in a way. Focused means like... being into New York Hardcore. That's what I do, my whole life. But I'm not. And you listen to the tracks and there's a lot of different angles on the record. They only thing I realize as well is that in the end it became kind of a concept record, because all those themes, talking about my first entry to the new world or leaving my old world and all my experience that I lived through this time, are in those songs.
RF.net: If we take a look at your logo, I'm not sure which way to interpret it. Is it a broken star of David - or some kind of inspiration from HIM's heartagram, or something entirely different?
Richard Z Kruspe: It's just an E. There's no story for it. E is for Emigrate. New logo, E, simple like this. No hints.
RF.net: I wanna talk a little bit about the marketing campaign you had behind this album. You released a number of songs...
Richard Z Kruspe (cutting in): I didn't have a marketing campaign.
RF.net: It was more of an underground sort. Releasing songs through newsletters and having fans vote on them.
Richard Z Kruspe: Yes. I did what I did in the beginning because a lot of people were afraid of... or fearing Emigrate and thought that it is the end of Rammstein, "he's destroying Rammstein", but as I said before, it was actually the opposite that I did. And people didn't know and didn't realize. I was also trying to say "Listen: That's what I'm doing. It's not about making big money. I write music, that's what I do in my life. That's what I live and die for. I'm creating music, that's all what I do. Leave it hate it, whatever. But here it is." That's why I put songs out so people realize what I do.
RF.net: Emigrate has always been classed as a "side project"...
Richard Z Kruspe (cutting in): It's not a side project. It's a new project and it will continue, and will be always a part of me.
RF.net: So related to that then, will this become bigger than anything you've done before or are you planning to keep it on a certain level?
Richard Z Kruspe: If I knew this, I would consider myself as God. [laughs] I know what I can do but I don't know. I really don't know. It's hard to say. And like I said in the beginning when you asked me what do you expect, I expect nothing. I do what I wanna do, and it's the first time in my life.. growing up in East Germany I always felt like being forced into something. Like my childhood was being forced to because I always had this punishment of staying in a room for a long time, because of the way my parents brought me up. Even escaping from East to West Berlin, it was always that wasn't a free world. I always felt like someone forced me to do something, you know? And Rammstein also became kind of like a 'forced thing', and Emigrate is the first time I feel free. It's really important to explain it, I feel free to do whatever I wanna do. That's why I don't know what I wanna expect, I just do it.
RF.net: What do you aspire then? Would you like to see Emigrate as, say, a bigger band than Rammstein or...? Do you have some kind of goal for it all?
Richard Z Kruspe: I wanna make it as good as possible. There's no master plan behind it at the moment. I'm trying to do the best I can and that's it. I know Rammstein will always be my priority number one, and at the moment I'm actually cutting back because we are writing a new record. It's what I have to do for myself. It's almost like I was so bored of myself as I said before that I was happy to create a new identity to live with.
RF.net: I assume we will also see Emigrate on tour eventually?
Richard Z Kruspe: Eventually, but at the moment it is not planned because, as I said before, I gave my word to the band that the band is always priority number one, which at the moment is writing new songs for the new record. So there's no time at the moment.
RF.net: So eventually when you do get the time to play live, what kind of live show are you planning, because we all know from the past that it is pretty impressive?
Richard Z Kruspe: [laughs] It will be different that's for sure. I will not try to compete.. let me put it this way. When I rehearse for Rammstein there's like 50% talk involved, and 50% as music. With Emigrate, even though I had put a band together that had never played together, it was mostly 95% playing. So I think trying to bring it to a live situation it will be more music than a show. It's just the organic of the band, or the music, it's.. I don't know, we will see.
RF.net: So in other words, should we expect more of a traditional set, no props or anything like that?
Richard Z Kruspe: It's like for Rammstein, we never really had a masterplan for something. It came out very naturally. I know I love things in a certain way. Do you consider for example Nine Inch Nails show a normal rock show? So I don't know, we will see.
RF.net: So you are planning for it to be a bit more special?
Richard Z Kruspe: I don't plan anything at the moment but I know me, and I know that I will always have something special. So therefore, there will be something special.
RF.net: One more question. Lets say Emigrate miraculously starts selling more than Rammstein - what do you expect to happen?
Richard Z Kruspe: [long pause] Happen with me or? I just made up my mind anyway, so I know as I said before that Emigrate is a part of Rammstein and Rammstein will always be there for me. I'm a really loyal person. If I promise something I always keep my promise. So at the moment, the only way I can be with Rammstein is that I'm in Emigrate. So that's a new situation for me, and I'm really happy about this situation. So if Emigrate will sell more records than Rammstein... I will not regret it [laughs]. I don't know, I will be happy, but nothing will change.
RF.net: Okay, so it's not a competition as such?
Richard Z Kruspe: No not at all. It's actually not a competition at all, it's more like a cure for myself and for the band. It's not really about making money. It's not. It was really more to get complete as an artist, to really do something myself, to really do whatever I wanna do, there's no force behind me. And that's what I have to do.
RF.net: Thanks for the interview. Any last comments for our readers?
Richard Z Kruspe: Thank you very much. Follow your instincts!