The Gauntlet: How is it going?
Richard: It is going well, thank you. Things are very busy. Things are crazy at the moment, I don’t know why. I am not used to doing all this press by myself. I was asking for it though.
The Gauntlet: That’s got to be a good thing. If it were the opposite, you’d be worried.
Richard: Yeah, definitely. I don’t think I have ever gotten so many good reviews from press and journalists. I think it is great. It seems to be the only way you can tell if a record is successful as people don’t buy records anymore. One thing people are saying is that the more they listen to it, the more they like it.
The Gauntlet: I agree. The album is complex.
Richard: It is. What I like about the beginning is you can hear where I am coming from. As the album goes on, it has a different mood which I like. I was kind of surprised when I was listening to it the other day how rock oriented it is. I was expecting it to become a dark album from the start. Do you agree?
The Gauntlet: I agree. The first track “Emigrate” is very Rammstein-esque. I like the song, but was kind of put off thinking the rest of the album would follow suit and Emigrate would just be Rammstein 2. But after that song, they true album emerges.
The Gauntlet: Was “Emigrate” a song that just didn’t make it onto a Rammstein album but you really liked the song?
Richard: [laughs] It was one of the songs that I was really sad wasn’t recorded with Rammstein. I love listening to music in my car. I am putting a lot of effort and money into the sound system in my car. For some reason I get charged just listening to a CD in my car. It takes the music to another dimension.
The Gauntlet: I used to be the same, but now I have kids so cranking up the radio in the car is a little difficult.
Richard: Yeah? How many kids do you have?
The Gauntlet: I have 2, 2 and 6 year old girls.
Richard: I have 2 also, but they are much older. My daughter is 17 February, and my son is 15 in December.
The Gauntlet: I can’t imagine having a teenage daughter.
Richard: It is not one of those things I was really prepared for. I wasn’t really a father when we were living together. Once divorced, basically for the first 6 years, we shared custody of the kids. They would live with me for two weeks and then with their mother for two weeks. It was also easy in the beginning when they became teenagers. I remember when their mother called me and said she wanted me to come back. I am actually kind of a cool dad, but I have my limits. As a father, when I say no I mean no, but I am quite tolerant. I know kids need a line or a border. I remember when I came back from recording “Reise Reise” in Spain. It was one of the worst weeks of my life. I could not…, I didn’t know what to do. I don’t believe in violence or anything. I would talk to my daughter for hours and hours and she’d give me the feeling that she understood. But the next second she was gone again. She would skip class, steal, and it was just one of those things. And then finally it just went away. I hope it stays this way. I think it is just that generation. They don’t have any conscience in a way. They aren’t very political. She will come over with friends and they just seem lost. Maybe it is because I grew up in Germany or something. When I grew up, we had goals. I don’t think kids today have goals anymore.
The Gauntlet: That is my big problem. I hope my daughter gets what I am saying. Do your kids know that their dad is Richard from Rammstein? Does it mean anything to them?
Richard: My daughter would listen to all my Rammstein tracks first because she is brutally honest. If she doesn’t like something, she doesn’t like it. But I can’t use her anymore as she knows how to please me. She knows to just please me to get out of it.
The Gauntlet: I can imagine as she gets older it becomes “great song dad, can I have the keys to the car?”
Richard: Exactly, exactly. I used her a lot with the Rammstein tracks and she kind of grew out of it. That’s the problem, part of what I did wrong basically. She got all this attention for basically doing nothing. She didn’t really have to experience the problems of life. You need to work your ass off in life to get somewhere. Discipline is something that a lot of people don’t know. I basically had my stepfather beating the shit out of me, but at the end of the day, I became really disciplined. I am not saying that is the right thing to do, but at the end of the day, discipline is what it takes to be successful, that and really having your shit together. Being the child of someone who has made it is hard. She needs to realize these things on her own. I just hope that she will understand all this sooner or later.
The Gauntlet: I hate to change the subject, we can talk for hours about our kids, but you do have an album coming out soon.
The Gauntlet: Is Emigrate a side project, was it started a side project, where are you going with this?
Richard: Basically it started as a project and turned into a band thing. It is something that I will continue as it balances me out as a person. For me, the most important thing was over the last few years I wasn’t happy anymore playing in just one band. I am the kind of person that has a little too much energy. It was like if you like chocolate cake, that’s fine, but if you forced to eat chocolate cake all the time, you’d puke. Emigrate gave me the opportunity to split my energy in half. I never believed in monogamy. I always believed in duality of life. But for me to create a new identity and really separate those two lives was a great possibility in the beginning. That is why I think Emigrate is more like a cure for myself. It allows me to go back to Rammstein and be the happy guitar player.
The Gauntlet: The way you describe being in Rammstein sounds like it is a terrible place to be.
Richard: No, it is not that being in Rammstein is band. Every band has its own rhythm. For me working to much or pushing too much wasn’t good for the band. If you are in a car driving 200mph and the rest of the drivers are only going 100mph, there is going to be the need for an ambulance. You have to realize from the beginning, what is rhythm of the band; what is the speed of the band? I was really pissed and took it very personal in the beginning because I thought I would do great things with the band. Once I was able to distance myself from the band, I was able to realize that the band has it’s own rhythm. The most important thing is keeping the band together. So many bands today got pushed around and worked their asses off and eventually burned out. What good comes out of being around for 5 years and burning out? That was the problem. Splitting myself between two bands was what I needed to do. I always thought I should sing. It is something all guitar players dream about. I couldn’t imagine myself getting old and not trying it. When I arrived in the US in 2001, I was writing and writing. New York really got me inspired. I didn’t know where I would go with it. But after all this writing, I just decided to do it. I had to work through this frustration to go ahead and sing. It wasn’t about the actual singing what I wanted to say, but was about the right attitude to actually do it. If you have something to say, you need to get it right. Rammstein is so much of a democracy.
The Gauntlet: Is that why Emigrate was created, so you could have that control back in your life?
Richard: Yeah, yeah. It is frustrating after a while having a strong vision. I am a creative guy and it becomes so frustrating having to compromise all the time. Even if it works out. Compromising isn’t a good thing for me. I take it too personally. I do believe in a team. I also believe in the chemistry of the band. I think I like to be the one that calls the decisions. I believe the music itself must be the king, but I want to be the queen. It took us a while to learn this. At the moment, we are at the position where we are all really happy again. We are all equal. That was the most important thing. Going back to Emigrate, it gives me more control with what I want to do. It is a good thing, but can also be a bad thing. I miss being able to argue about certain things.
The Gauntlet: Is there more satisfaction fronting a band?
Richard: I haven’t really thought about it like that. It is more about me not feeling complete as a song writer and expressing what my life is about. Even when I started to play guitar, I was more interested in the song and how it could be played and all that kind of stuff. Without using my voice in Rammstein, my music always had this dramatic and moody vibe. To me, it didn’t sound complete. I wanted to use my voice to make it sound right. That was the most important thing for me, to write my songs for my own voice. I just wanted to be a complete songwriter.
The Gauntlet: Jacob Hellner and Stefan Glaumann were brought in to produce and mix the album?
Richard: That is not quite right. What I did, because the band I put together had never played together, I was nervous about the scenario. You can build up this great band on paper, but until they get in the room together, the chemistry might not be right. Because I was nervous in the beginning, I asked Jacob to join us. Once I realized that there was nothing to worry about, he just became a consultant basically. We wrote 17 songs in like 2 weeks. With Stephan, I had a lot of engineers in America that I admired, but I couldn’t afford them. I have worked a lot on Rammstein stuff with Stephan and he was a guy that I could trust. It wasn’t easy in the beginning I must admit. He was trying to adapt the Rammstein sound to the Emigrate songs. I was listening to the tracks and I was quite frustrated. It was not the way I envisioned the songs would go. I couldn’t really explain it to him. Then I came back and I always used a cube metaphor to explain Emigrate. I don’t know where it came from. I told him about the cube sound, but I told him it needed to be more “cubey” and it worked. From there he moved away from the Rammstein sound. Jacob would come in and listen to the tracks and let us know if he liked them or not. We changed the roles. I really liked it in the end. I was really nervous though about reversing the roles. Stephan was great as you could get his opinion on the songs. With mixing there are so many directions you can go with a song. It was great that he listened to my opinion and he did a great job.
The Gauntlet: I think Emigrate sets the mood musically for the song better than Rammstein.
Richard: That is what I say. I see the movie in the songs, like a soundtrack. I like to set the mood without the vocals. I was basically saying goodbye to an old world and saying hello to a new world. It was a big change actually. I had to say goodbye to Rammstein and my children and completely let go. I was comfortable in Berlin. It was quite a change. The most important thing as an artist is to go the unsafe way. You need to stay hungry as an artist and as a songwriter. If I become too happy, I can’t write songs anymore. So subconsciously a songwriter needs to stay depressed or always be suffering. What better place to be suffering than New York City?
The Gauntlet: The song “You Can’t Get Enough” has a slower tempo and more melancholy mood than the other tracks on the album.
Richard: All the songs are really personal. I never really talk about my lyrics. I want to create a dialogue with all the people who listen to it. If you can create a story with my lyrics, I think that is fantastic. It is a good thing.
The Gauntlet: I am not one to ask what the lyrics mean. Song lyrics are like poetry and what I get out of it might be completely different than you.
Richard: I remember in school, I had an art class and my teacher should us these old paintings and we came up with stories. At the end of the class the teacher told us what the painting really meant. I was always disappointed as our stories were much better.
The Gauntlet: I was so disappointed finding out what Neil Young’s “Old Man” was about or the origin of some of Bob Dylan’s songs. They wrote songs that were better left to the imagination.
Richard: There was a book about songwriting. It was about all the old American songwriters like Dylan and Young, and so many other people. They were all talking about writing songs. They discussed writing songs with words that just came out randomly. They would just scream something not knowing what would come out and it was just so at the moment. That is what I do. Sometimes I would start to change, but I would stop. I really think that good songwriting is taking those words that come out at the beginning and creating a song around them.
The Gauntlet: The German language is so much more expressive. Was it difficult expressing your emotions as well in English?
Richard: German is a really great language but it is really complicated. Not many people can write in German. I think Till does a great job with it. There are a couple others I really like. You need a certain kind of music for the German language. The way we pronounce words is so much more rhythmic. Everything is on a one. The English language is much groovier. Growing up around English music and living in New York it became something I was more comfortable with. It kind of wouldn’t make since. I am a big believer in the environment influencing ones songs. For me it was more comfortable to write in English. The English language is less official. The German language doesn’t really have the vocabulary to do small talk. It is so much more complicated to do an interview in German. I can talk about politics and other really deep shit, but I can’t do the small talk. It is great to use English to meet girls, but it is so difficult in German. You can’t say “How is it going?”
The Gauntlet: Paul Landers mentioned to me last week that Rammstein is really gearing up for recording. Emigrates album drops when you will enter the studio for Rammstein. I assume no Emigrate tour?
Richard: That is the problem at the moment. I am dedicated to Rammstein. We are writing a new album and everyone in Rammstein is in a good mood. Right now the most important thing is to get the record out and do a few tours. That is what I am aiming for. Rammstein hasn’t played live for 2 Ѕ years. I don’t have the time for Emigrate. I just can’t do it physically; I can mentally, just not physically. I am already writing the second Emigrate album and hoping I’ll be able to tour for that one. I love writing! I just love to create things. I can’t help it. It is a great city to write in.
The Gauntlet: Is New York your muse?
Richard: [pauses] Yeah, I’d call it that. That is a good thing.
The Gauntlet: I guess we all find our muse in different places. New York City terrified me. I am from Los Angeles, but New York is a completely different beast.
Richard: There is this fantastic drama in the city that I need and love. I am a little privileged. I have my own house in SOHO. I have my studio downstairs. I have the energy outside. The difference between Berlin and New York for me is every time I go outside, I feel apart of something, part of the city. If I go inside, I am alone. Berlin is quite the opposite. When I go outside, I am very lonely. It is a weird thing, I can not explain it.
Right now I am going back and forth monthly to work with the band. That is the good thing about Rammstein anyway, we never record in Berlin. I am hoping we can record in Los Angeles this time. I was talking to the guys and I think it is a good step. I like the sun. We are looking to enter the studio in March. I think it would be a great thing to do.
The Gauntlet: How many songs are written?
Richard: We have about 30 songs and ideas that are worth going into and working out the vocals and lyrics. I would call them more ideas than completed songs. Tomorrow I am flying to Berlin and going to the Baltic Seas to finish the songs and hopefully it will work out great.
The Gauntlet: Paul said the songs have a more metal feel to them than previous Rammstein songs.
Richard: Well, I like them. They are more live oriented. Right now a lot of the songs are just us jamming together. We just jam around for hours and all these ideas just come out. I have been having so much fun lately just jamming and that is a really good sign. It is almost like things are too well. The hardest album we made, the one with the most suffering was “Mutter,” and a lot of people think that’s our strongest album.