Till Lindemann + Peter Tagtgren Talk ‘Skills in Pills’ Disc, Recording in English + More
After six studio albums with Rammstein, vocalist Till Lindemann and the group have been on a break as the various members have taken on outside projects. During this period, Lindemann and his friend Peter Tagtgren, best known for the bands Pain and Hypocrisy, decided to make good on a long in the works plan to collaborate on a song together. But one song turned into more and soon Lindemann and Tagtgren had a full album on their hands. Recently released under the moniker Lindemann, the disc titled Skills in Pills has arrived to positive reviews.
Loudwire had a chance to speak with Lindemann and Tagtgren about their collaboration, Till's transition to singing and writing in English and what the future holds for both musicians. Check out the chat below.
Obviously this all started because you guys wanted to collaborate together on a song. Can you tell me about the origins of this project and when you figured out that this was going to go beyond just the one song?
Peter Tagtgren: It started in 1999 or 2000, I think. When we met up in Stockholm, I had some promotion. We had the same label and we were there promoting an album and we just ran into each other in bars after working time. Wherever I was, he was and it was just weird. Then someone introduced me to him, and we just started talking and a couple of months later I was up in a biker club, up north in Sweden and me and my brother and some friends walked in. It was just chaos in there. The keyboard player and Till were fighting with some bikers and we had to jump in and save their asses, kind of. It's a funny story, it sounds kind of cliche but it was a little bit like that.
We stayed in contact, he stayed at my house a couple of times when they didn't want to go back to Germany on weekends because they didn't mix on weekends and stuff. We started to get to know each other more and more and I asked him if he wanted to sing some song parts on some Pain songs. He was more or less happy to do it but there was always this timing thing. When I was on tour, he was home. When he was on tour, I was home. There was always something, he could never make it.
In 2013, Till invited me and my family to a concert with them and said now we're going to have some time off with Rammstein so maybe we should try to do this. OK, let's do this, and he called me. I started writing some s--t, sent it over to him and he put down some vocals an sent it back. The first thing I hear is "Ladyboy" and I'm like, "What the f--k?" [laughs] It was funny, though. His humor is different than most other people. He knows how to fool things to get the attention.
It's his song and of course he struggles with the English, but I tried to pat him on the back and tell him to keep on doing it, man. You're onto something. Just short simple English that everyone can understand, no slang or nothing. He was doing like AC/DC music. He did that in the lyrics. The stories are totally insane. It's a good combination, if you tell a story with clean English, and the story is insane.
I'm guessing you were a fan of Till and his band long before you even thought about doing something musically. But can you tell me what it was like to meet him for the first time and the impression you got of Till?
PT: He was pretty quiet in the beginning. They had only released two albums and they were semi-famous around the world. They were really big in Germany, but outside it took more albums before they really hit the jackpot, so to speak. He was nice and quiet, the whole band was. As soon as you start filling them with alcohol, they change into people like we all do when we get some alcohol in our bodies.
Till Lindemann: Cherries in cold water! [laughs]
This project with Peter, it could be anything you want it to be. How good was it to break away from Rammstein knowing you could start fresh with whatever you wanted to do?
TL: I never wanted to be with him that long. It was about one song in the beginning. Then it turns out as a fun project, we got the most fun out of it. One of the things -- traveling all the time back from Sweden, liquor is less expensive here and I'm a stupid alcoholic so [laughs], it was fun, all the way. Especially when it comes to recording, if you see the lyrics written down on a piece of paper -- it's some stupid words, but when we started recording and you listen to it then we were laughing our asses off all the time. It's different from Rammstein.
Peter, like you said you mentioned that "Ladyboy" was the first song he sent you, and he wrote it in English so you knew what was coming down the line there. Can you talk about what it was like, just seeing what was coming from the mind of Till and did any of this surprise you at all?
PT: Both yes and no. I wasn't ready for a song that I wrote music to to be called "Ladyboy." It never crossed my mind. On the other hand, I know that Till is kind of a f--ked up person so he does what comes from his gut. When he has an idea of a ladyboy, I go with that.
This collaboration, it could work or it could not work. How long before you guys started working together did you realize you were on to something that you wanted to take further?
PT: I don't know, after 3-4 songs we started figuring out that maybe it would work.
TL: [After] 4-5 songs we started thinking about doing an EP or something.
Can you talk about what you learned about each other through this process?
TL: Peter can't stand any alcohol, that's the problem. Two beers and he's out [laughs] then anything can happen. No, to be honest it's amazing how this guy is working in the studio doing all the things, all the instruments -- producing, mixing, arranging, he's recording it -- playing the drums, bass, keys, every f--king thing. It's just really efficient to work with a person who can do everything in the studio.
PT: The arrangement we did together, we took these songs and pulled them apart and put them together again until we felt like, "Ah this is the right way." I learned a lot from Till in putting these songs together. He has always different ideas, he got my mind to think out of the box.
The video for "Praise Abort" did very well in Loudwire's video countdown. Can you talk about the song "Praise Abort" and then the video that you did with it?
PT: The lyrics are about a friend of Till's and they're eating him alive including his ex-wife. He has no money left because they're all taking it from alimony. It's based on a friend of Till's life. The video we can always blame on the director. [laughs] The first time he ever met me, we talked about doing the video and stuff, he pointed to me and Till and said, "You guys are pigs." That was it. We go off and say, "Yes sir." That's how it started and we started going bananas with this story.
Till can you talk about your family's reaction to that song, "Praise Abort"?
TL: My family knows me doing these things. They can read between the lines and know the dark humor, they're used to it. My kids started laughing when they saw it for the first time.
Also "Yukon" is one of my favorite tracks on here. I love the piano and the orchestral stuff thrown in. Can you talk about how fun it was to take that avenue in terms of putting together this song?
PT: From the beginning, the song didn't really start like that. It started like always, total power with guitar and everything. It actually started with Till going out on the - he went up to Canada and he was canoeing on the Yukon river. He got so inspired by the whole thing, so one of the first stuff he had when he got Internet ...
TL: Fairbanks, Alaska.
PT: He jumped out, got some Internet and he sent me the lyrics. I got really influenced by the words he wrote and started writing music to it. When he got home, the song was done. It was not arranged done but all the parts were done. Then Till started to strip the intro and that's how we got a real soft and good beginning that really flows.
Have to ask, for both of you, is there talk of taking this out on the road and playing some shows - if so, what song would you like to see maybe get a chance to be played live?
PT: If you think about the repertoire we have, we have to play all of them. [laughs] Or else we're done in 30 minutes. We were thinking of doing some festival gigs next year -- this year is too short to even think about it. We're considering taking it out, not on tour but maybe some festivals all around the world.
There's all kinds of different packages that people can get on this record. One of the things I saw on there is the video you guys did for the coffee table book. Can you talk about what's inside and what you guys did in putting that together?
TL: I was thinking how we can do something really special that people could get into. The whole idea was to put the CD in the CD player and open the book and follow the music to the picture. For every song we had one picture that maybe was my kind of illustrating the meaning. Then we started thinking bigger and about a whole story. Then we tried to illustrate what's going on with the music. The idea was like sitting in front of a fireplace and opening the book, listening to the music, opening a good bottle of wine and looking at the pictures. It was just really interesting, you know what I mean?
Translating to English for this, did it provide any challenges for you in terms of the lyric writing and how was it making that transition in writing songs in English?
TL: You know, I grew up in the East part of Germany so we never had English in school, we had to learn Russian. I grew up learning Russian and translating English songs when I became a teenager, we got to listen to West Germany radio stations, and learning lyrics with picture book. These are my first experiences with the English language. After that I had to learn when we went on tour in America, you learn it on the street. For me, it's a big challenge to translate everything in English.
With Richard Kruspe branching out and doing Emigrate this past year and you doing Lindemann, Till, what's the current status of Rammstein?
TL: Our keyboard player, he wrote a book about his childhood which was really successful. So everybody has something during their free time. We go back together in September now and we start feeding the engine for pre-production and rehearsals and we hope to start over in September and continue our work.
It's the 20th anniversary of Rammstein's debut album. Any thoughts on that anniversary?
TL: Unfortunately everyone busy their free time was with their families, most of them were out of the country so we really missed the chance to do something for a 20th anniversary. I think maybe in the fall or later, but it's never too late.
As far as Lindemann, what does the future hold for the two of you?
PT: I would say this summer we're still doing promoting, it never ends, which is good. But after that, Till goes back and starts with his stuff with Rammstein and I'm going to start to think about what the hell I want to do now. If I'm in the mood to write some more Lindemann stuff, I'm going to keep writing it and sending it to him -- when he has time, he can tackle the lyrics. Anything can happen.
What about Pain or Hypocrisy? Anything going on with those bands at this point?
PT: Not right now. We haven't talked for a while now, me and Michael stay in contact. I don't know. I'm just waiting to see if someone tells me they have some songs. That'd be easy. It's always me who has to start the ball rolling when it comes to that band, where Pain is more my baby I guess. I can start or do whatever, whenever. Right now I'm in the Lindemann mood, maybe something will happen where we can write more songs.
Thank you for the time today.
TL: Thank you.
PT: Thank you very much. Maybe we'll see each other on some festivals.
Watch Lindemann's 'Praise Abort' Video