“We had Krauts and Hints & Cunts and Pink Ponies, I don’t know,” says Till Lindemann, speaking over the phone from his Melbourne hotel room. “We started with Krauts, but you know all these names… we couldn’t come up with a name, it was so hard.”
“We were brainstorming for a year or longer, but everything is taken. Then one guy from Universal Music came up with the idea of calling ourselves Lindemann and at first, we hated the name. Why ‘Lindemann’? It makes no sense. But we couldn’t come up with another one.”
To be fair, it does makes sense. Even in Rammstein, a band comprised of six similarly dry-humoured and stern-featured Germans, it’s Till who proves the most commanding presence. But you know, a semi-automatic flamethrower will do that.
While Till says his eponymous new project, a collaboration with Swedish metal veteran Peter Tägtgren, doesn’t have any current plans to take a live stage, the notoriously lewd and crude frontman is as incendiary as ever.
“I just sit down and things come out the way they come out,” he explains. “I read a book or watch a documentary, especially if you look at the song ‘Fat’, it comes from a particular documentary.”
“Have you heard of ‘feeders’?” he asks. “Skinny guys who feed their mums and they get bigger and bigger and sometimes they can’t get out of bed anymore. It’s a kind of fetish. It’s really strange and these are the topics I like to write about.”
But conservative listeners needn’t be swayed by lines like, “Moby’s dick is out of sight, they find my Nemo every night“, a highlight from the track ‘Fishing Rod’. “Just see the black humour behind it,” says Till. “We hope people read between the lines and don’t take it too seriously.”
“Everybody says there’s too much sex and fetish stuff, but there’s also the river descriptions in ‘Yukon’ or ‘Children of the Sun’, it’s a very bright coloured record. It’s not only sex and fetish all the time.”
In fact, some may be surprised to learn of the political roots hiding underneath Till’s puerile imagery. “In East Germany, it was hard to express yourself the way you liked, so you always had to talk around things.”
“You had to find synonyms and different words for stuff like this. So I do it old-school and try to talk about the bush by beating around the bush,” he says with a laugh. The title Skills In Pills can also be traced back to his youth in Soviet-occupied Deutschland.
“It comes from my youth in East Germany. We couldn’t get any drugs, so we started grinding up pills and mixing them with vodka to make our own drugs, but of course you had to be skilled in what you’re doing or else you’ll go out in space,” he warns.
The writing process behind Skills In Pills marked the first time that Till rendered his schoolyard limericks entirely in English, which, he explains, came out of necessity. “It had to be crystal clear to Peter, for him to know what I’m talking about in the lyrics,” he says.
“Peter would be sending files over all the time, and I tried to jump in with the lyrics, but sometimes I would send him just the vocal file, a chorus line or something, and he jumped in with the music. It was very simple, very easy.”
“We did the first half mostly via the internet and email, and then when it came to the serious work of recording, I flew over to his studio in Sweden all the time,” Till recounts. “We tried to make sure it wasn’t too similar to Rammstein… We need some distance between the two.”
“I started straight in English. It took a lot of effort at first. I was using dictionaries and asking English-speaking people in Berlin, asking around for help… it was a totally new working field. So many new words and phrases and hook lines and stuff.”
“English was like… after six records with Rammstein, it’s kind of difficult to find new words and topics to write about, so it was like everything was totally open.” However, he’s unsure if the newly minted creative process will influence the band that made him the biggest frontman in Germany.
“It’s a totally different process, because in Rammstein it’s six of us working on music. Working with Peter was like going on vacation,” says Till. “I go back together with the Rammstein guys in September, we’re doing a new project, a new album, and Peter goes back to Hypocrisy and PAIN.”
“We’re still committed to our old projects, but this was a nice thing to do, working outside of our comfort zones. For me, especially, it was a challenge to try and sing in English and write lyrics in English.”
While Till is eager to take his new project on the road — “We would love to play Big Day Out or Soundwave in Australia” — he admits the future is uncertain, though it doesn’t mean we won’t be seeing more from the new collaboration.“The new project is necessary like a second asshole, I’ll tell you.”
“We’re waiting for the [album] release right now, then we shoot a second video, and I go back in September with my Rammstein colleagues doing a new record and Peter goes back to PAIN and Hypocrisy things. We don’t know if we’re going on tour, that’s the problem. We don’t really know yet. We’ll start brainstorming when the summer is over.”
As for Rammstein, “It’s pre-production. We gather together and we need to find a new rehearsal situation, because we’ve been on tour for almost five years, so we gave up all rehearsal rooms and stuff like this. We have to come up with a new situation and start the engine slowly.”
His sentiment towards his current preoccupation, which is garnering positive reviews for its scintillating mix of mind-twisting imagery, industrial soundscapes, and pummelling riffs, is characteristically sardonic.
“It’s necessary like a second asshole, I’ll tell you,” he jokes. “It was never the intention to do a whole record. We planned it out like me appearing on a PAIN record or something like that. The whole plan was like some PAIN song featuring Till Lindemann.”
“Then we had one song and I was like, ‘Put it on the net and wait to hear what people think. Get their reaction.’ And he wouldn’t do that. He said let’s do another one and another one, all of a sudden we found ourselves with four or five songs.”
“We started talking about doing an EP and then we put another song on it and some remixes and stuff, and all of a sudden we had a whole record done. It just came out of the blue.” Came out of the blue? Nah, we’re not touching that one. We’ll leave that to Till.
Lindemann will unveil their highly anticipated debut album, ‘Skills in Pills’, on Friday, 19th June via Warner Music.