How Rammstein’s Richard Kruspe Lost His Love for Music + Found It Again With Emigrate
Rammstein guitarist Richard Z. Kruspe is constantly battling the impending death of his passions. With nearly 25 years of Rammstein having passed, Kruspe continues to work with Emigrate, just releasing the project’s third studio album, A Million Degrees, while simultaneously putting hours into Rammstein’s highly anticipated seventh full-length. However, his love-hate relationship with music as a whole was undeniable when we spoke with the artist.
Passion is Richard’s calling card, as he speaks with pride and enthusiasm about A Million Degrees, which features vocal appearances from Till Lindemann, Ghost’s Tobias Forge, Billy Talent’s Ben Kowalewicz and more. Despite this, Kruspe is the vocal centerpiece of the album, carrying anthemic tracks like “You Are So Beautiful” and “War.”
In this interview, Krupse speaks about the original A Million Degrees recordings being destroyed in a flood, the difficulties of having total freedom with Emigrate, being "fucking tired of music" while remaining lustful for creativity, and more.
When it came to the first Emigrate album you said that it felt like New York. The second one felt like Berlin. What does this third one feel like since you were able to record it in your own studio?
Wow, that's a good question. I kind of realized a couple of weeks ago; I went back to my hometown, Schwerin, where I actually originally come from. One of my musical mentors had his 60th birthday and I hadn't seen him for 25 years. We talked about people coming back to their hometown because they feel like it's kind of home for them. Then I realized that I don't really feel like that I have a home.
Every time I drive to Berlin, it doesn't feel like home. Actually, when I was in New York, it didn't feel like home. After building my house for four years, that kind of feels like home, but that could also be somewhere else. You know, this house I could have built in South Africa or whatever.
I don't have that cultural influence anymore. In New York, in the beginning, I was very inspired by the speed of the city. When I came back to Berlin, the electronic world came together and I was inspired by that, but I don't really have, on this record, a culture thing. This time it was more about actually having the challenge to do something that I haven't done before. All of a sudden, life presented me with the task to do something I hadn't done before — write out of memory — because all my records that were recorded and mixed were destroyed by water damage.
I was so pissed at life, but then after a while, I felt like, ‘Wow, this is a situation where I can actually do something different right now.’ That was interesting to do and that was interesting to really write out of memory, to try to get my passion and fire back.
I kind of felt like I lost the connection, I lost the passion, I lost the fire. I was like, ‘If I'm not convinced right now, how can I convince someone else?’ I put it on the side to concentrate on building my house. Then two years later, I had this water damage, and that kind of led me into the new way of writing.
As you mentioned, the original album was destroyed in that flood. Do you think that the album turned out better because you needed to start from scratch?
You have to set yourself free from that kind of thought because it doesn't lead you anywhere, because then all of a sudden you doubt. Sometimes you have to let go, restart and reset yourself somehow and start fresh.
For me, what was more important is I felt convinced, I felt passionate, I felt like the fire that was out gave me the confidence to do another Emigrate record and finally listen to it and be like, 'Wow, this is something that I am very proud of,’ which I wasn't before. That was actually more important. I really had to reset myself.
Last time I spoke to you was when Rammstein was on tour in 2017. You were talking to me about the importance of, when you're a member of Rammstein, transcending your ego for the good of the group. When it comes to something like Emigrate, is it easier or more difficult to transcend ego?
It's like with everything in the world; it doesn't have a black and white and there's always grey tones into the picture. I mean, [there’s] pros and cons of each project. One other thing I realized with Emigrate is when I kind of feel that I'm the captain of the ship, I feel that I'll be able to become a much better team player because all of a sudden I don't have the ego to push a certain kind of instrument. Sometimes in Rammstein it's more about getting your way.
Sometimes, when you are by yourself, you are missing your reflection that you need to push certain kind of ideas through. Sometimes you have ideas and you're not sure. In Rammstein, I have ideas and I go through five people and if the idea still stands after going through five people, I'm sure that it's a good idea. With Emigrate, sometimes I don't have anyone that will challenge me in a way, you know? Sometimes I miss that.
You have a lot of really cool guest vocalists on this album, including Till Lindemann and Ghost’s Tobias Forge. How much input do your guests have when it comes to recording their vocal parts?
I mean, I always tell them they're free to change the things, but normally they don't do that. [laughs] They're cool with what I have written and they're actually forming the same ideas, just with a different voice. I let them have the freedom, but they don't use the freedom.
For example, with Tobias [Forge] — when I wrote the song I didn't know him, but I kinda felt like maybe he would be the right guy. We were looking for Rammstein producers and then I realized that we had new three names on the list and they all had worked with Ghost. So I called Tobias up and talked about his experience with those producers and then he told me that he would be in Berlin next week so we had a meeting in my house and we talked about it.
We hit it off very very quick. I asked him if he was interested in a collaboration and he said no, he doesn't do stuff like that. He was in the studio and he was listening to ‘I’m Not Afraid.’ All of sudden he turned around and said, ‘I’m in.’ I was like, ‘Really?’ He said, ‘Yeah, let's do it.’ Wow.
That’s what I like about this project, you know? Normally if you have a band like Rammstein, you work for 20 years with the same guys. If I tell Till, ‘I think someone else should sing,’ he'd probably kick my ass.
It's interesting because you've now done two Emigrate albums while working on Rammstein. Does working on the Emigrate records give you strength and motivation to continue with Rammstein? Does it re-energize you at all?
It does. It’s kind of like if you have a main wife, you can always go to the second wife. [laughs] Sometimes it's maddening, it doesn't solve the problems, but it just makes you feel better in a certain way. I'm a very visionary guy. It's so hard sometimes [for those visions] not to come through and it sometimes helps to go back to Emigrate, where I can do whatever I want. It tells me to get that distance again from the Rammstein world. It really helps, I must say.
Every time Rammstein is about to release a new record, you’ve always said, ‘This is the last one.’ Do you feel in your heart that the next album really is the last one?
I always say that, and believe me, it’s very true when I say that. I really believe. That’s the funny thing about man, they tend to forget bad things. Every time I talk to a man that had a bad relationship and I talk to the women, or I talk to my ex-girlfriend, it’s like, ‘What? It wasn’t that bad.’ They’re like, ‘Oh, you forgot about that and that?’
I was sure that, for me, the last time was the last time. It’s like the saying, ‘If you want to make God smile, tell him your plans.’ You think something and then life teaches you otherwise. There’s a certain age where you question about how much time do you have, you know? Is this the end of what you want to achieve in life? Is there maybe something else you want to do in life? Is there something else you want to learn in life?
Do I want to do another Rammstein? At the moment, I don’t because I did for four years of fucking Rammstein records. At the moment, I feel like I don’t want to do anything anymore, I’m fucking tired of music. At the moment, Emigrate is out and I’m very, very happy. The Rammstein record is coming out (we're thinking about April at the moment) and we’re going on tour probably for the next three years. I don’t know, so many things can happen.
I know I'm privileged. Having a band that sold out stadium tours in four hours — it's crazy. The world of Rammstein, I always feel it has to stop at one time. It has to go down, but it grows and grows. It's scary sometimes.
Thanks again to Richard Z. Kruspe for speaking with us. Click here to grab a copy of Emigrate's 'A Million Degrees.'
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