By Daniel Tucceri
To kick off 2015, Rammstein frontman Till Lindemann quietly launched a Facebook page bearing little more than his name, a logo and a photo of himself with Hypocrisy’s Peter Tagtgren. It would have been like any of the millions of other bands going about making their presence felt online if not for one minor detail. The photo of choice featured Tagtgren in a wedding dress, seductively lifting it to reveal a pair of deer legs.
Over the course of the year, a colourful series of teasers and snippets have been released. Most recently, a thirty second snippet with Lindemann proclaiming “I like to f***” was leaked for the world to hear. On a comparatively drab Melbourne afternoon, I meet the gruesome twosome. Abstract and vivid artwork adorns the walls of their classy hotel, though ‘Skills in Pills’ hints that these fellows wouldn’t feel out of place in the seediest of no-tell motels. Despite singing the praises of a nice warm ‘Golden Shower’, good old fashioned golden ales are in order as we discuss Lindemann’s origins. Rumour has it the Swede and the German first crossed paths during a bar fight in the former’s hometown.
“I went up north in Sweden with our (Rammstein’s) keyboardist Flake (Christian Lorenz) and we ran into a fight in a bikers club”, recalls Lindemann. “All of a sudden, he came with his brother and a whole entourage from his village”, he continues with an appreciative nod to his partner in crime. “He came and saved our arses!”
“I knew from my intuition he’s a sick bastard”, Tagtgren refers to his band mate with affection. “And it fits me perfectly you know. We knew somehow that our minds are in common”.
It’s a pretty strong way to kick off a friendship, with the rapport between the two clear to see. They kept in touch for a number of years before finally deciding to collaborate, originally planning to release nothing more than a single. “It was supposed to be one song”, begins Lindemann. “From the beginning, we were not supposed to do any albums or anything like that, not even a photo together.”
That initial recording would serve as the catalyst for the other ten songs featured on ‘Skills in Pills’. As expected, the album is the perfect cross pollination of Tagtgren’s industrial rock project PAIN with the distinct sounds of Rammstein. “With a different twist”, grins the goateed guitarist.
With Tagtgren openly admitting to being a perfectionist, I can’t help but wonder how two strong personalities managed to unite and spawn such a cohesive record. “I wanted him to write a ballad. I insist a good record needs a ballad,” Lindemann makes clear. “I refused. I’m not gonna write any gay fucking ballad”, Tagtgren declares equally clearly. “But he opened it and I got a bloody tooth for it too.” To have not done so would have deprived the album of its highlights, particularly the epic ‘Yukon’, ‘That’s My Heart’ and ‘Home Sweet Home’.
With those numbers nestled snugly alongside ‘Ladyboy’, ‘Praise Abort’ and ‘Fat’, ‘Skills in Pills’ is a schizophrenic symphony of sleaze and sentiment. Lindemann was more than happy to maintain his penchant for shock value after an adolescence raised within the repressive climate of East Germany. Those early memories informed the somewhat curious title of the duo’s debut. “We couldn’t get any drugs there, so we got these pill cocktails. You need to have skills in pills, otherwise you die or get lost in space”, the frontman demonstrates with invisible pills and shot glass. “Two of them, one of these, three of the green ones, grind it up, some of the vodka, and it’s all the way down to Chinatown!”
For the record, Tagtren took care of instrumental duties whilst his German counterpart handled the words and vocals. “It’s such a relief to not be the front person, I’m so happy!” exhales Tagtren with mock relief. “I can go up onstage, eat mushrooms and shit, no one will know! I still do my job and enjoy it, but to do that and sing and talk to the audience? Oh forget it!”
It’s clear that Lindemann is less a solo vehicle than a genuine collaboration. Some fans could be forgiven for remaining less than convinced given the choice of name, but for the two the reason was quite simple. “We couldn’t find a name!” Tagtgren admits with a wide-eyed shrug. “We were trying everything, ‘Kuntz’, ‘Krauts’…,” continues Lindemann.
“At the end we were really getting desperate, texting each other with stupid f***ing names”, Tagtgren recalls. “‘Flies on Dicks’”, adds the grinning singer again. “One guy came up with the idea call it ‘Lindemann’.
As much as the two like their fair share of fun and frivolity, things remained focussed in the studio. Although the album title alludes to a penchant for psychotropic misadventure, only a beer or two would be had by Lindemann before a vocal take. “When it comes to recording, we are really disciplined,” Lindemann points out. “I’m going like, ‘computer, computer’, afterwards we have a couple of beers, but not to be hungover for the next day”, his guitarist confirms. “You don’t wanna do anything when you’re hungover, you wanna get a blowjob, some food and that’s it. Just feed me and blow me!”
There’s a microsecond’s awkward silence lingering in the air before Tagtgren quickly shoots his singer a wry smile. “Not you!” The three of us burst out laughing and before long, we revert to some of the album’s filthier numbers. Noting the repeated chants of ‘see you next Tuesday’ on ‘Golden Shower’, I can’t help but inform the terrible two that they’ve effectively written Australia’s de facto national anthem.
Tagtgren’s voice lowers to a sotto voce and he looks me directly in the eye. “You wanna see his room from last night?” he offers, with a shrug towards Till. For a split second, I wonder if that beer they’ve given me is going to make me sleepy. Instead, I’m shown something that would send Bob Ross spinning in his grave.
“This is the wall”. Peter shows me his phone screen, revealing a crude drawing of a giant ejaculating penis with the word C*** written with a thick black paintbrush.
So it seems ‘Skills in Pills’ isn’t the only work of art these two fine gentlemen have conjured up. One can only imagine there’s plenty more in store to keep us all entertained.
‘Skills in Pills’ is out on 19 June via Warner Music Australia.