Guitarist Richard Z. Kruspe has spent the past two decades as part of the metal machine that is Rammstein. In 2007 he briefly stepped outside the comfort zone to grab the microphone and release his first solo effort under the name Emigrate. Seven years later, he’s back with album number two, Silent So Long.
It only takes a moment for his enthusiasm for this record to come through. “It’s the first time in my life where I’ve done a record where I’ve felt I don’t want to change a damn thing. It’s a great feeling”, he declares straight away. It’s clearly a step forward for Kruspe, taking his songwriting in a direction he is more comfortable with. “It’s more like a grown up record compared to the first album,” he says. “After the first record I was quite surprised how rocky it sounded, I always felt I was much darker and I kind of didn’t deliver that on the first record”. He’s also enjoying the chance to be the one to call the shots. “I just love to have the last say, that’s so different to Rammstein where everything is so democratic,” he laughs. “And I realised that being in the position with Emigrate where I know at the end of the day I can say yes or no, makes me a better team player. Makes me choose more for the music rather than the Rammstein world where you sometimes choose because of the ego.”
A critical element of the Emigrate project is Kruspe’s decision to add vocal duties to his guitar, songwriting and production roles. With Silent So Long he finally fells comfortable with his singing. “That’s a big difference too,” he states. “With the first record I was really trying to be a singer, which is different to being a singer. In the beginning it was very frustrating for me, I was so advanced in my writing but my voice was still a baby so I couldn’t really deliver what I was expecting. On the new record I was accepting the fact that I was going to be the singer and that made it so much easier.”
As well as giving him a chance to sing, Emigrate is also an opportunity for Kruspe to work with new people, and in new ways. “I felt something was missing in my world, and Emigrate got created out of that longing or frustration,” he says. “I always felt that Emigrate should be an open door, for people to come in and go out as they like to collaborate, which is totally the opposite of the Rammstein world which is really controlled and closed in a way.” For the new album there is no better example of this collaborative approach than the decision to bring in a host of guest singers. Marilyn Manson, Frank Delle, Jonathan Davis, Peaches and Lemmy all contribute. “In the beginning I was a little bit nervous about it, as a producer I had to step away from the project and make a record that has these people, but still sounds like an Emigrate record. That was not an easy task, but somehow we managed it. For me it was important to really bring the artists into the Emigrate world.”
For Kruspe, the track ‘Rock City’ with Lemmy was a perfect example of this approach paying off. The track started as an acoustic demo track that changed direction totally once the band started jamming on it in the rehearsal studios. As the track took shape as a fast paced rock number the decision was made to approach Lemmy about a possible lead vocal. “There are certain moments I’ll never forget,” says Kruspe. “I had heard he was really sick and I thought forget it. Then a couple of days later I got an email with no explanation, no comment, just his voice on the track and I was just like a little child jumping up and down on the bed, feeling like the best thing ever has just come together. You can hear if you really listen closely his voice is a little weak and shaky and that really fits the song. I wrote this huge email thanking him and saying what an honour it was to work with him and he just came back to me with “Alright”, that was it!” he laughs.
Along with the cast of guests, the new album also continues the long time working partnership with Arnaud Giroux, a collaboration that Kruspe is very happy to see continue. “He’s the one that keeps me going,” he says. “Arnaud’s the one that actually never gave up on me. There were so many times when I was frustrated, and I wanted to bring in a different singer and he was ‘nope, you’re the one, you have to sing it’. My mentor when it came down to making me as a singer. And he’s French, so he has a very interesting way sometimes with melodies!”
The eleven tracks that make up Silent So Long were selected from a pool of 21 completed and mixed tracks. Kruspe sees all of the tracks as being worthy of release, and in fact is already planning to use some or all of the remaining tracks as the basis for a third album. In deciding which tracks to select for this release he was strongly influenced by his background and love of music on vinyl. “I come from the world of vinyl, so for all my childhood I was listening to new records four, five, six times over,“ he explains. “I needed to go through it until I got it, not jump from track to track. So for me, the idea of selecting for a record is still in the idea of vinyl and a track list that works together. I know that now people just listen to one song, but that’s not how I work. People should have to listen to the whole record, to understand it. That’s how I chose the tracks. I wanted to capture a mood.”
The pacing and diversity across the tracks is one of the strengths of Silent So Long. From the punching rock of the opening track ‘Eat You Alive’ to the brooding title track, Kruspe covers plenty of ground. At the mid point of the album is the song ‘Rainbow’, written about his daughter. “This song was the hardest to get the lyrics done,” he says. “I really had problems with it until the last minute. I could not get the lyrics right, there was just something missing. Then one day, and this is such a cliché, but my daughter was there in the studio and I did it first take and it worked!”
For Kruspe, Emigrate is an outlet for his own passion, made possible because he is already a part of a successful band. He’s more than aware of the current industry difficulties, summed up recently by Gene Simmons’ controversial ‘Rock is dead’ comment. But he has his own views on where things currently stand and a still-positive outlook on where things might go from here. “I don’t think Rock will ever be dead because it’s a life statement for a lot of people, “ he declares. “But what I do realise is that the quality of records is very poor. I understand why, there’s no time, there’s no money, everything becomes a promotion tool. I said it a few years ago, people only f*ck themselves by stealing music. But I think also there is another movement coming, streaming will maybe save something. People are spending money on music at the moment, but it just has to go in the right direction. We need to go through that generation that wants to own music to the next generation that says ‘I don’t care, I just want to have it’. Then we’ll have another way of paying the artist, for people to get money again to invest in music. I wouldn’t say Rock’s dead, it’s just going through a really poor quality stage!” he jokes.
For the time being, Kruspe is content to keep Emigrate as a studio project despite constant interest and offers being placed on the table. Live work with Rammstein meets his needs to perform. “Always in my life I do what I think is right for me,” he explains. “Everyone is playing live right now, everyone is out there. We don’t need another mediocre band that plays half assed. There was something missing that I have now created and I’m quite balanced and happy in my life. And honestly, there’s the pressure in Rammstein to be one of the biggest live shows. How do I try to come up with a band that can compete with that?”