Having finished his first solo album 'Emigrate', we catch up with Rammstein's Richard Kruspe about recording in New York, the future of music, and how to make the perfect rock record.
Richard Kruspe, Thank you for being a part of this interview. Firstly do you mind if I call you Richard?
No Richard is fine - [laughing] we're German but we're not that German!
I'd like to ask you first about the origins of the 'Emigrate' album. There have been some turbulent times with Rammstein recently - was this a way to escape from those?
There was always like a voice inside of me that wanted to come out and I never really had a chance to [record the album]. Over the years I felt like getting sick and never having a chance to do it after a while you have to let it come out. There was a time when I decided to leave my country and start again, to forget my past and get inspired and challenged. When I arrived in New York I was trying to write... the city and my new life... I got inspired by all the new things around me and how people would act differently... It was quite difficult and frustrating at this time.
What is the current status of Rammstein? Is it likely that we will hear anything from them anytime soon. Or is this on hold?
No actually at the moment we are in rehearsal and writing new songs for a new record and everything is great. Everything is cool and everyone is happy again.
Emigrate is a very interesting project for a variety of reasons and the album is fantastic. How much extra creative freedom did this project allowed you?
A lot of people when I started were afraid about [it]... but it enthused me to come back to Rammstein... but it was time I needed to go away and start something on my own by myself that I could go to. Now it's cool with me and I can go back knowing Emigrate exists. I will not call it a solo project but a new project that allowed me to go along with Rammstein too.
How well did you know the other musicians before you embarked on this project? Was it easy?
There were two bands I've known. Sascha [Moser] played drums for my first band in Germany [as well as] Olsen [Involtini]. As people, I know them a lot so I always try to do things with them that I couldn't. Matt lives in New York. He's a French guy and really wanted to get involved. Henka Johnansson is the drummer from Clawfinger. I met him while touring with Rammstein and I played him the stuff I had and he was really psyched and said I really want to do this.
I wrote all the songs myself and had all the plans for going in the studio we had 2 weeks of rehearsals... and I was kinda nervous to make sure it worked out. Making music is such an intuitive thing, like going on a blind date and that's why I chose Jacob [Hellner] as a producer. I wanted to choose something from my past as with the band I didn't really know how we'd act in the studio or rehearsal room as something to rely on...
Yeah exactly. When we arrived in rehearsal and we hadn't done anything in 20 years or so it was so simple so there was no problem. With Rammstein there's often a lot of talking but with this it was really simple...
You say it was simple, but you split the recording between New York and Berlin. Did this benefit the project or did it create generate problems?
I had to schedule and jump into free time... I had to jump into whatever little time frames I had. For me actually going to those places was more like an organisation thing rather than spending all the time in one studio. It's also a financial situation these days as I'm financing everything myself. There's certain things you have do. A great drum room is the most important for a rock record I think. I spent a lot of money on a room and mixing so anything else I could do I did in studio... I call it the Engine 55 in Berlin... I was so anal about the guitar sound and I was, like, rebuilding it 5 times. Then we moved on to New York to record the vocals and bass and electro stuff. Then I'd go on back to Sweden to mix it there and then go on to New York and mastered.
Your guitar sound is very distinctive and easy to recognise from Rammstein. Is this deliberate and does it suggest imply anything about your creative input both to Rammstein and Emigrate?
Being the guitar player for this band for such a long time you have to get away from yourself. It's still in you... you need some time to separate... In my head I kept saying 'You have to do something different' - doesn't matter if it's good or bad, it had to be different. I was just writing and it came really naturally out of me. When I was writing the first track it sounded kinda like Rammstein but I was like 'whatever' you know? I was trying to change the mics a bit in Emigrate because you know with Rammstein it's such a huge sound. When I arrived at the studio the engineer was trying to mic it like Rammstein and it just wasn't working, then I came up with this thing in my head called 'cube sound'... I don't know why but all of a sudden this cube started playing a big part in my life - in all my photos and videos, it was following me around you know!? I wanted to have this cube sound, this smaller sound and I'd put the vocals in the middle a deep voice a rich voice I could layer everything round or beneath this voice. The Rammstein voice is so big and this was so much smaller. At the end of the day it worked out.
Many British artists have spoken out at how New York has influenced their recent records. Could you say the same?
Not really for me. I'm living like a privileged life there and when I see New York I see there's not so many bands there, it's the most expensive city to live in. And when you're an artist the one thing you don't have is money so basically living in New York and paying rent you have to have almost two jobs The other thing is about New York city is that it's a place of opportunity. There's always people joining your project and they're leaving soon, so there's not so much output from New York bands. But if someone has a vision and you have luxury and the privilege to finance it by yourself it can be one of the most bright city. The city has such extreme drama - both on the good and the bad side - it just captures you.
You've mentioned the importance of this album being recorded in English. Rammstein's vocals benefited from the harder guttural qualities of the German language. Was it hard to create the right sound for emigrate in the English language?
It was quite natural for me, living in the city and speaking the language. Also basically I grew up with rock music in the beginning. Rammstein was different because we made an intellectual choice to sing in German because we were thinking of being as authentic as possible. But that was too much to think with Emigrate, I just wanted to write songs .I needed it for my own sake and just do it. I didn't really think which direction I wanted to go, which language I wanted to use. Pretty much everything came naturally with very little planning.
Will Emigrate be touring anytime soon? Is it there that possibility?
There is that possibility but I made my promise to the guys to be with them and be doing something. Right now, I'm writing a new record for Rammstein therefore I'm with them as we speak and writing new stuff. It's quite astonishing after 14 -15 years that we [Rammstein] still get along you know, it's like 'wow!
Is this a one off project, or would it be something you'd like to repeat? Could we see follow-up Emigrate albums in the future?
I would love to, I'd love to keep this sort of rhythm [of recording]. But music on the street will change and it's something I'm a little scared of basically. To tell you the truth for someone like me who likes and enjoys writing songs and producing it's one of the most enjoyable things I do. It's comparable to getting an orgasm... in fact that's the two things I enjoy the most! In the future music will change and more seriously no one will have the money and the budget for records anymore. If everyone is downloading and getting it for free you why do you want to spend... like... 150,000 [Euros]. Everyone is playing live and I don't know where it will go. I'm actually not looking forward to it. It's quite tough but I believe in the surprise of life and in my life if something comes then something else is coming as well so I hope I can keep coming up with something. I hope things won't get to the point where music kinda dies...
... And here at Rocklouder, nor do we! Richard Kruspe's album, Emigrate, will be released on Pias records on September 3rd.