Richard Z. Kruspe: The balance between Rammstein and Emigrate

Guitarist Richard Z. Kruspe doesn’t lack honesty. In 2008 already, when Emigrate’s first album was released, he told the media how distressful Rammstein’s creative process was for him – that very distress being the reason behind his side-project. Seven years later, Kruspe is back with a second album, Silent So Long. Now more than ever, Emigrate is a counterweight to Rammstein and allows him to fulfill his artistic potential.

The guitarist-turned-singer has developed his vision and his project, which has now become an open, collaborative entity, with Kruspe as the conductor. In the following interview, he explains the genesis of Silent So Long and his state of mind within Emigrate, as well as the balance his own band maintains with Rammstein. The honesty in every answer is a credit to him.

« Also, I don’t really need pressure in my work; I don’t really work well under pressure. So I let the universe decide for me when it’s a good time. »

Radio Metal: The second Emigrate album comes out seven years after the first one. So could the title of the album, Silent So Long, be a sort of metaphor for the fact that you missed making music as Emigrate?

Richard Z. Kruspe (guitar & vocals): Well, everyone could come up with their own idea about it [laughs]. For me it was seven year of… Well, I wasn’t really waiting for seven years. I didn’t really need seven years to make this record. For me it was basically finding the right moment to have a vision about Emigrate, which I haven’t found over those years. There were three elements that I was missing between the first and the second record. One thing was that I had to find the mental switch in my head which says: “I’m a singer!” Because this is the difference between becoming a singer and being a singer. And I think that has nothing to do with like getting any vocal lessons or whatever… It’s a mental switch that I had to find. The second thing was that I needed a different kind of sound. Three years ago I moved back from New York to Berlin, so Berlin gave me this little dark and moody sound that I was looking for and that I haven’t really had on the first record. The third thing was that, even in the very beginning of Emigrate, I always felt that I wanted it to be an open source for a lot of people to come in and collaborate. On the first record it didn’t happen because I was too busy finding my sound and becoming a singer – or being a singer, whatever you want to call it. So, on the second album I finally felt confident enough as a singer and also as a songwriter to reach out to those people. Also, I don’t really need pressure in my work; I don’t really work well under pressure. So I let the universe decide for me when it’s a good time [chuckles]. Two and a half years ago, I basically came from a tour with Rammstein, I was a little depressed during those times and I went to my big music folder – because I constantly work in a studio, every day – so I went through my stuff and got quite inspired by what I was listening to. We had two months to see what this new Emigrate record could be and then we decided that it was a good time to go to a studio. So that’s how it all came together.

Joe Letz has joined Emigrate in 2008 but Mikko Sirén did the drums on the album. Did Joe participate in any way to this album?

Well, Joe is like my little brother, you know? I’ve always had a big brother, but he’s my little brother [chuckles] and he’s part of the Emigrate family. Making music is one thing, but being around and talking about ideas and visions is so much more. But he’s not a studio guy. It’s not in his personality, basically, or in his skills, I would say. He’s a great friend, great brother and I love to have him around. He’s the joker, basically, in the Emigrate family. I just love to have people that inspire me around, therefore he’ll always be a part of the family. Sometimes we decide together what we’ve got to do, sometimes he plays in videos and he can play live, but studio work wise, he’s not as skilled as other people I would say [laughs].

You’ve got a couple of guests on this album, including Lemmy Kilmister. This is probably the first time we can hear him on a more industrial oriented song. Weren’t you or he a bit apprehensive about if he would actually sound good in a different musical context than the one that we’re used to hearing him?

First of all, I didn’t really have any names on my list. I didn’t really write for those people. I basically wrote music and then the music or the tracks decide which singer they want to have. This little song that I had was an acoustic song basically, and I went to the rehearsal room, the drummer picked up the beat, we doubled the tempo and we were all jamming along. When I listened to the track afterwards, I realized that there was a kind of mix between Motörhead and Depeche Mode and I was like: “Which guy do I want to have? David or Lemmy?” So we went for Lemmy. He was really sick at that time; he canceled shows and wasn’t doing well, so my expectation that he would do something was quite slim. A couple of days later, I got an email just with his vocals on there and no explanation! So I wrote like a long email, saying how honored and thankful I am that he just wrote back. I mean, that explains everything about Lemmy! [Laughs] He’s such a no drama kind of guy, really down to earth… A lot of respect for him!

« Rammstein is judged all the time by its visuals; nobody really talks about the music anymore, somehow. And maybe that was also a thing [I wanted to do]: to create a band that only does music. »

Do you still consider working with Depeche Mode’s singer in the future?

I haven’t really seen it in the past, but now doing the record, I actually see the future in Emigrate because doing that and doing those collaborations is basically the opposite of what we’re doing in Rammstein. So I kind of found a balance in having both Rammstein and Emigrate. I’m open for a lot of things, so yeah, it could happen! But the song will decide which singer will do it. I always listen carefully to music and that’s one of the biggest advices I can give you or anyone out there making music: let the music decide! It will decide, you know. You’ll just have to wait. Don’t rush it.

Marilyn Manson’s singing on « Hypothetical ». Both him and you with Rammstein had a parallel career but each of you represent two different industrial scenes from two different continents. So how was it to be joining the American and German scenes on this song?

The reason why I chose him was also because the song decided it: when I listened the first time to the song, I always had him in mind. For some reason, the first scream I heard was his voice. At this point I had never met him, then Rammstein and he played a song, “Beautiful People”, live on the German Grammy. I felt a big chemistry between us so I thought it would be interesting. When I introduced him to the song and I played him the way I was singing it, he told me that he loved the song the way I sang it and didn’t know he was gotta do. So he tried something totally different, which wasn’t really what I felt was good for the song. So I went back to him and asked if he could do another try out. He was really busy at this point doing his record as well, so it was quite hard to communicate. You know, Manson is one of those with whom there’s always a lot of drama involved, it’s not easy, it’s sort of the opposite of Lemmy, basically. So I came up with a plan, I called up a friend of mine, he has a little studio in his house and I asked him if he could record him. So I asked Manson if he could go to a friend’s house to record the song because I felt like getting him out of his usual environment would for the song. And what happened is that they worked eight hours, with him singing the song and the result was mind blowing for me. It was great! Sometimes you have to take the extra step and go the extra mile to get the best result, you know.

Isn’t it a bit ironic that it is when you actually get to be the frontman and actually seem to gain confidence as a singer that you decide to leave the microphone to other singers for almost half of the songs?

Well, yes and no, because for me, to do Emigrate is more than just singing. For me doing Emigrate is first of all doing a good sounding record and also doing a lot of collaboration, which I missed in the world of Rammstein. You know, I grew up in East Germany and there was a time when the wall came down where was a lot of bands which were collaborating a lot, and I missed that element in music. The funny thing is that I learnt a lot about myself. Being in Emigrate, I learnt that I like to be someone in control and it made me actually a better team player, because I also do like to work in a team. Eventually, for me, it was more important what the song needed than my own ego being involved. That’s the big difference, the fact that I can actually put my ego behind and let the music decide which direction I want to go. In this case, I still have control, I can work on the songs, and if a song decides it want to go for Lemmy, I’m the one who honored to have him on there. If it’s great for the song, it’s great for everyone.

« Without Emigrate, I couldn’t be in Rammstein anymore, I couldn’t go through the frustration and the work that we do without the hope that I can actually do something else with Emigrate »

In 2008, in order to explain the creation of Emigrate, you said that you compromised a lot of things in Rammstein and didn’t get along with the energy and the rhythm of the other members, and something was wrong. Can you develop what you meant?

Being in a band for 20 years, it’s a miracle anyway, especially without changing line-up. I don’t know if you’ve ever been in a relation for twenty years, it’s quite exhausting and you need a lot of self-reflection to be in that band. And there were certain things that I was missing, especially the things that I told you before. In Rammstein, it’s a democracy, so it’s gonna be decision made by egos, whereas in Emigrate… Because it’s a different hierarchy, you know, I’m the one in the chain that has control and last say, it makes me a better team player. Also, I think, Rammstein is judged all the time by its visuals; nobody really talks about the music anymore, somehow. And maybe that was also a thing [I wanted to do]: to create a band that only does music. I think that to find the right balance in my life was really important for me.

You recently said that you « went through a lot of suffering » in Rammstein and that « often decisions are being made because of the egos, not because of the music. » But isn’t that a bit counterproductive?

Put it that way: it’s not easy and it’s a lot of work to get those individuals together and it’s… [Sighs] It’s frustrating sometimes! Sometimes, even if you have a vision, you can’t go through with your vision because other people decide against your vision. I need to balance with Emigrate to be in Rammstein. Without Emigrate, I couldn’t be in Rammstein anymore, I couldn’t go through the frustration and the work that we do without the hope that I can actually do something else with Emigrate [laughs]. Do you understand? It’s a balance between those two worlds. I know that we create something really unique with Rammstein and I have to see it in a bigger picture, but I’m also just a human being that wants to create music, so I need those two elements in my life. Without one of them I wouldn’t survive.

Interview conducted by phone 23rd, october 2014 by Metal’O Phil.
Retranscription, traduction, introduction and questions: Spaceman.

Emigrate Official website: www.emigrate.eu.

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