In the capacious list of German export hits – BMW, Mercedes, Bosch, tanks, Händel, Bach, Boris Becker, Kraftwerk, Haribo, Ritter Sport – there’s one item I never quite understood: Rammstein, by far our most successful band internationally. Their album Zeit debuted at No 3 in the UK charts last year.
It’s heavy metal dressed in teutonic symbolism, pyrotechnic extremism, fetish black leather monosyllabism and, basically, just very loud. Plus of course hugely provocative, sexually über-explicit and bordering on nausea. In other words: art.
A critic once called Rammstein the reason the German language was invented (I am still trying not to be offended) and the band’s stereotypical Germanic megalomania indeed sells millions of tickets, T-shirts and tunes (if you want to call them that). Their European tour is nearly sold out, despite the current scandal involving lead vocalist Till Lindemann.
The accusations are nasty, though of a moral nature. To my knowledge there are no criminal complaints or charges – yet. The band has lawyered up and categorically denies any wrongdoing. They also quickly disassociated from a so-called “casting director”, a woman touring with them who groomed young female fans for Lindemann’s pleasure.
She lured them with free tickets, told them what to wear, placed them upfront in “row zero”, allegedly served them alcohol and drugs and offered access to pre- and after-show parties. What she didn’t mention, according to statements: the different kinds of parties. One for VIPs. And one for Lindemann to pick his subject of exploitation among the young women. They had to hand over their mobile phones and some, it is claimed, were drunk or seemed drugged. There are rumours of spiked drinks.
Who’d have thought that from a guy bellowing: “You’ve got a pussy, I have a dick, ah, so what’s the problem? Let’s do it quick” on stage? Although to be fair, there are more subtle lyrics, involving Blitzkrieg with a “meat-gun” and the Bratwurst plunged into the Sauerkraut. German irony. Sells 20 million albums abroad.
Now, the moral-outrage cycle is in full spin: the ministers in charge call for the music industry to implement codes of conduct to protect the vulnerable, the music industry itself keeps conspicuously silent (would Rammstein by any chance not be the only band to have a “casting director”?), #metoo-social media blames the patriarchy (so true, why does Rammstein not have female band members?) and fan-social media points out that, duh, no one was forced into dressing up and going backstage.
It wasn’t just backstage, by the way. He allegedly used a room below the stage, too, during concerts. And while it is certain that the history of rock is full of groupies, I find it very hard to imagine even a Rammstein-fangirl’s sense of romance involves giving 60-year-old Till Lindemann a blowjob to the martial sound of Deutschland. Sorry for the mental image. No wonder women feel traumatised.
It wouldn’t have been a first though. Just read Sammy Hagar’s account of what he did during Eddie Van Halen’s 20-minute guitar solos.
My favourite reaction came from the renowned publishing house Kiepenheuer & Witsch (KiWi). They immediately parted ways with Lindemann, who is also a poet, I should mention – macabre, violent, partly funny, partly sickening. In particular Wenn du schläfst (When you sleep), which is about spiking a woman’s drink with Rohypnol and then raping her.
When the poem came out in 2020, the head of the publishing house vigorously defended him: “The moral indignation about the poem’s text is based on confusing the fictional speaker, the lyrical self, with the author.”
Now that things may not be so fictional after all, the publishing house itself has joined the queue of moral indignation. They sacked Till Lindemann because of the 2019 porn video Till The End, which has “only just now come to our attention”. If that is true, they should sack a few more people, because in the video Lindemann not only glorifies violence against women, but also literally fornicates with volume 1 of his KiWi lyrics. And no one at KiWi knew? A credible source tells me that a hole was drilled into the book so that… another mental image, sorry again.
Lindesmann’s lyrical self was worth defending as long as it sold books, while his pornographic self… not so much. Anyway: the band has taken action. They dropped the song Pussy from the setlist as well as the “giant penis cannon”, used to spray foam on to the audience.
Maybe Till Lindemann, despite his backpack of flamethrowers, isn’t almighty after all.