Behind the Scenes: Rammstein Live
Rockets, flame throwers & a foam-shooting phallus! Guitarist Paul Landers previews the German art metal group's live gig.
It’s been 13 years since Rammstein scared the shit out of American music fans with the release of the guttural, chest-pounding anthem “Du Hast,” and almost a decade since they brought their explosive brand of industrial metal to U.S. concert halls. That all changes this weekend when the German crew returns to the States on Saturday for a one-night-only gig at New York’s Madison Square Garden which promises to be one of the most explosive at the storied venue in years, complete with pyrotechnics, flame-throwers and bone-rattling, tinnitus-inducing art metal.
Anticipation for the show is hot: when tickets went on-sale in October, they were snatched up within 30 minutes and now scalpers are offering the cheapest nose-bleeds at a whopping $120 a pop. “I had an idea that it was going to be a fast sellout, but I didn’t expect it to be that fast,” Rammstein guitarist Paul Landers (via translator) tells SPIN. “For us in Europe, [Madison Square Garden] is somewhere everyone knows immediately, and it’s pretty renowned here.”
So what took so long for the band to return to the U.S.? For starters, Rammstein undervalued the demand among American audiences and the band’s over-the-top stage production is prohibitive cost-wise. But at a recent show in Quebec, the band noticed a large American contingent had made the trek across the border. “We started to realize that there probably is more interest in the States than we thought, so it was time to take a risk and play a show in the States,” says Landers.
While Rammstein’s show is a one-off in America, the band is bringing their complete stage production. And their rig — transported in 15 semi-trailers — is staggering: 80 spark-producing devices, 10 mortars, 40 cannon bursts, 10 grid rockets, and 60 kilograms of fireball-producing powder. Fans in the front row should come prepped with flame-retardant clothing, as the band members’ guitars and drumsticks are liable to spew sparks and flames at any time. But the show’s real show stopper? An enormous, foam-shooting penis, which gets straddled by frontman Till Lindemann near the end of the 2009 track “Pussy.”
As for the setlist, Rammstein will focus on their entire catalogue — not just their 1997 album Sehnsucht, the group’s most successful album in the States. “That would sound like a reasonable idea on paper, to have more songs from the Sehnsucht record, but all of our fans that saw it back then, they’ve already seen it, so they’re all looking forward to new stuff from us,” says Landers. “We leave it to our instincts, and with the shows that have been working here in Europe, that’s our gut feeling of what we think is going to be a good show.”
If the MSG show goes off as planned, Rammstein will consider returning for a Best Of-style tour, featuring songs like the infamous “Buck Dich” (translation: “Bend Over”), the live version of which featured Lindemann simulating sodomy on keyboardist Christian “Flake” Lorenz with a rubber dildo. That stunt earned Lindemann and Flake a night in a Worcester, Massachusetts, jail in 1999 for indecency charges although Landers wasn’t too bummed about it. In fact, he says that run-in with the law oddly made the band feel right at home.
“It was sort of interesting for us, to see that there could be parallels from communist East Germany, where we grew up, and the United States,” says Landers. “We’re used to all that sort of stuff, with the police getting involved. But Flake and Till weren’t amused when they were sitting in the jail cell with a bloody guy next to them and realized that this is what it had come to.”