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Press: Haus on Fire


By Aaron Burgess

Taken from Alternative Press
December 1998


Rammstein are well into their Family Values tour set at Chicago's Rosemont Horizon, just moments from the event that caps off their song "Bueck Dich" ("Bend Over"). Keyboardist Flake (pronounced flah-keh) Lorenz descends from a riser to join singer Till Lindemann at the fron of the stage. Sporting a mask and ball gag, a prisoner's neck chain and quasi-futuristic silver and black apparel, Flake jerks about the stage while Lindemann, holding the neck chain's business end, leads him onto a monitor. Flake complies, bends forward, and then--zzzip! Lindemann undoes two zippers on the back of Flake's shorts. The audience, much of which appears just past puberty, squirms in anticipation of the unknown, and then---whoosh! Down goes the seat flap; out comes Flake's bottom. Lindemann reaches into his pants and whips out a formidable-looking rubber penis; as he slaps the dildo against Flake's hindquarters, a jet of white liquid arcs out from it. Lindemann turns the jizz stream on Flake, then on himself, then on the crowd, whose collective look of horror is priceless. And nearly 15,000 audience members here still haven't seen the set's grand finale.   The next afternoon, inside Rammstein's dressing room at Minneapolis' Target Center, Flake unwinds on a sofa while his bandmates- Lindemann, guitarists Richard Kruspe and Paul Landers, drummer Christoph Doom Schneider, and bassist Oliver Riedel- tend to business elsewhere. The S&M gear won't come on for several hours; for now, the keyboardist's wearing an orange-and-yellow cotton pullover and khaki corduroy baggies. His hair's fashionably unkempt, his eyeglasses are a hip clear plastic set- and my first question is obvious: How closely does this sharp, affable gentleman resemble the bungling submissive we see onstage?

"It's like any form of theater- once you're onstage, you become the character," Flake explains via an interpreter. (It's an interview stipulation, as the East German band's English is rough.) "Once you're off the stage, you go about your private life; you're like an actor."

Or, in this case, you're a rock star. By late October, more than ten months after its U.S. release on Slash, Rammstein's second album, Sehnsucht, has sold roughly 732,000 copies in America, with expectations of platinum sales by Christmas. (In Germany, the record's gone double-platinum.) It's remarkable when you consider that this is a band who defy trends by uniting nearly absurd basso profundo singing (complete with rolled R's) with tuneful industrial metal; who in their all-German lyrics cruise the outskirts of human experience- not the Aryan dreamlands of World War II Germany, as some critics have speculated. Not coincidentally, Rammstein's U.S. press team has issued a detailed press release concerning the band's lack of political agenda. "We are not Nazis, Neo-Nazis, or any other kind of Nazi," reads a statement from the group. "We are against racism, bigotry or any other type of discrimination.

"However," it adds comically, "we are the best rock band."  
Where their nearest musical counterparts, the Slovenian band Laibach, might've invited controversy by employing fascist imagery and ambiguity, Rammstein make explicit, if easily misinterpreted, use of melodrama, sexual innuendo, pyrotechnics loaded stage productions- and more than a little humor.  
"Very much, ja," Flake affirms. "For us [the live performance] is like a comedy show, with Till stomping around and [singing] 'Grr, grr! We are evil! We are evil!'"- he exaggeratedly imitates Lindemann's "burning man" routine, in which the singer, engulfed in flames, performs the band's namesake song. "Sometimes it's just poor joking, like the sexual effects. Nobody means it, really."  
So the sodomy act is supposed to be funny?  
"Ja, but for me it's not so funny," Flake says, giggling. "Nobody does that except us- that's why we do it."

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