Richard Kruspe to Chaoszine: “After Rammstein’s European tour in 2019 I was close to quit playing music”

Author Samantha Chilli - 16.11.2021

As a member of Rammstein, the music world’s most explosive live act, Richard Kruspe has been part of a ground-breaking global success story that continues to build and to ignite. Along the way, he’s turned his attention to a number of parallel projects, such as constructing a studio (and a home) in his native Berlin, but his decision to launch the Emigrate setup has given him the greatest chance to satisfy creative instincts outside of the parent group.

Emigrate. The one-time project has become more than that. Much more. The three studio albums, “Emigrate” (2007), “Silent So Long” (2014) and “A Million Degrees” (2018), prove that squarely behind Emigrate stands Richard Zven Kruspe – an extremely creative mind who needs the freedom to explore his music and his vision in ways outside of Rammstein. With Emigrate there are no limits, no barriers. Everything is possible, nothing held back, and it’s this ethos that underlines “The Persistence Of Memory”, the new studio album which was released today, November 12th via Emigrate Production.

Chaoszine had the honor to catch up with Mr. Kruspe to discuss the dark times he faced after Rammstein‘s touring activities in 2019, making him almost quit music, and what led him to finding the spark for creativeness again and as a result releasing “The Persistence Of Memory”. You can read the full interview below:

Hello, Richard, and thanks for taking time to do this interview with us. How is it going for you at the moment?

Richard Kruspe: Well, it’s quite busy. I’m doing two records at the same time, which wasn’t planned. So we’re quite busy in a way, and I’m alright. I’m just dealing with some physical problems at the moment. But otherwise, life is beautiful.

So what kind of physical problems?

Richard Kruspe: I just had a little accident. We were shooting a video. There was this super tank pool slash where you can shoot in water. And I was set to jump in three meters high. Everyone had jumped down to kind of film where we going down under, and I was jumping on my other guitar player’s ass. [Laughs.]

So he has an ass of steel then? [Laughs.]

Richard Kruspe: Yes, you can say that. [Laughs.] My foot is destroyed. I can’t really walk around with just– so I have to have to be very cautious about my right foot at the moment, so yeah.

Okay. So obviously, we have lived in quite a different world for the past year and a half now, almost. So how has it actually been to you personally? Has it been all good or?

Richard Kruspe: Well I mean, I don’t think there’s– like always, there’s no good with bad, bad with good. So we’re living in a polarity in a way. I always have a problem between black and white. I live more in the gray area, I guess. And that’s in a positive way. My really trauma, I would say, was basically after the Rammstein tour in 2019, September, where I put myself already in isolation, which, at that point, I had no idea the pandemic would come. So for me, it was a real rough time because I thought that I couldn’t get out of the black hole, dealing with post-depression after the tour and even thinking of giving up music and just wasn’t motivated at all about doing anything. So that’s why I– when the pandemic started, everyone was talking about cleaning up their mess they collected over the years. I was going through my computer and I was kind of like– it felt like I was into a time machine going back into the past and checking out all those songs and there was– or ideas at that point, writing and– and that kind of– that path gave me the memories of being in prison again to be motivated to take those ideas and to put in a new future, which [I have arrived] right now at that point– from that point. And “The Persistence of Memory” is basically a record where I needed to go back and feel and to understand why I was motivated to start that project, kind of. And this is the music that came out of it.

So was there some kind of specific spark that got you sort of to revisit old Emigrate songs?

Richard Kruspe: I mean, you have– obviously, every song or music in general is filled with memories, especially when you first start writing it. It’s almost like that’s the beauty of it. And sometimes, they don’t, I mean, or are weaker in a way. But one of the songs, for example, “Freeze My Mind” was one of the oldest songs and the first thing I wrote when I started that. And it gave me all the memories back why I left Berlin, the start in New York, my early arriving, how hard it felt to survive in a city as New York. And it’s just like it gave me kind of always– I mean, it was obviously– I’m this kind of guy that I’m not a quitter. I never gave up. Even sometimes it’s a stupid thing. Even you should give up sometimes because it doesn’t make no sense. Somehow, my DNA is programmed that I’m not giving up. So just to feel that, doing the certain stuff that gave me the strength to continue, kind of. There wasn’t a specific song, but if I would put one out, probably was “Freeze My Mind“.

I’ve interviewed quite a lot of people during these times that we have lived in now, and some of them have said to me personally that it’s been super hard to be creative because the world is sort of really slowed down and nothing is sort of happening. But do you have been, I guess, the opposite? Am I right?

Richard Kruspe: Well, I mean, in that time again, for me, the whole pandemic and shutdown and isolation started quite [early?]. It had nothing to do with the pandemic. I put myself in there. And to be honest, the whole creative side was already done because all the songs or ideas were written. I just had to pick up. And those songs motivated me to start again. So I can’t put myself in a situation because I’ve suffered not at the same time or all of a sudden I couldn’t do because I had to before anyway. So for me, it’s hard to say that, at that time, I couldn’t be creative because, again, my misery started much earlier.

Speaking about the whole writing process, are all of the songs all tracks that you sort of revisited or is there also some new music that you wrote for the album?

Richard Kruspe: I mean, there’s always– obviously, when you take an idea, it’s not a complete song. Sometimes, there were and sometimes there weren’t. Sometimes I was rewriting things, especially I was [writing] lyrics. I mean, it’s a mix between the idea was probably there first and then I just took it and changed things. And sometimes, I didn’t. “Freeze My Mind”, I think I only changed some kind of arrangements because, at that point, like 20 years later, the skills as a songwriter is a different way. So it was just a– but the basic emotion and feeling about the songs stayed the same, kind of.

So you didn’t have to do anything for those basic feelings, so to say. So originally, these songs were intended to Emigrate box set, but in the end, you decided to release them as a full album. So what made you do that decision?

Richard Kruspe: Well, it’s always like that. You start with a little idea and then it grows and grows. In the beginning, I was just thinking I need something to get, something to motivate me to get out of my hole. And I was thinking about taking four songs. But then I was digging in and I found another one. And I was like, “Wow, that’s just great, too.” And then I found another song. And it just goes on and on and on. And then, all of a sudden, I was at nine songs, but I already booked my engineer and I told him we only do four songs. When I told him nine, he already said like, “Oh, stop now.” [Laughs.] Otherwise, I would have continued, probably.

Otherwise, you would have ended up into 20 in the end.

Richard Kruspe: Well, I’m not a big fan of 20 songs and more, to be honest. But 11 always was my thing. But this time is only nine. And it’s really just based on that he said, “Stop.” So I would have continued.

Do you feel that this album is super important to you on many levels because, like you said, that you had that sort of mental– I don’t know if breakdown is the correct word for it, but that kind of issue, and this sort of break you through it?

Richard Kruspe: Yeah. Sometimes, we get lost a lot of times, especially us as artists for many, many reason. And people always think if you’re living the life of rock star is all glamorous and nobody deals with dark sides, which is probably like 80% of our lives. So I mean, it’s just sometimes at that point that those songs help me to understand why I would do things. And it was just– it was just a fucking therapy for me in a way [without] going to therapy. I did that later, but before, it helped me to understand myself better, to go back to the past because we– again, we’re very fragile individuals, so to say.

Yeah. And musicians are often quite sensitive human beings.

Richard Kruspe: Well, especially if you are working alone in a project, especially for writing and stuff. It’s a different thing if you have a band and you kind of are just not in the mood, but there are five other guys that can pick you up and then– but if you are responsible mostly alone for that and you have to– of course, you have to deal with your [own mood].

I was actually going to ask you next that this felt like a therapy for you. But I guess you already replied to that a bit.

Richard Kruspe: Yeah. It’s more like to find purpose, which I kind of lost the idea why I would do things in the way. And I think maybe also it’s an age thing but definitely had something to do with the last tour. And I mean, there was a scenario where I was like, “Wow, I mean, there’s so many things coming together right now,” and I couldn’t see myself anymore. And it’s a funny thing, I just did a little podcast with fans talking about their experience while listening to the songs. And they were so fucking moving, man. I was just like, I’m going to get those stories from people that helped– those music helped them to go through a very dark time, which I realize, I mean, that’s why I do that, why I write it out, and then it helps them, which is– it’s a kind of a win-win situation here. But I also felt the responsibility all of a sudden. And it felt good, man.

When I’ve been listening to this album through from the stream that I got, I felt really happy when listening to the album. So is that something that you get also out from this record, or does this record sort of represent you the totally opposite, the dark side?

Richard Kruspe: Well, in most states, when I write, I mean, I’m not a happy person, so I’m driven by probably darker thoughts/being destructive, being miserable. This is more a situation where I become more creative, I think. And if I’m very, very happy, most likely I’m not visiting the studio.

Why do you think that it is like that for you?

Richard Kruspe: I think that it’s maybe– I mean, that’s like– I can explain the psychological maybe in a way that I think that maybe I realized somehow that music helped me through a lot of difficulties in my childhood, and that got saved in a way, where I feel miserable, that I’m the most creative. When I’m the most creative, I feel worth. And if I’m happy, I don’t need it. I don’t need to create. Maybe subconsciously, it’s in our system or in my system, and I put myself always– well, not always, but sometimes back into that situation, knowing that I can create more because when I can create more, I feel more worth. On the other hand, I was always someone that loved to be more in the minor than a major.

Yep. But I was wondering do you get any kind of fulfillment, for example, when you release a new song with Emigrate or Rammstein and it gets on the charts and basically everybody’s talking about it? Is that something that sort of fulfills? Or do you still feel miserable, even though it gets a lot of attention?

Richard Kruspe: Yeah, unfortunately, it’s just a neverending story. It doesn’t go away by the likes or awards or whatever. It doesn’t change a thing, to be honest. I mean, it’s great that people like it. I wouldn’t say that it wouldn’t bother me at all. But or for me, that’s what I learned in my therapy, it’s just important to go from A to B. If I’m already arrived at B, I don’t care anymore. So for me, the process when I’m writing and I’m bringing out the record, it’s done. So what happens after– I mean, in these days, of course, you have to deal with certain kind of business and stuff like that. But I mean, Emigrate was never meant to be a commercial idea. It was always meant to be a totally freedom on my side to do whatever I like to do. There’s no one that pushes me. I don’t have the pressure of living out of it because I have another band that pays for that. So that gives me the freedom to do whatever I like. And honestly, I think it’s the most authentic you can be, even if it sounds very selfish. But if I’m starting to try to play or to write in order to be in favor or to– what’s the right word? If people like what I do, I think you lost, man. Then you’re in the service of entertaining. [Laughs.] Then you’re in the world of schlager.

And that’s not the way you want it to be?

Richard Kruspe: First of all, I don’t want it to be. And secondly, I hate to be in service. [Laughs.] I just like what I like what to do. And of course, if I touch people and help people, it feels good. But if that becomes a burden that I have to do it, that’s a problem with me. I just have to feel that I need to do it and there’s a inner voice inside of me that wants to do it. But if I feel I have to do it, it just doesn’t work. I mean, there was a lot of times I was thinking to go into the world of doing music score. Right? I don’t think I could deal with that, that the director would come and tell me like, “Oh no, you can change this. You can change this.” It just doesn’t work with me.

So obviously, with Emigrate, it’s only you making the songs. But with Rammstein, it’s like six guys. So is it easier for you to be involved with this project, that there isn’t, like you said, any expectations and you can do whatever you want musically?

Richard Kruspe: Well, at that moment, I used to say, of course it is because it was new. But every scenario has a good and a bad side to it. I mean, the good thing about Rammstein, sometimes it’s like you just can– if you don’t feel like it, just let it go. And even though I still have a little problem with that, but somebody can take over, or you– for some reason, it’s almost like, if you play with five guys, responsibility also divides in five people kind of. I was thinking in the early days, there was an interesting [concept] I made when I played with my first band. We had, let’s say, like 90% our own songs and 10%, we would play some cover songs, right? And I always feel like, “Oh, that’s fucking interesting that the cover songs, you can play so much easier and relax because you’re not responsible. Somebody else wrote it.” [Laughs.] It was an interesting thing. That’s why we maybe have so many cover bands.

For sure. So there’s no stress to create anything new.

Richard Kruspe: Exactly. Because it is, if you do create, you will be judged. And your people tell you things to do. And so again, I mean, in Rammstein, it has a good and a bad. You have to deal with five guys, a lot of talking. And sometimes you have to just let go of the idea you had, even though you think that you know better. And then I always have the same kind of mantra I’m saying like, “It’s just music. Everyone hears it a different way.” And I mean, you can go, whatever, like a thousand different direction with that song. So in Emigrate, it’s different. It’s responsible on me and I try to– I try to not listen too much because, again, for me, the idea to doing that project was always something to discover new territories, working with different people, see how they approach certain things or work with people that I always admired. I mean, this is a platform for kids to try new things, which I think is important. If you’re stuck with a band for so many years, which also has a good side to it– but after a while, it is quite predictable, I would say, to make music with those, where, when you have changed a team, which Emigrate does all the time, you have the chance to learn and try, “Ah, that’s interesting. I would never think about–” because the new generation, they’re thinking totally different. For me, it’s always a little adventure to do that.

But obviously, on this upcoming Emigrate album dropping tomorrow, you actually have your band Rammstein bandmate, Till, on Always On My Mind. So what led to this?

Richard Kruspe: Yes. Yeah, but that was also not meant– or not meant. It was meant to be that he actually was the one who’s singing, I guess. But it was a totally different story because this idea was almost 10 years ago that I got approached by a record company to do a Presley cover record. And I didn’t even choose the song because it was only this one song left. [Laughs.] So when I was listening to their original tracks, I was quite mesmerized by the performance, especially from Presley. I mean, you have to understand in those days, it was a different kind of recording. It was a room and there was a microphone in the middle. And their singing had to be closer to the microphone, and the rest of the band was around him. And the performance he did was quite amazing. I mean, I must say, I’m not a big Presley fan, but I felt like, “Wow, this guy can really fucking sing.” So then I put all my sounds on there and rearranged the whole thing. And even then, he cut through with one voice. And I was thinking like, “Wow, this is just a great version.” And then I left the song for a while and was thinking– I was like, “Who has that kind of character?” Because, again, to be honest, I was not thinking about Till. I was more in the Iggy Pop direction. But I never felt like, “Okay, now I have to approach someone,” until I was thinking Elvis vocals. Who else that kind of voice? And then it became like, oh, yeah, I mean, obviously, Till has also this very characteristic voice. And then it was pretty fast. He recorded one day. And then I was listening to it, and I felt a little bit that his performance was a little bit too male-oriented. So I felt I need a little female touch to it. So that’s why my personality came in. And I think it’s a good combination. I really like the version.

I think it’s one of the highlights on the album. I actually enjoy it a lot because it’s something that sticks out from the rest and is very different.

Richard Kruspe: Yeah, I agree.

So now you also seem to have live band also behind you. So is there any sort of plans to be on the road at some point and play these new songs live, as well?

Richard Kruspe: Well, no because the life hasn’t changed in that direction. I mean, the reason why I do that was always to keep the balance between my personality and Rammstein. But I never felt that I needed to play more live. I always have my band and the quality of touring with Rammstein is obviously very high, so I never felt like, “Oh, and now I feel like there’s a lack of live playing, so I need to play more live.” And it sounds, again, very selfish, but I think it’s important that I need to see the need to do that. Let’s say, if Rammstein wouldn’t play any more tomorrow, then I would reconsider it. But at the moment, I’m quite comfortable in the situation where I have the live band, and I never missed more playing live, to be honest.

So before we wrap things up, I want to ask you a bit about the future. So what does it hold for you personally?

Richard Kruspe: The future? Ah. Oh, wow. The future. Yeah. There’s a nice saying. If you want to make God smile, tell him your plans, kind of. [Laughs.] I mean, in the end of the day, I think as older you get, you realize how time in general is important. And for me, I realize that there are– I mean, I used to be one of those guys that spent like every day in the studio working. So I’m trying to find also a balance between my work and my personal life, try to keep the balance between being happy and miserable just to survive. And working on a personal stuff like keeping your relationship, spending time with my kids or my family, stuff like that. I also love to create rooms. I’ve created a little barbershop that looks like a New York barbershop from the ’60s here at my house. So I mean, there’s a lot of things to do. There’s still things that I would like to do. I think I love being on a boat. So it always something I want to do to sail or something like that. And other that, I mean, again, life is– in my life, things are very unpredictable, so I don’t know what’s coming up, and I kind of like it.

Let’s leave it that way. Hey, thanks a lot, Richard, for your time, and all the best for the release of the upcoming album tomorrow. Anything you want to say as last words to all the Finnish fans?

Richard Kruspe: No, there’s just enjoy listening. And thank you, Arto. Is it Arto? Did I pronounce it right?

Yes you did.

Richard Kruspe: Okay. All right. Thank you and have a beautiful day.