The latest Emigrate album, A Million Degrees, which arrived in November, features guest turns from Rammstein’s Till Lindemann and Ghost’s Cardinal Copia, among others, but Kruspe handles lead vocals on most of the album’s 11 tracks. The music is a departure from the industrial metal sounds of Rammstein, offering up a ’80s post-punk vibe while not really fitting into any one genre.
We recently caught up with Kruspe to discuss the new Emigrate album, working with Lindemman outside of Rammstein, his thoughts on the late Lemmy Kilmister, who appeared on Emigrate’s previous album, Silent So Long, the encouragement he received from System of a Down’s Serj Tankian, and his regrets on not getting to work with three rock icons whom we lost in recent years. Read our interview with Richard Kruspe below.
On originally wanting to record a sequel to Silent So Long, but scrapping that idea after water damage in his home destroyed the new material
During the process of actually re-doing the record out of memory, I had to reset myself, because I said, “If I go back and forth thinking that something was better, I would go crazy,” so I had to kind of reset myself and let the past be in peace. I really had to let go.
The first reaction, I was scared. I was in a situation where I was angry. But then I took on the challenge to rewrite it, and while I was doing that, I started to get this passion and fire back that I need to finish the record.
On reaching out to Serj Tankian to record the song “War”, but ultimately going with his own vocals
In the beginning, when he called me back, he was like, “I love the way the song is [with your vocals].” My first instinct was that he doesn’t have the time to do something, but he was really passionate about me leaving my vocals on there. He kind of convinced me to do so. Sometimes you need that [encouragement], because even though I’ve gotten much more confident in singing, I’m still a beginner as a singer. So sometimes I need a little push, especially from someone such an experienced singer as him. So, I took it as compliment in the end.
On the track “You Are So Beautiful” and its accompanying music video
I think it’s the most catchy song on the record — maybe the most pop song, that’s not really associated with my kind of work. When I grew up I was listening to a lot of heavy stuff, but I also was fond of the world of pop music, and I would listen to the radio all the time. And I think I needed a certain kind of age to be cool and confident to write that sort of stuff. When I was younger, I wasn’t cool enough to tell my metal friends that I loved Depeche Mode.
That song, when I wrote it, I wasn’t really sure where it was heading, until I realized this is actually for my child. And then I thought, now I want to write a story about the father that loves his child. And I did the video for that, and wrote the story. I was a father at 23 and then I became a father at 46, so there’s a lot of time in between. Even though I love my children, and have this unconditional love, sometimes you lose your track.
It was fun to shoot with my daughter in the video. I was very proud when I saw how she acted on the video. And the funny thing was, when I was rehearsing for the video, I was playing the song on an acoustic guitar, and then I realized, wow, it sounds so good, so I recorded an acoustic version, as well.
On the song “Let’s Go” featuring his Rammstein bandmate Till Lindemann
The reason why this song exists is also the reason why Emigrate exists. [Till and I] started something way back, where we were trying to do something together, but then the band got ahold of it, and they were really fond of it. So, we stopped that, but I still had this song. After we stopped working, I started Emigrate, because I needed to do something else besides Rammstein, and this song had a totally different idea and different lyrics, and later on, I found that song again. And I was thinking that I would love to do something with Till, because our friendship changed over the years. If you’re playing in a band with someone, you get very close and it changes from friendship into something else.
When I was thinking about the most intense time in my relationship with Till, we had that time after the wall came down in ’89 when the whole East Germany was kind of a Wild West. We were all going crazy, it was a very intense time. And I was thinking about capturing that time, so I re-wrote the song lyrically and musically and added this electro feeling into it. Because at that time, in every house there was a techno or rave party, and we would go there, and 7 in the morning, he would bring his daughter to school, and then come back and we would stay there into the daytime, and dance to these electric beats — I mean, can you imagine us dancing like that? I was just trying to capture that time in the lyrics and the music.
On the Silent So Long track “Rock City” and his lasting impression of Lemmy Kilmister
In general, working with those guys that you grew up — especially coming out of East Germany, where rock wasn’t a big thing — to have the ability to work with those people is a great honor and a great pleasure to do so. Especially, with that song, with Lemmy — because he was very sick, and he went into the studio and was singing the song, and just nailed it. I remember when I heard the song, I was jumping up and down like a little child in my bed. It was like when Christmas and a birthday come together! It was just great. Just the way that he sang, putting in some German words in there, to say “hello” in a way. It was very personal.
I met him at one of the last shows he played in Berlin, and I went to his dressing room, and I said, “Thank you for being a part of [the song],” and it was sad, because I looked in his eyes and he was almost not there anymore [because he was so ill]. It was very sad, in a way. It’s always hard when we lose those people, because rock music has changed, we don’t get those dinosaurs anymore. It’s all about the hip-hop world. It’s not about music anymore, it’s about lifestyle.
I just hope that I can continue what I do with Emigrate to capture those guys [like Lemmy]. I actually had three guys who I had in mind who died before they were able to record. It was David Bowie, Chris Cornell, and Chester Bennington. We were in contact and they all died before we can do something.
Our thanks to Richard Kruspe for taking the time to speak with us. Emigrate’s new album, A Million Degrees, is available via various outlets at this location.