[face-to-face / interview] DIE KRUPPS

This is DIE KRUPPS’ second headlining tour in Japan within a year only. Why did it take so long to schedule the first tour and so short to come back ? Did you like it so much the first time that you wanted to renew the experience as soon as possible ?
Jürgen: Yeah, we were really eager to come back. We had such an amazing time last year. Seriously, it goes beyond words. DIE KRUPPS played in many, many, countries all around the world for years. We travelled a lot, mostly in Western countries. Japan was a first, it was a whole new experience in many regards. We didn’t know what to expect. We were excited to get into the unknown and it was incredible. Everything was perfect, on top : the fans, the people in general and the country itself, not to forget the awesome food ! And the concerts were absolutely fantastic ! The signings after the shows lasted between 2-3 hours ! It was just unbelievable, we had a blast ! The fans gave us so many gifts… It was simply amazing. Like I said, it was a whole new experience. Today, we are back in Tokyo. This is our second tour. Everything is a bit more familiar but just as awesome as it was the first time. Some people have been following us around the country. We start recognizing faces. The other night, we met a girl that was crying out of emotion ! People’s reaction is so touching. Japanese people are so enthusiastic. It’s really special to play here.

It shows that you are deeply moved by their enthusiasm. Usually, artists like to be inaccessible in order to build a God-like myth around them.
Jürgen: This is definitely not our way of thinking. This is not my philosophy of life. What’s the purpose exactly ? As far as I’m concerned, I really enjoy the connection with the fans, I enjoy human interaction. I want to be close to the people as much as possible. I like direct feedback, and I feed off of it. Especially here, in Japan. There is a warm, welcoming atmosphere. After the shows, they always approach us with so much respect, they usually give us gifts and really thank us for coming. It’s great to meet them, to talk to them and feel the connection. We’ve always had a special connection to Japan. At the first ever DIE KRUPPS gig, famous Japanese artist Agi Yuzuru came and recorded the show with a then  very state of the art video recorder and system. A couple of months later, he made a flexi-disc of the show audio came out as a supplement in a Japanese music magazine. The packaging was outstanding, highly elaborated. Because of the connection with Japan, we decided that for our second album, we would translate all the lyrics in Japanese and also writing. Unfortunately, we never had the opportunity to play in the country before. For some reason, it never happened. In the nineties, we actually had several shows booked but we cancelled them. The band was breaking apart at the time. We were getting on each other nerves from touring excessively.

So now that the band is in a positive energy, you’ll keep coming back to Japan.
Jürgen: Of course, we will. We want to tour Japan every year ! We already have plans to come back in 2017. I’ve always wanted to go to Japan. I’ve always been very interested in the culture, the history, the food, the music. In the early 80s, I even started learning Japanese, but gave up because I didn’t have a teacher, and it is a very demanding language. But I have basically always been interested in Japan. I’ve always felt attracted to the country. The first experience last year was absolutely fantastic, and so is the second. I want to come back as often as possible.

When Japanese bands tour Europe and America, they are quite surprised by the differences between the Western and the Japanese audiences, in a general aspect. Having experienced the two, I can only agree with them. There are differences, Japanese usually move in sync, they all follow a certain pattern like a choreography. I have never seen a Western band in Japan nor had the point of view of a Western artist touring Japan, and I would like to hear about these differences from this perspective. Up to you, how do the crowds differ to one another ?
Jürgen : In general, the Japanese are said to be reserved and introverted. In the public place, it may be true but, when they come to see us, they become really cheerful, enthusiastic and outgoing. They are, actually, everything an artist can wish for. They are positive, and simply happy to be there. They are always so respectful and giving. Unlike Western audiences, which are a bit wilder and rougher, the Japanese smile a lot and have fun, which doesn’t mean they don’t go crazy. We have amazing crowds all around the world. But I particularly love the pure and positive vibration coming off the Japanese audience, especially here in Tokyo. Tokyo’s crowd is definitely one of the best in the World. That being said, I have never seen what you described, choreographic dance moves… It has never happened with us. It’s interesting, I’d like to see that.

I will show you, it’s worth knowing. Do you have any funny stories to share about your trips to Japan ? Have you tried the washlet ?
Jürgen: Yeah, of course I have (laughs). Japanese toilets are perfect, aren’t they (laughs) ? The best in the whole world, we can only agree on this point, don’t we ? Seriously, I love it. I am even pretty disappointed when there are only two buttons on the side. I just like trying them all, pushing all the buttons to see what happens (laughs). Other than that, everyday is an adventure. Japanese and English are two very different languages and many Japanese don’t speak English. So, we have to juggle with words and sign-language to make us understand. I don’t recall anything really weird or surprising worth mentioning. Hum… Maybe. There is one thing quite annoying that happened to us. When we arrived at the airport in Osaka to head off to Tokyo, we had a luggage inspection. A very young security lady came out and asked whether we had any dangerous items, drugs or illegal substances with us. Her suomo-type-looking-boss thought we did, probably because musicians and rock bands are said to be addicted to booze and drugs. Wrong cliché, I don’t even drink beer. I never drink alcohol, I never take drugs. I never have and never will. After giving  the female assistant the permission, she pulled out my suitcase and stumbled upon my underwears (laughs). I don’t wear ordinaire underwear. I have boxer shorts with funny patterns, with mexican Day of the Dead skulls, others with bulldog patterns. It was funny to watch her face as she pulled them out, she was enjoying every bit of it ! I had a good laugh, but not for long, because the inspection caused us to miss our flight. It was a huge hassle to get on the next flight, it was just like in the movies.

I can picture that (laughs). What do you like best about Japan, Europe and America ?
Jürgen: (pauses) Europe is a continent with thousands of years of tumultuous History. It has a rich cultural heritage and some breathtaking scenery. There are beautiful old castles, beautiful old buildings and architecture. Europe is an interesting place to visit. But that’s about it (laughs). Everything that is interesting or beautiful about Europe is from the past. The living there is crap, isn’t it ? I like the Old Europe, I like its foundations. I grew up in Germany but I became an American citizen for a reason. I like many things about living in America, especially Austin, Texas, where I live. I wouldn’t move anywhere else in the World. There’s a huge population of French people, I can’t even mention them all, everybody’s French there (laughs). Many come from Paris and they all wanted to escape the country, the continent. There is a great energy coming off Austin. There are many artists and musicians. The vibration is very positive, the people are friendly and respectful, and the city and country around is beautiful. To some extent, it looks like the South of France, it’s nothing like what people expect when they think of Texas, like longhorns, cowboys, oil fields and desert. When it comes to Japan, I love pretty much everything : the food, the people, the country itself. The only thing I don’t like is the hordes of black guys in Shinjuku who try to get you into the fucking nightclubs, I hate that. The other night, after the show, we went to a restaurant across from a nightclub. An old guy was sitting there reading with a lowering look upon his face. Every 5 minutes, young girls walked in with stacks of money for him. He was obviously pimp daddy. I hate that !

What do you hate about Europe and America ?
Jürgen: Argh, don’t get me started on Germany (laughs) ! I hate Germany for many, many reasons. I always say, the only good things about Germany are the fans and the people who moved out of the country (laughs). I just hate the German mentality. In general, many people are ignorant and arrogant, which is a really bad combination. But the whole Europe has turned that way, unfortunately. I really don’t like the feeling coming off the old continent. It’s a good place to visit for  historical reasons, but definitely not a good place to live. About America, I hate the 48% of republican morons who voted for Trump. I hate the American voting system, which made Trump and Bush win the presidency. I hate those retarded motherfuckers. But every country has a lot of morons. Especially when you leave the big cities and go to the countryside, you’ll meet lots of them, you’ll meet lots of backward-minded hillbilly jerks. People in the cities are more used to dealing with other cultures and foreigners.

Extremist parties continue to rise across the Old continent. There is a growing tendency of introversion that leads to identitarian closure.
Jürgen: This is not surprising, at all. I hate ignorance and racism is ignorance. European identity is already a complicated concept, but the massive influx of immigrants has complicated it even more. The migration issue has shaped political discourse in Europe, and will continue to shape it. There are so many different cultures and for some reasons, they are unable to co-exist peacefully together. We are both immigrants, I live in America, you live in Japan, which put us in a good position to point out the issue. I strongly believe, and you do too as we talked a bit earlier, that when a country welcomes you, your duty is to assimilate with the people and its culture. You have to be grateful for the nice gesture. When somebody welcomes you with open arms, you have to respond by being conscious, respectful and appreciative. In Europe, it doesn’t happen in the same way as in the U.S. for example. Everybody who comes into the country wants to become an American. People who come to European countries don’t want to become Germans or French, or whatever. In Europe, there are massive ethnic groups of men only, in the streets of big European cities. They don ‘t mingle much with the natives. In Paris, when you go to Divan du Monde and all around this area of Paris, you can see large groups of arabic men hanging out together on the street, not a single woman of their own culture in sight. It’s very strange to see this in a European city. Be right back  (stops to go to the rehearsals) !

Welcome back.
I feel that RAMMSTEIN has been very much influenced by DIE KRUPPS at the beginning of their career, many of their songs are very close to yours, and today, it has become the most famous German band. What’s your feeling about it ?
Jürgen: Of course, they have been influenced. Once we were friends, but we no longer are. Back in 1995, they invited us to one of their shows. I remember being at the venue when the song « Tier » was played. I was pretty surprised by how close it sounded to one of our songs, ‘The Dawning of Doom’. I went backstage and talked to Richard. I asked him to please give me credits for it on their next album. But they didn’t and I didn’t want to make big waves. I let it go, but I was really bothered. At one point, I approached my publisher who was also theirs, and asked to help with the issue, but nothing happened. So, I contacted a music consultant in Germany. The man told me that nothing in popular music is ever new, that music is constantly influenced by what has been made before. So again, nothing happened. After another year or so I talked to my agent in America. He decided to send them a letter stating that he planned to sue them. A couple of hours later, the record company, the management and the band called me. So I finally got credited in the end, but sadly the friendship we once had was lost, basically over something we could have resolved without making it a big issue. All I wanted was to receive a credit for a song that I had written which they had partially used or been influenced by. Seriously, I don’t feel envious of Rammstein at all. We left our imprint on the musical world and created or helped create genres, from Industrial, to EBM, to Industrial Metal, and that weighs more than money to me. The biggest difference between RAMMSTEIN and DIE KRUPPS is the performance. Just like with the band KISS, if you take the show away, there is not much left. That’s just my personal perspective. When KISS took off the makeup, nobody went to the shows (laughs)…

Fair enough. I believe so too.
So, what’s next for DIE KRUPPS ?
Jürgen: I guess the band will tour and tour again. We’ll go to the South of America in 2017. We will be back in Japan. Earlier today, we talked to someone about Malaysia, Singapore… In 2017, we want to visit as many countries as possible. Everybody is welcome to come see us !

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