Getting an interview with Richard Kruspe was without exaggeration a mission impossible. Negotiations took few years and we finally managed recently before second Rammstein show in Prague. Whole band and their team were very late on their schedule, but thanks to German preciseness we managed to get everything including an interview with Richard and getting LTD RZK-600 guitar signed for one fan. You will find this behind-the-scenes story at the end of the interview.
To be honest, interview with Richard was one of the weirdest I ever did. In person, he is quite opposite to “uncle” personality of let say Roger Glover. In order to respect his mood, it was best to let him talk about what excites him and simply just add more bricks to build up our discussion. There was plenty of respect and understanding in the room, but sometimes we would jump into our sentences or raise voices if needed. I have gathered huge number of question from fans, but based on the characteristic of our talk, I soon realized it would be the most productive to let Richard enjoy his cigarette, wine and do not interrupt his mind flow. Therefore, you can expect extended interview regarding gear, especially within guitars, amp profiling. However, we also spoke about his childhood and to appreciate all of your fan question, Richard shared a message for all of his fans around the world.
Full audio here:
How did you enjoy yesterday’s show in Prague and how were you satisfied with the sound?
Location and sound was really cool. It is the size we would love to play in the future. Small stadium is ideal for us.
I don’t know, if somebody told you already, but the football team playing in this stadium – Slavia Prague, won the league trophy few days ago.
Oh really? Great!
I can see you brought your great ESP RZK-II “Burnt” with you. Next to that we also brought LTD RZK-600 for you to sing it for one fan. Could you please compare these two models for us?
I have no clue! To be honest, I really don’t know. (Laugh)
So, you were not involved in the creation of this model at all? Even though they included “RZK”?
No not at all. The thing is, now the things are changing anyway. Right now I am starting to create my own brand of RZK by E-II. I am really not happy about the development of what ESP did. They took my signature model and doubled the price. Now it is six or seven thousand, which is ridiculous! I changed the whole policy, as you know. Do you?
Absolutely. I came across many complaints from the fans, who would love to buy your signature model, but that price is astronomical for most of them.
I totally get it. From the very beginning, the shape of RZK-I is very different and based on…I always forget the name…whatever. The whole time, when I was thinking about a signature guitar, I was thinking about a “burnt” design. From the very day one, I was coming up with ideas and solutions, which unfortunately failed many times. (Laugh) I was talking to ESP in advance and told them what I want to do, but they couldn’t realize many things. If you do a burnt guitar and if you want it to look real, you often fail and you have to try and error & try and error. However it didn’t work. I cooperated with a graphic designer for about a year, on the graphic form to try that option. We worked really hard and after one and a half year, we were finished and quite happy with the way it looked. But, when we placed it on a guitar, I realized it was not for me. It was fake. So I threw it away again. Then I spoke to my guitar tech, who used to work for Stambaugh. It is a German company, producing bass guitars. “Let me give a try,” he said and I explained him, what I want. They did it in hand work and basically placed a layer of paper, burned it, glued it and then placed another layer. It was very time consuming process. But after they managed, I had to also navigate the whole communication between them and ESP Japan. I was also very timely, but now they know how to do it.
What about the other aspects of guitar?
I always use the Floyd Rose, even though I don’t really use it, as people know. For me and for the way I play, it gives me a faster response. It feels as if the guitar plays a little faster, compared to not having a Floyd Rose. So, I don’t really use it. I just need a sound of it. Since the days I started using ESP, I use EMG pickups 81 and 84, so there is no change in that. Even though I experimented with a brand Fishman. They are quite cool too and I have them in one of my guitars. I am working right now on a model, maybe, but I haven’t decided yet, which was to go. In general, within design, there are classical models, as Les Paul’s form and body. It became something people always want to play. Les Paul is the sexiest guitar on the planet. There is nothing more we need to say about that. Naturally, everybody’s coping and that’s what we did as well. However for some reason, I always use RZK-I in the studio. Maybe, because it was the first one and I am very familiar with this guitar. I am currently negotiating with ESP regarding a V-model. I would like to try it live and check it out, how it works. What else to say? (Laugh)
From what I understood, your models are made of pretty heavy wood. I understand you need a stability for your playing. Is this a direction you will taking with your upcoming guitar models?
No, we always use the same wood, so we would don’t really change that. But, I don’t actually know exactly what kind of wood we would be taking. However, I am always talking to my guitar tech about all kinds of things. But it’s so hard, when you are dealing with companies so far away to try this or that wood. I guess, when it comes to guitar, I do love to try amps or different kind of EQs, pre-amps, microphones than working on a guitar, to be honest. There is time for everything, I guess. I mean, I used to do that more and trying out guitars or pickups. Somehow I got stuck, but it also means I am quite happy with what I have right now.
Photos taken during second Prague show could have be used only for print release of Muzikus magazine for a period of one year. They will be posted then. Thank you for understanding.
Securities and experiments
When, we are talking about loyalty and amplifiers, you seem to me as a Mesa Boogie guy, even though there were few experiments with Blackstar.
I don’t even know, if I am a “Mesa Boogie guy”. However, I will never forget the first time I heard the Rectifier at Frankfurt Music Convention. I totally remember seeing a guy with a single Rectifier and the sound was incredible. It seemed to me as a wild animal that you have to train. Nobody really has that even though there were things that I had to adjust, especially mid-frequency, because of low raw guitar sound. In the new models, they have change EQ a bit, but I still love this sound. Therefore I cannot say, I’m a Mesa Boogie guy, but I just like the Rectifier sound and never heard another amp that could deliver anything similar.
What about your experiments within electronics?
To be honest, I am not that experimental, as I used to be. Couple of years ago I realized I am spending so much time creating guitar sounds. People know I love pre-amps, microphones, cabinets, speakers and all this kind of shit. Let say, I even made my microphone robot. I am very intense about studio work and I always used to say: “Why I cannot deliver such a quality sound live?” I always did my best and everyone hated me. We had to build a huge tent to protect microphones, as Neumann M 149 picks up a lot of fucking noise. There is a lot dust and explosion going on. The set-up that I had was so complicated and so intense that I realized after a while I cannot do it like that anymore. Therefore I tried Kemper amp long time ago, but I wasn’t happy. But after some time I tried it again and a result was that there were more pros than cons. So, now I am Kemper guy, if we are talking about live shows. As you can imagine, everyone is very happy, especially front-of-house guys. The reason is, I created my own profiles. We actually spent like a week before a tour going through all my amps. I am aware there is a certain kind of dimension missing in Kemper, which I might hear in studio, but you don’t really hear it live. It goes through so much processing anyway and when it comes out of a speaker, you don’t really hear it anymore. So, my life and other lives became so much easier by using Kemper. Therefore I am in really close contact with Christoph Kemper and we enjoy talking about things I like and don’t like. There is definitely a development in there and an interesting future. I don’t see that amps will die, but during a live show, the benefit of using one great amp is better than taking the whole chapeau of gear with me on stage.
When you are talking about future, is Rammfire still an exciting tool for you?
I was thinking about creating a new amp, but… (In this section, Richard was sharing something, which he asked me not to write and share, in order to respect one of his gear partners.)…To be honest, to really capture the sound that I have or like, there is only one way and that is basically to profile my sound. But the problem is that we are intensively thinking do something with Kemper, but it will take two or three years, because they are coming up with new products. Next to that I don’t want people to copy my sound by just downloading it. So it has to be protected somehow, because it’s my sound and if they want to have it, they have to pay for it. I am very old-school about that. So that’s what I am thinking about and there also other ideas that I have, but every time I am thinking about something and getting touch with companies, I realize how complicated it is. In Mesa Boogie they are not really into this whole thing, as they have two signature amps. Next to that, I am not sure if they would be willing to call their amp some other name. I don’t know if they would do that, but I am also not pushing it. However, if it would happen, it would be the sound of the Rectifier, with all of my modifications, to have it ready for live shows. There are so many things I need these days and there is certain kind of frequency I would change. I need it because my hearing is getting lost. (Laugh) Maybe that’s the reason. (Laugh) So, in the end of the day, I would love to do give people my whole profile. It’s not just about the amp, as playing plays the big role too (Laugh), but it’s the amp, speakers and microphones. So, I think the best way to do it and to create Rammfire is to profile everything, not just do one amp. But you know, it can be different tomorrow. (Laugh)
I understand it’s a continuous process and you are still young…
Even though I turning fifty this year, it’s not so bad. (Laugh) I always have many ideas, but the digital world that we live in right now is moving so fast. I believe, in the next five or ten years there will be no difference anymore between digital and analog world. It’s all about CPU power. If you have power, you can actually profile exactly the way the analog amp sounds. Maybe it will smell different, or feel different, but it would sound same. (Laugh) To be honest, it is ok with me. I love analog and there is certain kind of dimension that is missing and I totally agree with that. I love to have those amps in my studio, but there is so much more comfort in having your profile, especially if you work in different studios. With profiling you can go back and have all you need. I think the Kemper is the last biggest revolution within profiling in guitar world. There are a lot of amp manufacturers out there, but they have to suggest, in order to be different.
I am glad you are still excited about something. Not just writing new music, but doing something you believe in, especially within gear.
Yes, but I am also into other studio stuff. Guitars are one thing, but I am very involved in studio gear too. I am not only a guitar nerd. (Laugh)
Yeah, full package! (Laugh)
Can we say you have finally developed an environment, where you can be fully creative within writing of new music whether for Rammstein or Emigrate?
Well, there were times when I was obsessed by sound, rooms and basically chasing a dragon that I couldn’t really capture. And I had to stop, because I wasn’t running anymore. I had to give up and learn to compromise about a current sound and say: “Ok, it sounds like this right now. Just leave it there.” It is better at the end of the day to have song written, than chasing a sound, you will never manage to catch anyway. It was a long term process to let it go and to say: “Ok, it sounds like that and maybe we can do better, when we will go to studio.” Obviously the time has changed and the craftsmanship in the studio is not really there anymore, because there is no money involved. I remember, there were times when you would spend two weeks on the snare drum. Now everyone is using whatever they can get. It’s fine and it’s not like I’m judging here. But it comes down to all sounding a bit same.
Well, from what I am listening, let me just say, you came a long way since the first time you came to Czechoslovakia and bought your guitar.
It’s true. Everything has started here. (Laugh) I could say, I would have never thought, but thinking about it nowadays more and more, I was always interested in music. Let say, I remember putting albums on my parents turn table as a little boy. I would stand in the middle of the room and record my voice playing a song. Then I would be chasing my parents and telling them: “Look what I did!” (Laugh) So, I was always into performing and singing somehow.
Were AC/DC on the top of your list?
Did you manage to reach those high notes as a kid?
No, not that high actually. That’s the one guy I wish I could have seen live. Bon Scott is my most favorite singer, so I am really sad I never managed to see him in person.
For the final question, I managed to gather hundreds of questions from your fans. I must say, you have some of the best fans all around the world. They were asking for new music, letting you know you have massive female fan club and demanding messages for them in general. From what I understood you helped big number of them with your personal approach and music. Therefore, what would be the message for your global fans?
I think everyone should find answers in themselves. Only they know what their life requires, or what they need to learn in life. Because, in general, we are all here to learn. I mean, it’s so individual, which means my message or my learnings would probably not fit to other person. However, in music there was one thing that really worked for me very well. For some reason, in the beginning, when I started playing guitar, I wasn’t really good enough to play other people’s music. That has created very strong will to create my own music. There are so many people that we can see online, which are so technical and unbelievable. But they all sound like someone else. Therefore I say, find your own signature way of playing, sound and all those things that will make you authentic. Find your tone! It’s always good to learn, but the secret is to find yourself and your own way! So, there is no global message. However, the only thing I can tell you guys is my big life lesson. The biggest key moment in my life was that I realized that if you find something in one person, there is also the other side to it. You haven’t found it yet, but it’s there. That’s something that I learned and this knowledge brings me a lot of understanding.
Negotiations regarding an interview with Richard for Muzikus magazine started by the end of 2014, when he released a second album with his project Emigrate. We weren’t successful, but new Rammstein live album in Paris and two upcoming Prague shows seemed as a perfect opportunity to give it another try. When we eventually received a confirmation from the management and instructions regarding a meeting before second Prague Rammstein show, it seemed as a miracle. However, we experienced more unique moments that day.
Next to the interview, we were also asked by Czech office of ESP, to get Richard to sign a guitar from ESP’s limited edition LTD RZK-600, for one fan. This guitar was already signed in the past, but the autograph didn’t last. We were ready before the stadium on time, but Rammstein team didn’t arrive on time and band’s manager didn’t communicate. Time was running and when support band Kurtizány z 25. Avenue started playing, it seemed all is lost. Suddenly a SMS from Live Nation promoter team came saying: “Band has arrived, pick up your ticket and get to backstage asap.” However, we were not allowed to bring guitar to the backstage and next to that, we were waiting for a Live Nation promoter at a wrong spot. Luckily Live Nation employee Jerry found us and brought us to Rammstein saying: „If I would have find you thirty seconds later, it would have been too late. “
It was pretty busy in the backstage. Musicians were enjoying friendly discussion with other guests, finalizing costumes and having few drinks. After about twenty minutes interview with Richard, which was slightly shortened because of delays on both sides, we came back to guitar signing. Rammstein tour manager Heike, asked us natural question: „So, where do you have it? “ Security didn’t naturally let us bring huge guitar case inside and therefore we proposed her, to go out with us and pick up the guitar. However, it was practically the first time for all three of us, including photographer Anna Pospíšilová, to be so deep in the backstage of Eden arena. So, when we came out through the back entrance we were bloody lost. Nobody had any idea where we were, plus behind out asses, there was standing a lady, which was counting every microsecond. Suddenly, female sense of orientation showed itself and Anna recognized one of the refreshment tents, where guitar owner was standing. After some begging, security opened two fences for us and we ran up for the guitar. On the way back to Richard, Anna received all photo instructions and a photo pass. With Heike, we caught Richard once again, got him to sign a guitar and made also a quick picture. I use a term “quick”, because Jaromír alias Jerry had those legendary thirty seconds once again to escort me from the backstage. Next day, we realized why: Right after us, the band went to meet Czech legendary singer Karel Gott, who is also well established in Germany.
My role was over, but photographer Anna took her spot next to the stage, where she was waiting for last instructions from a tour manager Heike. She was supposed to become the only photographer of the show that evening, as the promo days took place a day before. As the interview was originally confirmed few days before the show, our photopass request was also last-moment and it had to go through the whole confirmation process with Rammstein management. Eventually everything worked out well including the interview and exclusive photographing of first three songs. I can’t help it, but I think, everything happened thanks to that guitar.
We would like to use this opportunity to thank to those who made this miraculous experience happen. Thank you Czech Live Nation team and Rammstein tour manager Heike.
(Dan Sywala and Anna Pospíšilová)