“Nun liebe kinder gebt fein acht….”
Late autumn 2001 and I’m wandering around the city centre of my former hometown, York. No real purpose, just passing some time and the inevitable visit to my favourite record emporium of that period, the long since departed Track Records, was about to happen. When I walked in, I had no idea that this particular visit would trigger a new musical obsession.
As I scanned the racks of new release cd’s one in particular stood out. The image of an unborn child’s face on a red background was hard to ignore. I picked it up and examined it further. It was entitled ‘Mutter’ and was by a band called Rammstein.
I had heard of Rammstein but wasn’t really familiar with them. I knew they were German and sung in their mother tongue, could be described as ‘Industrial Metal’, they had a song called ‘Du Hast’ that was occasionally aired at the local metal club night and that was pretty much it. Armed with this limited knowlege and on an instinctive impulse, I handed over ÃÂ£11.99 and the special tour limited edition of ‘Mutter’ was mine.
Upon returning to the the house I shared, I opened the cd and slid it into the dvd player in the living room and pressed ‘Play’. The lad I shared the house with was a big fan of technology and had fitted a huge surround sound speaker system to the dvd player so when the intro to the opening track ‘Mein Herz Brent’ gave way to the main riff, my eyes bulged and my jaw dropped. This is fucking IMMENSE!!
I was totally unprepared for the way the album sounded, huge, massive riffs with the life-affirming ‘crunch’ that all great metal riffs should have, stirring orchestral passages, vast choirs and THAT voice. Quite simply, this was possibly the greatest thing I had ever heard and from that moment, I was a Rammstein fan for life.
One album was not enough and I needed to know everything about this band so I started to reseach with the help of a dial-up internet connection and what I found did nothing to slow my enthusiasm. Not only do they sound amazing but apparently the live shows are like nothing on earth! Also, there was two more studio albums and a live cd/dvd available.
I returned to the hallowed ground of Track Records a couple of days later with the intention of ordering the entire back catalogue and a fabled dvd entitled ‘Live Aus Berlin’ and hit the jackpot. ‘Herzeleid’, ‘Sehnsucht’ and ‘Live Aus Berlin’ cd’s all in the 3 for ÃÂ£10 sale! What a result! Sadly I was informed the dvd was only available in Europe and they probably couldn’t get me a copy. Still, not a bad afternoons work.
The snail paced dial-up told me of a European tour happening at the end of the year and what jumped out from the tour dates was Rammstein would be playing 3 nights at the Heineken Music Hall in Amsterdam, one of my favourite cities in the world. This was a possibilty. I rang my mate in Rotterdam, ‘Dutch Bas’ (or ‘Butch Daz’ as he’s sometimes know) to test the water. Bas shot it all down in flames. One of his mates had tried for tickets on the day they went on sale and all three nights had sold out in minutes. This was the first time I found out first hand just how big Rammstein are in Europe. Oh well, not to be.
My almost evangelical Rammstein mania was starting to have an effect on my mates and the hours of ranting was steadily converting them. At work the bland sounds of Radio 1 in the kitchen had been replaced by German metal at as loud a volume possible without it been heard in the restaurant. The Head Chef was now a fan!
The next revelation came in the unlikely surroundings of Tesco. I was having a quick glance through Kerrang! magazine when the familiar babies face featured in an ad in the live section. OH MY FUCKING GOD, there’s a Rammstein UK tour happening in may and they’re doing two nights at Manchester Apollo! I swiftly bought a copy and returned to my van. Felling sick with nerves I dialled the Box Office number. Get in! Two standing tickets for the second night secured without a hitch. As an added bonus, a ticket agency in York were doing one of those ‘Ticket and Travel’ coach trips to the first night of the Apollo shows and were offering standing tickets. Be rude not to really. So, I was about to see this mythical beast two nights on the bounce.
With great impatience, time passed slowly and then something came up that put everything up in the air. My ‘Mutter’ was due a heart operation that was pretty heavy duty and there was only three possible outcomes. the first, it goes well and she lives, it goes badly and she dies in surgey or the final option, she sufferers a massive stroke during surgery.
The date of this operation? The same day as the first gig in Manchester. I visited her the day before the op and as I left the hospital, I was more than aware that could be the last time I was to see the Old Dear alive. All that was left to do was await the call from my Old Man the following morning.
Around 11am the call came and the Old Lad somewhat nonchalantly informed me, all was well. Thesense of relief was and to this day still is indescribable. At that point I decided that it was going to a night of some magnitude to celebrate. The bus was leaving York at 4pm for Manchester and I was due to meet some mates in the pub at 3pm. I was on my way to see Rammstein at last!
Suffering the support bands Raging Speedhorn and American Headcharge was not easy and after seemingly an eternity, the lights went out and the intro began!
I won’t go into too many details about the gig but it was everything and more that I ever desired. Total audio visual overload with more pyro than I could have dreamt of. I even had the keyboad player, Flake, pass over my head in the inflatable boat during the last song, the cover of Depeche Mode’s ‘Stripped’. Joy! I remember on the way out of the venue bumping into a certain John Robb who I knew from many Goldblade gigs, “You alright Andy? You look a bit agitated”. Just a tad John, been a funny old day!
The second night was as good but I could watch and appreciate what was happening, rather than been a demented nutter. Shame the lad I went with got arrested on Picadilly station whilst waiting for our train back to York for creating a ‘Recreational Cigar’ under a CCTV camera! All this went on when I left him to go to the chippy outside the station for a couple of cans of pop, on my return he was been dragged off in handcuffs!
The Rammstein machine lay dormant for a couple of years, but when it started turning again, I was there, ready and waiting. ‘Reise, Reise’ was nearly upon us, the stunning single ‘Mein Teil’ had been played to death and tour dates were imminent. Would there be a return to the UK? The answer was no, not this year. If Rammstein won’t come to us just yet, we’ll go to them.
The trusty dial-up located a ticket agency based in Peterborough that claimed to be offering tickets and hotel for a show in december at the Velodrome in Berlin. A phone call confirmed this was inded the case and I set about recruiting some sturdy ‘Metal Warriors’ for an away fixture to witness Rammstein, live in their hometown.
Fast forward a couple of months and four tosspots are entering John Lennon airport bound for Berlin courtesy of Easyjet. What can only be describe as ‘titting about’ took place for the duration of the journey and soon were were checking into our glamorous hotel, located right next to Berlin’s Ostbahnhof. After a quick shower and change of clothes we were ready to go forth in search of adventure. A bar was located within the station and a few beers were drank, the time to head of to the gig was upon us and the sense of anticipaton was off the scale. I had noticed a row of taxis outside the front of the hotel so with a degree of confidence I approached the car at the front of the line and explained our situation to the driver.
“Ey-up our kid, Velodrome bitte”
Clearly he had something far more important to do than take four half-cut morons to a gig as he gave me a look of disgust and drove off into the drizzly Berlin night without a word. This was repeated 3 more times before we had any joy with the taxi drivers. Eventually, one driver took pity on our plight and agreed to take us to the venue. When he found out why, he let out a cry of delight and hit ‘play’ on his cd player and the ‘Herzeleid’ album did thunder forth. Nice bloke, shame he took us to the wrong venue! When he realised his mistake, he was mortified and took us to the right place free of charge. We decided we liked the guy and insisted he took 10 euros just for playing the cd!
Berlin Velodrome is underground. It’s also one of the most organised gig venues I’ve ever been to. No hanging around in queues and ruthlessly efficient staff. I ended up comparing tattoos with a beast of a German bloke, he lifted his t shirt to reveal the word “Bastard” in 5 inch high letters across his collosal shoulders. Foolishly I asked “Why?”. The reply was priceless, “Because I’m a bastard and I like Chelsea football club” Fair enough mate.
I can’t remember the name of the support band that night but I recall them been a bloody awful, female-fronted, wannabe KoRn tribute act. Not that this mattered it was all about the Rammstein and they were jaw-droppingly superb.
The ‘Reise, Riese’ tour found it’s way to the UK in early 2005 and we got stuck right in, nothing was important other than securing standing tickets and getting the time off work. I got to see them at Manchester, Newcastle, Birmingham and Nottingham. Out of those gigs, Birmingham was the best, they played with a level of intensity I never thought possible and at that gig I bought an item of Rammstein merchandise that I’d never seen on any merch stand before. A pair of Rammstein socks no less!
Such was our (well, me and my mate Big Kev’s) insatiable appetite for all things Rammstein, we found ourselves back at John Lennon, on the same Easyjet flight and at the same hotel. This time it was outdoors and at the Parkbuhne Wuhlheide, the scene of the ‘Live Aus Berlin’ cd/dvd. It was at this gig Rammstein played ‘Benzin’ live for the first time and we returned home delighted.
Time went by after ‘Riese, Riese’, I was now married and living in Doncaster, the dial-up was history and I had broadband. Rammstein.com saved in my favourites and checked frequently for any news. And eventually, news there was. A European tour at the end of 2009 was announced. I was at Download festival that year and was talking to ‘Young’ Dave about these dates and he decided that as the tickets went on sale the monday after the festival, he was going home sunday night and would get straight on it the second they were available. Where do you fancy going?” I asked, “Anywhere, I’m not bothered” Dave replied, so I left it in his hands.
On the way back from Download I got a text, “Barcelona, tickets, hotel and flight sorted”. You beauty!
And so ‘Young’ Dave, ‘Big’ Kev and myself did venture to Northern Spain to see what I think was the third gig on the first leg of the ‘Liebe Ist Fur Alle Da’ tour at an oylmpic basketball stadium. This was the smallest venue since Manchester Apollo I’d seen Rammstein in and to be fair, it was a bit shit. Support band Combichrist, however, were far from shit and to the disgust of my companions, I indulged in a bit of a dance and a maybe even a spot of dreads shaking.
Rammstein came on and played their most ambitious show to date but something wasn’t right. They just didn’t seem as tight and machine-like as all the numerous times I’d seen them before. It was like they just weren’t gelling. Don’t get me wrong, Rammstein having an off night is probably better than a majority of bands at their very peak but we noticed and with a slight twinge of disapointment we left the gig to find Barcelona appeared to be closed after 11-30pm.
After the Barcelona disapointment came the triumph of Manchester. This was the only UK gig I could get to when the ‘LIFAD’ tour came to the UK and it was magnificent. The band were on fire (bad metaphor!) and delivered a truly stunning set. The moment during ‘Engel’ when Till unfurled the angel wings and they burst into flame is a sight that will stay with me for life. I took a mate to that gig who was a Rammstein ‘virgin’ until that night, he is now a devout convert! On the way out I happened upon Rob Haynes, the drummer from Goldblade (I guess Goldblade love Rammstein!) and he was of the same opinion, that we had seen something quite magnificent.
And so the latest ‘Made In Germany’ tour lands in the UK in a matter of days. It’s a ‘Greatest Hits’ affair and from what I’ve seen on Youtube, it’s the biggest yet in terms of production with pretty much the best setlist you could dream of. There’s talk of it been the last ever Rammstein tour and that they are going out on a high. If this is indeed the case, I’ll be gutted but all good things have to end and this ride has been the best and one I wouldn’t have missed for the world.
So if you’re going to the Manchester and Nottingham gigs and see a bloke with dreads and a nose ring lurking about near the mixing desk, twitching spasmodically with a glazed look of rapture on his face as Rammstein take the stage, that’ll be me and I can assure you, there will be nowhere on the planet I would rather be at that moment and for the following two hours.
As for my Rammstein socks, I wore them proudly on my wedding day!