Today, Flake is a cult favorite whose fans literally try to tear him to pieces. Often. His insatiable appetite for excitement seems contagious in uncontrollably positive and negative ways; last year, a crazy young fellow set Flake's house on fire, then fled and crashed his car in a fiery collision. Wherever Flake goes, he leaves a trail of sparks. He makes up for his slight physical form with godlike toughness and fiendish energy.
Flake is a classically trained pianist since his teen years who found his soul in classic rock and jazz records. He joined the underground East German punk band Feeling B as keyboardist when he was sixteen. During the '90s, he played for Feeling B with rhythm guitarist Paul Landers, who would later drag him kicking and screaming into Rammstein's studio.
Flake was the hippest of gutter punk hipsters before such a thing existed in popular consciousness. He always wanted to be a doctor (hence the nickname) but was barred from medical school because of his refusal to submit to East Germany's required military service. Instead of pursuing a mundane trade (such as toolmaking, which he tried for a short time), Flake left home young to live an underground life playing in his punk band and squatting in a Soviet apartment with Paul, where the two made a living selling underground Soviet gutter punk jackets they made out of rags and trash. After Feeling B disbanded, the two roommates occasionally met up with lead singer Aljoscha Rompe to play concerts until Rompe died of an asthma attack in 2000. Flake at first resisted the invitation to join Rammstein, fearing that it would be boring. Happily, Flake managed to translate his unique tastes and punk rock background to the band, and the band managed to integrate Flake's bizarre energies into Rammstein.
As Rammstein's keyboardist, Flake has less to do, instrumentally, than the rest of the band during live shows. He often sets up a loop and has some time before he is needed again at the board. Flake is also a frenetic man-toddler with a microscopic attention span and zero tolerance for boredom, so he has become Rammstein's stuntman/rodeo clown/stage gimp. He often pairs up with lead singer Till Lindemann to playact sado-masochistic man-on-man action; skinny Flake makes a great visual contrast with beefy Till.
Flake's most notorious performance roles include getting faux-buggered during the song "Buch Dich" (for which he and Till were jailed overnight for lewd behavior after doing this in Massachusetts in the '90s) and riding the fan-beloved crowd-surfing boat. Flake has seen some rough hand-waters from his inflatable raft, and his life has been in jeopardy more than a few times. In his Anakonda im Netz interview, Flake claims a 40% man-overboard rate and says he has suffered concussions, spinal injuries, broken bones, and violent disrobing by crazed fans who rip all of his clothes off once he's down. As he describes this, Flake shrugs and giggles and explains that he just has to get stitched up, find some new clothes, and get back in the boat the next day. For a time, bassist Ollie (an athletic 6'7" monster) took the helm, but he didn't like the injuries either, and he didn't get as much satisfaction out of the fear either. Now Flake, in his mid-'40s, carries on the tradition.
Unlike some of the other members of Rammstein, particularly Till and Richard, who enjoy the thrill of pain, Flake does not like physical discomfort or bodily harm. In the "Making of Engel" video, Till snarks that Flake is an "amateur masochist." Yet Flake does love flirting with danger and melting into relief after surviving a scary stunt. He compares it to taking a cold shower, which doesn't feel good while it's happening but leaves one with a refreshed feeling afterward.
Flake especially likes surprises and leaving things to fate. He detests things like over-preparedness, incessant rehearsals, and having lots of choices. He likes having to make split-second decisions in the spur of the moment, and he thrives in rebellion within restrictive environments. Flake is the only member of the band who says he misses the Iron Curtain. This is not to say that he wishes to return to that time or that he approved of it politically; it is only that Flake relishes the magic and excitement of living in close proximity to danger and letting imagination flow in the unknown.
Flake's turn-offs include having to make decisions from long lists, such as extensive beer menus or Starbucks-style food and beverage options. His turn-ons include chaos on a stage stocked by 25 18-wheelers full of explosives. Flake's favorite live shows are the first few of each tour, when the band and crew don't have everything perfectly refined. He feels most alive when he has to think quickly to save the show from disaster due to equipment malfunction or confusion. He laughs joyfully when he talks about the band making mistakes and embarrassing themselves onstage; hazardous bewilderment is a challenge he adores. Flake is sharply ambivalent about traveling. He misses the smallness and intimacy of his Soviet hometown, where children believed that America was nothing but a conspiratorial myth. Like his mates Ollie and Till, Flake highly values his downtime and loves to relax at home. Unlike Ollie and Till, Flake lacks wanderlust and prefers raging against the machine to seeking escape.
Rage runs like a powerful undertow beneath most of Flake's earlier interviews. When he speaks, I am often reminded of the line "Tiefe Wasser sind nicht still (deep waters don't run still)" in the song "Rosenrot." In those interviews, from five years ago or more, Flake's voice is placid and smooth. But he reminds me of a Zen master I once met, who had been through some court-ordered anger management classes in his past and found peace in Rinzai (a practice that heavily influenced the book and film Fight Club). There is an eerie, hot undertone to their words like lava flowing beneath a cool crust. In the "Making of Amerika" video, Flake waxes poetic about the glory of American urinals. Wonder glimmers in his eye from a very dark place. Flake is funny in a deeply shady way, so deadpan that it is hard to tell whether he is joking--but it is clear that he feels strongly about many things.
Flake giggles impishly when he describes Till's rage when the pyrotechnic stunts fail and says he's glad Till's anger is directed at someone else. The worst he's ever received from Till is the odd accidental rocket launch to the face. In one of Flake's odd, soft-spoken, Lynchian moments when it's impossible to tell whether he's kidding or dead serious (or if it even has to be one or the other), he states that he doesn't believe Till would ever really hurt him.
The love taps go both ways, of course. Flake used to ride a Segway up and down the stage during live shows, and once he ran into Till and injured Till's knee. I have never heard either of them talk about the incident, so I can only guess what their reactions might have been.
Till and Flake have a cute friendship. Although Flake tires of routines easily and likes the constant change of pace in the cycle of songwriting, studio recording, video production, and touring, Till and Flake keep some comforting rituals together such as translating Spanish folkloric music together before performances and having a shot of tequila. Till, with his heavy, gloom-and-doom presence, seems to keep Flake anchored. In the "Making of Ohne Dich" video, Till teases him gently when he starts to complain about having to drag Till up a mountainside. Till's weighty, low-slung, no-nonsense attitude seems to make him the band member most likely to be able to handle Flake's funks.
Flake is known for being difficult at times. Flake says in the "Making of P***y" video that the producer, Jacob Hellner, had little patience for Flake's yammering. "The first thing he said to me was, 'Flake, don't do anything,'" Flake, recounts. Then he nods and says simply, "I understood that."
When I first watched the "Made in Germany" DVDs start to finish, I discovered where Flake's deadly undercurrent in his "Making of" videos comes from--he despises "Making of" videos. At least, he did at first. The "Making of Rosenrot" video captures a passionate rant by Flake about the idiocy of "Making of" videos, which occurred while he was having his flagellation wounds dressed. Flake seems to feel that letting people see the backstage workings of the video spoils it, like letting the audience at a magic show see how the tricks are accomplished. While I agree that "Making of" videos could be spoilers if viewed before the actual video, it has never occurred to me to watch them in that order. And in fact, the "Making of Rosenrot" video made me appreciate the video and the band on a level I never would have imagined from watching only the finished product. I never would have guessed that they filmed it in sub-zero temperatures (half-naked sometimes!) or that the bloody self-flagellation scene and the piercing of Till's hands with rose thorns were both REAL. It's pretty much the most metal thing ever.
Before "Rosenrot," Flake did some more subdued griping in the "Making of Mein Teil" video. The director for "Mein Teil," Zoran Bihac, appears to be leading each band member through a kink therapy session using personalized fetishes custom-designed to confront each man's inner demons. The band members themselves had a general idea about the video going in but did not know the details until filming. Awkward, gangly young Flake was dressed as a ballet dancer and forced to perform en pointe atop a slanted beam. He was a good sport about it, and the director was enthusiastic about the look of Flake's "Iggy Pop body," but he expressed some discomfort (as did all the other guys) about the act. He had to dance to exhaustion in a form he knew nothing about, pretending to find pleasure in humiliation.
Flake grumbles that he cannot dance, and that the other band members find it funny, but he does not. The way he says it, I can't quite tell if he means that he doesn't like the other guys making fun of him or that he simply does not find the humor valuable to the film in an artistic sense. Flake's quirky mystery gives him a layer of complexity that is compelling, but I remain unconvinced that if I could see more "behind the scenes" of his words and actions, I would not be even more impressed and fascinated than I am now.
Flake is an intense man all around. He has a history of being whiny and petulant, which seems to have transformed with age into a more controlled burn. What Flake lacks in patience he makes up for in rock solid integrity. Flake is true to his vision, his art, and his values. In the "Keine Lust" video, Flake is the only band member who does not wear a fat suit, to symbolize that Flake has had fewer problems with overindulgence--or perhaps just that Flake is more prone to rebel or express displeasure at stupid shenanigans like wearing a fat suit. Flake knows what he likes and doesn't like.
His sense of humor about himself appears to have flourished with Rammstein. Today, he is known for the "Flake dance," an ecstatic spasm performed in a glittery jumpsuit, Satanic steampunk clown costume, or whatever wacky outfit hasn't been torn to shreds that week. I am inclined to believe that Flake, like Till, has discovered the trick of masking insecurities and shyness behind a dazzling stage persona.
Also like Till, Flake is a homebody who remembers the oppressive world behind the Berlin Wall fondly. They both enjoyed the feelings of camaraderie with their neighbors and pub buddies due to there being not many other things to do and not many ways to receive information except by word of mouth. To this day, Flake lives in the neighborhood where he was raised and walks past his childhood school on his way to the Rammstein studio.
Flake is an intensely private father of three, and he is married to a sweet-faced, red-headed artist. Flake and his wife, Jenny Rosemeyer, have been married, divorced, and married again. Jenny provided the whistling on the track "Roter Sand" on Liebe Ist Fur Alle Da shortly after the couple's second wedding.
My overall impression of Flake is that he is an intense, complex, and fascinating person whose quirks are essential to Rammstein's messy, combative creative processes. Through his badassery, he is unintentionally adorable. When Joey Ramone died, Flake joined with surviving members of the Ramones onstage and sang "Pet Sematary" in a tribute to Joey's earthy spirit. Flake has a surprisingly powerful, gravelly punk rock singing voice. And his stumbling over the English lyrics in his Elmer-Fuddy accent is heartbreaking and loveable and punk effin' rock all at once.
Ich liebe dich, Flake!
This information is entirely based upon "facts" from Wikipedia, trashy tabloids, dorky fan forums, Urban Dictionary, social media, and official interviews and videos released by the band in several languages and nations. These are not American or British celebrities; the paparazzi do not camp in their shrubberies, perch atop their tour bus, bug their underpants, or otherwise have a regular, intrusive presence in these men's lives. These personal impressions of mine are gathered from many sources and true to the best of my knowledge.