UPDATE: After purging his sillies on the side project LINDEMANN and participating in another Rammstein documentary video, Till has begun work on a seventh Rammstein album, estimated to be released in 2017.
To the chagrin of most of the band, including Till himself, Rammstein is, for many fans, the Cult of Till. The band's lead singer is the physical (oh, so physical) embodiment of Rammstein's burning question, "What does it mean to be a man?" Till is a caricature and a parody of manhood. He calls into question the very definition of masculinity, and he exemplifies "spending his whole life trying to get back in" while accusations of Oedipal complexes bounce off of his powerful persona like the showers of sparks he sings beneath onstage. To say that women want him and men want to be him is as understated as bringing a lighter to a Rammstein concert.
Till's ceaseless font of testosterone is both his superpower and his greatest torment. He loves women (lots of women) almost as much as women love him, and his constant and catastrophic failures in romantic relationships make him completely miserable. His epic stage charisma masks exhausting introversion. He is a poet, a dreamer, a romantic, a jock, a hunter, and a minefield of rage and desire. He finds pleasure, inspiration, and release in physical pain. He harbors what video director Jonas Akerlund calls a true "place of darkness" within him. His deadliest sins are Lust and Wrath.
Like most of his bandmates, Till is a private person. Little is published about him in English, and he dislikes talking about his personal life or drawing unnecessary attention to himself. Lucky for you, dear fellow Rammstein enthusiasts, I've obsessively gathered scraps of information from sources in several languages, with the help of friends abroad, to piece together an almost coherent portrait of this maddeningly elusive deity of rock.
Legend has it that like several of his bandmates, Till grew up in conflict with a father figure. The truth of this is unclear and certainly complicated. Till was raised in the countryside near Schwerin by two loving parents who decided to live in separate locations during Till's childhood due to considerations that included work and Till's sister's schooling. Till's father was children's author Werner Lindemann, who encouraged Till to write poetry from an early age but struggled with alcoholism and with his relationship with his tempestuous son. These struggles with alcohol and father-son relations probably have been exaggerated in the media; Werner's autobiographical book of short stories describes some fiery clashes but also generous shows of affection among Till and both of his parents. Till lived with his mother, journalist Brigitte "Gitta" Lindemann, until his late teens, when he was expelled from boarding school. At that time, some say that Gitta had divorced Till's father and remarried a man who did not get along with Till, but some fans argue that this is untrue, and I have found no primary sources to confirm it. When Till went to live with his father in the country, the two sometimes argued about Till's lifestyle that included getting into some lady trouble with multiple girlfriends. Till left his father's house after less than a year, but he and his mother stayed by Werner's bedside as the author died of stomach cancer in the early '90s.
Till's youth appears to have been a patchwork of messy, strong, and varied emotions, perhaps even more so than most youths. I can only guess at how Till felt to have his awkward teenage years presented to the world lovingly--but publicly--in his father's book, and then to have those stories warped and distorted by tabloids and confused rumors. Suffice it to say that Till must have had, and probably still does have, complex emotions about his father.
From a very young age, Till's life was characterized by tension between ardent devotion to performance and ungovernable passions. From ages 11 to 14, he attended a sporting school and became an elite competitive swimmer. Though he never liked the sporting school, he tried hard to tame his wild impulses. When he was 14, on a swim trip to France, young Till snuck out at night to explore the city--and perhaps buy a porno magazine--which was irresistible to a curious and hot-blooded East German boy who grew up deprived of culture--and booby pictures.
He was caught and promptly shipped off to boarding school. He continued swimming and was soon shortlisted for the 1980 Olympics in Moscow, but he tore an abdominal muscle and took the opportunity to quit the sport. Till has continued swimming all his life for fitness and relaxation, free from the pressure of competition.
After school, when service in the East German military was required of all young men, Till told the military to eat scheise. Unlike the other members of Rammstein who also skipped out on their mandatory service, Till did not become itinerant or go underground to avoid enrollment. He simply stared at the authorities with the same facial expression that Chuck Norris uses to avoid paying taxes. (I'm guessing here, but I think it's a safe bet.) In any case, Till did not complete his military service, nor was he imprisoned.
He spent his twenties wandering through a life that Dr. Evil might describe as quite ordinary. He tried his hand at carpentry, peat cutting, working as a gallery technician, and basket weaving. Meanwhile, he made space in his house and heart for a punk band studio. He played drums and occasionally bass for a band with the homoerotic moniker First Arsch, which guest-starred guitarists Richard Kruspe and Paul Landers. The first record he ever bought (in East Germany, where records were hard to find on the black market) was by Alice Cooper.
Till had a daughter named Nele in his early twenties and married the girl's mother, a lovely woman named Mareike, but the marriage did not last long, and Till raised Nele himself for about seven years. Mareike later dated Richard Kruspe, which is likely how Richard was introduced to Till's band. About a decade after Nele's birth, Richard also had a daughter with Mareike, another girl given the last name of Lindemann because Mareike had kept her married name. Richard and Mareike parted ways soon afterward, and Till and Richard bonded as they supported each other in raising the half-sisters. Thus began the start of the six-man Rammstein family, which would prove more enduring than any of its members' marriages to women. To date, Rammstein has been creating together for almost 20 years.
In those early days, Till wrote poetry, which eventually led to the publication of his poetry book Messer in 2002. But he never sang, preferring the detachment of the drum kit in the background. Only when Richard decided to start a new band, something that would unite the themes of men and machinery, was Till convinced to step up to the microphone. Richard found it difficult to write music and lyrics and also front the band as lead guitarist and lead singer, and one day he overheard Till singing to himself in his beautiful bass tones as he worked on some task--perhaps weaving a basket--and recruited him as lead singer and lyricist. This was a cataclysmic move, as Till would become one of the most brilliant lyricists and iconic singers in rock history.
Together with Richard's roommates, bassist Oliver Riedel and drummer Christoph Schneider, a proto-Rammstein group recorded a demo tape and entered it into a government contest. They won, and the prize was access to a real studio. After hearing the demo tape, Paul Landers, who played in First Arsch with Till and Richard and also in the underground punk band Feeling B with Schneider, jumped on board and, with some difficulty, pressed his roommate and Feeling B keyboardist Flake Lorenz to join, completing the iconic sound of Rammstein.
The band's early success powered a fast and fiery evolution. Till was ambivalent about his role out front, and it must be said that spotlight-loving Richard has also struggled with the dynamic he designed. Till was all but paralyzed by stage fright and insecurity at their first shows, and so he quickly turned to pyrotechnics to give him something to show the audience onstage. With the same passion that compelled him to dive headfirst into all his other youthful interests, Till became a professional pyrotechnician. One of his first stunts has become an all-time classic; the flaming jacket he wears with his arms outstretched has been tweaked over the decades to burn bigger, brighter, and longer. Till has learned the hard way, from countless burns and a few accidents involving audience members, to refine his use of fire onstage. As the Rammstein repertoire and budget has expanded, Till has handed the torch to pyrotechnics experts, part of Rammstein's 100-plus team of Klokateers--er, crew members.
The "Till Hammer," Till's signature headbanging/knee pounding move, developed by accident. Till has a bum kneecap that often slips out of place. One time, this happened onstage, and he squatted down and pounded it back into place with his fist. Paul told him it looked really cool and that he should do it more often, and so he has added it to his collection of stage tricks that keep him from having to interact directly with the audience. The only "audience participation" type song Till has ever written is "Ich will," which deals ironically with his bewilderment about the excitement of his audiences. It goes like this (translated from the German):
Till: Can you hear me?
Audience: We hear you!
Till: Can you see me?
Audience: We see you!
Till: Can you feel me?
Audience: We feel you!
Till: I don't understand you.
Till has a love-hate relationship with fame. It has given free reign to all his desires--to amass wealth, travel the world, do drugs, meet beautiful women, drive fast cars, and put on "the biggest fireworks show in the world"--and this hasn't been entirely good for him. Till is an introverted man who is exhausted by being the center of attention. He has a short temper in the heat of the spotlight, and his bandmates and crew have learned to get out of his way in a hurry in the event of an equipment failure. When the flamethrowers don't light, Paul says that only thing that calms Till down enough to continue is to go behind the scenes and smash something. Till needs extensive downtime to rest after a tour; while he loves to travel, especially to the jungles of Latin America where he does super metal stuff like hunting anacondas, he finds touring to be hard work. He prefers to develop his vocal technique in the sanctuary of a recording studio.
He and his mates learned early on that doing a lot of cocaine and other drugs didn't mix well with their intense touring schedules and proximity to explosives onstage, and they have also learned together about the disappointment of losing their sense of luxury in the collection of material things and losing true intimacy in the crush of groupie lust. The song "Keine Lust" and its video describe the malaise that follows overindulgence.
In spite of a rockstar lifestyle spanning two decades, Till's testosterone-driven desires remain inexhaustible. Till has impregnated at least 40% of Germany's population of gorgeous blondes under 25. (This estimate is based on a rigorous scientific inquiry of my own.) The Fatherland is liberally sprinkled with Till's progeny, mostly adorable little girls, with whom he enjoys relaxing in the countryside.
I once read an account of a female fan who met Till in the '90s, which fills me with envy. He autographed her boobies with pure ennui and suggested they watch a Nine Inch Nails videotape. She said she expected him to smell bad after a few hours sweating amidst the stage lights and fiery explosions, but on the contrary, Till's sweaty body smelled "so gut" that, in her words, "I wanted to roll around on him like a dog who finds a pile of maggots in the yard."
In contrast to his hard-partying ways, Till is a hopeless romantic. Either that or he is adorably delusional. He says things over and over like, "I have finally found a woman I can spend the rest of my life with," even though he's clearly incapable of going more than a few weeks or months without banging a hotter, younger blonde and unleashing the wrath of Hera from his ex.
In the late '90s, during the height of Till's poetry writing, he settled down with a young blonde named Anja Köseling and had a daughter named Marie Louise (who is now a teenager known to leak her dad's videos online--oops!). The same year Till attended Richard's ill-fated wedding in 1999, he split with Anja and allegedly sought shelter from her fury in the arms of a younger, blonder actress and model named Jenny Elvers. It is not clear whether a relationship with Jenny actually took place or whether Jenny simply used the press to exaggerate her own infatuation--something that would become a pattern in Till's supposed love life. Till showed a little variation in his tastes when he next dated a Spanish designer named Esperanza. He stayed with her for quite some time; some fans and reporters believed that they were married. It is said that she helped him write lyrics for a song, which I assume to be "Te quiero, puta." In 2004, Till told a radio interviewer that he planned to retire when he turned 50 to spend more time with Esperanza and his children. Happily for the fans, this was not to be. Soon after his break with Esperanza, which coincided with the writing of the deeply personal ballad "Ohne Dich" ("Without You,") Till stumbled upon a barely-legal, heavily tattooed pinup model named Lexy Hell, continuing the cycle of passion and heartbreak--which Till thanks, Nathan Explosion-style, for fueling his pain-filled lyrics.
Currently Till is dating an even younger, more gorgeous model and TV actress, Sophia Tomalla, daughter of a famous German actress (who, I believe, is also younger than Till and has accompanied Till to several events, sparking many juicy soap opera-style speculations). Since hooking up with Till, Sophia has shaved half of her head, styled her hair in pinup fashions reminiscent of Lexy, and had at least two tattoos in his honor--one of his name on the back of her neck, and another, of his face, strangely positioned on her arm beside an image of her mother's face. In the strange early stages of the relationship, when Sophia was gushing to the press--while admitting she didn't even know where Till was on any given day and wasn't in touch with him on tour--as Till's people asserted they didn't know anything about any such relationship--Lexy criticized it as a fraud, and some fans drew comparisons to Till's possibly-fabricated tryst with Jenny Elvers. However, the pair is now a long-established couple. Although Till has complained that his girlfriend, the youngest and blondest and richest and most famous of a long line of rich, blonde, famous young lovers, is just one instead of the pack of groupies he had enjoyed in his youth, and that she will "soon leave him" as he ages, the relationship appears to be remarkably stable--and fuels many fans' Beauty and the Beast fantasies.
After all, it is no mystery why either one of them is attracted to the other. Sophia is a modern pin-up, and Till's Übermenschliness is like a crazy-potion that makes himself and everyone around him lose control. You don't even need to smell his pheromones to be affected. Just watch the two videos below and try not to become obsessed. The first is the official video for the song "Ich tu dir weh," offering the full thrust of Till's performance art. (Yes, there is a dildo on his microphone, and yes, he is singing about shoving barbed wire into a male sexual partner's urethra, and yes, there is an LED light wired through his face. And still I want to have his next 400 babies.) The second is his Anakonda im Netz interview, showing his humorous and sensitive sides.
What Till lacks in his romantic life he makes up for in dedication to his art. He uses the pain of his personal failures and traumas to inspire his work, and he finds comfort in mixing artistic expression with physical pain. He often suffers bodily harm in the service of Rammstein, and burns from the pyrotechnics are just the beginning. In the video for "Rosenrot," Till clasps a long-stemmed rose handed to him by his lover. With vicious delight, the girl squeezes his hands into the rose thorns, making them run with blood. This scene was done without special effects; the blood and expression of hurt are real. The whole band enacted a self-flagellation scene in the same video and found it an interesting experience, though they weren't as excited about bloodying themselves as Till. Onstage, Till endures burns and run-ins with various stage effects. Once Flake ran into him with a Segway, re-injuring his bad knee. For the "Ich tu dir weh" video and the Liebe Ist Fur Alle Da tour, Till bored and maintained a festering hole in his left cheek so he could sing with a light in his mouth. The other guys discouraged Till from doing it, suggesting they wire the light around the front of his mouth, but Till had his way. He had fun with it for as long as he could, squirting liquor out of the hole in his face as a party trick. During the brutal Made in Germany tour, Till acquired a set of deep, jagged slashes across his chest and shoulders that were rumored to have occurred as he helped tear down a set in Vancouver--but which Till has credited to his onstage antics with keyboardist Flake.
Till pushes his bandmates to take risks with him and often teases Flake, the smallest member of the band and Till's partner for sado-masochistic stunts at live shows. Till calls Flake "an amateur masochist" in the "Making of Engel" video, pokes fun at him for having a hard time dragging Till up a mountainside in the "Making of Ohne dich" video, and mocks Flake's very serious injuries from the crowd-surfing boat stunt in his Anakonda interview (above).
Till and Flake famously served some jail time in the United States in the '90s for their performance of "Buch dich" that involved simulated anal sex and a fake penis that sprayed fluid all over the audience. Till and Flake didn't have much of a sense of humor about it at the time; they were appalled that with all the violence and smut on American television, some prudish authorities had the gall to arrest artists performing a scene of consensual sex. Till complained that American pop stars are allowed to gyrate against their backup dancers in explicitly sexual ways, but he couldn't rub up on his keyboardist without being imprisoned overnight with drunks and crackheads.
Till has always been brave and adventurous about using homoerotic and homosexual themes in his songs and performances. It fits stylistically with his exaggerated man's-man image and the band's exploration of masculinity. What could be more testosterone-pumped than "Mann gegen Mann?" Till has said that he admires the lifestyle of a gay man who can walk into a bar and pick up a partner for a purely sexual encounter, no strings attached. He exhibits a lot of conflict about his overpowering desires for women and his guilt about hurting or using them.
Till is a complex man full of contradictions. For all his problems with women, he loves his mother and cherishes his daughters. The director of the video for "Mein Teil," Zoran Bihać, played on this internal conflict for Till's role. In the video, Bihać used secrecy and improvisation with each of the band members. They were not allowed to know anything about what the others would be doing or the details of what they themselves would do beforehand. The shoot was like a sort of kink therapy, fetishizing each man's inner demons. Till had to engage in sex acts (which Bihać claims were real) with a prostitute and then kill her and drag her body off-screen. He looked relieved but a little sick after filming it and said, "I did something I didn't want to do. I hope my mother doesn't find out about it." In the chorus of the song that Till sings in that scene, he roars (translated), "You are what you eat!" in reference to the German man who had recently made the news for attempting to eat his own genitals before he bled to death. "This is what you are," Bihać seemed to be telling Till. "Now eat it."
Till's discomfort with his own boundary-pushing art became outright regret when his young daughter, "dearest one to my heart," as he called her, once asked if he was in a Nazi band. He admits the band went "too far" by using imagery associated with Nazi propaganda. And he has explained in interviews that when he sings from the perspectives of men who hurt women or children, he is exploring the monsters that populate his own worst nightmares.
But as protective as he is about his own family, Till is an incorrigible consumer of women (and girls). He has an untameable shadow side teeming with sex and violence. His sensitive and thoughtful mind is encased in the body of a seething caveman--a body that cries out to the cavewoman in us ladies to find a stable, supportive mate, and then ditch him for a spin on Till's tour bus. The cover art for the band's latest album, Liebe Ist Fur Alle Da, combined with the cover art for the first single off that album, makes me think again of the saying "You are what you eat." The album art shows the band wielding meat cleavers over stylized female nudes, and the single art depicts the band with their arms, shoulders, and heads superimposed on naked women's bodies. Till's, of course, is pregnant.
Till Lindemann is a cultural icon and a true artist who inflates masculinity to such an extreme that he explodes tired conceptions of maleness. He transforms his fears and internal struggles into pure metal in the forge of his creative potency, and he has forever changed the world of rock and shattered cliched assumptions about what it means to be a man.
Ich liebe dich, Till!
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.