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Ich Liebe Rammstein: Paul

Paul Landers

Rhythm guitarist Paul Landers is tough in an understated way. He and his boyhood roommate Flake are the smallest men of Rammstein physically, but they are probably the most hardcore in their musical roots and devotion to their art. In Rammstein, that is saying a lot.

Paul is what some call "man concentrate." At 5'7", he is only a little on the short side, but he is utterly dwarfed by his tall bandmates. Although strongly opinionated in matters of business and craft, Paul seems to be the least divalicious member of the band, with a strong grounding in professionalism and a great sense of humor. He laughs off his taller colleagues' incessant taunts about his height and holds his ground when he wants things done right.

The name "Paul Landers" itself is a study in understatement; it is not his birth name, nor is it a cleverly designed stage name. Paul was born "Heiko Paul Hiersche" to a Russian single mother living in East Germany. He speaks fluent Russian, though he cannot read or write it.

Paul's childhood has much in common with Rammstein founder Richard Kruspe's. Like Richard, Paul left home at age 16 because of conflicts with his stepfather. He began using his middle name, which is his biological father's first name, Paul, and later took his first wife's last name, Landers.

As a young man, Paul lived an underground gutter punk life with his fellow lost-boy pal Flake, with whom he founded the band Feeling B. In the '80s, teenage Paul and Flake squatted in a Soviet-style apartment filled with utilitarian metal furniture and dorm-style clutter, bleached their hair the same shade of yellow, and made a living selling gutter punk jackets they made out of old bedsheets and dusters. They only needed to sell one or two of the jackets each month to get by. "It was quite easy to make a living; not to work and stay out of trouble," says hardcore-practical Landers. "You only got problems if you were caught."

The proto-Rammstein family began to take shape through the '80s and early '90s, but Paul and Flake were not interested at first. In the mid-'80s, Paul played in the band First Arsch with guitarist Richard Kruspe and drummer Till Lindemann. Around the time Till married at age 22 and started a family, Paul also married young, at age 20, and began raising children. In 1990, Paul and his Feeling B bandmates accepted Richard's roommate, drummer Christoph Schneider, into Feeling B. When Richard decided to form a new rock band in the early '90s, just as Feeling B was fading, Paul and Flake did not get on board right away. Punk-oriented Paul was not looking to join a rock or metal band, and Flake thought it sounded downright boring. But when Paul heard the demo tape recorded by Richard, Schneider, Ollie, and Till, he changed his tune and pushed keyboardist Flake into joining and completing Rammstein's unique sound.

Paul's youthful marriage, like Till's, did not last. He divorced after having two children but kept his ex-wife's last name. Within the past decade, Paul has remarried and had another child, but little is publicly known about Paul's second wife. All of the members of Rammstein have carefully guarded private lives, but Paul is the most tight-lipped about his personal affairs. Paul is chatty about music and artistic concepts, but he speaks only in generalities about family and relationships. He has said that he enjoys spending downtime with his family and engaging in extreme sports with athletic bassist Ollie Riedel.

Like fellow guitarist Richard, Paul is a city boy who loves living in Berlin. Paul and Richard have a great rapport both onstage and behind the scenes, often joking around and teasing each other. They have very similar childhood experiences and tastes, and Paul seems to temper Richard's wild emotions. Unlike Richard, Paul does not process his emotional traumas in the spotlight--or seem to need that kind of public affirmation.

Paul seems a bit less ambivalent about the rockstar lifestyle than his bandmates. Like most of the others, he struggles a little with figuring out what to do with himself when the band isn't working, but ultimately he enjoys relaxing with friends and family. He doesn't fall head over heels for exotic locales like Schneider and Till, but he has fun traveling with the band and goads them into joining him in little rituals, like sampling the most well-known food of each country they visit. Paul is an amateur videographer and has been known to make his own behind-the-scenes recordings of the band's activities.

In many Rammstein's "Making of" videos, the rest of the band chides Paul, directly and to others, for being a general pain in the ass. Like the rest of them, wee Paul has big opinions about everything they do and has a micromanaging streak. Just the fact that they feel comfortable teasing Paul publicly, however, shows that he isn't sensitive about disagreements or criticism.

Paul appears to be an emotionally sturdy and clear-headed team player. He has taken his turn in the infamous crowd-surfing boat during live shows, which Flake and Ollie are most famous for riding. He is the biggest goofball in Rammstein, often seen clowning around onstage and during awkward moments on set or in the studio. He shows no sign of his bandmates' fiery tempers or moodiness.

Paul seems to be a down-to-earth, stable presence in Rammstein's explosive mix. He keeps the rhythm, together with Schneider, that holds the music together and keeps Rammstein chugging along, as he says, "like an old car."

Ich liebe dich, Paul!

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.

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Richard Zven Kruspe is Rammstein's founding father, lead guitarist, and natural frontman.

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