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Interview: Emigrate

Words: Jen Rees

Hi Richard, how are you going?
I am pretty good, how are you?
Great thanks.

Thanks so much for the chance to interview you. I have really enjoyed listening to the album. I’ve read up on your Facebook page and there are so many fans super keen for its release, the anticipation is building.
Thank you very much.

You wrote 21 tracks for the album and had to cut it down to down to 11. How difficult was that for you and did you change your mind many times?
Yeah! It was quite difficult. Normally what we do is record 16 or 17 tracks and get rid of 4 or 5. This time I had all 21 songs that I felt really confident about and for me it was a choice of what fit in the album more than which song is individually better. So by doing that I realized that I could have a follow up record, a part two, a couple of months later and record 3 or 4 more songs and I am in the middle of doing that right now actually.
Excellent! That is great news.

In the end you were happy with the album as stated on your Facebook page “For the first time, I don’t want to change a damn thing about a record.” That would feel pretty good!
It is always good to get something done, but my past album, I wished I had changed things. On this record I can honestly say that I did not really know what I would do different. I am quite excited as I saw the future for Emigrate, I always said that I would do two records but after saying that I was not sure about doing it and where the whole band would go. But now doing that and this record and the collaboration, I was so looking forward to doing it, I think I see a future in something that we will continue doing.

Is the artwork for the album significant to the broken Star of David or just a really cool design?
Interesting you should say that, it has nothing to do with that, but two other Australian music journalists have asked the same question. When we created the logo it was more for me at least, a symbol of the circle being the circle of life and the E stands for getting out of the circle of life. One of the most important things in my life was to get out of my comfort zone, I think if you’re an artist, in whatever you do, at least in my life, the best creations came out when I wasn’t so comfortable in situations. That means to immigrate from a small city in East Berlin to West Berlin then to New York then back to Berlin. I always try to live my life to it’s full intent and Emigrate stands for this kind of idea and when I first saw the logo it reminded me of more of a pentagram than the Star of David. There was no observation to the Star of David it was out of the question.
Great. Thanks for clearing that up, I was really unsure whether it was the Star of David.

Is this really the first time that you have recorded singing in English? You sound amazing, like you have always sang in English.
While this is the second time, the first time was the other record was also in English. But for the first album I was just so busy and to be quite honest I was really frustrated as a songwriter and a musician and I felt that I was quite advanced by doing all my work with Rammstein over the years but when it came down to my vocals I was like a baby in a Ferrari and I didn’t know how to drive or use the gears. I was frustrated because in my mind I had are certain sound in me that wasn’t quite right, with my German accent and memorizing the lyrics I was so busy and I didn’t really have fun doing it. I was really frustrated and I needed to find the mental switch because I do believe trying to sing is not about how many hours you have vocal lessons it is finding the mental switch that says I’m a singer. And if you find the switch and switch it on all of a sudden everything works, and honestly it took seven years to find that switch. When I found it, things were so more pleasant and I was also confident enough to reach out to other singers because I was thinking about how it would sound if I had all these great singers and I became more confident and the way things went together. It worked out great but it did take seven years to find it, honestly.

I think that as ‘Rainbow’ is written about your daughter this song would be the one that you are most emotionally connected to, is this correct?
Actually the most personal song I would say would be Born On My Own. It is an interesting story, my whole life I have this image in my head and I don’t know where this image belongs but we do have those things and I have an image of a king without his people somehow. That’s how I felt in a long time in my life okay? I was doing reincarnation therapy and that was one of the most interesting things I’ve done in my life. Doing that I was inspired to write this song. So this is the most personable song. With Rainbow you know I had just become a father and that changes a lot of things in life you know. It’s one of the biggest creations you can do as a human being is creating another human being and this inspired me to write this song. It was interesting because somehow I could never nail the vocals of this song I almost gave up and I said it just doesn’t work like that was just not there it sound so weird and then one day my daughter who is three right now shows up in the studio and somehow I felt like let’s do it right now while she was there and while I was singing it, it worked in the first take so why was glad she came by. (Laughing) I’m just so glad it worked out.
That’s amazing. (Laughing)
My daughter is so funny, you know she is the opposite of what the German is like, like we are seen as cold but she is half American when she sees people on the street she says good morning to everybody and people think she’s crazy. She is such a beautiful girl that I could talk about her all day, let’s talk about music. (Laughing)

You have a few guest vocalists on the album, firstly Frank Dellé. I had not heard of him before, can you tell us how you met and asked him to sing on ‘Eat You Alive’? This is my favourite song of the album.
Yeah, he plays in a German band that is quite successful. It’s a band called Seeed. They do kind of reggae you know like reggae house kind of music, but he is a guy that likes rock music. He has always asked me if when I do something can he join, and one of my friends also in Emigrate produces Seeeds music so he knows them. So he came up with this part and he sang it in to his iPhone and then came into the studio to record and that’s basically it.

Was this always going to be the lead song or was that something that you had to juggle around?
Well the thing about this song is that it wasn’t going to be the first song, but then every time I heard the sequence and when those drums kick in I thought man that would be a great lead song. I did change my mind as I thought it was too strong but then I went back to my first instinct and became number one again.

Get Down featuring Peaches, the second track of the album, you wanted a sensual sound to it, which indeed it does.
This song was inspired by sitting in stripy clubs which I rarely do when you’re rockstar, I never really understood the concept of stripy clubs and I don’t drink so I was quite bored and I felt I wanted to write a song for stripy clubs. So that was the idea and the motivation in the beginning. Then I wrote something sexy and groovy and then my bass player suggested that we do a duet and it will become more erotic. He mentioned her, I knew who she was but I’ve never heard her work and she was living in Berlin. She wasn’t so much interested in the music I was, but she was interested in meeting us and that was really important to her. We then talked about an hour, about smoothies, raw food and she said” you guys are healthy so let’s do the song!” She was very cool, very cool lady. You should check out her work.
I will do, thanks.

Tell us about the story of you throwing a guitar at Lemmy and he agreed to be a guest vocalist on the album?
Well you know sometimes you get angry on stage especially when things don’t work out and normally I hate that it is just so stupid that sometimes you just can’t control your emotions. I think what happened was he was watching us on the side and my guitar guy gave me about five times the wrong tuning and after that I was just so frustrated and I threw the guitar and I didn’t see Lemmy until the guitar had left the stage. And the thing was Lemmy was not on my list of people I wanted to work with. What we did is we would listen to tracks and how they sounded would basically dictate the singer. So I had this little pop song and I said to the guys what do you think of this one? The drummer doubled the tempo and it became a cross between Motorhead and Depeche Mode. And I was like which singer should we ask? Dave or Lemmy? So I went for Lemmy but I heard that he was canceling shows because he was very sick and the people really worried about him. So I said to the guys I don’t think it’ll work out. Funnily enough three days later I got an email out of nowhere with no explanation just the song with his vocals on it, no drama, he just delivered the goods. I was like a little child jumping on my bed when I heard the track. It was just one of those moments you know where things come together and if you’re like man it was so worth it. Getting all those singers together was one of the most pleasurable things. I love it more than being on stage when everything comes together you know, I was surprised that he had time to do it but he is such a great guy and I have a lot of respect for him. It was cool.

(The operator interrupted us to say time was up but Richard asked for more time and for a one more question.)

Silent So Long featuring Jonathan Davis from Korn, is totally different from what I expected from a song that featured Jonathon’s vocals. How was it working with him on this song, was it a smooth process?
It was a little bit more complicated because he was really interested in what I was doing but somehow he did not have email or a cell phone but he was really keen to do it. And after a while I thought you know what just f&*k it I will just sing it myself. So I did it then I was in the studio mixing the song and I got an email back from him that he was in the studio right now and let’s do this song, and I thought it’s a little late right now but let’s wait for two hours, and he delivered the song. There was something missing in the chorus there was like this high note that I was missing and I asked him, Jonathan can you sing my high note, and he said no way and I thought shit, I really need that high note. Jonathan take your hands and grab your balls and squeeze and he did it. (Laughing) The first song that I actually had a guest singer on was Hypothetical, I know you have not asked me about working with Marilyn Manson was filled with drama. (both laughing)

Well Richard, I’m really pleased I got to chat with you.
All right it was cool, thank you.
Good luck with the album!
Say hello to Australia from Berlin. where are you located right now? Sydney?
No I’m in Melbourne.
My favorite city is Melbourne! Say hello to everyone for me.
Will do, thanks! Bye.


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