Click image to enlarge, translation by BTK Twins Archive.
IT’S BEEN HARD WORK
Whether you want them to or not: Tokio Hotel are back – and they’re here to stay. Identical twins Tom and Bill Kaulitz talk about their “Realschulabschluss” (school certificate), casting shows, drugs and AC/DC.
It’s been quiet around Tokio Hotel for a long time. It’s been more than seven years since their single “Monsoon” filled pre- and hard pubescent teenage girls with unprecedented ecstasy while forcing columnists to make marvelling analysis. Bill Kaulitz, androgynous and crazy-haired and his ten minute older identical twin Tom became the posterboys of German children’s rooms at age 15 and sold millions of records. In recent years though, it’s been quiet around the Kaulitz twins, who moved to Los Angeles. Now, at age 23, the twins return as jurors in RTL’s “Deutschland sucht den Superstar” (DSDS) show. Shooting happens in Bad Driburg, located in the westphalian wastelands, inside an upper class hotel with a multi-storey car park. In front of the conference room’s windows, a few got long in the tooth fans stand around, at least 17 or 18 years old. Insider, the old teen star dilemma joins us at the table: The boys are too old to be cuddled, too young to command respect. You neither want to pull their leg nor put them on your lap.
SZ: It’s been a long time since we last heard from Tokio Hotel
Bill: I think the break felt even longer for the German public than it really was. After our last album we went on a big tour of South America and Japan, after that we just wanted to live a little.
SZ: What does “just living a little” entail for somebody who’s been living in a state of emergency since the age of 15?
Bill: We spent a lot of time with our family. And with our four dogs.
Tom: It was a big change for us. Being on tour with the band, we’ve got a huge team and I can call on them for everything I need at any given moment. Now I have to take care of things myself and that includes stuff I’ve never had to deal with by myself before. I’ve had some overwhelming situations, but I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.
SZ: For example?
Tom: I don’t know, for example I went to apply for my California driver’s license in Los Angeles. I thought to myself: Huh, you’ve got to wait in some shitty line for such a long time? You just stand around for a whole day to give them your photo?
SZ: Los Angeles is now your permanent residence?
Bill: We spend a lot of time in the U.S., because we’ve been working a lot on our new record the past 2 years and also can get some privacy. But we also got a residence in Germany and some of our recording sessions also take place here. The two other boys still live in Germany.
Besides Bill: and Tom Tokio Hotel consists of two other – publicly neglected – members who fit with them like leafs around flowers and whose names and instruments (bass player Georg and drummer Gustav) are mostly put in brackets when Tokio Hotel is covered in the press. While the twins were in the U.S. those two had to put down the rumors about the band’s demise.
SZ: After the long break, do you feel the pressure even more than before?
Bill: Our second album probably was the worst. We started out with a No #1 single, followed by a No. #1 album. When that was over, we were used to permanent success. Everything after had to be worse. The press was only waiting for us to fail at being No.#1 immediately again. And to start writing that now, everything’s over.
SZ: Most of your early fans are now grown up and listen to different music. Isn’t that a problem?
Bill: There’s nothing we can do about that. But we don’t sit around in the studio thinking that there’s no one left to please. Is this supposed to be enjoyed by 15 year old girls or a 46 year old woman?
Tom: I watched an AC/DC Show on TV yesterday. Look at the crowd there, it’s totally mixed up. There are the ones that already were fans when Bon Scott was still singing and right next to them is someone who just discovered them by listening to the “Iron Man” soundtrack. That’s how I would like it to be.
SZ: But you’re not AC/DC. They worked for several decades to get to the top, you got there over night.
Tom: Of course, but that happened to other bands that managed to stay successful too. Depeche Mode were called a boyband in the beginning, totally uncool for boys to listen to. Today almost nobody even remembers that.
During their prime between 2005 and 2010 Tokio Hotel were as loved and adored by their fans as they were ridiculed and hated by the rest of the country. Bill: Kaulitz got the No.#1 Spot in Pro7’s “100 most annoying Germans” show and FHM repeatedly listed him in their “Unsexiest Women” ranking. At the same time the singer had photo sessions with Karl Lagerfeld and the band got stalked by obsessive fans. Nobody could escape the band and every German had a knee-jerk reaction when their name was mentioned that could be anything, but never indifferent. In hindsight, this might have been their most lasting success: Pop to polarise the public.
SZ: How do you feel about Tokio Hotel being more recognised as a demarcation line of tastes than as a serious band?
Bill: You know, you really can’t control things like that. They did a survey about our last album. Some guys from TV ran around the city with earphones and played our songs to pedestrians. Some said “That’s pretty cool” at first, but when told they had listened to Tokio Hotel changed their opinion immediately and said they didn’t like it at all.
SZ: You have always been polarising since your first success, since your youth. Do you sometimes wish you had already been grown up before experiencing all of this?
Bill: On the one hand I think, if I could rewind my life, I would do it differently and maybe wait a few more years. On the other hand, no matter how shitty my day was, no matter that there’s another guy with a camera, no matter there’s some private stuff in the newspaper again: I’m thankful, that I’m able to do everything I do. It would have been terrifying to do something else. I was born for this.
I believe him. Both of them appear to be more open and carefree than you would expect considering their love/hate relationship with the public. They also appear less childish than their slang would suggest. Tom, with his dreadlocks still looks like a boy. With Bill: of course, it’s different: Rings, three-day beard on a porcelain face, a tower of white hair above his undercut and on his left hand a skeletal style tattoo. Come next year, he’ll be the eccentric but style conscious or even style-forming superstar from the future; or he’ll be the tattooed, pierced and unhealty freak from yesterday. How he will be seen will only be decided by the success of their fourth album, which is scheduled for release in 2013. But be assured, these are the only options, there will be no in-between.
SZ: Assuming your comeback fails, what’s Plan B?
Tom: In any case I can’t imagine being told by anyone what to do and who for. Retiring for a few years, writing songs for other artists, working in the background; I could imagine that, but almost nothing else.
Bill: You’re right; I too wouldn’t survive just working anywhere. I always had a problem with superiors and authority, I always hated that.
SZ: Are you still in contact with people from your past?
Bill: We still know some old friends; one of them even is our best friend.
Tom: We have talked about maybe showing up at a school reunion. I would probably go.
Bill: I don’t know. Those guys never really had big dreams. They were more about taking on their parents companies or becoming a vet or a farmer.
SZ: If you can’t even imagine leading a “normal” life, why did you finish your “Realschulabschluss” 3 years ago?
Tom: Sometimes I ask myself the very same thing.
Bill: We did it for our mother’s sake. We were in the 10th grade of “Gymnasium” when we quit school for the band, so we really had already learned everything we needed for the “Realschulabschluss”. We just did it to be done with it. You really can’t do anything with it anyway. You would need “Abitur” for that.
SZ: For what exactly?
Bill: Sometimes I play with the idea to take classes in fashion design. Just for fun.
SZ: Being a celebrity on campus. Are you scared about the fact that normal college life would be impossible for you?
Bill: It’s true, I really don’t have the freedom to just go out and stroll around in the park. But artisticly speaking, I can do what I want. That’s the most important fact for me, which I’m most thankful for. Even at 15 we had already started to fight for that and vigorously. Today, I’m my own boss. Even the record label can’t tell us that much. But of course there are things in life that drag you down and every one of us is possibly broken somehow. Me, I’m a little paranoid sometimes.
Tom: When we started out, we had no idea that everything we say can be used against us by the rainbow press in such a brutal way. We were really shocked after reading the first headlines when we were 15.
More than anybody else, German newspaper “BILD-Seating” accompanied the band’s career intensively. Even during the last 2 more quiet years, the Kaulitz Brothers made the headline with some regularity, for example considering their “heavy party style”: “Hard Drugs: unknown! Alcohol: Always!”; considering their financial independence: “Tokio Hotel supposed to be Jurors for “The Voice of Germany” for a salary of 1.2 million € – Turned down the offer”; considering the twins’ father, who whined about “Fame and Money” that the tore the family apart. They don’t like talking about him.
SZ: Did you get used to those headlines?
Bill: We’re quite comfortable now. They have covered everything already, drugs, anorexia, depression. By now I’m quite certain that most people will know by themselves that it’s mostly bullshit.
Tom: I’m just sorry for my grandma. She sometimes still asks me whether one thing is true or not.
SZ: Your new job as juror won’t reduce the press coverage though.
Bill: At some point you have to accept that. We don’t even comment most headlines anymore, because we don’t want deal with them. It wouldn’t change anything anyway.
SZ: But you couldn’t do without the headlines, could you?
Tom: That’s the outside view, isn’t it: Now they need promo for their new album. But we don’t sell one more record just because somebody wrote that Bill was anorexic. Some French magazine even wrote that you had killed yourself.
Bill: You’re right, I remember that.
Tom: For two days straight people from France called, because they thought you had jumped out of a window.
They just wouldn’t talk to the rainbow press anymore, Bill told me during our talk. But still, while the DSDS shooting continues, several interviews, stories and photo sessions will be published by BILD, Bunte and others. When I asked their management for a statement later, they replied: “Because the rainbow press will cover DSDS and Bill & Tom’s involvement with or without our cooperation, we supply some chosen magazines with statements from time to time. This way the brothers are trying to strike a balance and to add some solid grounding to the stories about them.” Plainly spoken: If we have to deal with bullshit, we at least want to control it. The things you do for grandma.
SZ: You were candidates for a casting show once.
Bill: Just me, ten years ago. The difference between us and other candidates of casting shows is that we started making music when we were seven years old. It was all hard work. Now, I see a lot of people who just want to be on TV, regardless of their talent.
Tom: Especially in the U.S. almost every difference between being famous because of what you can do and being famous for being stupid is gone.
SZ: Do you think it’s different here?
Tom: Fortunately we have always been able to make a living by making music. As long as we can do that, I can live with the rainbow press bullshit.
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