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Professional Sincerity

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Video Shoot for Mann Gegen Mann, 2006


I played with the tie on my white robe nervously. This was far outside my comfort zone, even with the little skin-tone briefs I’d been outfitted with. Supposedly we might later be asked to strip down to just a little sock thing that hung over our junk; I didn’t look forward to that whatsoever. Apparently, from the little I’d heard from the new director, we’d also be “groped” and pushed around by about 20 or 30 huge, naked men. Flake was even going to get hoisted up and carried like he was crowd surfing. Oli actually asked if he could do it too, for some reason.


“Okay great,” the director called out with a clap. I kept forgetting his name; Jonas, I think? Yeah, that was it: Jonas Åkerlund.


Schneider only stopped playing after someone waved dramatically at him, probably not able to hear the director call “cut” past his drums and the water spraying down on him.


“Let’s get the whole band back in there for the water now that we’ve got Schneider,” Jonas suggested.


We all disrobed and found our places, taking care not to slip on the floor. Thankfully we got to wear our boots, giving us a little more traction than bare feet. I’d insisted on that, actually. Jonas was fine with that, and seemed to love the idea of “naked” oiled up men in nothing but boots. Well, and the tiny briefs.


Then, of course, Flake had to fuck it up for us. He scurried over to Jonas and began gesturing animatedly at his crotch. I stood patiently with my guitar held conveniently down in front of my own crotch. Jonas said it helped make it look like we were naked if we tried to keep the instruments low and centered, pretending to cover ourselves. I had no problem with that, since I preferred to stay covered anyway.


I could tell Flake was stumbling over what little English he knew, and watched him wave over a translator. After conveying whatever it was he needed to, Jonas put a thoughtful hand to his mouth for a moment, then shrugged. 


“Sure, I don’t see why not,” he said, then turned to the rest of us and called out, “Hey guys, come here a moment; I’ve got a proposition.”


Both curious and nervous, I walked back over. Someone offered to take my guitar but I shook my head. I felt a lot less exposed behind it.


“Okay,” Jonas began, “Flake asked if he could just be naked.”


“Of course he did,” Till said with a chuckle, elbowing the thinner man who glared at him in response.


“These are too tight,” Flake protested, tugging at the hip of his briefs that did seem to be digging into his thighs and waist. “They’re cutting off circulation to my legs.”


“I’m sure we can get you a bigger size,” Paul offered, trying to stifle a chuckle of his own at Flake’s distress.


“Well, we could, and we could keep trying to be artistic with “hiding” the underwear,” Jonas said, “or we could do away with them entirely. I’ll be honest, that was my first idea for this video. I just didn’t want to come right out of the gate with it, since this is the first video with you guys.”


“I’m okay with that,” Oli spoke up immediately. 


I turned and gaped at him in surprise. He was the last person I’d expected to offer something like that. Shy, quiet Oli, offering to get naked in front of the cameras, in front of dozens of cameramen and crew and whichever of the bodybuilders happened to walk by? Was he…? 


No, surely not. I’d seen him with women plenty of times. Heard him too, now that I think about it. We hadn’t always had the luxury of privacy in the past, so we’ve all either heard or outright taken part in one another’s sex lives. As far as I knew, Oli was straight.


But he was still suspiciously happy about the video, and not shy at all about staring when the models did their scenes. I wondered…


“I don’t suppose I can be naked,” Till said, glancing down at his bulky leather briefs. His greasy wig dropped stringy black hair in his face as he did so.


Jonas laughed and shook his head. “Sorry, Till. You’re a little too exposed up front. I doubt a microphone stand could cover you at all.”


Till grinned at the suggestive compliment and seemed content.


“I don’t mind it,” Schneider spoke up. “I’m sitting anyway. Can I—” he turned pink and made a gesture with his hands folding inward.


“Yes, tucking would be ideal,” Jonas said, as if he were completely used to discussing where to put men’s privates on a daily basis. “Less work in post to blur everything, but if you can’t, that’s fine too. The drums cover a lot.”


“Well if everyone else is stripping, I might as well,” Paul said, pretending to be grouchy about it. I could instantly tell he was bluffing, though. Everything was a joke to Paul; even things I assumed were embarrassing or inappropriate. 


I’m sure they weren’t, but I felt all eyes on me then, waiting for my answer. Why the hell had Flake gone and asked something like that? It was one thing to pretend, but actually stripping with all the crew right there, not to mention all the bodybuilders too. This was ridiculous, and more than a little bit nerve-wracking. Obviously we had all seen one another naked before, but this was completely different, and completely terrifying.


Then again, I couldn’t very well say no when everyone else had agreed to it. 


“Fine,” I said, my irritated huff genuine, unlike Paul’s.


Jonas gave me a concerned look, and I instantly got worried he was about to yell at me for my attitude. I hurriedly pasted a smile on my face, partly out of fear. I didn’t want to get yelled at.


“The more the merrier,” I said with fake optimism, giving the director a thumbs up.


While he didn’t say anything, Jonas still looked bothered or something. I tried hard to maintain that false cheer, wary of the new director. The last thing I needed was getting off on the wrong foot with him. I had a past of, well, butting heads with directors. Till always gave me shit for it too, calling me a diva with no sense of adventure or fun. That’s not true at all! I just tend to go into music video shoots with an idea in my head already of what it should be. Sometimes it’s hard for me to get over my own thoughts and work with everyone else.


But let it not be said that Richard Z. Kruspe (it was still hard not to automatically say Kruspe-Bernstein) didn’t do his best. I’d try, even if it meant being naked in front of a camera. In fact, I decided, I’d be the best naked musician on set, no matter what.


I stole a glance over at Paul who’d stripped in record time, and was now busy bouncing back to his place on set with his penis flopping comically. It might be hard to top Paul’s enthusiasm (and lack of shame, apparently), but I would do my damndest.


Swallowing my pride, I followed the rest of the band and pulled down the briefs. I felt embarrassed immediately, but noticed that no one was even bothering to look at me. Paul was drawing everyone’s attention and laughter after Till commanded him to helicopter his dick, to which he willingly obliged. I smirked as well, genuinely this time. It was hard not to when everyone else was in such good spirits.


Out of the corner of my eye, I caught Jonas looking my way. He cocked his head and did a questioning thumbs-up. I nodded with a self-assured wink, giving a thumbs-up right back. I could do this; I’d prove to everyone I was perfectly capable of following a director’s view for the music video with not even a word of complaint.


I squared my shoulders. “Let’s do this!”



Video Shoot for Pussy , 2009


This was, by far, my craziest idea yet. I think my exact words in my first email about it were, “Let’s start a revolution.”


I’ve done a lot of music videos. I’ve done videos for some of the biggest names out there: Madonna, Ozzy, Metallica, Rolling Stones, and so on. I’ve crossed a few lines, too. “Smack My Bitch Up” for The Prodigy comes to mind, as does “American Life” that I directed for Madonna. I like crossing lines, pushing borders, being inventive and edgy. That said, a straight-up porn is so far outside those lines and borders, I can’t even see them anymore. 


But, here I am.


I didn’t even have a story at first for this one, just the idea, “wouldn’t it be funny to see them do a porno?”


I really wanted to make sure they didn’t think I was some pervert who was just desperate to see them all naked on film again 3 years later. I have a professional image to maintain, edgy though it may be. Till helped a lot with that, and did a good deal of my work for me. He threw out ideas left and right like he’d been thinking about it for years, and we actually ended up running with a lot of them.


Till asked when was the soonest we could make it happen. Luckily the studio was available, the same one from Mann Gegen Mann , actually. I guess Till hadn’t said anything to the rest of the band, because the first thing out of their mouths when they walked in was how it feels weird to have their clothes on this time.


Obviously I couldn’t have them do the porn parts themselves, what with the restrictive laws on adult films, so that was what the brothel half was for. The very first idea we had altogether was to intersperse their playing with the porn stars doing, well, a porn. But I remembered I’d done essentially that same thing in the last video, except they were all part of the porn-ish half with the male bodybuilders. This one needed to be different. They’ve worked with such amazing directors and shot such good videos in the past; mine needed to stand out. So, I proposed the body doubles for the porn half of the video.


Till was over the moon, ecstatic about it and demanded he should get the most ridiculous, muscled-up double we could find. The others took a little while to get used to the idea, but when I assured them they didn’t need to get naked like last time, they quickly agreed. All said and done, it took maybe 3 minutes to settle them all on the idea. Only Flake had major misgivings, but after again reassuring him that he wouldn’t need to be naked or doing too much touching, he seemed okay with it; or at least he didn’t complain openly to me about it. I’m sure he complained plenty to everyone else. It’s in his personality to bitch, I think.


The “clothed” half as I ended up calling it was beyond easy to direct. It was almost exactly like the last video but with different clothes, so everyone was already familiar with what I liked and wanted. It wasn’t boring to shoot— nothing with Rammstein is boring— but it was fairly uneventful. The noteworthy things cropped up in the second half.


Till played his part quite well: way over the top, goofy, ridiculous, and horny. It fit so perfectly. He came up with the scenario himself and begged to have us record him first. I have a sneaking suspicion he acted out mostly what he naturally does with women, but far be it from me to speculate like that. It’s not any of my business. Whatever his motivations or inspirations, he performed just as I wanted and then some.


Flake, as I said, took some strong encouragement to get going in the brothel half. I think he just compartmentalized and did what he was told: no more, no less. Till forced plenty of alcohol into him and acted as his nagging cheerleader, and Flake seemed to loosen up a great deal after he got into the role. He managed a decent balance between silly and serious, though his expressions ended up sillier than I’d have liked. Luckily he had the scenes with the most breasts, so I doubt people noticed the overly-ridiculous facial expressions as much as I did.


Oliver was a dream to work with. I could shout anything, anything out at him, and he’d instantly obey and do exactly what I’d pictured without fuss. It’s been many years since I’ve actually sat and watched porn, but I could easily see him making good money in the industry. His expressions and movements were so smooth and natural. If it weren’t for the damn patch of hair he refused to shave, I’d have a very hard time telling the difference between him and his double in the finished movie. It’s surprisingly difficult to remove or alter chest hair in post-production. They all decided it was funnier to just leave it anyway. The only issue I had was with his “O-face.” I had everyone do their most absurd expressions when they “finished,” and everyone for the most part got it perfectly right, even Flake. Oliver struggled with it though, and we ended up just leaving his as a more serious expression, since that seemed to be the extent of his acting abilities. I’m not sure if he were shy or too “in the zone” or whatever, but it turned out fine in the end.


Schneider is an acting genius. Half the time I didn’t even need to tell him what to do and he’d already be doing it like he read my mind. I don’t know why he’s never done any professional acting apart from Rammstein. I think I might even have said as much while shooting the last video. As soon as the cameras face him, he’s acting, and acting brilliantly. I can’t think of a single thing I’d have changed about his scenes. He also got the most realistic body double in my opinion, so his scene legitimately looks real overall. And good god can that man can give a smolder. It gives you chills, I swear. It got to a point where he told his wife to leave the set, that’s how real it ended up looking. I don’t envy the earful he probably got later about it, though.


It was nearly impossible to get Paul to be serious and stop giggling, at any point, so I just rolled with it. We had to ban him from even watching other scenes because of the stifled laughter. The silliness seemed to fit his scene at least, with his oversized cowboy hat and ridiculously gaudy western clothes. Now that I’m thinking about it, he moved very slowly, and even then only moved if I directed him specifically. “Paul, move your head down,” “Paul, put the money in her panties,” “Paul, let her pull your head to her chest.” While he technically did everything right, it was a bit tedious at times having to spell every movement out. He also talked an awful lot in between takes about how his wife would take all of this, so maybe the giddiness was actually nerves about his wife seeing the end result. Maybe he was just nervous about doing “porn” in general.


I think Richard was my favorite to direct. He was the most normal, I guess. He started off excited during the recording with the instruments, like everyone else, and I could tell he was exactly in his element there. When we moved to the brothel, he started losing his confidence. I think the moment he saw his body double disrobe was when he started crumbling. I’d seen it before with other actors and musicians— something about seeing someone who shows off their body for a living can be extremely intimidating— but I’d never seen it happen quite so dramatically as with him. His whole face fell, and it really saddened me seeing someone who’d earlier been so eager and confident switch emotions so quickly. I sympathized, of course. I certainly didn’t envy his position, and it wasn’t the first time I was thankful I’d chosen a career behind the camera rather than in front of it. That said, I knew Richard had it in him to pull this off and get past his reservations, and the result would be fantastic.


I went over and joked with him, saying, “Don’t worry. I’ve seen you naked before and he’s got nothing on you,” with a bit of a wink and a nudge. I told him to relax, that I would handle everything and that he didn’t need to stress. Richard seemed startled that I noticed his worries, which is adorable in a way because he broadcasts emotions like a radio station. But he calmed down after that, and by the time Till came by with more alcohol, he was already laughing and even cheering the body double on with Flake and Oliver. It was really nice to see him loosened up and having fun. He’s a beautiful man and doesn’t deserve to feel inferior.. His acting was surprisingly good as well, and like Till, it all seemed to be a duplication of how he normally fucks, which translated very well on screen. He knows how to move his body quite well, and once he got comfortable, I had to remind him several times to stop and let the body double get back in. Granted, were it not for the laws, I’d have been just as happy to let him go all the way on camera. He certainly has the perfect body for it.


I think the whole production turned out excellent, and I cross my fingers that in their eyes it was worthy of being called a “Rammstein” video. I told them all I hoped it wouldn’t be another three years before we worked together again.




Video Shoot for Ich tu dir weh , 2009


Being back onstage after so long was surreal. There was no real audience yet, just a bunch of videographers and effects crew milling about the stage, but it did nothing to dampen my spirits. I felt the most alive, the most like myself when I was performing. While making the album had been invigorating in its own way, I still missed the adrenaline high of playing to the fans. Being back up on stage as we figured out all the technicalities and show aspects was like getting another small taste of performing. It’s so good.


For this particular video, it had taken months for us to figure out what we wanted. “Pussy” did so well that we knew we wanted Jonas to come back and direct, but that’s all we knew. We sort of fought about this one, too. It’s similar to difficulties while giving birth, I guess. In the end, you have something beautiful, but it’s hard getting to that point. Finally, someone suggested that since we were already in the middle of setting up the stage and rehearsing, why not just do a “live” concert video? That was that, and now here we are “performing” for the many cameras, crew, and a really focused Jonas Åkerlund. 


And by focused, I mean mostly on just one person.


With a little sigh, I stopped playing after Jonas called for a cut, yet again because of something Till was doing. I glanced over at Paul, who didn’t seem bothered in the slightest. Neither Oli nor Schneider gave any indication that they were upset either, and only Flake had any sort of discontent visible-- and that was only because they kept stopping his treadmill between takes.


“Till, you’re leaning just a bit too far down,” Jonas called out, motioning at the singer. “Take a few steps back for this part-- right there, good.”


As Till readjusted his stance, I rolled my shoulders and moved back to my spot for the 2nd verse. I glanced at the various cameramen around me and got several nods of approval when I was in the right place. Each of us had at least three different camera angles per person, and at first, it was sort of hard to remember which one was which for the video, and which one to “showboat” for, as Paul called it. Thankfully mine wasn’t terribly complicated: the one directly in front got my eyes during the verses, while the ones to the sides were given attention during the chorus. Easy.


Schneider by far had it the easiest, though. All he has to do is the exact same thing he’s been doing, and just avoid smacking cameras with his sticks if they get too close. I think Jonas took care to not let that happen. 


Speaking of Jonas...


I crossed my arms over my guitar, not really from frustration; more like impatience. I almost wish we could film all of our parts separately, like how they’re doing in the dark room for Till’s dramatic bridge part. We all got to do quick little scenes in there earlier, too. Apparently it’s going to be like a quick, random cut-together of our pained faces to match the drums for the bridge. 


But, no, Jonas wants the “real” live feel, where you can see all of us in the different shots-- Schneider behind Till as he sings, Flake behind me on his treadmill and so on. And then, of course, the way far back shots of the entire stage where we’re all visible. I admire his dedication to making it real, but I want to play . This teaser of a “live” show just makes me want to perform all the more, like a smoker touching the end of a cigarette to his lips and smelling the burning end but not being able to take a drag. It’s maddening.


We finally were able to start back up once they made sure Till’s little mouth-light was secure, and surprisingly made it through the rest of the verse without stopping.


“Excellent work,” Jonas enthused with a clap. “I think we’ve got it pretty well done for the main stage, now.”


We all cheered, but the cheer sounded tired. We’d been at this for almost 8 hours, and even though I was still enjoying myself, I was definitely feeling the creep of exhaustion nagging at me too. I never liked hanging my guitar up for the day, much less after “performing,” but I could acknowledge when I needed a rest.


I stretched my back out thoroughly with a groan. When did I get so old ? My back hurt now after only a few hours playing, when I used to be able to play for an entire day without a break. Well, I’d also cut back massively on the amount of drugs and alcohol the past few years since we hadn’t been touring. I walked off the stage and thanked the crew as I passed them. 


“Hey, Richard, just a second,” I heard Jonas call after me. I looked back over my shoulder to see him jogging over


“What’s up?”


“Do you have a few minutes? I want to try something different with the individual scenes, if you can.”


I glanced around, wondering why he’d not asked Till, since he had the most scenes solo anyway.


“Till’s got a date,” Jonas said with a shrug. “I’m sorry to pick on you, but you can say no, too. I won’t be offended.”


While I was mildly surprised Jonas seemed to have read my mind, I quickly nodded. “Of course I’ll help. Just back there?”


“Yes,” Jonas said, pointing to the dark room we’d been using. We started walking across the set and stepping over various cords and equipment as we did so. “I’m thinking about recording the movement in slow motion, and then speeding that up rather than recording normally and going from there. I think it will make it look more abrupt and disjointed that way, but I’m not sure yet.”


It took no time at all to set up the camera again, and since it was a bit later in the day, Jonas was the only one left in the curtained-off “room.”


“Okay, look at the floor, and then look up to the ceiling as slow as you can. Pretend you’re underwater; all your movements are slow and heavy.”


I did as he said, trying my best to lengthen the slow roll of my head upward.


“Good, very good, Richard,” Jonas praised, eyes glued to the camera screen. “Now do the scream and go from your left to right. Yes! Perfect!”


I felt my face get slightly warmer from the spotlights blazing on me. Well, that and I admittedly really loved this, so the warmth could also be from pleasure. I knew I had a bit of a problem wanting to be the center of attention all the time, but I had done well over the past few years getting my ego under control. Rather than being overly frustrated when I felt someone else was given more screen-time or undue focus, I was able to shrug it off and pay attention to my own work much more easily.


But, I thought as I bared my teeth and pretended to roar, I still adored being the focal point in these situations, especially when it seemed I was doing well.


When I’d finished the slow scream, I saw Jonas’ soft eyes staring not at the various screens, but at me. I swallowed and shifted my feet, suddenly self-conscious. While I liked the attention, I felt a weird nervousness creeping in, and I couldn’t figure out why. 


“Was that okay?” I asked hesitantly.


“Oh, yes,” Jonas said hurriedly, going back to one of the side cameras. “Sorry; little bit distracted. I think this is going to work really well. Your screaming face is just perfect, by the way.”


I grinned at that, my nerves settling slightly. I’d apparently been anxious over nothing. I should know by now that Jonas is a professional. He’s always so good at relaxing us and keeping us feeling comfortable. 

“Thanks. I’ve had a lot of practice. It’s easy to scream onstage when no one can hear you past the fire and everything else.”


“You do it all very naturally,” Jonas agreed, fiddling with a camera. “Have you ever considered modeling?”


The abrupt question stunned me, and I couldn’t find the words to respond right away.

“Um, modeling, like a fashion show?” I finally managed. The earlier nervousness came right back, forcing my heartbeat to quicken slightly. What the hell had gotten into me? It wasn’t an inappropriate comment at all, so why did it feel like he’d just asked something intimate?


“Sure, like a fashion show, or even a private gig,” Jonas said, seemingly completely unbothered and unaware of my nerves. “I bet you’d make a killing in the underwear industry.”


My face was now hot for a totally different reason than the lights on me. I was almost more embarrassed by the blush I felt across my face than the comment itself. Again, it really wasn’t uncalled for; we’d joked about far raunchier things before, and he’d seen me in my underwear-- even naked for god’s sake. Was he expecting an answer? I had no idea what to say, or even if I could say anything. 


Fortunately, Jonas saved me from having to speak when he finally looked up and met my wide eyes. He smiled, then ducked his head back under one of the cameras and added casually, “Any one of you could, really. I bet Schneider’s been asked to do it a lot.”


I swallowed hard and nodded, putting a tense smile back onto my face. Clearly my imagination was just running away from me for some reason. Jonas was just making conversation as he always did, and I was probably just overly happy to be receiving attention. My ego just got away from me was all.