Through the Monsoon and back again. Five years after their last album, the escape to America and an inevitable maturity process, Tokio Hotel show themselves as an entirely renewed band – more international, more electronical and with different hairstyles. But instead of parts, Bill & Tom Kaulitz only know how to spell the history of their band as a continuity. How they urged to be on stage as a duo as B like Black Questionmark, and suddenly had worldwide success as Q like quartet, found in L.A. the missing F like freedom again, caused a spectacle in J like Jerusalem in the meantime, but which P like Pumba doesn’t know anything of, because their English bulldog wasn’t even born back then. Welcome to the big Tokio-Hotel-alphabet!
by Harald Peters
Photos by Brad Elterman
A – TOM KAULITZ: Autobahn!
BILL KAULITZ: Oh yeah, we haven’t driven on the Autobahn for so long!
TOM: The Autobahn is one of my favorite things in Germany. It’s the thing I miss most when I’m in LA: driving fast, no speed limit, anarchy.
INTERVIEW: And less traffic jam?
BILL: The traffic in LA is a horror. I don’t drive a car in LA, I generally don’t drive a car though.
INTERVIEW: Tom, do you have a doll next to you on the passenger seat, so that you’re allowed to drive on the faster carpool lane when you’re alone?
TOM: Nah, I always have Bill next to me anyway.
B – INTERVIEW: I have two key words for B.
TOM: Bill, the slightly ugly (Bill: hahaha), less well-off…
BILL: …the disadvantaged twin.
TOM: Yes, exactly!
BILL: You’ll also have to explain that now, Tom!
TOM: Well, concerning the look it’s obvious, I don’t have to explain much in that matter. He’s the younger one, the more naive one of us. And the one who’s carrying all the responsibility, also job-wise…
BILL: …that’s me.
TOM: Nah, you’re the less well-off twin.
BILL: What’s the second key word?
INTERVIEW: Black Questionmark.
BILL: Ah, our very first band name. I don’t even know anymore how old we were back then, but we thought the name is really cool.
TOM: Wasn’t the name inspired by a song from Nena?
BILL: No, her song was only called Fragezeichen (Questionmark). But that wasn’t gloomy enough for us, so we thought about “Black Questionmark” and so we translated it into English.
TOM: We thought it sounds more international and markedly mysterious.
INTERVIEW: How can one imagine Black Questionmark?
BILL: It was only Tom and me. Back then we just started to write our first songs, and in a way we were different that other bands. They first rehearsed their songs, until they could play them. But when we wrote a song, we directly wanted to perform it on stage.
TOM: The problem was: We actually had no skills. I knew how to play four chords on the guitar.
BILL: And I had a keyboard on which I had to push some buttons, so that it played bass and drums on its own. Those were such pre-produced loops.
TOM: But we already performed in the “Gröninger Bad” with that, where we got discovered by our producer later.
INTERVIEW: How big was your audience back then?
BILL: Maybe 15, 20, 30 people.
C – BILL: I can’t think of anything with C.
TOM: Oh, that’s nice!
BILL: For us comeback is a difficult word, because see it differently. The last album was five years ago indeed, but after that we were on tour for a long time. In South America for example, and in 2011 we were in Japan and Russia. After that we took a break for a year and then started to work on the new album. So for us it’s not a comeback.
D – TOM: D? D like Dora. Bill, do you want to tell something about your ex-girlfriend?
TOM: “Drums” comes to my mind. I always wanted to be a drummer.
BILL: To be honest, Tom would even be the better drummer. (laughter) I wanted to say that he’s not as good as a guitarist as he would be as a drummer. Because he’s always knocking on everything.
INTERVIEW: Does that mean that you’d be incredibly good as drummer or that you’re not that good as a guitarist?
TOM: I think I’d be incredibly good.
BILL: The thing with Tom is that he plays guitar on stage, but in the studio he does all sorts of things. He also produced the current album.
TOM: The truth is that I can’t play any instrument really well. But I can do a bit of everything and I’m creative enough to make it sound good.
INTERVIEW: I also have Devilish on offer.
TOM: Devilish resulted from Black Questionmark.
BILL: That was our first real band formation then with Georg and Gustav, the precursor for Tokio Hotel.
TOM: You can hear two songs from that time on the Super-Deluxe-Version of the new album.
INTERVIEW: Are they any good?
TOM: Wait a minute! I heard them and thought they’re awesome. How old were we, when we recorded them? Twelve or something. Well, for that age! I was totally stoked for myself.
BILL: That was a trip we won’t do again.
INTERVIEW: Deutsch? (German?)
TOM: We still speak it, also in America. By the way, I think it’s incredibly embarassing when Germans always use english words…
BILL: …but it also always happens to me.
TOM: Yeah, me too. But I think it’s incredibly embarassing.
E – INTERVIEW: EDM?
TOM: E. D. M.
BILL: I can’t say much about that.
TOM: Me neither. What’s another word with E? Eargasm, excessive weekend… I think Georg might know something. Georg?
TOM: Right, electronic music has been extremely important for us in the last years. Bill and me partied a lot, listened to a lot of electronic music, been to several festivals, EDC in Las Vegas and Coachella, which is why the album is also very influenced by that.
INTERVIEW: Actually exactly this was my point with EDM?
TOM: But EDM is a term which, well, everyone uses and which means everything and nothing.
F – TOM: Faul! (Lazy)
BILL: Freedom! That’s the most important thing for me at all. But in our job freedom is the biggest challenge. Concerning the creative work we have all the freedom we want of course, but concerning the rest, the private life, it becomes more difficult. Especially the life in Germany didn’t have a lot to do with freedom anymore for us in the end. Therefore we went to America and reclaimed our private life there. There we can simply go out again.
INTERVIEW: Because no one recognizes you there or because everyone is somehow famous in LA?
BILL: You can hide there in the mass super well. You put a basecap on, head down, and you won’t attract Attention anymore. There are so many freaks, especially in Venice and Santa Monica, all the musicians and actors strand there, everyone wants to be in the Entertainment business and tries to attract attention. There Tom and I can go underground quite well. Especially as the Paparazzi have to decide which hotel or party they want to go to in the evening, because there are stars in the city 24/7. So we can lean back and relax.
G – TOM: Girl got a gun.
BILL: Wait, didn’t I have something else for G?
TOM: Georg and Gustav. The Gs, how they are called as well.
BILL: Well, no need to say anything about that, hahaha.
TOM: Nah, this would get really boring, people would flip pages immediately. Let’s rather take Girl got a gun.
BILL: Yes, that’s one of the first songs we wrote for our new album.
TOM: There’s also a great video for the song, probably the best Tokio-Hotel-video of all.
INTERVIEW: In the video angry women hound an eroticized, anthropomorphobic fur monster, a furry.
BILL: Yes, that’s Toko, our big penis-soft-toy. First we wanted to sic transsexuals on him, but then we decided on dragqueens, because they were simply better in the casting.
H – INTERVIEW: Hair!
BILL: Hair? Hair, hair, hair! I sometimes just change them, but they actually aren’t that important to me.
INTERVIEW: I thought you have a bunch of wigs?
BILL: No, I only have one, a long hair wig, which was made of the long hair I had at DSDS (German version of Pop Idol)
INTERVIEW: Is it comfortable?
BILL: Totally! It’s custom-tailored and it’s wonderfully comfortable. I actually want to wear more wigs, that’s way more relaxing. I won’t have to sit at the hairdresser for so long then, won’t have to always dye my hair and can simply change my hairstyle if I want to. I’m asking myself why I didn’t have this idea earlier. In the past people often thought that my black hair was a wig. But it wasn’t. And it was so exhausting: Every morning I had to tease my hear for one and a half hours. One day I’ll certainly die of all the hairspray I breathed in. Everyone who had to witness that back then is suffering a trauma now, so do I. But now, I think I’ll have some new wigs made for the tour.
TOM: We’re all really looking forward to that.
I – TOM: International! The fact that we have released abroad since 2007, 2008 – and that it went quite well for us since the beginning – has definitely contributed to a certain relaxation. Because the markets work differently and you’re not dependent of a single market anymore, we just have more freedom in our work.
BILL: But actually we never had the plan to work abroad. It just happened.
INTERVIEW: Do you have a different image in other countries?
BILL: In America we are seen as a cool Indierock-band. Our age has never been a topic there. Everyone there is starting their career in the showbiz at the age of 6 anyway. We were almost regarded as old with 18.
TOM: Only the fact that I’m the most popular band member is the same worldwide. We tried to change that a couple of times, because actually it would be better if the singer was the role model…
BILL: …but we won’t carry that off anymore.
J – BILL: Jerusalem, we played a concert there in 2008. And shortly before the show the German Embassy invited us to a city trip, which they hadn’t announced before. It was great actually but the proplem was that I was already in my costume.
TOM: Nice that you also refer to your clothes as costumes by now (laughs).
BILL: Anyway, I already wore my performance clothes, my hair was sprayed, my make-up was on and then we were on the way to all these holy places… They people who saw us just thought “What’s going on there?” I felt so uncomfortable. I was the freak of the nation.
TOM: But the concert afterwards was great.
INTERVIEW: I have another key word: Jugendpreis Fernlernen. (Jugendpreis Fernlernen is the award they got for their secondary school leaving certificate)
TOM: That’s the award we’re especially proud of (laughs).
BILL: I think we only got that [award], so that media reports about it.
INTERVIEW: How does the award look?
TOM: Let’s put it this way: The award doesn’t look good, but we have some which look way worse. Also the “Echo” isn’t really pretty. And when we got the “Goldene Stimmgabel” there was already a part broken off. Which other awards did we get?
BILL: The Golden Penguin…
TOM: Right, the Golden Penguin, another classic one. That’s Austria’s “Bravo-Otto” so to say. The Bravo-Otto is high-quality made though. The awards which always broke very fast, are the “Comets”.
INTERVIEW: Why broken? What are you doing with the awards?
BILL: Well, when you’re moving house a lot, they fall down at times.
TOM: Most of them already break backstage.
BILL: I already knocked out my tooth on the “Bambi”, haha.
K – INTERVIEW: Kings of Suburbia.
BILL: The idea for the album title crossed my mind last year, when we were in the car here in Germany on our way to Georg and Gustav. It’s about the feeling you already have as a little boy, when you think you’re the king of your own universe.
TOM: It’s a mix of self-confidence and a feeling of freedom, I still have that feeling today. When you’re partying with your friends or something good happens to you. A feeling which is extremely good and important, even if it only concerns the own universe which is generally completely unimportant. And we had this feeling to create something essential in the production of our album, therefore it became the title.
L – INTERVIEW: Leipzig, Loitsche, LA.
BILL: Oh, I never noticed that…
TOM: What’s coming after LA? Lima?
BILL: Las Vegas! But actually we don’t have a lot of memories about Leipzig because we’re only born there, and already before our first birthday we moved to Hannover. We lived there until we were six or seven, then we moved to Magdeburg and from there to Loitsche. Most of our memories are from when we lived in Loitsche, that’s wasn’t so nice.
TOM: ah, it really wasn’t nice.
BILL: And LA is actually a quite boring city.
TOM: A huge suburb.
BILL: I would like to move to New York.
INTERVIEW: But New York doesn’t spell with L. You could move to Long Island in the best case.
BILL: I want a secondary home in New York.
TOM: I think we should keep it up with the L.
M – INTERVIEW: Monsun. (Monsoon)
BILL: A super important song for us…
TOM: …which we will have to perform at concerts for the rest of our lives.
BILL: But I would love to perform it again and again anyway.
TOM: But it’s time that we’ll modify it, it will get hard with the pitch otherwise.
BILL: But we always played it during the last tour though?
TOM: Yeah, but at that time the guitars were already tuned way lower.
BILL: Okay well, then we’ll just modify it.
N – INTERVIEW: I couldn’t think of anything with N.
TOM: Isn’t there a favorite film that starts with N? But your favorite film is Titanic. But we can talk about that later at T again. (giggles)
BILL: Let’s take night life.
TOM: Very good.
BILL: Night life was the biggest inspiration for me with this album, because I could just freely go out for the first time and I really love to go out. In the last four years I did that quite often, maybe even a bit too often. Could be that I had to catch up on something. We also tried to go out in Germany, but it was never as awesome because of the known reasons. But in LA we could really plunge into night life. If I sit at home and don’t go out on the wekend I become depressive.
O – BILL: What about on the road?
BILL: Many people think that tour life is a lot of fun, but in fact I actually find this is the most exhausting part of our job.
TOM: You have to know that the cliché of Rock’n’Roll and party isn’t true, some might have that, but…
BILL: Party and Rock’n’Roll? Well, not with me. On the road I’m always only focussed on not becoming sick, to persevere three months, to perform every night and to stand on stage. That really takes it out of you. I have to drink tea the whole day then, smoke as little as possible, little alcohol, privately it’s really quite boring. On the other hand it’s amazing of course, to play the concerts. We’ll definitely go on the road again.
P – INTERVIEW: How about Pumba?
TOM: Pumba is good.
BILL: We grew up with Dogs, and Pumba is the newest member in our dog family. Pumba is an English bulldog and he’s ten months old now. We brought him over from LA, so he flew with a plane for the first time. He did that really well. I got him when he was eight weeks old, and he’s a real star as you can see in our Tokio-Hotel-TV-episodes. There’ll also be a stuffed animal version of him as merchandise article coming soon.
INTERVIEW: The dog?
TOM: Yes, we’re getting a stuffed animal made at the moment, which looks like Pumba.
BILL: I’m looking forward to when he’s playing with it.
Q – INTERVIEW: Quartet.
TOM: It may sound surprising, but we’ve been together as a band of four for fourteen year already.
BILL: And we don’t have those fights and jealousies for attention, who’s doing the most interviews, who’s on the Pictures, all these tensions a lot of other bands often struggle with, they don’t exist in our band. Most of the people never believe that, but even before we had success the parts were assigned. Everyone has his tasks and gives the others their space.
TOM: That almost sounds a bit corny, right?
R – TOM: “Run Run Run” crosses my mind. Great video, great song.
BILL: Yes, the song was absolutely new ground for us, for me especially because I didn’t know if I could even sing that song.
TOM: I didn’t know that either.
BILL: But everything worked super well. We also recorded the vocals on our own, unlike with the other albums we didn’t have extra people who were responsible for the vocal-production. So, for me it’s one of my most favorite new songs.
S – INTERVIEW: For S I have Star Search.
BILL: Yeah, Star Search, that was quite interesting because it was the first experience in front of the camera.
TOM: Of course it was interesting, but you could also say: Star Search, that was E like embarassing.
BILL: Oh well, if I watch the performance today I think it’s quite cute. I especially think: “Gosh, I even had the courage to do that!” But I also have to say that it was mean of the people from Star Search to let me sing “It’s raining men”. I didn’t choose the song myself. I couldn’t speak english at that time and had no clue what the song is about, so that it’s about raining men.
TOM: Such assholes, those castingshow-people!
BILL: No kidding! I mean, that they let a little boy perform this song to provoke a controversy.
TOM: I would have also recommended you this song. (laughs)
BILL: Everything I thought about back then was that I have two and a half minutes to show people that I have a band and want to make music. I always lured the camera team into our rehearsal room, which was quite successful.
TOM: We as a band can only say: Thank God you were eliminated!
BILL: Yes, that was great, well, in retrospect. Back then I was really sad of course.
T – INTERVIEW: T is Tom.
BILL: Tom – There’s even less to say about him than about Georg and Gustav, haha. Nah, Tom and me we’re actually like one person. Many people also ask us if we don’t fight sometimes and can’t stand each other. But no: We live together, we share everything, there’s not a thing Tom doesn’t know about me.
TOM: And vice versa it’s the same.
BILL: We have such a strong connection, outsiders can’t even imagine that.
TOM: I always think it’s weird when I see other twins who don’t have this connection. Because for me it’s totally normal, but for them it’s not normal at all. But maybe it’s because that we don’t only share our private life since we were 15, but also the job. Because of that there are actually no boundaries anymore.
BILL: I mean, it’s not like we don’t fight at all, but that has no bigger consequences. Nobody of us wants to move out afterwards or so. We have the same friends, we do the same things together in our free time, we are together 24/7. And what many people don’t know, but which is totally true, is that he doesn’t even get along without me. No kidding, really. I could travel to New York on my own, but that’s a no-go for Tom.
TOM: Eh, says the guy who can’t even drive a car.
U – TOM: Untenrum… (downstairs…)
BILL: Man, why can’t I think of anything? That’s just not possible!
GEORG: Urlaub? (Holiday)
BILL: Holiday is great! My favorite Destination are the Maldives. For a time we spent two weeks there every year…
TOM: I love it there.
BILL: You could just put me there for half a year. Many always ask then: “What are you doing there the whole time?” But it’s not boring at all. It’s just amazing there.
V – INTERVIEW: “Verrückt nach dir”… (“Crazy for you” – it’s the movie they played in when they were little kids)
BILL: Verrückt nach dir? Great, our first TV-experience. Our mother told us that we were totally cheeky at the filming and that we locked the main actress in the toilet, because we found her so ugly. Tom always said: “I won’t shoot with her, that woman has such weird bangs.” He wanted to shoot with a pretty woman.
INTERVIEW: How old were you back then?
BILL: We were so young. Maybe six?
TOM: No, younger. I think we were five. But the main problem with this movie was that one of us was supposed to pee himself. First there was a fight about who should do it, in the end it was me.
BILL: They poured tea on his pants then which caused a huge Drama…
TOM: …because I was in that age in which I was proud to not pee myself anymore …
BILL: …we wanted to to show that we’re big boys already. Our mother had to always tell us that we were only supposed to do that for the movie. And then we locked the main actress in the toilet and threw away the key, so that we ourselves couldn’t even find it anymore. The actress got a crying fit then.
INTERVIEW: How old was the actress?
BILL: Maybe 30-ish.
TOM: You could see us for about one and a half minutes in the entire movie, but we were the most complicated actors at the set.
BILL: We also had really sick airs and graces. One time we were hungry and wanted to eat something. And because we noticed that everything was revolving around us we required a certain sort of cornflakes in the hotel we were accomodated at. But they didn’t have it. We only said: “If we won’t get them, then we also won’t continue filming the movie.”
W – BILL: For W we’ll take “What happened there?”
BILL: Yeah, you wrote that in your E-Mail as a comment on the three songs we released as a pretaste for the new album.
INTERVIEW: Oh right, now that you say it.
BILL: We found that so funny. But “What happened there?” is also well suitable because probably many people will ask that. But the thing is that we didn’t even try to sound differently with the new album. We didn’t try to sound more grown-up, and also didn’t intend to be more electronic.
TOM: We just did what we were up to. That’s what I understand by staying true to yourself. It doesn’t mean to only satisfy the expectations the fans have.
BILL: I also don’t think that success can be planned and to go in the studio with the intention to write a hit. The only thing you can do is to implement at 100 % what you yourself find totally awesome. Even when I look back on our career, then everything we did was fully on purpose and nothing else. It was totally authentic.
TOM: It wouldn’t work otherwise anyway.
BILL: We just wanted to record an album that we ourselves like to listen to.
INTERVIEW: But with “What happened there?” I didn’t want to express my wonder about that you sound differently now than in the past. I just simply didn’t like “Girl got a gun”. Whereas “Love who loves you back” is a winner! And the song has even less to do with the old Tokio-Hotel-sound.
TOM: But the song was also in the album-teaser?
BILL: Oh God, you must have found “Girl got a gun” really bad if you didn’t even make it to the third song. (laughs)
X – TOM: There only crosses my mind that Bill’s favorite movie is “xXx – Triple X” and Vin Diesel your favorite actor.
BILL: Horror. Can we think of anything else?
BILL: Yeah, I think that’s great. We namely like to celebrate Halloween, and Xerxes was the inspiration for my halloween-costume last year. Show some pics of it, Tom!
INTERVIEW: Oh I see, like the Xerxes in “300”.
BILL: Exactly. And that was you, Tom? Simply a zombie, right?
Y – BILL: Youtube, there are the new episodes of Tokio Hotel TV. They deliver a really good insight to our life. They turned out to be quite funny as well.
Z – INTERVIEW: Ten years later. (in german “Zehn Jahre später) It must be ten years ago now, when you recorded “Durch den Monsun”.
BILL: That’s right! Yes, ten years later we’ve had a career with the band nobody would have expected. We didn’t even want to release “Durch den Monsun” as our debute single. We didn’t know the music business back then, I just thought: “I don’t care what you release. The main thing is that we have a single.” And I found it so funny when later the media wrote that our success is only due to the machinery of the music industry. That some random guy from the record company constructed Tokio Hotel and planned our triumph at his desk..
TOM: But it certainly took us two years until we even got a record deal. Everyone said no, also Universal. What nobody knows anymore today is that we first had a contract with BMG, which was surprisingly so good that it got cancelled again at the fusion of Sony and BMG, because everyone assumed that we would cause more costs than make money. Instead of us another band was signed then.
INTERVIEW: Do you know how things were going for them?
BILL: I think not that well. Also not for the one who cancelled our contract back then. But what I wanted to say: We neither had a professional management, nor a master plan. It just simply happened.
TOM: A big, unplanned career.
Translation by Herzblut