BILLY Is Not OK
…And that’s OK with him! Bill Kaulitz, lead singer of the band Tokio Hotel, has entered into solo territory with a new multi-media experience entitled I’m Not OK as well as a new solo name, BILLY. The project chronicles Bill’s experiences with love and heartbreak, despair and hope. “Love Don’t Break Me” is the first song, released today along with the accompanying fine art book and short film. A five song EP will be released on May 20 and Bill took some time out to chat with Fourculture and tell us about all the things yet to come. We can’t wait!
Today is it! It’s premier day for “Love Don’t Break Me” and how excited are you?
I’m super excited and nervous! I can’t believe it’s actually time! We’ve been working on this for quite some time. It’s always nerve-wracking I’m kind of used to it because I’ve been doing this a long time with the band, but it’s definitely exciting. It’s the first time I’m putting something out on my own, a solo thing. It feels exciting and new and I’m a little nervous.
Just a little bit?
Yeah. The thing is, the response from the fans has been really good and everyone is loving whatever they see. We had a little preview of the video and everyone is very positive. That definitely helps, but I think tomorrow I can’t sleep for sure!
So you’ve been in music for pretty much your whole life, but you’ve got all these other interests too with fashion and film and art. What has it been like to finally bring all of those things together into one package that is just you?
That’s always been a dream of mine, to do something that involves all the different worlds that I’m interested in. I always wanted to do that. With Tokio Hotel, we were always very visual with everything we did and with our shows, but there was still some stuff missing that I couldn’t do with the band that I always wanted to do. So I kind of kept it on the side and I never really had a plan on when I would put something out or how I was going to do it. We just kind of worked on it in the background.
Now everything just kind of came together and the energy felt right. I decided let’s just do it. We’re in between albums with the band so I found the time to really focus on this and put everything together. It kind of made sense and I’m super happy that I could do this short film and this amazing photo shoot with Davis Factor. We found this amazing model for the video, so everything just kind of made sense and came together and it feels really good!
With the band, you sort of come into everything with certain expectations. The fans want certain things and the companies and people surrounding you expect other things. Everyone wants something. How has it been to just set all that aside and create freely, do your own thing?
That was the most important for me. People were approaching me throughout the years, all the labels and everyone said, “You should do a solo record,” and people were asking me about it and I never really wanted to do that. I knew that when I put out something solo I wanted to do it completely on my terms and I didn’t want to compromise and I didn’t want a major label with A & R guys and all that. I never wanted to compromise and talk to people creatively. It was like, if I do it, I want to do it with friends and the people that I love and people that understand what I’m doing. Even with the video, Davis Factor is a good friend of mine and the people involved in the project are really close friends and people that understood and got me and got my vision for the project.
I said I want to do it independently. I don’t want to sign with a major. Really, for me at this point in my career, it’s not about marketing and all these crazy plans and charts and all of that. That’s secondary. For me it was most important to really have fun with it, to not live up to any expectations and not pressure myself. It’s really just about me having fun with my own music and with the fashion and stuff. Of course, if the people like it, that’s great! But it was really only fulfilling my dreams and that was clear from day one. I was just like, ok, I’m going to do it just on my own and with the people I love.
And that’s important! If you aren’t feeding yourself creatively a little bit and doing the things that you want to do, the rest can get kind of dry and stale.
Exactly! Yes, exactly!
Did you find anything challenging about stepping out there on your own and stretching that creativity a different way?
Yeah, I think my biggest struggle is really myself. I’m my biggest competition. The thing is, I’m such a perfectionist with everything I do and now that I’ve said I want to do everything on my own and it’s all my vision and I want to be so hands-on with everything, it’s really a lot of work! Sometimes I’m like, wow! I wish there were would be some more people! It’s a lot! We’re doing these prints and the video and the book. Even with the book, I went to the printer and I was sleeping next to the printing machine making sure every page was exactly how I wanted it to be. It’s so many different worlds and now I know so much about printing and all of that. It’s like its own thing, which is so crazy! Now when I look at a book or a magazine I look at it in a totally different way because I know how much work goes into that!
Sometimes I kind of want to let go a little. I’m really controlling with everything and I’m annoying myself a little bit. People say, “Bill, you should chill. No one is going to see that. It’s only you.” But I always feel like I have to give my everything.
I completely understand that because I’m the same way. Now you’ve put together this fine art book and it is shipping this Friday along with the new song release. You’ve said you’re very perfectionist and very hands-on so was it tough to make those decisions and get that book put together?
It was super tough! Super tough and I didn’t know before! I just kind of had this idea. Everything just kind of happened in the process. We had the song first and I always thought for me it was more like a soundtrack. It didn’t feel like just a song. It felt like it needed to be more than that. In the process then it just happened that we said let’s do the short film and then I said we should do this editorial shoot and we could have these beautiful prints. So, one thing lead to the other and it turned into this giant project. It’s so much more work than I thought when we just talked about it. From choosing the paper, to the cover, and all the processing on getting the right feel to it and the right type; I’ve been really involved in every single step. It’s a crazy amount of work, but I’m super happy! I was holding the book in my hand and it was exactly how I wanted it to be. It has that vinyl in the back and I really had that vision that people put on the vinyl and listen to my song and look through the book. It’s really telling a story so it all kind of comes together. I want people to have that song be a soundtrack of their life, to look at the photos and the short film. It really came out nice so I’m pretty happy.
That’s great! So “Love Don’t Break Me” is the first release that is coming out on Friday off of the EP and that’s what goes along with this book and short film. It sounds like it’s coming from a very personal place. Did you find it difficult or was it more healing to let that out in this way and share that part of yourself and your experience?
I feel like I’m always better writing about things than really talking about it, so for me it’s really healing and I needed to get it out of my system. The whole EP is very, very personal. It’s called I’m Not OK and, creatively, I think I’m always better when I’m not doing OK. When I was writing the songs I was REALLY not OK. It’s all about that horrible, very painful relationship I had. That’s another reason why I didn’t want to do this with Tokio Hotel. It didn’t have the space there because it’s really just about me and my heartbreak and this thing I went through. It’s a thing I have to do on my own. It is really personal, but I like to put it out there because I feel like music is personal and it’s all about emotions. I’m just really good when I’m not OK and when I’m heartbroken.
Well, and you’re a really creative person and an artist. The rest of us are just normal people out here. [laughter] But I guess what I’m trying to say is that it seems you can find value in that pain because you can create through it and it brings out something in you. Is that true? That there is still worth in it for you? Or do you sometimes just think “I’m done. This is so not worth the pain!”
I know what you’re saying and I’m kind of torn! I feel like when it’s very fresh and it just happened and you’re super heartbroken, I know that feeling. You know when you’re just sitting at home on your couch and you want to die and you can’t do anything and you can’t put it into words. Even for me, it takes some time to really see the value in that and see that it was worth something. Even when I’m in the studio and doing it I’m not really looking at it that way. Sometimes it takes me a while. Now that I wrote the songs and I have the EP, I’m looking back seeing that it was supposed to happen and I’m glad it happened, even though it’s still painful. And still looking back I’m like, “Fuck. Of course I didn’t want someone to break my heart but at least I have these songs that I’m proud of.” Yeah, I definitely know both worlds.
It’s probably even tougher on you. You can’t really heal completely quietly because you are a public person and it is out there for everybody. Does that make it tough sometimes when you’re just trying to deal with something and it’s all out there?
Totally! It’s totally tough sometimes, but also I feel like it helped me a lot too. When the whole thing really happened and I was so distraught, I remember I had this horrible break up. It was a night where this relationship really ended and it was over after a long time of pain and horrible things. The next day I had to go on tour and we were flying to Mexico. I remember thinking, “God, how am I going to do this? I don’t even want to talk to anyone and I have to put on a show and give interviews and see the fans.” But in the end, it really helped. I was glad that I had to do it. Work and music and stuff that keeps me busy always takes my mind off of it. I was relieved 2015 was so busy for me and I was on the road. I didn’t even have time to really give in to that and watch sad movies and suffer. [laughs]
You collaborated with a lot of your friends, put together this film and this book and you’re going to be doing some exhibitions in LA, Berlin, Paris, and Milan. You live in LA, so that’s an obvious choice, but are the rest just your favorite places to go?
Yeah! I picked my favorite cities and I think we’re going to start with that. I think maybe we’ll extend it and go into other cities as well. The fans are going crazy in so many countries. Berlin is where I come from being from Germany so I definitely wanted to do a show there. Paris is just so beautiful and it has been a part of our career as a band. France is the first country we went to after Germany. Germany is where we first started and then somehow we got famous in other countries. ‘Til today, I don’t really know how that happened, but Paris was the first city we went to and played shows. There’s a history there and I love the city so much. Italy I love in general. I really want to live there for a while. I love the food. It is my favorite food in the world and I love the tradition and the people. They are so welcoming and I love the architecture. I love to spend time there. So it’s really just my first pick of cities and then we’re probably going to extend it a little bit.
It’s snowing here in Montana! You could stop on your way and enjoy the snow!
[laughs] Exactly! I would like that!
Do you have any surprises up your sleeve for these shows?
I’m always meeting my fans, so what I’m doing in LA is really, really exciting! I’m playing the whole EP to my fans and the whole EP isn’t coming out until the twentieth of May so it’s still a while. So I’m going to play all the songs for the first time outside of my circle of friends and my producers so that’s going to be very interesting!
So what do you hope that people experience with Billy and I’m Not OK?
I just hope that they can relate to it and see and understand the story. I want them to cry and dance and have fun with the record because that’s what it is. You know, it’s sad sometimes, but it’s also danceable for sure. I want to look at their faces and see that they understand it. It’s the soundtrack to maybe their heartbreak and their life. That would be great!
Do you have some more plans for some more of these projects in the future? Bring in some more of your fashion and things like that?
Yeah! For sure! I really want to do something special for every song on the EP. With the first one I’m having these exhibitions and I made the photo book. I always want to do something special because I never want to do like just a showcase like all the other people do and just play the music. I really want to do something special. So maybe I’ll do a fashion piece for the next song and have the music in the pocket of a cool jacket or some pants or something. I want it to always be special for every song.
So five songs…five separate special things. I love that!
So now that you’ve created this dream project as a beginning, what other dreams do you have?
There are so many things! I really want to get to this fashion thing, so I do think with this Billy project, that’s what I’m going to do next. I want to design some pieces and my big dream is to have a proper fashion line. I’ve kind of always been working on this and I kind of have a full collection ready, so I’ve just been waiting for the right time, place, energy and people to do it. I definitely want to own my own nightclub one day. That’s a big dream I’ve always had. And the biggest dream probably in the entire world is that I want to meet real aliens. It sounds really nerdy and weird, but it’s true. I want to be here when we make contact with aliens!
That’s awesome. I don’t blame you! I have one last thing for you and I want you to finish this sentence: Billy is not OK but.
Billy is not OK, but is very excited for the people to hear his song on Friday! [laughs]
And that will make everything OK, right?
I hope so!