In 2001, four kids from Magdeburg, Germany founded a rock band and called it “Tokio Hotel.” The quartet’s hit single “Durch den Monsun” [Through the Monsoon] flooded Europe and caused a frenzy among teenagers. France reported a surge in sign-up’s for German class in high schools – the band’s angsty German lyrics sparking a sudden interest in foreign linguistics – pocket money was spent on bus trips to concert venues, posters were plastered onto ceilings over single-sized beds, and stick-and-poke tattoos of crooked B’s were compared in bathroom stalls. Innocent Fan Hysteria. Bill Kaulitz, the band’s lead singer, was 14 at the time.
Five studio albums and a move to Los Angeles later, Bill Kaulitz just wrapped up the tour for Dream Machine with Tokio Hotel. While regenerating in Berlin, he stepped outside for a cigarette break with 032c’s Eva Kelley and talked about the habits of nicotine and why Los Angeles is the perfect hideaway.
Eva Kelley: Do you know that game where you pick your ideal dinner party guests – dead or alive? If you could choose your ideal cigarette-break partner, who would you pick?
Bill Kaulitz: Angela Merkel. She doesn’t smoke, but I would love if she would have a cigarette with me. I find her such an interesting person! I would love to just chit chat about life and have some potato soup and a cigarette with her. That would be nice.
So, how was your tour for Dream Machine?
It was intense, but I think it’s the best tour we’ve played so far. Artistically speaking, we did all the things we always wanted to do. We broke up the typical band structure of having guitar, bass, and drums and it’s a lot more electronic now. I designed all the costumes, which was a lot of fun. We spent two weeks in Russia, which was very intense. No sleep, but good. It made me happy. It was a good tour.
Why was Russia so intense?
Because of the political situation. Every time we go to Russia, it feels a little more tense. Our songs, like Love who loves you back, are all about spreading love and that it doesn’t matter which gender you are. People really listen to the lyrics and they are not fine with the way I perform and the way I dress. So, it’s a little provocative. There’s a tension there that stresses me a little, but I like to face it and challenge that.
What brought about the change in aesthetics and the musical shift?
We just got very frustrated with our producers and the people we worked with before, so we decided for this album, we’re just going to do everything ourselves. We produced, wrote, mixed – we did everything. Tom [Kaulitz] was the main producer and no one else was involved. In a way, this album really feels like our first album.
You’ve had a super strong fan following since day one. How did you feel that the fans received these changes?
I think that the hardcore fanbase is always going to be there. Sometimes, I feel like it doesn’t really matter what we do, because for them, the band is more of a lifestyle. They take what we give them and celebrate it. But there’s a new crowd that is discovering Tokio Hotel for the first time now. They were introduced to us with this new music and style. I like when the crowd mixes, when there are young people and older people. There are a lot more male fans now too.
How is living in Los Angeles treating you?
I love LA, but I love to be away from there, too. I lived an adult life there for the first time. Things like having a social life and going out. I was so isolated when I was in Germany, and there, I lived a free life for the first time.
Do you feel vindicated when you smoke in Los Angeles?
Yes. The funny thing is, the clubs there have a tiny smoking area and they’re always packed. Sometimes I don’t even go into the club. I just stay in the smoking area. There are even parts in LA where you’re not allowed to smoke on the street! People yell at you and they’re like, “You can’t smoke here!” It’s ridiculous that someone would follow such a rule. I’m not a very healthy person, in the LA sense of “healthy.” So, I feel like a little alien there. Everyone gets up at eight in the morning and they do yoga and they drink their smoothies and I’m like, the typical …
Yes. I never adjusted to the LA lifestyle, really. For me, LA was more about being able to sneak in and be undercover. No one really pays attention to me. That’s what I loved about it. I never tried to have a career there. It was more about hiding. Running away, you know, from success.
So you feel like you’re more incognito there?
People have to decide: “Am I going to follow Bill Kaulitz and take a picture of him or am I going to follow Britney Spears or Brad Pitt?” There are so many actors and celebrities there that people are almost kind of bored of it.