Germany's most successful teen-pop sensation withdrew from the spotlight for a few years. Now they are launching a new European tour with their latest album, "Kings of Suburbia." DW met them in Paris.
Tokio Hotel comeback
Deutsche Welle: You played for a crowd of several hundred thousand people near the Eiffel Tower on French National Day in 2007, yet the clubs you picked for your "Feel It All World Tour" have capacity for a few hundred only. Why are you doing such a small tour?
Bill Kaulitz: We just wanted to try out something completely different from what we've done before. It's much more intimate and creates a special atmosphere you can't get in big concert halls. We still carry around a tremendous amount of technical gear for these shows. The idea was to transform these places into nightclubs and invite our fans to a big party.
Can you still remember the last time you played on such a small stage?
Tom Kaulitz: No. It's been such a long time. But that's exactly the idea. We've been planning to do this for so long, even with our previous album, but never managed to. This time we decided to plan it directly, even before the album release. We found it was a good way to start our tour. This is the first part of the world tour, and then towards the end of the year we'll be doing a bigger tour.
Tom and Bill, you now live in Los Angeles, while Georg and Gustav, you are based in Magdeburg. How do you plan a world tour from a distance?
Bill Kaulitz: We did everything in Berlin. We met there and lived together, so were able to spend the whole day together. We prepared the set list and Tom planned everything in the background. It's hard to believe how many things need to be prepared. Because our music is more electronic now, we have to plan a lot more to technically reproduce all the sounds from the album.
All your songs on your new album are in English. You had a German and English version of your older songs. Do you take requests from your fans and modify your set list according to where you're playing?
Bill Kaulitz: Not really. We have one German song on the set list, and we always sing it in German ["Durch den Monsun," Ed.], because I simply know that the fans like it. But we have to admit that we're more comfortable singing in English. That's why all the songs on this album are in English. I wouldn't exclude writing another song in German, but I don't want to translate songs anymore. We used to sit down and literally translate every song word for word - it was very technical, and the songs would lose so much along the way.
Why do you sing in English only now?
Bill Kaulitz: We began that quite early. I think it was in 2007. At the time, we translated the German songs into English because of our success abroad. We thought: "OK, they should at least understand us somehow." And that worked really well and we felt comfortable with it quite quickly. And now that we're living in the States, our English is a lot better, and I started to really think and write in English. So it just became more natural than to write in German. There's so many German songs which are really popular in Germany that I find really bad. It can quickly border on kitsch pop. I find it hard to write really cool texts in German. At some point I had the feeling that it didn't work for me any more. So I'd rather not write any German songs at all than write uncool ones.
Not only the songs changed, your sound did too. What influenced you?
Bill Kaulitz: Many things came together. First of all, we produced our album ourselves for the first time. So we didn't have to compromise in any way. And then we are all a bit older now, so our taste in music changed as well. We spent a lot of time clubbing and hanging out with DJs, and we love techno music, so that's how it happened.
And did you two, Georg and Gustav, soak in this club culture too? Do you regularly fly to the US to party?
Georg Listing: That's about it. You know, the club world in Magdeburg is a little limited, to say the least.
(They all laugh…)
Georg Listing: We went quite a few times to L.A., and Berlin isn't that far from Magdeburg.
Tom Kaulitz: But even in Magdeburg, if you drink enough in any bar, it can quickly turn into a club. You start seeing shiny lights everywhere!
Georg Listing: You're right about that.
You've been in the spotlight for almost 10 years already. Looking back, are there things you wish you hadn't done or you're ashamed of?
Bill Kaulitz: Of course there are things we would do differently today. On the other hand, I wouldn't erase anything, because we ended up where we are now thanks to our whole history. You obviously learn each time you go on tour, with each concert, with each song, from all your mistakes. But everything we did was authentic. That's why we don't have to look back and think: "Someone forced us into things we didn't want." We were ourselves at that time, and you can't regret things if you stay true to who you are.
What about your old outfits or styles?
Tom Kaulitz: I think this happens to a lot of people: when I look at old pictures, I can hardly understand how I could run around dressed like that. If I look at what I'm wearing now in two or three years, I'll probably think, "yeah right."
Georg Listing: I can guarantee that already!
Tom Kaulitz: Yet I'm the one with the best style in the band. That didn't change.
(Tom and Georg laugh.)
In 2010 Bill said in an interview that he and Tom didn't like each other's style. Nowadays your looks are somehow more similar, don't you think?
Tom Kaulitz: Well, I'd say Bill started copying me.
Bill Kaulitz: Oh that's not true! He used to wear hip hop stuff and always said that would never change. He'd blame me for buying designer clothes. And now he goes to my closet and borrows stuff and even buys the same things.
Tom Kaulitz: That's a lie. But it's interesting to get his lies on tape.
Bill Kaulitz: Whatever, it's true that our styles are more similar now. We do have some exact same clothes, just in different sizes.
And what about you two, Georg and Gustav: you're not too preoccupied by style?
Bill Kaulitz: Not at all!
(Everyone laughs loudly.)
Gustav Schäfer: Exactly, not at all.
Georg Listing: I just wear clothes that keep me warm.
You've been criticized by the tabloids lately. Does that still hurt?
Tom Kaulitz: You get used to it, but it's still disturbing. The worst thing is that these papers copy each other. That's obviously annoying. But it's been that way from the start. It started with our first single, "Monsun."
Bill Kaulitz: Exactly, it has been following us throughout our career. That was obviously one of the reasons why we took a break for a while. I for instance don't like celebrities who just run around and are everywhere in the media without doing anything. We don't want to be part of that. We just want to do music, and the media is part of the deal.
Tom Kaulitz: When I don't have an album to promote, I don't want to be in the newspaper either…
Bill Kaulitz: …and when it gets to be too much, we tend to withdraw and avoid publicity until it all cools down a bit, and then we go back to making music. But of course you always hope the media would concentrate on what's happening onstage, on the songs we write.
Do you have a favorite Tokio Hotel rumor?
Tom Kaulitz: Everything has been written about us. The misreports just keep repeating over and over. We could say that 95 percent of what you read in the newspapers isn't true. There might be a small element of truth somewhere, but…
Georg Listing: …the rest is invented…
Tom Kaulitz: …pure fiction. We've seen everything written about us.
Georg Listing: Dead, pregnant…
Bill Kaulitz: …drug addicts.
What does Tokio Hotel have to say in 2015?
Bill Kaulitz: I think it was really good for us to take a break for a while. The most important thing for us was to tell each other: "We want to make an album, that'll be fun, that we're really into." Not just any album, just for the sake of it. That would sound exactly like the previous one. We wanted to really enjoy what we're doing. And we managed to do just that. It feels good to be back onstage, and I think people will notice that. You can feel we have a new creative energy in our videos too, in everything we do.