When Tokio Hotel start their 32 shows heavy first part of their “Welcome to Humanoid City” tour, their concerts take place in places like the Olympia Stadium in Moscow, in Barcelona, Paris, Madrid, Rome and (for now) only two German dates in Oberhausen and Hamburg (on the 26. and 28. February). One sign that the school friends from Magdeburg with their melancholical-metallic glam rock have long since become world stars.
The 20 year old twins Bill (singer) and Tom Kaulitz (guitarist) tell us after a spectacular GQ photoshoot in Hamburg how Tokio Hotel find their way as style-wise individualistic, as well as creative and ready to fight young artists in a world that has yet to learn to respect them.
Bill and Tom Kaulitz. We’re meeting you without your two band mates Georg Listing and Gustav Schäfer. Are they insulted?
Tom: Not at all. They thank us and pull up a chair.
Bill: If it were up to Gustav and Georg, they’d just play bass and drums in Tokio Hotel and keep out of everything else.
Is the band divided?
Bill: Not at all. That difference has been obvious pretty much from the beginning: they’d rather leave the whole stuff with pictures, interviews and red carpets to us. Six or seven years ago, only small town papers wanted to talk to us, but even then it was mostly Tom and me who represented the band.
Your two colleagues still live in Magdeburg, but you have moved to Hamburg five years ago.
Bill: Gustav and Georg did live, here, too, during our first recording sessions, but they moved back, really quickly. To be honest, I can’t quite understand that. But maybe Tom and I were special cases. Our childhood was really rough. Going to school in a village near Magdeburg felt horrible. We were so glad to get out of there.
A lot of images from those years can be found on the internet. Is an embarrassing childhood not private? How did those pictures get there?
Bill: A lot of those have been published by former class mates. Others we gave to the press ourselves: baby- and childhood pictures of us, as well as impressions of former gigs, when Tokio Hotel was still Devilish.
You don’t need a photo album, anymore – you can just google your memories.
Bill: Recently, we made the resolution to take more pictures. We travel into so many beautiful cities, we get to do and see so many thing, that is something that should be captured… Then we realised: we don’t have to! We always have a camera team with us. We’ve given up on privately taking pictures.
With a lot of other German teenager pop-bands the hype ended after one season. Tokio Hotel on the other hand are a world hit with an MTV award, sold-out concerts in Europe and chart positions in the US. To keep up with the demands: is it necessary to decide to live your life completely in public?
Bill: Tom and I have made that decision, yes. Including all of the negative aspects – but we have learned to live with it. It only gets bad when people get pulled into that who don’t want it: parents, family, friends. We’re doing everything we can to protect them from the public’s curious eye. But it’s become difficult to lead a normal life to whoever carries the name Kaulitz, nowadays.
Being a popstar, even if you have to sacrifice a normal life almost completely – when exactly did you make that decision?
Bill: At 15. That was when our fist single “Durch den Monsun” was released. It was amazing when that went through the roof. Then the first headlines appered…
Tom: … and we got the full program, right away!
Bill: The first stories in the tabloids had been there, before. And when our song was played on the radio and the demands grew, we did ask ourselves: what’s happening, here? What are we getting into? For example, I left a glass lying around somewhere, and you could buy that on ebay the next day. But experiences like that are educational. We started early and started to learn early, accordingly. Tokio Hotel is not a job, it’s our life. Outside of that, there’s hardly anything left, no more than the family. For that one year in which we produced our new album we had planned on not ending up in the press. That hasn’t worked, at all.
Tom: There’s no switch to turn. No end of the day.
Have you ever been in doubt? There are celebs who can switch off more easily, because they keep on the down-low.
Bill: Of course I’ve asked myself: would I do the same things, again? We can see that with old school friends. They go to university or get their first experiences in jobs. Things we don’t know. Luckily, I always get to the point where I realise that what I do is a calling for me. What else should I do? I can’t live with the success, but I can’t live without it, either.
But music also runs in the family. Your step-father plays in a band, too. Is it true that he got you into rock&roll?
Bill: He never talked us into it. He just made music and there were instruments around the house. At some point, the two of us just had a go at them. Once our step-father realised that Tom kept playing around with the guitar, he explained the basic things to him. But it wasn’t like in school. We don’t let anyone teach us. Tom and I have a serious problem with authority.
Was that the reason you moved out so early?
Bill: As I said, we could hardly stand living in the small town. And our studio is in Hamburg.
Tom: At first, we often went home. But for the last four years, we’ve lived here, 100% We share a studio apartment. A boys-only dorm with four dogs. We can’t imagine it any other way. I don’t think that one of us would ever move out.
It still sounds odd for outsiders. Of course, brothers stick together – but that they hardly ever fight and share almost everything…
Bill: (interrupts) … Hold on. I couldn’t imagine that with brothers. You can’t forget that we’re identical twins. That’s something special, that’s the difference.
Tom: That I sit around and think that I could use an hour without Bill, never happens. We’d have enough room in the apartment to keep out of each other’s ways – and yet we hang around in the living room together all day, if we have the time. We only ever go into different rooms to sleep.
You’re both vegetarians. Was that a joint decision, too?
Tom & Bill: (at the exact same moment) Yes! (laugh)
Tom: that wouldn’t work any other way. It would be unbearable for one if the other still ate meat.
Bill: That decision was for the animals. Even though I loved meat, before! I practically lived off burgers. But thankfully, there are a lot of good alternatives.
Tom: Just don’t think we’re on a wellness trip! We still eat pizza, hot dogs, burgers – just without the meat – all day long. It’s still deliciously unhealthy. Just missing the meat.
That much harmony is scary, even with twins. Did you never hate each other?
Bill: Yes, temporarily. At 13, we were at war for a year. We were going through puberty and were testing our boundaries. At the time, we had separate friends, and each spent a lot of time with his girlfriend. We grew apart in that time a bit.
Tom: By now, we even have the same friends.
Did the music bring you back together?
Bill: This common project of ours is pretty much the only thing that remained constant over time. Even when we didn’t get along. We always took the band very seriously. Georg and Gustav were a bit different, at the beginning: they saw music as their hobby. Georg sometimes skipped practice. Tom and I were a lot more serious and determined. And you can’t forget that we only played in front of ten people in the youth centre.
Tom: It’s still like that, today. It can get really taxing, because we want to control everything, no matter how complicate things get because of it. Each picture that is being released has to be given a green light by us. Decisions can take ages, because everyone wants to have a say in it.
Bill: We are hardly ever really satisfied. We are control freaks, complete perfectionists. I did try to be more relaxed, recently. But letting go and giving things into a stranger’s hands – that’s really hard for me when it comes to the band.
Is that the Achilles heel of the Kaulitz brothers?
Tom: We don’t carry around questions that we don’t want to be asked about.
Bill: When we come off the stage when something went wrong, we’re all silent. Nobody talks.
Have there ever been problems that weren’t worth all the drama? That the company got the wrong colour for the cover or something?
Tom: (breathes deeply) Now that would be a catastrophe. I’d blow up.
Bill: If something like that were to happen, I couldn’t sleep properly for a year… But I do remember something: some of our songs from Humanoid had been online, illegally, three months before the album was released. I could hardly believe that somebody would steal the art from us that we put so much time and energy into.
A very widely spread problem, nowadays. How did you react?
Bill: We will not hand over music to companies, beforehand, anymore. It gets into the wrong hands, there, sometimes. We were careful, before, but we learned from that.
Tom: Everything needs to stay in the smallest circle possible. On a business level, there are so many involved in Tokio Hotel: the German label, the French one, Interscope in the States, and and and. There is an uncountable amount of people involved you can’t control.
If music is such an emotional topic, doesn’t the band project endanger the love between brothers?
Tom: You could see it that way. Theoretically. We both have the problem that we tend to focus on the negative aspects of things. If there is one bad message, we forget the 20 good ones we got, before. Bad news make you improve the situation. You can just move on from positive things.
Bill: That’s the typical twin thing. When I’m happy, Tom has 10000 things in his mind. And the other way around. That we can sit next to each other on a couch, all relaxed, happens once a year.
Tom: Actually, I don’t think it happened in the last five years.
It’s almost as if one can hear that in your music. Teenager bands usually sound light, less dark and selling things – the Tokio Hotel songs have always been surprisingly dark, serious and lacking a childlike naiveté. How on earth could you two pig-headed boys agree on one musical style?
Bill: Good question. In private, we only ever fight about music. He only listens to hip hop and I listen to all kinds of things. We can’t understand each other in that respect.
Tom: When we started out, it was really easy. We had no choice! We never sat down and talked: let’s sound like this or that band. We were limited. We just did what we were capable of. It’s interesting how that unique style that came of it lasted until today. There is a thread going through all of our works, a clear line.
When one sees you, today – the glamorous, alien-like Bill and the earthed streetstyler Tom – one would never think that you are twins. When was the point at which you developed in different directions?
Bill: That complicated to explain. We just wanted to get out of the other’s shadow at some point. Out of that annoying, public twin existence. Imagine that. At school, it was always: the twins here and the twins there… On the other hand, I think it’s natural that each would develop his on personality that we do everything together. Or maybe not.
Tom: I’d put it this way: Everything that one complete human being has in itself, we distributed among the two of us. Each of us has chosen his part and specialised in his area of expertise. Bill is more the creative type, I’m more on the business side. If you add that up, we’re one person, one human being. Just a very versatile one.
Does that also mean that you’ve never been rivals, in all those years?
Bill: We never thought about who is the favourite son and who’s the black sheep. We were always a team. Like I said, we moved out at 15, earned our own money. We didn’t have time for childish shenanigans – it all happened very early. Sometimes I feel like mine and Tom’s life has moved twice as fast, because each taught the other what he learned. Identical twins grow up faster, because they share everything. Including experience.
Like a human with four ears.
Tom & Bill: Exactly!
Tom: An only child only lives through everything once, has only one point of view. We always shared everything. Looked at every aspect.
Bill: Our mother always told us that once she had turned off the lights in our room in the evening, it was no question that we would lie awake for at least another hour to tell things and discuss them. In a way, it’s still like that.
Did you tell your mother: When we’re all grown up, we’ll buy you a Cadillac!
Bill: Not quite, but we always wanted to be independent with our pocket money. We were keeping book that we had enough for clothes, cell phone and the likes. Having responsibility was never something threatening for us. I already felt better at 15, when I knew that I could pay for my own rent and fill my fridge.
Did you ever wish for another brother or sister?
Bill: No, not really.
Tom: That would have been really difficult for the new baby. We always had a very strong connections – outsiders never get in 100%. Not even imaginary siblings.
Bill: Maybe it would have worked with half a year in between, but that’s not really possible, biologically. (laughs)
What would have happened, if only one you had become famous? Could you have remained inseparable twin friends?
Tom: I think so! Maybe it would have developed into different directions, at first. One would have become a musician and the other could have gone to uni. But at the point where one of us would have become really successful, he would have pulled the other in, as well. Bill would have made me his manager. Or had I studied industrial design, I would have hired him.
Bill: No rumours out of this, please. What I’m about to say it merely a game of thoughts. But should I ever sing anywhere else, outside of Tokio Hotel, I could never do that without Tom. Even if I was alone on a picture, I’d need him behind me and support me in words and action. We just don’t work properly on our own.