When last we saw Tokio Hotel (at the shoot for our February issue in NYC), the boys were locked in their suite with music writer Nisha Gopalan, TV producer Jay Buim, and about twelve bodyguards. Now we debut their NYLON portrait – shot by our editor, Marvin Scott Jarrett – along with some inspiring stuff. Because the bodyguards may keep us far away from the musical brothers, but nothing can prevent us from touching their style
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The guys of Tokio Hotel may take longer to get ready than you, but the party doesn’t start without their swelling guitar anthems anyway.
TRYING TO ENTER the Tokio Hotel is a little like trying to penetrate Fort Know. Upon arriving at the Midtown Manhattan lodging where the band is staying, two publicists will greet you in the lobby, and a handful of people will escort you up to the 18th floor. There, you will pass two humorless bodyguards into a suite where a marketing person sits you down, sizes you up and plants herself ominously in a corner. But when twins Bill and Tom Kaulitz, the German glam-emo band’s singer and guitarist (respectively) enter this softly lit terrarium of sorts, they exude a tacid calm, with Zen smiley plastered in their baby faces. “All over the world, the fans, they follow us.” Tom shyly explains of the DEFCON security. “When our tour bus comes out of a venue, we have, like, 20 cars that follow us.”
The Kaulitz’s tranquil countenances betray the frenzy – and rigid machinery – that surround them everywhere, everyday. (Perhaps it’s telling that their latest album, their second U.S. release is titled Humanoid.). After nine years together, Tokio Hotel has sold 3.5 million albums worldwide, had a star named in the band’s honor by a superfan, and Bill has been immortalized in Madame Tussauds wax museum. However, the band was certain they’d made it only after breaking America. Says Tom, “I think a key moment in our career was the U.S. tour and the VMAs in 2008.” (They will trek the states again this spring.)
That popularity hasn’t paled. Just a day earlier, the group-including drummer Gustav Schäfer and bassist Georg Listing – appeared on MTV’s It’s on With Alexa Chung to perform the glossy, angsty single “Automatic”, which also provides a taste of their newfound love of synths and vocal effects. According to some accounts, their fans were shrieking so loudly that MTV producers were worried viewers at home wouldn’t be able to hear the actual music.
Technically that might not matter. For all the swelling, guitar driven anthems their catalog provides see 2007′s “Ready Set Go” or this album’s “World Behind My Wall”, Tokio Hotel are also an unrepentant spectacle. Shellacked within an inch of its life, Bill’s Mohawk defies all notions of Newtonian physics. The ‘do, paired with his flawless makeup and enviable bone structure is mesmerizing. “I do my hair and make up myself“, the frontman says, nodding his head as he sits with impeccable posture. “I draw inspiration from different things. I like David Bowie, and I like vampire movies.” Tom glances at his brother.
Gently disheveled – with cornrows recently replacing his dreadlocks – he considers himself more of a hip-hop kinda guy: “I’ve had maybe three haircuts in my life, so I’m not like Billy, changing every day.”
High maintenance or not, the siblings – who grew up in a German town called Magdeburg – have always stuck out like sore thumbs. They exchange knowing looks. “It was a hard time“, they say in unison. Even teachers decried their penchants for hairspray and eyeshadow. “But,” notes Bill, “we had each other.”
The twin’s parents stocked their interest in music by letting them play in clubs.
By age 11, under the name Devilish, the brother’s along with Schäfer and Listing, say they were recording songs in a studio. “We paid them in cigarettes and beer“, claims Tom. It is worth noting that two years later, producer Peter Hoffman took them under his wing, encouraging them to change their act’s name, enlisting songwriting help, and getting them a record contract. By ’07 Tokio Hotel were playing to a crowd of a half million at a concert near the Eiffel Tower. “We were shocked,” admits Bill. “It was a huge moment.” Since then, their lives have been a haze of handlers and publicity trips and breathless fans.
Recently, the brothers turned 19. They could’ve gone anywhere in the world to mark the occasion, but instead they returned to Germany, celebrating it at an amusement park. “It was kind of our childhood dream to have a theme park just for us,” says Bill. So they’re not too cool to ride roller coasters? “I love it! I love it!” Even if it does mess up his hair.
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