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EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Tokio Hotel releases Kings of Suburbia after five year break

After a five year break, German pop rock band Tokio Hotel, introduced a new electronic album to their international audience, Kings of Suburbia.

Founded in 2001 by singer Bill Kaulitz, guitarist Tom Kaulitz, drummer Gustav Schäfer, and bassist Georg Listing, Tokio Hotel took the world by storm in their 2007 American debut. The band decided they needed to live out their lives after touring world wide for years, so they relocated to Los Angeles. A year into their break they decided to reform and create new music to surprise fans with.

Kings of Suburbia is an electronic album featuring 15 tracks that stray away from any of the band’s previous albums. This is the band’s fifth album to date, it was released digitally Oct. 3 overseas and Oct. 6 in America. The album has gone number one on the iTunes Chart on pre-sales alone in various countries.

Tokio Hotel’s world tour, Feel It All Part One: The Club Experience, is set to hit London June 6.

Substream Magazine: So this is your first album in five years, Kings of Suburbia, how are you enjoying releasing an album again?

Bill Kaulitz: We’re totally excited. We were on the road a lot and we needed to take a break to get our lives back, but we’re really happy with how the album and record turned out.

SM: What did you do during that break?
Tom Kaulitz: We didn’t do anything, we were on break for most of it. The band has been on tour for years, since we were 15. After a year into our break though, we decided to start making music again and to work on an album.

SM: Your new album, Kings of Suburbia, is something new for the band and its fans. I used to listen to you when I was younger and I was surprised by the spin on your music. Did you enjoy experimenting with music?
BK: Just like you our taste and interests in music have changed too. You know it has been five years since our last album and it was important for our band to make music we now like and are now inspired by. It’s important for a band to change and progress and this album reflects that. It ended up a little electronic but we didn’t predict it to. The whole process of developing and producing this album was very natural.
TK: We tried new things and new music, and I don’t think that is a bad thing. We see a lot of artists now who make the same music over and over because they know its successful, but that not how music should be made. We never want to just stick to just one sound.

SM: How has Los Angeles affected your album, if it has at all?
BK: It definitely affected our music, but it was the freedom of being here that did it. It was impossible to have a private life in Europe, we just couldn’t be there any more. When we got here it was great to just be able to do stuff. We went to supermarkets, coffee shops, just normal things. We also partied a lot, maybe too much, but it was good. We’d work on the album at midnight or later because we’d be partying too much, then we’d have an after party.

SM: So you said that some artists stay with one sound because they know it’ll be successful, how did you skew away from doing the same?
BK: This album is a lot more electronic compared to our last album. We had so much time to work on it though, it wasn’t hard to express who we are now through this album. We were finally able to create our own music from writing to producing it. We tried to meet with some of our old producers but they just wanted to reattempt our old music, and that wasn’t what we wanted so we decided to do it on our own. That’s where ¨Stormy Weather¨ came in we recorded it on our own and sent it to some new producers who really liked it and wanted to work with us.

SM: What inspired this album?
BK: All the partying, the night life, and the clubs.
TK: Honestly, the freedom. We finally had the chance to live our own lives and finally experience life and this album really reflects that.
BK: Yeah I found this so interesting, I would go out and meet people who had no idea who Bill from Tokio Hotel was. It was great to meet people on that level again.

SM: I get a very sensual nightlife vibe from this album, did the band intend for that?
BK: We knew it was going to be a surprise for fans to hear this album, but we didn’t really think of a target audience for it. It was such a natural process of making music, we didn’t think of anyone outside of our home studio. I think that’s how all great music should be done, you don’t just sit down and determine you’re making a hit. You have to just be confident and love the music you are making and success will follow that.

SM: What was the most frustrating and the most rewarding elements of working on this album?
BK: I hated working with other people sometimes, I know that sounds bad. Don’t get me wrong some of the people were really amazing and inspiring, but others were just douche bags. But that kind of thing happens when you’re in the music business there are a lot of big egos to deal with. Getting to feel the final CD was worth it all in the end though, you can just feel all the work pay off.
TK: Another thing was hearing our song on the radio for once. Five years ago no played Tokio Hotel on the radio so hearing it now is great.

SM: What tracks are you most proud of on Kings of Suburbia?
BK: Oh wow that’s hard, I think it changes every day. For today I would say that ¨Run¨ is my favorite song, right now. It’s just so different from all of the other songs and anything we’ve ever done. Also my personal experience with it in the studio, the sounds my voice was able to make surprised me.
TK: I would say my favorite is ¨Girl Got A Gun.¨ I produced the whole album, but I worked on this song the most.

SM: Feel It All Part One: The Club Experience, your world tour, starts this year in London. What are you looking forward to most on tour?
BK: We get to meet all of our fans on an intimate level. The concerts are being held in small clubs so we’ll get a chance to get to know our audience, it’s not your typical concert. We also get to talk to our fans now with the VIP tickets. I think our fans are just as excited as we are.

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Guitarist Tom Kaulitz Discusses New Tokio Hotel Album, ‘Kings of Suburbia’

Following the success of Tokio Hotel’s 2005 debut album, Schrei, twins Bill and Tom Kaulitz — along with bassist Georg Listing and drummer Gustav Schafer — became the most successful German rock band of the last 20 years.

Tokio Hotel have built a huge fan base and sold more than 7 million albums worldwide.

But in 2009, after years of relentless recording and touring, the band decided to take a break and relocated to Los Angeles to find new inspiration. The result is the band’s third album, Kings of Suburbia.

From the propulsive and sensual “Love Who Loves You Back” to the catchy, guitar-driven “Girl Got a Gun,” Kings Of Suburbia combines song writing maturity with polished production.

I recently spoke with guitarist Tom Kaulitz about Kings of Suburbia, his musical upbringing and more.

GUITAR WORLD: A few years ago, the band made the move to Los Angeles. What was the reason behind it?

We recorded our last record in 2009 and afterwards decided we needed to take a little bit of a break. We wanted to go to a different city to find inspiration and also start a little bit of a private life. We had been on the road since we were 15, putting out records constantly and being out on the road touring. So we decided to go to LA and produce the new record there.

How would you describe Kings of Suburbia?

It’s a little more electronic than the albums before. We played a lot with new sounds and programming, which was something we had never done.

Our whole song writing process changed a little bit when we started to write for this record. For the first time in our career, we really had the time to do things the way we wanted. It was a development for us. We built a home studio and I started to program and lay down some riffs. Then we met up with a few producers and songwriters and said, “OK, let’s see where this goes.” It turned out amazing. We’re really proud of this record.

You mentioned the song writing process. Can you tell me a little bit more about it?

It changes all the time. In In the past we would usually take our acoustic guitars, sit together and jam and then take it from there. For this record, we really wrote on track. Most of the time I would have a demo that was pretty far along and the others would then come up with melodies.

Do you have plans to tour in support of the new album?

Yes. We’re already planning on touring most of next year. We’ll start out in Europe and then we’re going to play the U.S. We already have a few dates set for early next year and the summer. We’ll be playing all over the Asia, South America and Europe.

What can you tell me about your musical upbringing?

We grew up in a small town in East Germany and always had music around us. From the time I was able to play three chords on guitar, we went on stage right away to present it. We’ve always knew that we wanted to do it professionally but grew up in an area where there was no real music scene. So we went to school with the idea of possibly taking on a different job, but things just took off. We’ve been doing this now for 14 years, and it’s been amazing.

Who were some of your musical influences?

I was always a huge fan of Joe Perry and Steven Tyler. The first record I got from Aerosmith was Big Ones, and I remember listening to it all day, every day! [laughs]. My stepfather was also into music and played guitar and introduced us to AC/DC. AC/DC and Aerosmith were the bands we grew up with and loved. We recently met them [Tyler and Perry] at a concert, and it was a dream come true.

What excites you the most about this next stage of your career?

I’m most excited about touring next year. Music has changed so much over the years. Today, it’s all about touring. We love being up on stage and are looking forward to playing. We’ve been pretty much everywhere in the world except Australia. So we’re hoping to get chance to play there as well. Touring is the thing that keeps us going!

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L’Officiel Hommes ~ by Christian Anwander

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by Christian Anwander

After years in exile, Tokio Hotel are on tour again
and the culture establishment is crying. No more hypocrisy now.
A gentle bow to Germany’s most successful band.

Bill and Tom Kaulitz are like a red rag to style conscious Berliners who like to scroll design blogs in the afternoons and as of late fancy drinking filter coffee. Tokio Hotel, that’s a no-go of course. That’s uncool, provincial. Which is complete nonsense in our editorial team’s opinion.

You don’t immediately have to compare this band to the Beatles like “Der Spiegel”, to acknowledge how remarkable and rapid their rise from the German suburb to an international super act was. Their style is indeed still special nowadays, but definitely distinct, not the result of a marketing strategy. And at least this reporter has seldom if ever sat with two such pleasant and reflective 25-year-olds in an overpriced hotel room and talked about music and life. The topic of the Kaulitz-brothers, who live in LA by now, is a classic one in pop music: to work oneself up from the periphery to the big city, to be free there. There’s still power in that narrative, even if it may seem worn out. It’s reflected in the title of the new Tokio Hotel album “Kings of Suburbia”, which was produced by themselves with an effort in almost six years, it shows in their humility towards fame.

On one of the first days of autumn, Universal invites to an interview in the “Ritz Carlton” hotel in Berlin. In front of the hotel there’s a group of rubberneckers who are penetrantly and enviously scrutinizing everyone who is let into the foyer of the new-rich furnished hotel. Through windowless corridors I’m led into the press-suite. Bill and Tom Kaulitz are casually sitting at the window, with a view on concrete, the atmosphere is relaxed. A conversation about growing up in the suburb, freedom and life in a metropolis.

To the question of a journalist, if you ever had a normal youth, you responded with “Yes of course, we had that!” It’s hard to believe that.
BK: We only noticed that this wasn’t the case in the process of our career. When we were 15 our first single „Durch den Monsun“ was released and was, unlike we all expected, really successful. We didn’t have a plan back then, we got famous over the summer holidays all of a sudden. We only reacted.
TK: At the beginning it was great. Then when you get older, you notice that there’s no life outside of that bubble anymore. Yesterday we wanted to go to the hotel bar and only seconds after that 1000 people were standing at the window. The guy at the bar shut the curtains, and then we sat alone in the corner again, like in a zoo. That way you don’t get anything of life anymore of course.

A lot of celebrities often notice that too late and then wake up as alkies at the end of 40 in one of those hotel bars.
BK: That’s right, of course there are colleagues who just take this and don’t aim at something else anymore. Also for us our team became family and our closest circle of friends.
TK: That’s the comfort zone. As an outsider you may ask yourself „What are they even complaining about?“ But our goal is to make music for the rest of our lives. And you can only do that healthily if you can find a balance. Maybe a bit like Rammstein. Half of the band has a normal family life in New York, they are family daddys. And when they go on tour, they’re the hard rockers then.

Back then, when you became famous during the summer, your look has become, not quite mainstream, but presentable. Was that a problem?
BK: Of course I provoked with my look as a young man, I even went to school like that and always had confrontations with other students and teachers. Subtly I maybe even intended to provoke to set a statement. This feeling of freedom and self-determination are the most important things for me in life. I won’t let anyone tell me that men are not allowed to wear high heels, nail polish or mascara. But coming back to your question: Today I read about our “Wetten, dass…” performance: “The woman without boobs in a string vest.” I was meant with that. Of course I don’t care about that. But obviously my look is still provoking.

Tom, there’s this beautiful, personal moment in the making-of your song “Run, Run, Run”, where Bill puts make up on your face. You also always dressed yourself uncommonly, but Bill was still more eccentric.
TK: Totally.

Has that ever been a topic between you?
TK: Not really. It developed quite early with us. We’ve always looked different – already at the age of 13 or 14.
BK: …sometimes there were problems. Back then Tom was…
TK: …your opposite extreme. I was a punk and quite rebellious, ran around with Che-Guevara-shirts and dreadlocks…
BK: …he was in his punk- and I was in my raver-neoprene-phase.
TK: It was also like that on stage. Bill in neoprene, me in Che Guevara shirt. And everyone thought: “Tell me, what kind of band is that!” And people still think that today.

Dressing that eccentrically in a suburb surely wasn’t easy…
TK: First we moved from Hannover to Magdeburg and were put to school there. Already in primary school we dressed differently. Magdeburg is a city in which people don’t necessarily have a distinct sense for style, but we still got through. When our parents moved to a village with us then, it became, at least in the beginning, really hard-core.
BK: It was too crazy. Today I often look back on these times. As a young person and teenager you don’t think about it a lot, you have a greater self-confidence. In hindsight I can be glad that I didn’t constantly get my face smashed in.
TK: Often the situation was on the brink.

You experienced violence?
TK: Definitely, our stepdad sometimes had to…
BK: …pick us up with the dog and a baseball bat. And every morning in the bus, people looked at us like we were aliens. I wanted to get out of there as fast as possible. That was definitely clear. That was the incitement behind all the things we did. We wanted to go to the big city. Preferably Berlin.

That’s almost classical. Like Lou Reed and John Cale sang “There’s only one good thing about a small town, you know that you wanna get out”.
TK: Absolutely. There was no bigger wish for us. That’s why we performed every weekend as a band, we wanted to make our name famous, so that one day we would be able to live off our music.

How can one imagine the role allocation between you?
BK: Concerning the band, it’s Tom now who cares about everything that has to do with the music. If it’s the production in our own studio in LA or the live performances. I rather care about the visual things, look which interviews we want to make and with whom which video or photoshoot.
TK: In our private life I’d say that I’m the responsible-minded one and Bill is the gut-feeling-person. I always have to drive Bill around.
BK: Our great-grandfather always took Tom aside and said “Tom, don’t let Bill drive the car”.
Both: “…and always take care of the money!”
TK: He became 104 years old and said that until the end. Actually he’s a bit right.

You wouldn’t get along alone?
TK: No, we compensate each other.
BK: But you have to say that Tom is even more dependent than me.
TK: I think Bill talks himself into believing that.
BK: No, that’s true! Even all our friends say that.
TK: They only say that because they find it funny.
BK: It’s really quite cute. He doesn’t do anything without me. I can fly alone to New York for a few days, but when I’m landing, I already have 20 messages from Tom: “And? Did you have a good flight? Send me some pictures, will you? Next time I come with you.”
TK: Of course, because I’m worrying. He’s interpreting it now as if I couldn’t get along on my own without him. But for me it’s rather a big-brother-syndrome.
BK (laughs): Such a bullshit!
TK: I always had to protect him when someone wanted to beat him up.
BK: Oh, such a bullshit!
TK: You could finally admit it!

You have always cared about your own management, furthermore you have built up a studio in LA. It may be a kind of freedom, but it also is a big burden.
BK: Totally. But Tom and me, we’ve always had a big mouth. At Universal we already sat in the record company meetings with the age of 13. With 15 we basically ran a big company. You have lawyers, tax consultants, managers, they all stand on your payroll, so you have responsibility. Of course this can be insanely exhausting. But if it’s going wrong, at least I know who’s fault it is.

After years of touring you moved to Los Angeles some time ago. Please describe your first impressions there.
BK: The first times in LA we really thought: „Amazing, vacation!“ But for me it’s rather a city where you should move when you’re over with work, when you only want to relax in your life anymore.
TK: In LA it is like that. You go out, meet friends and friends of friends and all come and first tell you their success story. There’s no city that’s as much “success-driven” as LA. Namedropping without end.
BK: You meet up and first compare twitter-followers, FaceBook-friends, Instagram-likes. We always sat there and just thought that hopefully nobody would approach us now.

How did the city visually influence you?
TK: In public I always claim that the city hasn’t influenced us at all. But of course you wake up differently there. Every day the sun is shining. Every day blue sky and palm trees.
BK: But LA is not a fashion city. That’s totally bothering me. Everyone’s running around in flip-flops, shorts and tank tops. You have to take care to not look too much like LA after a while. New York is much more inspiring in this matter.

In Germany people who are interested in fashion are still generally seen as stupid or superficial.
BK: But fashion is super important. For me it goes hand in hand with music. Fashion does something to you. To create a look always gets me in a special mood. But it should never be dressed up. Because of that we don’t dress Georg and Gustav with crazy clothes, that would be bloody stupid. Gustav doesn’t care two figs about fashion.
TK: And for Georg it’s most important that his shirt isn’t too long, because otherwise it’s annoying during playing the bass for him.

On your recent album you worked for almost 6 years. How has your music changed in this time?
TK: In the course of the album we dealt a lot with sound-design, synthesizers and effects. How you produce a song really awesome, which bass-drum, which snare-sound, this was extremely exciting and really brought us further. We taught ourselves almost everything since the beginning. No one of us learned playing his instrument professionally, no one plays by notes. I got the guitar with the age of 7 and I’m playing by ear and feeling. I often have the feeling that those professionals know too much. And all this knowledge can also stand in your way sometimes.
BK: That’s how music gets out of fashion very quickly. It’s similar to the attitude of German musicians at the beginnings of the ‘80s. Drummers like DAF’s Robert Görl said, of course, we were at the conservatory and now we have to forget all of that again.
TK: Yes, exactly! It becomes too technical otherwise.
BK: I had vocal coaches in between. But I always abandoned it after the first lesson. It started like that: “On stage you have to arrange yourself like a cardboard.” And then you stand there and think: “What? I’m wearing a big jacket there and run from A to B, I don’t fucking arrange myself like a…”
Both: “…cardboard!”

Also in fashion, fashion photography, you have the impression that people start to retouch less.
BK: Right. People always did more and more of that [retouching], but it needs to stop. Otherwise we’ll all become robots and everything will get artificial.
TK: People often think it’s a contradiction what we say because they say that the new album is so electronic, there’s nothing pure anymore. But it’s not easier to play a synthesizer than a guitar. And a guitar is not necessarily more natural than a synthesizer.

Is there still a pressure for you to always be number 1 in the charts?
BK: We’re more relaxed today, it’s already the fourth album.
TK: For us it’s rather the sum of chart positions that counts. Most important for me is to work with this record for a long time. It has cost us a whole lot of energy. Therefore I want to profit from it as long as possible.

Translation by:Herzblut

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Tokio Hotel’s Bill And Tom Kaulitz Talk New Album ‘Kings of Suburbia,’
And The Sexy Music Video ‘Love Who Loves You Back’ EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW

Tokio Hotel is back!

Founded in 2001, the German pop rock band became huge in the 2000s, selling over 7 million albums worldwide. Though they were biggest in Europe and South America, they also made their mark in the US, becoming the first German band to win a VMA (for Best New Artist). In 2011, the band took a much-needed break and founding members Bill and Tom Kaulitz moved to Los Angeles to enjoy a little anonymity. The result – their first album in five years, “Kings of Suburbia.”

We called up Bill and Tom to talk about Tokio Hotel’s new album, the super sexy music video for their lead single “Love Who Loves You Back” and their “Mariah Carey tour rider.”

Moving from Germany to Los Angeles was a huge change for you. What was that experience like?

Bill: It was a massive change. You can’t even compare how we were living then and how we’re living now. We were on the road for such a long time. We’ve been performing since we were 15, we were been putting out one album after another and traveling all the time. So we never really had a private life aside from the career. It was just a lot of work and traveling all the time. We got burned out. We needed a change. We didn’t want to make another album that just sounded like the one before it. So we really needed that change, and Tom and I were finally able to go outside without any security, without having people in front of your house, and just be like normal people.

Do you think you’ll ever move back to Germany?

Tom: I don’t know, I don’t think so.
Bill: We go back for Christmas and for vacation. We like Europe! I think if we could live there, then we probably would have never moved away. But it’s just impossible for us to have privacy and the balance with a career. LA is way more comfortable for us. But then we want to live everywhere. I want to live in New York for a while because I love the city so much. So you never know if we’ll stay in LA. But it’s certainly been a good city.

What were some of your influences for “Kings of Convenience”?

Bill: The biggest influence and the biggest inspiration for the album was the new freedom Tom and me found living in Los Angeles. We moved from Germany to LA before we started recording the album, just to find some privacy and live life. It worked great for us. I think the biggest inspiration was life in general, to do normal things, to be with people and be out. We’ve been out a lot, so I feel like the nightlife was a big inspiration. That might be why the album is so electronic, it’s inspired by the club scene and the electronic scene. In the studio, we started to step out of our comfort zone and try different things and different sounds. That’s why this album sounds different from what we’ve done before.

I wanted to ask about the music video for “Love Who Loves You Back.” It’s very provocative! Did you come up with the idea for the video?

Bill: Yeah, it was. We are super hands on, creative-wise, and I love to come up with all the videos and photoshoots and album art and everything. I always wanted to make a video like that. I’ve always had this idea inspired by the movie “Perfume.” I was always inspired by that because it’s one of my favorite movies. The guy keeps creating the perfume and at the end he pulls it out and everyone starts to make out and it turns into this huge orgy. I always thought that we could do that with our song and our music instead of perfume. I wanted to do it with the last album but we never had the right song or the right director. It was just the perfect song and the perfect time to do it. We came up with the concept and talked about it with the director and he was loving it, he said, “Yeah, let’s do it.” And everything came together. It was definitely an interesting shoot, it was a lot of fun.

What was the filming process like?

Bill: We shot in a super old hotel in downtown Los Angeles. We shot in the basement. It was all grimy and old and it was very cool. We had so many people there. We kind of free-styled the whole thing. We had a rough idea of what we wanted and then we just saw, with all the people, where everything goes. If people were comfortable, we would take it further and further. We started very slow but went further. Then we saw tongue!

I wanted to ask about your fanbase. Even though it’s been five years since you released new music, your fanbase seems to be as strong as ever. Were you surprised?

Tom: We were definitely surprised. The label and everyone who knows things told us that it would be career suicide to stop putting out music, that the industry changes so much and people are always putting out new music. They said, “You guys are insane, you’re going to kill your career.” And we said, “If that’s the case, then that’s the case, but we don’t want to put out a shitty record and this is what we need.” So we kind of just did it even though everyone told us it was not a good idea. We never expected that the fans would wait for the music to come out, so we were definitely surprised by how they reacted and how many people waited all these years for us. Even during the hiatus we were still winning awards so our fans are so incredible. They’re so amazing and so supportive and we’re really lucky to have them, these days it’s hard to have fans who are so supportive.

When I googled “Tokio Hotel,” “fanfiction” was an autocomplete and I also found a lot of trivia quizzes and fan art.

Tom: They are creative. We get a lot of presents, a lot of creative stuff that the fans are doing. It’s insane, some of them spend so much time on things. Last week, we were in Mexico and it was crazy how many people showed up, and how long they waited to give us something. Some of them would give us their personal Bibles or a personal piece of jewelry from their family, it was so much personal stuff. It’s amazing how much love they have.

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