A pair of twins who only just turned twenty are leading Germany’s latest musical blitzkrieg. Bill and Tom Kaulitz are half of the emo-pop foursome Tokio Hotel, and with the release of their second U.S. album Humanoid this October, the European superstars seem poised to finally break into America’s mainstream.
Why is this group of Hot Topic Deutschlanders leagues ahead of the competition? Maybe it’s lead singer Bill Kaulitz’s thick Robert Smith makeup and Mad Max punk fashion aesthetic. Or does the combination of twin brothers (and self-described soul mates) in a band truly make for emo magic?
We talked to them about guitarist Tom’s secret hip-hop recordings(!), Bill’s Twilight obsession, and why they named their band after a city they’ve never even been to.
Entertainment Weekly: Did you ever think you would end up so successful so quickly?
Bill Kaulitz: No, we never, ever expected that. We came from a small village and there is no music business there. We never expected it—it was a lot of happy and lucky moments for us, and we are totally happy that we got the chance to do all this. There was never a plan behind it. We just did our thing and try to be good.
EW: Does your success change the way you approach writing music? Do you ever go into the studio thinking, “I should I try to write a hit”?
BK: We try to push the pressure away. It’s not good in the studio if you think, “Oh, I have to write a hit like ‘Monsoon’ or something.” You just go ahead and write your thoughts down. Just try to do things you love and I think then it’s always good. If you like what you do then it’s fine.
EW: Tom, I hear you’re into hip-hop—would you ever try to incorporate that into your sound?
Tom Kaulitz: Sometimes—we have a home studio—sometimes I secretly put down some beats, some guitar beats and stuff like that, but I never tried that in our music. And I’m not a really good rapper, so I never tried that. Maybe one day, maybe in ten years or something, but for now, no, that’s not the plan.
EW: When you perform in English it sounds quite natural, but do you have to think about each syllable as you sing?
BK: In the beginning, for the first English record it was really hard for me because I’m a perfectionist and I really wanted it to sound natural and not like a German who tries to sing in English. So it took some time in the studio but now it’s totally fine for me. It was like the beginning of Tokio Hotel. Ten years ago we started with that—we started with English and German songs—but the English ones were so bad. It was not good English, kind of embarrassing. But now I get really use to it. If I’m onstage, it’s totally my song.
EW: You also have very distinctive looks. Are there any fashion influences you look to?
BK: I don’t think so. I never had a role model or something. But as a kid I loved all the vampire movies, so that might be an influence.
EW: Are you enjoying the vampire popularity with Twilight and everything?
BK: Yeah, I really love this movie. Everyone was talking about it, and I was very late. I didn’t know about the movie, and then everyone is like, “you have to see it, you have to see it,” and I was like, “okay, okay.” Then I was on the flight to L.A. and I saw the movie on the plane and it’s really, really good.
EW: Being brothers, especially twins, does that make touring and recording easier, or do you ever find yourselves competing?
TK: I think it’s both maybe, but it’s completely normal for us to be together. We always have the same friends, we always have the same interests in everything. We’re just, you know, together 24 hours, everything a day.
BK: And I can’t—we can’t—live without each other. We are always together. We are like one person and like soul mates. We don’t have to talk.
TK: But if we fight, it’s a really tough fight. We take everything we find, like a table and a chair and everything. We fight.
BK: But it’s not that often, most of the time we are totally like one person.
EW: Is there anything you haven’t accomplished as a band that you’d love to?
TK: Uh, yeah, we want to play Tokyo.
BK: We’ve never been in Tokyo so far, so that’s one thing. And we want to play a world tour, that’s kind of a dream for us.
EW: So what’s with your love of Tokyo if you haven’t been there, what does it mean to you?
BK: I think we just heard about it and it’s like a huge city and of course it’s a cool sound: ‘Tokyo” sounds so cool. So that was the main reason why we chose it.
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