Germany’s premier rock music export Rammstein has been controversial since its formation in 1994. This article analyzes Rammstein’s sonic signature from the perspective of the “art of record production.” It decodes the politics of Rammstein’s sound, which is inextricably linked to the exaggeration of German attributes and the associations attached to them. The findings suggest that although Rammstein productions emphasize some specific German stereotypes in their sound, their overall aesthetic is international. This carefully crafted fine line between exotic otherness and conformity to pop standards has made Rammstein successful on the global pop music market for more than two decades. The production aesthetic must be understood against the background of the band’s experience of German reunification. Rammstein were founded as a means for the band members to come to terms with their new “German” identity. Initially, the band dealt with the shock of reunification and the realities of Western capitalist societies. Later the band pursued two further goals: to improve the history of their country in foreign perception and to help the Germans make peace with their nation’s past. These goals are achieved by adopting strategies of industrial music for their course, such as provocation, ambiguity, contrast, recontextualization, and humor.
The Politics of Rammstein’s Sound: Decoding a Production Aesthetic
Jan-Peter Herbst is senior lecturer in music production at the University of Huddersfield (UK), where he is director of the Research Centre for Music, Culture and Identity. His primary research area is popular music culture, particularly rock music and the electric guitar, on which he has published widely. He is currently conducting a funded three-year project exploring how heaviness is created and controlled in metal music production.
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Jan-Peter Herbst; The Politics of Rammstein’s Sound: Decoding a Production Aesthetic. Journal of Popular Music Studies 1 June 2021; 33 (2): 51–76. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/jpms.2021.33.2.51
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