Stop for a moment and think about the tribute bands you’ve seen in your life. It’s usually a band with a massive catalog of hits, like Pink Floyd (Brit Floyd), Led Zeppelin (Zoso) or Black Sabbath (Sweet Leaf). These bands have a specific imagery that, when properly duplicated, can bring forth memories of the real thing.
Now, think about bands you’d never expect to see given a proper tribute. Sure, any four-piece can go out and strum some Beatles tunes or mimic the Stones, but how about something more difficult. How about Rammstein?
Yes, the same Rammstein who initially had a difficult time booking shows in the United States due to their heavy use of pyrotechnics. The same Rammstein who were arrested in Massachusetts for performing a “lewd” act on stage. A band who writes the vast majority of their songs in German, and have been classified as “industrial dance metal”. Yeah, that sounds like something that might be fairly difficult to replicate, huh?
Enter Frankie “Frankalien” Bernert and Steve “The Engine” Clark. The two worked together as chefs in a country club kitchen in 2009 when Clark overheard Frankie, a native German, singing the song Mutter. Clark was shocked at how well Frankie performed the inflections and tone of Rammstein singer Till Lindemann, and the wheels started to spin from there. After kicking around some ideas, Frankie asked if they wanted to jam and where many people would say it, Clark actually came through. They knew a Rammstein tribute could be a reality with that much dedication between themselves. It didn’t hurt that they worked together, either.
“At that time we were spending about 60 hours a week together between work and band practice” reveals Clark, laughing. “We definitely got to know each other better in that time”.
At that time, Rammstein had just released their most recent album, titled Liebe ist für alle da. The lead single was titled “Pussy”, and included the line “Blitzkrieg mit dem Fleischgewehr” (literally, blitzkrieg with the meat rifle). The line itself embodies one of Rammstein’s main principles: lyrics with multiple meanings. Clark initially suggested the name “Fleischgewehr” and Frankie decided to capitalize the final R as another tribute to the German rockers.
One of the initial hiccups they found was filling out the rest of the group. Perhaps the main cog in the Rammstein machine is that they have 6 very unique members who contribute equally to each record. In fact, FleischgewehR didn’t even play their first show until 2012 and still didn’t have a keyboardist at the time.
“Anyone can play guitars or sing” says Clark. “The hardest position to fill has always been drums and keyboards”
“I’ve posted so many ads on Craigslist looking for people to fill the position that someone finally responded just to me telling me to stop posting about it!” adds Frankie. “We actually found someone at one of our early gigs to fill in the position and we’ve been set on keyboards ever since”.
That spot is currently held by George “Pour-man” Johnson, but the band is once again seeking a drummer. They played their last show with programmed drum tracks, but they definitely want to find someone to fill that position as soon as possible.
But what does a live FleischgewehR show look like? Rammstein is known for their massive use of pyrotechnics, which is obviously not feasible in night clubs and concert halls. Instead, the band goes all in on costume design and makeup.
“Makeup is an all-day thing for us.” chuckled Frankie “We meet up at my house 5 or 6 hours before the show and Elmie sits us down one at a time and goes to town.”
Between her work with makeup and providing the female backing vocals, Elmie Hubbard is considered the 7th member of the group. Clark shares guitar responsibilities with Einer von Millionen, while Neil R Young holds down the low end.
Of course, Bernert provides the vocals for the group. He grew up in Nuremburg, and moved to Columbus 15 years ago with a job offer from a friend he had known growing up. He fell in love with the city and has just recently bought a house. His childhood dream was to be the lead singer of a rock group, and he is definitely pleased that he has been able to accomplish that emulating one of his favorite German groups.
“I may be an older guy, but this is still a good time for me.” He says “The number one rule of FleischgewehR is that we always have to go all out with our shows and have fun. When it stops being fun, we’ll stop doing the band”.
The obvious burning question in my head was, how many Rammstein songs do FleischgewehR perform? As it turns out, they’ve learned almost 60 different songs and try to play a unique setlist every time they take the stage. There are three staples that they play at every show – Fever Frei!, Links 2 3 4, and of course the fan favorite Du Hast. Outside of that, Frankie expresses that they want every member to pick at least 2 songs they want to play for the set and sprinkle in other favorites from there. They have even recently added a few songs from Till Lindemann’s eponymous solo project, which as Clark puts it “Is more like Rammstein in English, with a focus on keys”.
As far as being genuine, Clark says “We are going to try to play these songs exactly how they sound of the album, as best as we can”.
“There are plenty of Rammstein cover groups in Germany and South America” reveals Frankie “but there are maybe two in America, and none of them have a native German singer.”
Another bonus element of being genuine is that Bernert is from the state of Bavaria, where Germans naturally roll the letter “R” while speaking. Lindemann added the rolling to make his singing unique, as Germans from Berlin do not naturally do so. On a few songs they play, Clark says he actually cannot tell the difference between the two singers. Frankie then offered to sing a verse from Steine um Steine, and I have to say that he definitely fits the part quite well.
The group tries to play a show every 3 or 4 months so as not to over-saturate the market, and to make their sets as unique and tight as possible. As far as openers go, they usually try to find bands on the heavier side, and often end up playing with friends of the group. Their next show will be at King Avenue 5 in Grandview on July 1st, and they hope to have the position of drums filled by then. I’ll be on scene to provide an in depth review on what I am sure will be the genuine element.
Frankie “Frankalien” Bernert – Vocals
Steve “the Engine” Clark – Guitars
Einer von Millionen – Guitars
George “Pour-man” Johnson – Keys
Neil R Young – Bass
Looking for a drummer
Elmie Hubbard – female vocals/ all makeup
FleischGewehR – promo