Rammstein frontman investigated over ‘knock out drops’, sexual assault claims

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Berlin: The lead singer for German rock band Rammstein, known for its provocative stage shows featuring bondage gear and wild pyrotechnics, is facing a police investigation into allegations of sexual assault.

Following allegations from a 24-year-old fan that she was drugged and woke with unexplained bruises after a concert in Vilnius, Lithuania, last month, at least half a dozen women have come forward with accusations against frontman Till Lindemann, 60, in the German press.

Till Lindemann, lead singer of German industrial metal band Rammstein, performs in Melbourne in 2011. Credit: Paul Rovere

They describe a system at concerts whereby fans are recruited to have sex with the Rammstein singer and then feel pressured into sexual acts or are sexually assaulted with little to no recollection of events.

“It has been repeatedly claimed that women at Rammstein concerts were drugged with knock-out drops or alcohol to enable our client to perform sexual acts on them,” Rammstein’s lawyers said in a statement last week, threatening legal action against accusers. “Without exception, these allegations are untrue.” The lawyers did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the police investigation.

But after weeks of stories in the German media, Berlin prosecutors on Wednesday launched an investigation into Lindemann “on the basis of several criminal complaints filed by third parties,” a spokeswoman for Berlin prosecution confirmed to The Washington Post in a statement. The probe centres on “allegations of sexual offences and the distribution of narcotics,” the statement said.

A day later Universal, the group’s record label, announced that it was “suspending co-operation” with the band “until further notice.” Lindemann’s book publisher has also cut ties.

In the first statement from a band member, drummer Christoph Schneider said in social media post Friday that the accusations had “deeply shaken” the band and he believed nothing illegal had taken place. But he then appeared to distance himself from Lindemann’s “private parties.”

“Things seem to have happened that, although legally okay, I personally don’t think are right. Certain structures have grown that went beyond the limits and values of the other band members. It is also important to us that Till’s parties are not confused with our official after-show parties,” he said in his statement. “Till has distanced himself from us in recent years and created his own bubble.”

Founded in 1994 with roots in the East German underground punk rock scene and influenced by US bands such as Kiss and Anthrax, Rammstein is one of Germany’s best-known musical exports, with sales of more than 20 million albums. The band plays to packed stadiums on both sides of the Atlantic, a feat virtually unheard of for any other German-speaking band. Their 1997 hit Du Hast made it to No. 20 on Billboard’s US Mainstream Rock chart.

But it is their provocative stage shows for which the band is perhaps best known. In 1999, Lindemann and keyboardist Flake Lorenz were charged with lewd and lascivious behaviour after a show in Worcester, Massachusetts, during which Lindemann simulated anal sex with Lorenz using a fake phallus.

Shelby Lynn, the 24-year-old from Northern Ireland who first came forward with allegations of being spiked at a Rammstein concert, said she contacted a woman on Instagram ahead of the show who was rumoured in chat groups to help fans access pre- and after-show parties or the “row zero” area – the area closest to the stage in front of the barriers from which women are allegedly chosen to meet with the lead singer.

“She asked my age and where I’m from, once I confirmed she then sent me a link to a WhatsApp group,” Lynn tweeted. “All girls were asked to send a selfie, with ‘I want to pre party’ or ‘I want to after party,’ or both,” she said.

According to Lynn, she attended both. At the pre-show party, she had a few drinks, including a group tequila shot with Lindemann, before her memory faded, she wrote.

She recalled being led under the stage to meet Lindemann during intermission. When she told the singer that she would not have sex with him, he reacted angrily and left in a rage. She went on to attend a later after-show party. In the morning, she found bruises on her body and called the police.

In the weeks that followed, the band was repeatedly hit by similar accusations involving the apparent “casting” of women to have sex with Lindemann.

“I’m very glad this is being taken seriously and investigated, it’s a relief we are finally being heard, given all the bad news we’ve had these last few weeks,” Lynn told The Washington Post via Instagram, adding that she had personally heard from dozens of women with similar experiences.

One woman named as Kaya R., one of five women who spoke to the German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung, said she was invited to meet Lindemann after a concert in her hometown of Vienna, in 2019. She told the newspaper she was aware that there was a “sexual component” involved but assumed nothing would happen against her will.

She said she doesn’t remember getting to the hotel room, where she fell unconscious and awoke with Lindemann “on me.”

It is unclear exactly how many women have come forward, as some have spoken to other outlets anonymously. Lindemann’s lawyers have accused the media of “failing to research and collect sufficient evidence” and not reporting in a “balanced and objective manner.”

The allegations have sparked a broader debate in Germany about consent when it comes to sex between stars and fans. Germany remained relatively untouched by the global #MeToo movement that took off in 2017, but there have been some high-profile cases in recent years.

There has also been renewed scrutiny of Lindemann’s often controversial lyrics and writing. His poem Wenn du schläfst (When you Sleep) prompted a huge debate in Germany when it was released in 2020.

“I like to sleep with you when you sleep, when you don’t stir at all,” the poem begins, in German. “And that’s just how it should be (how it should be so that it’s fun). A little Rohypnol in the wine (a little Rohypnol in the glass). You can’t move at all. And you’re sleeping, it’s a blessing.” Rohypnol has been used as a drug to incapacitate someone for purposes of assault.

At the time of the poem’s publication, Lindemann’s publisher Kiepenheuer & Witsch defended him.

But on June 2 the publisher severed ties with the Rammstein singer, citing “a porn video in which Till Lindemann celebrates sexual violence against women” that features the singer’s poetry anthology, the publishing house said.

In its own statement suspending ties, Universal said, “The allegations against Till Lindemann shocked us and we have the greatest respect for the women who spoke out so courageously in this case.”

Another 20 dates remain on Rammstein’s current three-month European tour, including three nights in Berlin.

The Washington Post

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