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 songwriting 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 songwriting 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 songwriting 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!
For more about Tokio Hotel, visit tokiohotel.com.
James Wood is a writer, musician and self-proclaimed metalhead who maintains his own website, GoJimmyGo.net. His articles and interviews are written on a variety of topics with passion and humor. You can follow him on Twitter @JimEWood.