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"It would be terrible if everyone had to hear my hits" TIME ONLINE

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THE TIME: Mr. Kaiser, do you have resolutions for the New Year?

Roland Kaiser: I make up my mind not to have resolutions.

TIME: How do you celebrate new year?

Emperor: We go to Tyrol with the whole family. So my wife, my children, our grandchild. That's how we do it every year. Our kids go skiing for a few days, and my wife and I take it a little easier.

TIME: No party?

Emperor: But. There is always a New Year's Eve party in our hotel. But I'm not exactly someone who celebrates so much.

TIME: Do you ever celebrate?

Emperor: Maybe at the end of a tour with the band. But then there is no more music, so you just chat over a beer.

TIME: Many people will probably play Schlager on New Year's Eve, including your songs – at a certain level at the latest.

Emperor: Can be. But I don’t think it’s just the level when people hear hits. They do that without a level, quite unironically. I have the feeling that Schlager is more accepted than ever. And I personally am treated completely differently than before: with a lot of respect. I've been doing this job for 46 years. I've become a constant in my fans' lives. I sell more concert tickets than ever before, about 300,000 a year. And among those who come to my concerts are an incredible number of young people – people who weren't even born when I started music. It has nothing to do with level or irony.

TIME: At the end of August you performed in front of 22,000 fans in the Berlin Waldbühne. The audience stood on the benches and sang along with each of your songs, after the last encore, after more than two and a half hours of concert, the people sang for minutes: "Oooh, how is that nice!" How does it feel when thousands of people applaud you?

Emperor: I see it pragmatically: It was a nice concert, everything went well – but for me, the topic is also done. After a concert, I would like to be one of many again. When I get home, I don't want my family to say, "Oh, you did great again!" I also don't expect the cashier to get up in the supermarket and applaud me when I go shopping.

TIME: They are in Berlin grew up. What does the Waldbühne mean to you?

Emperor: I was there for the first time at the Rolling Stones in 1965, when I was 13 years old. It was my very first concert – and it was legendary. I bought the card from my pocket money. Back then you were either a Beatles fan or a Stones fan. And because the adults liked the Beatles better – they seemed more orderly – I knew: I have to be a Stones fan. At the concert, the audience was completely frantic. They started to fight. The Stones stopped the concert. The Waldbühne was pretty much devastated – and only reopened seven years later. Afterwards I saw Joe Cocker playing in the Waldbühne, Tina Turner, Neil Diamond, Paul McCartney and many others. It seemed impossible to me that one day I would play there. Not in the genre I'm in.

TIME: The genre hit. Let's talk about it later. Feel free to tell something about yourself first. You were born in West Berlin in 1952.

Emperor: My birth mother dropped me in front of an orphanage when I was a few weeks old. She was 17, and at that time it was not opportune to have a child as a young girl without a partner. I was the oldest, she had a total of seven children with five men. And I think she gave up all seven. She was obviously a very happy woman. I was in the home for maybe two or three weeks. Then I was given to a foster mother. She wasn't married, so she wasn't allowed to adopt me. Ella Oertel, that was her name. When I speak of "my mother" I always mean her. She was a very simple, very decent woman.

TIME: And your birth mother, have you ever met her?

Emperor: I should have seen her once, I was probably about a year old. She visited my foster mother to see what happened to me.

TIME: And you never looked for her later?

Emperor: No. I was satisfied. The search only begins when someone says: we don't belong together. You are not my son Then I might have asked myself: Where's my mother? But my foster mother always treated me like a son. She had no children of her own, so she directed all of her motherhood towards me. In retrospect, I am not angry with my birth mother that she gave me up. Otherwise I would probably have grown up under worse circumstances.

TIME: How did you grow up?

Emperor: My mother and I lived in an old building in Wedding, we shared a room. If I wanted to read in the evening, I had to do it with a flashlight under the covers. Outside in the stairwell, half a floor below, there was a toilet with running cold water, there was no shower. To be able to heat, my mother collected the coal that fell off the freight trains. And sometimes we looked for nettles with gloves and then cooked them, they tasted like spinach. Fridays was always the best day when there was a warm bath. The laundry was first washed in the laundry room in the attic – and at the end of the process the child was put in the tub. There were also rolls on Fridays, a luxury! Sometimes even with sausage or minced meat.

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