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Bill Kaulitz (vocals)
Tom Kaulitz (guitar)
Georg Listing (bass)
Gustav Schafer (drums)
No one in the world is more prepared to bask in the glow of American rock stardom than the members of Tokio Hotel. Humanoid is only their second U.S. release, the follow up to 2008's Scream, but to millions of fans across the globe, they're already icons.
"Things are just starting for us in the US," says Bill Kaulitz, the band's front man, the leader of a worldwide army of black leather- and eyeliner-clad devotees. "What we've already experienced has been just great, and we're looking forward to it starting again."
The biggest act to come out of Germany in 20 years, Tokio Hotel has gone 10x platinum, scored four No. 1 singles and sold out arenas and stadiums across Europe. They scored a Best New Artist VMA from MTV in 2008.
Their rocket to success launched in 2001 when Bill and his twin brother Tom -- the band's hip-hop-tinged, dreadlocked guitarist -- formed the band along with bassist Georg Listing, now 22, and drummer Gustav Schafer, now 21. They started at age 10 performing for small crowds around their hometown, Magdeburg, a salt-mining village that was formerly part of East Germany.
Growing up in one of the most dismal parts of Germany, Bill and Tom were different from their classmates, almost alien. They were the underdogs. The twins knew that they had to break out of there.
Tom had started fooling around with a guitar at age 7 and at 13 together with an already spiky-haired Bill, they caught the attention of some of Europe's best-known producers (including Humanoid producer David Jost) and solidified their heartfelt pop-rock formula.
Originally called Devlish, they changed their name before releasing their first German-language record, Schrei (Scream in English). By 2005, they embarked on what would be the most successful debut tour of Germany by a new artist. In 2007, they released their second German record, Zimmer 483 (Room 483 in English), and were selling out monster European arena shows in minutes.
Like wildfire, the band gained the attention of an entire generation. In France, the group's popularity exploded. They went from playing small club gigs for 500 to performing at the foot of the Eiffel Tower for a crowd of 500,000 screaming fans phonetically belting out the words to Tokio Hotel's German hits. Soon after they made a history by becoming the first German band to score a #1 hit on the Israeli radio charts.
In 2008, after a grueling 43 shows, Bill endured surgery for cysts on his vocal cords but was back on the road performing around the world within two months, shortly after Scream was released for the first time in the U.S. in 2008.
Humanoid is packed with much of the same emotion that has connected with multitudes of young fans. And in this age of Rock Band and Guitar Hero, the record is full of opportunities for audience participation.
The first single, "Automatic" is a metallic anthem with layered, buzzing guitars, stomping percussion, and a falsetto chorus made to be belted out by a stadium full of people. "World Behind My Wall" redefines the power ballad with depth, introspection, musical confidence and an irresistible sing-along chorus.
While recording this time around, though, the band was in its most experimental phase to date. They tracked songs in Hamburg, Miami, and L.A. "Bill drove us all crazy, constantly coming in with things, even though the old songs weren't finished yet," says Tom, who's fond of frequently ribbing his brother. "Apart from that, we just didn't limit ourselves, and we used new instruments."
There are more electronic sounds on Humanoid. The first single "Automatic" explores the relationships between every day emotions and every day conveniences.
"How many things happen automatically every day?" Bill asks. "The door opens and closes automatically, shifting gears in a car; a camera lens -- all of those are always positive things, but when the mechanical quality of the automatic meets human things like love, then suddenly it becomes extremely negative. Love has to be spontaneous and genuine, never automatic and cold.Ӏ That's the theme that moves people.
Along with the new sounds, new subjects, new live show, and even Bill's new style, longtime fans will still find the constant connection to Tokio Hotel's raw honesty and emotion.
"We love our fans because they are the loudest of all and do such crazy things," Bill says. "They always support us, no matter what has happened, and a lot has happened."