Tokio Hotel aims to translate Euro success to U.S

Sat Oct 10, 2009 1:05pm EDT
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By Mark Sutherland

LONDON (Billboard) - Sometimes, much weirder things happen at the MTV Video Music Awards than Kanye West interrupting an acceptance speech.

Take the 2008 VMAs ceremony, for example, when the A-list glamour of Hollywood's Paramount Studios red carpet was upset by the entrance of four teenage cyborgs with preposterous hair who stood atop an enormous monster truck. Emblazoned with their band name in foot-high letters, the truck was the cyborgs' not particularly subtle way of telling America what the rest of the planet already knew: Tokio Hotel had arrived.

So far, so Eurotrash gate-crasher. Tokio Hotel -- a curious electro-Goth-glam-emo boy band that had climbed no higher than No. 39 on the Billboard 200 -- had what seemed a token nomination in the fan-voted best new artist category. It was up against the creme de la creme of U.S. female pop: Miley Cyrus, Katy Perry, Jordin Sparks and Taylor Swift. The likelihood of Tokio Hotel winning seemed about equal to that of Satan ice skating to work the next day.

"We were at the awards watching it outside on a massive screen," recalls Martin Kierszenbaum, chairman of Tokio Hotel's U.S. label, Cherrytree Records, as well as president of A&R for pop/rock at Interscope and head of international operations for Interscope Geffen A&M. "I was half-distracted because I didn't really expect them to win -- it just seemed a little ... hopeful. But they announced it and suddenly (Interscope marketing executive) Bob Johnsen just punched me as hard as he could on the arm. Boom!"

The band and most of the audience were similarly dumbstruck. Yet no one saw the need to interrupt singer Bill Kaulitz -- the one who looks like a cross between a Bratz doll and a cockatoo -- during his incredulous acceptance speech.

"To be honest, it would have been a good moment if someone had come onstage," Kaulitz reminisces a year later. "I was onstage at the VMAs and I was speechless."

"We got very drunk," says his twin brother, guitarist Tom, with a laugh -- he's the one who looks like a cross between Predator and a Jonas Brother. "Even though we can't drink in the U.S. until we're 21."

The next day, they weren't the only ones suffering.   Continued...

<p>Bill Kaulitz of German group Tokio Hotel poses on the red carpet before the MTV Europe Music Awards ceremony in Liverpool, northern England, November 6, 2008. REUTERS/Phil Noble</p>