In 2009 onttroonde Paul zwemlegende Michael Phelps op de 200 meter vrije slag. En dat deed hij in wereldrecordtijd. Twee dagen daarvoor had hij het wereldrecord op de 400 meter vrije slag al op zijn naam geschreven. En die records staan nog steeds op zijn naam. Een echte ijzervreter dus. En niet alleen in het water, ook als hij naar muziek luistert moet het hard en van metaal. Muziek speelt een belangrijke rol in zijn leven, al sinds hij nog een klein jongetje was en het helpt hem om in de juiste frame of mind te komen voor een wedstrijd. Lees mee en ervaar hoe passie voor muziek en passie voor sport hand in hand gaan.
Welcome to Lords of Metal.
Hey! Thank you for this possibility.
You were spotted at the German Metal Hammer Award event. How did you end up there?
In 2011 I had the chance to do a honorific speech for Amon Amarth. This is one of my favorite bands. Since then I am invited to this great event.
Still I wonder how they knew you were the guy to do the speech for Amon Amarth, then. Someone has to push you to the forefront, right?
There where pictures of me wearing Amon Amarth fan wear and in interviews. I said that I really like their music. And so I got asked by Metal Hammer Magazine. I never did something like this before and I was very nervous about it. After the ceremony I had the chance to talk to Johan Hegg (Lead Singer of Amon Amarth). It was just a great time for me.
Great! It is not even a big surprise that a German athlete would like Rammstein, which you profoundly do. Still, what is the appeal for you?
Rammstein was my first heavy metal experience. At the age of ten I heard their Song ‘Engel’. Since then I became a big fan of the band and their music.
Besides Rammstein, what other heavy bands do you really like?
There are several bands like Amon Amarth, Metallica, Heaven Shall Burn and Motorhead.
No one is born a metal fan, you get to a heavy taste one step at the time, usually. With what kind of bands did it all start for you?
I started with Rammstein. My uncle enjoys metal music like me and introduced me into the “metal world”. I hear all stuff from rock to metal. I have two friends and they are big Metallica fans. Metallica is also one of my favorite bands.
Is heavy music inspiring for you, when you have a race?
Before a race, it had become a routine for me, that I listen to heavy metal with headphones as loud as possible. Normally before important events, like world championships, I build my own set list of heavy metal songs. It is helpful to me and pushes away any excitement. I need to be aggressive in a positive way before a race.
Can you remember what you heard last when you swam both of your world records?
That was Rammstein with ‘Feuer Frei’ and a live version from 1986 Metallica´s ‘Damage INC’.
And indeed “blood would follow blood”. What was a bigger accomplishment for you, setting a world record, or kicking Michael Phelps from his throne?
Michael Phelps is the most successful Olympian and swimmer of all times. 2009 was just crazy for me. I achieved more than I ever thought I would.
Do you notice any (German) bands that all the sudden started to show interest in you too?
After 2009 I had the opportunity to meet Till Lindemann, who is lead singer of Rammstein. He was a swimmer as well and we talked a lot. We are still in contact and I meet from time to time after Rammstein concerts. Also during the Metal Hammer Award, I had the chance to meet band members from Heaven Shall Burn.
That’s right, I completely forgot about Till’s past, yes. Do you play any instruments yourself? Or if not, would you like to?
I can’t play any instrument. But when I quite with the sport, I would like to play drums.
Who would be your biggest example, then? Or would you be happy even to be able to play simple rhythms?
I’d have to start from the beginning. I really would be happy to play simple rhythms and hopefully become better by the time.
Looking back at your own musical coming of age, what bands did you used to love, which you can now no longer imagine listening to?
All the bands I loved before are still my favorite!
You are 27 now, so if you play your cards right you should be able to participate at one, maybe two more Olympics. Is that your biggest goal for now?
Yes it is. In 2016 the Olympic Games are in Brazil and I want to participate there for the last time before I quit swimming. In 2016 I will turn 30. When you are 30 in swimming you are an old man.
Some say that a silver medal is worse than bronze. How do you look at that?
It is a question of perspective. If you are world champion and you are second then maybe you feel bad for silver. But if you go in without any expectations a silver medal is just great for you.
Van den Hoogenband would trade all his medals for the guitar, what would you exchange for which trophy now?
I would not change it for something that I may not need. I would change it to do something good and help others.
Both music and sports are two worlds that are isolated, until that moment it all happens. Do you, like a musician, get energy from a crowd?
In swimming it is quite difficult to hear the crowd. Normally you only hear splashes. But when you touch the wall and the crowd cheers for you it feels really good.
I’m about to round up, but before I go, metal is a music style which is surrounded with a lot of prejudice. At least over here. Have you ever had to defend your love for heavy music?
Back in school or nowadays I really like to wear fan wear a lot. But I never had any bad experience. I enjoy metal music a lot and meet many cool people because of the music.
I think the metal climate is better in Germany in general, yes. I think we got a good idea of you as a person, music lover and an athlete. Thank you so much for your precious time. Is there anything you would like to say to close the interview down?
Thank you for having me and all the best for the future. Stay metal!