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Tokio Hotel is a band hailing from Magdeburg, Germany who formed in 2001. Since their commercial breakthrough with the 2005 release of their album “Schrei”, they have become one of the most acclaimed pop-rock bands in the world, with a devoted, cult-like fanbase to match.
Truth be told, most “Commercially minded” bands have just as much behind the scenes help as any other band signed to a major label, be they The Black Eyed Peas or Catfish And The Bottlemen. It’s just that some bands are better at hiding what they are or denying what they are to their fanbase and to themselves. To some, Tokio Hotel are the epitome of style over substance, major label pretty boys thrown together to sell as many posters and t-shirts as records. I don’t think it’s much of a coincidence that most people who think that have never listened to a Tokio Hotel song or know anything about them beyond Bill Kaulitz’s hairstyle circa 2009.
One closer look will show you that the band have an ambition that would put most other rock groups to shame, and have done since the very beginning of the band at the turn of the 21st century. Twin brothers Bill (vocals) and Tom (guitar) Kaulitz had both been obsessed with music since they were 9 years old, and decided to form a band of their own shortly thereafter. By the time they were twelve they’d already been rocking around their home country for three years, and 2001 was when two school friends by the name of Gustav Schafer and Georg Listing spotted them playing a small club show in their shared hometown of Magdeburg.
They were impressed with what they saw, went over and asked if they wanted to form a band together, with Schafer and Listing on drums and bass, respectively. With that, the first incarnation of Tokio Hotel was born, in the form of the awesomely named Devilish. The band started touring feverishly very soon afterwards however, 2003 saw the band make one of the key connections to their success. Bill took part in a TV talent show called Star Search at the tender age of thirteen, he only made it to the quarter-final but in doing so, he was discovered by producer Peter Hoffman.
It was Hoffman who got the band to change their name to Tokio Hotel, named so for the bands shared love of the Japanese capital city (Tokio is its German spelling) combined with the band feeling that they lived in hotels due to their mind-boggling touring schedule. With Hoffman’s help they signed a contract with Sony BMG and built a team of creators and songwriters to help the band, who at the time had an average age of 15, on their way. They were all set to release an album with Sony as well, but it wasn’t to be, and the band had their contract terminated before it could be released.
Tokio Hotel weren’t a band to give up that easily, however. In 2005 the band were taken in by the Universal Music Group, who re-launched the band to pretty much immediate success.
Their debut single "Durch den Monsun" went straight in at number 15 on the German charts before reaching number one soon afterwards, and their follow up “Schrei” went to the top five as well. Their debut album, named after their second single, went on to sell 300’000 copies in a year and both the remaining singles went to the number one spot as well. Tokio Hotel had arrived with style.
Since then the band have become the most succesful German rock export since Rammstein, breaking America with ease and gaining one of the most devoted cult followings in modern rock while they were at it. Of course they divide opinion, every band and artist that stand for something does and should, but they’ve earned every scrap of success they’ve found over their decade and a half of being a band. They’re already something very special indeed, and their star will only shine brighter with time.