Charlotte Roche has been a permanent fixture of German media since she was 18, when she first appeared as a host on music video channel VIVA. She became an international sensation in 2008 after publishing her taboo-smashing semi-autobiographical novel Feuchtgebiete (Wetlands). A global best seller, the book cemented Charlotte as a feminist set on testing—and breaking—barriers of all kinds. Now she’s continuing that work on her new Spotify original podcast Paardiologie.
The show is essentially a couple’s therapy session featuring Charlotte (an open book when it comes to her private life) and her husband Martin Keß (it’s difficult to even find an image of him on the Internet). Despite Martin’s meticulous desire for privacy, few topics in the show are off-limits, and every conversation, often heated, is unplanned.
Just after the release of the fourth episode of Paardiologie, Charlotte spoke with For the Record about what we can expect from her intimate marital conversations—and how listeners of all kinds can relate.
You’ve worked in other media, like TV and print, and pushed the boundaries of what you can say in both—how does podcasting compare?
I tried to express myself freely on TV, but it was very difficult due to the censors. I thought writing books would provide more freedom, which it did. But now, even in comparison to writing, I feel what my husband and I can do in the podcast is absolute freedom—it’s amazing.
What inspired you to create this podcast at this particular time?
I’d been thinking about doing a podcast for a year or so. The ideas everybody else had were to put me together with younger feminists. I felt there wouldn’t be enough to discuss there because I would agree too much with the young feminists for a podcast to be interesting.
I was wondering with a friend on the phone, “Who in the whole world could I ask to do a podcast with me?” and just joked that my husband probably would be best. We laughed but, as often is the case with jokes, there was a spark of truth in there. I thought about it for a few minutes, ran to my husband, and asked if he would do a podcast for Spotify and talk about our relationship, our love, therapy, and sexuality. He had lots of reasons to say no, but he said yes.
Your first novel, Feuchtgebiete, explored several provocative themes, from relationships with one’s parents to overcoming taboo concepts. How do the topics you explore in the podcast compare? What can listeners expect?
Yes, in my books I fight against taboos concerning the body and sexuality. And I think taboos are not good for human beings—they are normal human things, and that’s exactly the same approach we take with our podcast.
If people would communicate, especially about the negative aspects and tiring aspects of relationships, they wouldn’t feel so alone and wouldn’t have to solve their problems on their own. And that’s why we’re doing the podcast—to reach out and build bridges to other people by talking about all the challenging stuff in relationships, about aggression, cheating on your partner, lying, and addiction.
How do you and Martin prepare discussion topics for an episode? Are any subjects off-limits?
In the weeks before we started the podcast, when we discussed something financial or sexual, or about how to train the dog, we’d get into a really bad fight. So we decided we wanted it to be completely freestyle and open, reacting to what the other person says in the podcast and not discussing anything before. Since then, we’ve had to tell ourselves to stop and keep the discussion fresh for the podcast.
The only off-limits topic would be intimate details about our children. We asked our two teenage kids, both 16 years old (we each have a child from previous relationships), if they’d allow us to talk about the family in public, and they said yes. But we don’t share their intimate teenage problems that we discuss at home. For example, we ask the kids, “Is it ok if we talk on the podcast about pocket money?” and they can say yes or no.
What aspect of your relationship with Martin do you think listeners of any age, anywhere, will be able to relate to the most?
I think the one thing in our relationship people will be able to relate to most is that they can hear and feel us fighting for our love with every sentence we say. Because we’ve had extreme highs and lows (we nearly got divorced a few times), I hope people understand that you have to fight for love and you have to work in a relationship to keep it. It’s like a plant: You have to feed it, water it, check the leaves sometimes, and let some light in—otherwise it will die.
Before we go, let’s talk music. What kind of music inspired you in your VIVA days, and which artists inspire or excite you now?
I had an independent rock show on VIVA, and we also aired hip-hop and music from several other styles. I did that for seven or eight years on a daily basis and was very proud that we could show music videos from artists nobody else seemed to play in the whole world. But now I’ve actually changed into a complete charts maniac. I love listening to Beyoncé and Rihanna and stuff like that—extremely female-empowering Boom Bam Bam Boom charts music. This is more like “stop listening with your brain and start listening with your guts” music.
Listen to the latest episode of Paardiologie here.