Thursday, March 09, 2006

Chapter 1 - In the beginning (1980 - 1985)

(Pic: Someone elses organ, 1984 in the USA)

I think I am born an artist and I feel that I did not choose the art, the art chose me.

I remember being about 7 or 8 when I first developed somewhat artistic ideas by starting to cut out pictures from magazines only to clue them into a copy book to turn them into little stories. And I clearly remember how furious I always got when one or two little pictures went missing. I used to scream and shout and have all the family searching for a tiny piece of paper. They just couldn’t understand the importance of keeping all pictures together. It was almost like a jigsaw. “How am I supposed to tell the story properly without having all the pieces?” I kept on asking. They just starred back at me and I really don’t want to know what was on their minds.

Later I wanted to become a documentary filmmaker and it is quite common when you are young to have plenty of ideas of what to become, but in my case that’s what I really wanted. Obviously my parents had other plans for me – I specifically asked for an 8mm camera (that was in 1980 if I am not mistaken) but instead they gave me a pocket camera with a flip flash and thought that’s about it.

I photographed all kinds of things and catalogued them ending up with 20 odd photo albums but it never crossed my mind to become a photographer.

My youth was rather cool, we never had to starve and I got to travel with my parents a lot. We even lived in Saudi – Arabia for a year (1979) but “behind the scenes” there was trouble.

As the youngest and very likely most spoiled of all 4 kids, I was hugely suffering from the tensions and fights between my parents. They were on and off and there were even bets going on as to “will my father be home today or not?”.

It was devastating. Devastating to the extend that I developed incontinence up until the age of perhaps 14 or so, perhaps even later although it wasn’t that problematic in my teens.

Devastating also because I just lost it: I kicked in doors, spilled coke over alarm clocks and even attacked my mum with a knife. There were talks whether I had to be taken to reform school or what to do with me.

I even lived with my father for a period of time and that did not work out either.

But, miraculously, when my mum said that my father won’t be coming back and there won’t be any more trouble, the whole situation improved within a fortnight. I do believe however that the amount of stress I caused made my mother ill. She developed cancer years later and passed away in April 2004, at the age of 70.

I guess I turned to art because I wanted to escape from a dysfunctional family. A family in which, apart from my mother and my sister, I had no sense of belonging and when I emigrated to Ireland years after moving out from home and having my own family and divorce I noticed straight away that it wasn’t necessarily only the family, it could have well been the country itself.

Don’t get me wrong: I had good times in Germany but even when I was a young kid I always told my mother that I wanted to go to England. Ireland as such didn’t exist in my small mind. She often wondered where that idea came from but we never ever went to see the UK. As most Germans do, we too went to Spain for vacation.

However, by the time my father left for good – so did the money. My mother worked part time selling shoes and I started playing guitar. My uncle Fritz, who was well known in the 50s and 60s in and around Frankfurt (so I’ve been told), taught me. But after approximately six months and only little improvement, I considered the guitar as not appropriate for my musical aspirations.

Today, 25 years on I really regret not having finished what I started. I worked with many musicians over the years including a bunch of guitarists and it always left me awe and wonder how versatile guitar playing can be.

Anyway, I had enough to do by teaching myself how to play drums and keyboards. I even went to vocal lessons for a while. But lets stay in the beginning – shall we say 1981?!

In 1981 I found myself in the middle of a new musical movement. Actually, two musical movements: “New Wave” coming from England very much to my liking and “Breakdance”, a new thing that should become famous all over the world as “Rap”.

Grandmaster Flash and the furious five came to fame and so did a young British band called: “Depeche Mode”.

In 1977 I bought my first single: “Kraftwerk – The Robots” and Depeche Mode, to my ears, were pretty much like them. Very electronic and hip and their melodies were even catchier. A lot of things were on and I immediately started to write songs on an old Bontempi™ organ.

I formed my first band Firebird, consisting of me and a guy called Andreas Herholz on the flute. I think there was someone else as well but I am not sure as Firebird did not last longer than a few months at best.

We took the name from a bass guitar painted on by my older brother Michael. It showed an eagle and said: “Firebird” – so, because it was catchy I felt that is the name to go with.

I wrote a couple of songs in the early 80s, keeping them pretty much to myself, as my main aim was to get a girlfriend. The shit hit the fan in and around 1982 when trouble escaladed at home. Although my father was gone (or was he?) my feelings were pretty much all over the place. I weight an unreal 97 kilos and although I always passed exams in school I did not get my leaving cert in 1983 mainly due to the fact that I wasn’t in school much and if I was I was more a nuisance than anything else.

I remember my mum having to go to school plenty of times trying to safe me from being expelled. She also managed to get me a placement on a 1-year course “1st year for businessmen”. I did go to school that time and I even received my leaving cert but not after a longer meeting between my mother and some of the teachers including the headmaster.

In Summer 1984 I flew to the States to visit relatives living there: My aunties Karin and Jutta, my beloved uncle Theo, who was more like a father to me, and my father who was causing distress in Florida at the same time as well.

Jutta used to live in a big house near the beach and because it was so much hotter than it would ever be in Germany, I spent most of my time on the beach, not without visiting my uncles “German Bakery” for breakfast.

Billy Idol and so on. While I was in Florida, I saw George Michaels first solo Video: “Careless Whispers” which marked the end of Wham! and I bought my first Stereo – Microphone in a shop in Daytona Beach and lip-synced along to the telly.

But what really inspired me was something else: A guy called Prince – not yet well known in Germany, was everywhere in the States. On a rainy day (one of only two during my nine weeks stay) my cousin and I went to the cinema and we watched Purple Rain 3x until we could sing every song by heart.

I bought the LP in the States straight away and I only had one goal: I wanted to become a rock star. Growing up with heavy metal legends Kiss and Status Quo and old records of Elvis, that was one of my dreams anyway, but when Prince’s music came to fame that was the time that changed my life completely.

Back home in good old Germany Duran Duran´s “Wild Boys” dominated the charts and a lot of German bands were pretty IN at that time. The Rodgau Monotones for instance had a major hit in 84 and performed alongside Tina Turner and I was looking for musicians again to form my version of Prince & The Revolution.

All I found was an already existing band, the Heartaches, who were friends of friends of mine. I was there guest singer for a while and vanished into nowhere, “wasting” my time promoting this guy I had encountered while in the states. It didn’t take too long though before Purple Rain and Prince’s biggest single to date: “When doves cry” took Germany by storm.

In 1985 I joined a band called: Sprits Of Soul where I met Armin Schwarzfeld, with whom I recorded the Exzess – Technological age MC in 1992. Kjeld Fisher, the drummer, I had known for years and when he decided to call it quits I bought his drum kit for 250,- Deutsch Marks and pretty much took over singing as well.

Spirits … however did not survive 1985 and when I met my first wife in May 1985 I spent more time with her than with anything else and I didn’t pursue my musical career any further.

In early 1986 I was back on track and searched for a new band. I bought another drum kit, my first electronic kit, the same Simmons™ kit Kajagoogoo used, only that theirs was yellow and mine was white. I bought it off a semi – professional drummer who later went pro, Markus “Jackson” Bolz, and paid in instalments. Fully equipped with my drum kits I was looking for musicians.


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