Thursday, March 09, 2006

Chapter 3 - The rise and fall of DIGITAL DREAMS

(Pic: Photoshoot 1993)

In the early days of 1993 I met Franca again and asked her straight away if she would like to join me to continue my temporarily abandoned Digital Dreams project. She said yes straight away and we pretty much went into production.

Franks studio was located in a WW II bunker in Offenbach. By 1995 I had my own rehearsing space in the same bunker. No sunlight, but great fun!

Anyway, back to Franca and me:

We both had only little money but what we lacked in financial resources we made up for in sheer determination. At times we were incredible.

We were (and pretty much still are) both hotheads and we had undeniably a lot of stress with each other, although the main problem wasn’t inside the band. It came from the outside in the form of her boyfriend who really was against us and Franca had plenty of bitchy friends and family.

Never the less we decided to kick ass. Franca and I only knew too well that we wouldn’t make it unless we are musically great but also put together a great show. And we did put together a great show. We had an additional dancer (a female friend of Franca) and we used theatrical explosions and on top of all that we wore Star Trek™ clothes on stage.

We were really cocky and we had our very first gig in January 1994 @ the Hard and Heavy club in Offenbach. The crowd there is usually exposed to heavy metal and we walked on stage with computers and Star Trek clothing – but we blew them away and the concert went down very well.

The play list consisted of 60% older Digital Dreams stuff, some Exzess material and some new songs, for instance a trilogy about Smog. It was the first concert after seven long years.

We were the first (and maybe the last) band ever who played there without guitars.
The "Hitech Systems" was still in progress and this was a much needed life test for the new record to be out soon.

After this long on stage-absenteeism we gathered quite a crowd there and even some Heavy Metal fans were interested to see an electronic band on stage.

The concert itself went well. The music though was pretty political in those days and we also performed a song against racism in Turkish language.

We had to play another 15 minutes after our usual 90 minutes as the people were pretty demanding and it was a night to remember.

But not only because of the success we had:
After the concert we were packing our stuff to leave the premises and some members of the Hard & Heavy club were preparing the hall for a wedding to be happening shortly.
By the time they had removed the drum podium I was asking what this was all about.

I was quite shocked when I heard the answer: " There will be a wedding of some fucking Turkish fellows, people you sing songs for."

All of a sudden three of the members became rather aggressive and came towards me with the words: "You better leave now or we will make you!"

Fortunately some other people were still there and therefore these guys could not beat us up.

I was highly disappointed because I had been under the impression that especially a club made up for a minority of hard rock fans should not be intolerant against other minorities
After the gig we knew we have to put out a CD.
I did not work at the time and Franca was only an apprentice but she still managed to get a loan and we went on paying money towards Frank for the studio and the CD – production itself.

In April 1994 we released “Digital Dreams – Hitech Systems” and really kicked off. In no time we were ranking among the top ten unsigned bands in the area and our CD managed to climb and reach # 4 at the DRMV – charts.

Looking back on the album I find it not too well produced especially when it comes to the intonation of the English songs but it was hugely diverse and had a range of styles from Pop to Techno, mixing English, German and even Spanish. The Digital Dreams – Hitech Systems deserved the high chart entrance and all the publicity.

The album itself opened a lot of doors between 1994 and 1996 and gained us performances in a High – Security prison in Frankfurt, at a Star Trek™ convention and at a huge festival in the capital city of the German county of Hessia – although that one was with a different line up altogether. (Reports about the concerts and more pictures can be viewed at: )

In 1994 we had the mentioned concert in January and we had our ups and downs in between until we finally hit the stage again at the “Star Dream I” – Convention in Mannheim / Germany in August 1994.
600 people or so watched us performing in full Star Trek (c) outfit this night and the press was around as well earning us a 10 second recognition on SAT.1 TV station.
The 45 minutes set was quite a success but the day itself wasn't!
DIGITAL DREAMS is shortly having a breakthrough we thought on that very day as our CD was good enough for the planning committee of this particular convention to accept us playing there.
Together with my female singer, 2 dancers, 1 engineer and 2 other guys to help us with this and that we headed of from Frankfurt towards Mannheim.
Previously I sent 20 posters of the gig out to the committee and they assured us that they will be posted around the venue, the P.A. and light system is there for us to use and we will get assistance if needs be.

Reality somehow was slightly different.

When we passed the Klingon™ warrior at the entrance we went to the organizers and they didn't know about us. Fortunately our 20 posters were there. Folded in the back of a counter - not even 1 had been posted somewhere.

The contact person confirmed via “Walkie Talkie” that we do perform there and that we do not have to pay the 110,- DM each. The price to get in was pretty high and we were sure that as much program as possible would be good on that day.

The contact person was then way too busy to see us.
Over the next couple of hours, actually far more than that, no one from the committee showed up.

The company hired for P.A. and light did not give a fuck about us and they did not want to let us use their equipment.

After a longer discussion and begging them for quite some time they agreed that we can use the system.

We'd been asking for a dressing room and we were assured beforehand that there will be a secure space for all our belongings. Of course this promise wasn't lived up to either. Naturally we were pretty disappointed but we kept our promise and we played watching all the Vulcans™ and Klingons™ and Cardassians™ dancing together.

Franca and me also weren’t a team anymore and I noticed the huge difference between the two gigs very much on that day in Mannheim and deep down I knew that this relationship had to end.

We split up shortly after the Mannheim gig and I suffered immensely because Franca and I had become close friends and I missed her. We did not talk for a while and when we met again over a coffee we decided to give it another go.

Meanwhile I had established contact with two dancers, Sabine and Georgina, and we were practising for a concert that was planned for spring 95.

When Franca came back in the tensions between Franca and MSG, that’s what the girls called themselves, became obvious.

Franca, a very good dancer indeed, had choreographed all previous shows and her style was different to the style Sabine had brought in.

Only a few days prior to the concert at a children’s home, MSG announced that they wouldn’t go on stage as long as Franca was there and due to the fact that Franca and me hadn’t regained our former strength after the break up, I decided to kick her out again.

The “Hitech Systems” CD was the proudest album to this date and it had reached a Top Ten position at the DRMV - charts and it was the first concert after Franca´s exit.

Together with a 2-girl-dance group “MSG” - I was about to perform for about 100 children and some elderly chaps where I tested a lot of new material to be released on the 1996 “Vesicula” release.

I had a severe cold and the P.A. was absolutely crap but the concert turned out to be quite good. I started off with dance tracks and the audience was pleased by the show.

Our mix of romantic tunes and electronic pop songs was a good mixture and I sold a fair amount of CD's that night.

After approximately 70 minutes I had to break up the show as I couldn't barely sing anymore but the audience demanded always more and more and so I performed far longer than intended. I gave all I could but just couldn’t perform any longer.

After this concert I had been invited by the children and they baked cakes for me and treated me like a star. Even a friend of mine who just helped carrying the equipment was forced to sign CD's.

Later that year I performed again for the kids and it was an amazing experience.
But on that evening Georgina was very pissed off and didn’t talk to me again. She also didn’t continue working with Sabine anymore I heard and there I was – alone again.

I had worked with numerous musicians over the years and in 1995 I started recording songs for a new album. Frank had moved to Frankfurt into a bigger space and as usual I followed him to record with him.

My music consumed me pretty much and it took its toll. Me and my wife separated in December 1995 and never got back together again. The divorce was announced in 1997.

Some when in summer 1995 a workmate recommended a female singer and after meeting we immediately clicked and worked together as Digital Dreams.

It wasn’t the same as before and even though Simone´s voice was much better than Franca´s, she brought some classic vocals to the project and as Digital Dreams was at the peak of its electronic phase that combination didn’t work.

Simone got us a huge gig in front of thousands of people @ “Hessen wird 50” festival where we shared the stage with soul legends The Temptations. Later, on stage - disaster struck. We couldn’t here a thing and when Simone started singing 10x higher than necessary I knew: That was it.

Initially we had rehearsed two songs but I refused to play the other song on stage and so we split up after the gig.

For the better I believe …

But the problems did not stop there – I had only received social welfare in 1995 and because the newspaper Offenbach Post wrote an article about us representing Hessia during the festival, the department of social welfare assumed I was making lots of money with my music without telling anyone.

They also knew about the Hitech Systems – CD and I had to prove that I didn’t pay for the CD production. Actually, by law, they have to prove that I did make money on the side, but when they freeze all cash, one is very reluctant to fight back.

The only way to prove that, in fact, at least officially, I wasn’t responsible for the financial side of things I had to contact Franca again as she had all the bank details and the contract between her and the bank regarding the loan.

So, I rang the bell and she was surprised to see me. As a matter of fact - she was still pretty much pissed off with me for kicking her out. (Fair enough L)

But because we once were friends she allowed me to copy the contract to get off the hook. I kind off paid her back by writing a love song ,on her behalf, for the “Tommy – The Musical” actor Michael Serveris, with whom she had a little fling.

Anyway, we did not officially pursue Digital Dreams together again but she joined me every now and then when I had a gig somewhere.

Eventually we managed to have another very memorable performance together in January 1996. “Radio FFH”, organizer of the 1995 “Hessia” festival, was looking for people who would be willing to perform in “odd places” – and that sounded pretty much like us.

So, they established contact between me and a priest who was responsible for all entertainment within a high – security – prison in Frankfurt / Preungesheim.

They only had 800,- Deutsch Marks and we already had to spend 500,- DM on the P.A. but this opportunity was too good to be wasted.

On January, 18th 1996 we performed at the high security prison and that was the most incredible concert ever.

We had our own police officers as security guards and strict rules as to how to interact with the audience.

Winter in Germany is always bloody cold and this January was no exception. We arrived at the prison after sending our names and copies of all our passports in advance pretty early as the scheduled time for our 90 Minutes performance was 1.30 p.m.

It was as scary as it was exciting.

Because a small act has no roadies we had to get back to the cars four times and to get back into the prison we had to follow their security procedures four times which cost us efficient time.

The priest of the complex showed us the chapel in which we were performing and out of just 100 prisoners 96 attended to the gig after having read through our one page advertisement printed free of charge in their very own prison newspaper.

Before we actually could get to work we were advised on some security procedures as well. 5 policemen guided us from the "criminal elements".

This high security prison hosts all sorts of criminals. From murderers to rapists and so on and so forth. We weren't allowed to take pictures. The only exception was a couple of pictures from the band taken from behind the mixing desk that stood on the right hand side of the stage.

The crowd itself was outrageous. They were jumping of their seats and they were clapping along every little note along the program and they were absolutely grateful for our performance.
After the gig prisoners and policemen bought some of our records and the priest send us a letter expressing their gratitude.

An unforgettable experience.

Only one month later, in February 1996 the most anticipated Digital Dreams release came to light: Digital Dreams – Vesicula. Franca only appeared on this MC as a special guest and when I performed a concert against poverty for the Public Assistance Society of Offenbach in November 1996, Franca was there as a dancer.

That was our last collaboration and I laid Digital Dreams to rest.

Digital Dreams as such was a good experience in more than one way.

I took ownership of this project and who ever came in was as much part of it as myself, but there were rules they had to adhere to as I took it very serious. I think it paid off to be determined and to demand only the best and more from the people.

It was a huge learning curve for all of us. Even though I never really liked the term TECHNO, because it never really described us or did us justice, because we did Trance, Techno and Dancefloor music in a poppy way, I always wanted to make sure that Digital Dreams was up to date, sound wise and I managed as I was able to use a lot of freaky instruments, great loops and over the years I had to deal with all possible equipment from a simple tape recorder, placed in the middle of a rehearsal room to fully digital equipped and computerized recording facilities.

The experience enriched my life extremely because it is still the idea behind the bulk of electronic wizardry that makes a songs. Above all its like “boys and their toys” – I always was allowed to play and never had to grow up. I am convinced that the day I grow up all my creativity is gone – plain simple.

Wearing fancy dresses on stage, using pyrotechnical devices and spending hundreds of evenings listening to my own or other people’s songs is priceless. Perhaps stupid and sometimes not appropriate if you have to provide for a family but still priceless.


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