Thursday, March 09, 2006

Chapter 4.1 - From "Darker Than Black" to the next millenium

(Pic: 2 page report about my trip to London in 1999)

I was listening to one of my all-time favourite bands, the legendary Bee Gees and one line caught my attention. “This world has lost its glory, lets start a brand new … “

So, I took this idea of the world that had lost its glory further and developed a song around it: “Darker Than Black” was born.

Very consciously I wanted to create something totally different to the predecessor Pure Love and I wasn’t asking any guitarists to help me out or anything.

I decided to do something real poppy and I thought about a mixture of me and the Pet Shop Boys or even Erasure, bands I had adored all throughout their careers.

The CD was finished rather quickly. Funnily enough, the Darker … CD was absolutely Euro Pop but I as a person had changed a lot optically over the years. I had long hair, tattoos and I was multiple pierced.

I went to a professional photo studio again to get the cover right and 99% of all remarks I get for the cover is: “… you look like Meat Loaf”. And indeed some reviews said that they did not expect electronic pop on the CD judging by the cover.

But that was the way I looked - I still cant quite understand why people always have to put other people into niches as people are more than just one layer, ah, what the heck …

The “Rockmusiker” wrote that the CD itself sounded more like a home recording production rather than a professional production – and very rightly so! cause that’s what it was. Nevertheless they confirmed catchy melodies and good vocals but also noted that it sounded retro and “too” 80s.

Luckily, the end of the 20th century showed a comeback of many 80s heroes and my CD just went with the flow.

I had a few pen pals in England and Ireland and a friend in the States and I asked them to review the CD for me. The incoming answers couldn’t have been more different but they all had one thing in common: They called my music “very British” – whatever that means, to me it sounds good because England after all is the country that produced an armada of great musicians, so all I had to do was flying over to England and try to get my CD in.

Easier said than done but - with an ego the size of a mountain that was the only logical conclusion. I spent a week in London and that was the strangest week ever.

It is not necessarily funny to be in London on your own, not being able to share your experiences with anyone, but because the city is so cool, one can cope.

The most revealing thing that happened on my arrival in London was that I felt very familiar with places almost as if I would belong there. That only happened to me again when I arrived in Ireland – a past life regression years later revealed that I could have well been Irish or British.

Anyway – in one week I walked more than I usually do within a month. I was really busy talking to record labels and clubs and they were pretty forthcoming. I could see in their eyes that they thought: “He’s fucking mad” but they listened to my material even while I was there and my CD gained me a performance at the “Rock garden” near Covent Garden.

Because of the birth of my daughter I had to postpone the date and later they informed me that the new management only allows bands to play – no more solo artists. So that was that. But the week in London was great anyway.

Great in a way that a good friend of mine was so impressed with me going to England on my own with a bunch of CDs and seriously thinking “I can make it”, that she couldn’t help it but tell anyone about it.

She also told a guy called Jochen Schäfer about it and he just happened to be a director with his own little TV – show on an open channel on local Frankfurt television.

He invited me along and offered me a 12minute TV – interview / performance and I said: “yes”

Jochen later even produced a video for me free of charge.

That was quite an experience.

Meanwhile I explored the possibilities of my keyboard and found out that it had a range of very good sounds that could give me a good leap forward as I was already planning my first TJ full length album in my head.

I knew I couldn’t record entirely without the use of a recording studio and I wanted it to be as good as it can get. I recorded the vocals at Christian Meyer´s studio, called “Klangart” studio as they did a good job on the Darker Than Black.

My daughter Vanessa was born in September 1999 and I dedicated the next CD to her.

Recording, writing and more importantly financing this project took nearly a year. I got married in 2000, too, Vanessa’s baptism went ahead and I was still job hopping as I couldn’t find something suitable.

In July 2000 the first full length album was finally finished to hit the shelves (o.k., not really): "TJ-Midnight Dreamer".

Now, to my ears, I reinvented myself with this one. It contained of 18 songs and displayed the side of the songwriter in me much more than anything else. It had an almost acoustic feel even though it had been produced using fully digital equipment only.

As I was in negotiations with a record company in Bavaria some of the songs were mixed way too soft, too “boybandish” – never the less, the album even received airplay on a radio station for listeners in America.

I always wonder about America. It never really interested me to crack it, because it is so far away and I was busy enough to crack any country at all. But some of the best critiques came from the States.

Music is amazing. Just a few days after releasing the TJ – Midnight Dreamer I went to play in a hotel in northern Germany, where my father celebrated his 70th birthday.

My aunt Jutta was there. I hadn’t seen her in many, many years but always kept her up-to-date by sending her my CDs. So, there I was performing and she demanded me to play “Spanish Girl” from the 1997 EP: T-Jay – Pure Love and she came up to the stage and sang along. That was so powerful as it proofed again that music connects people.


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