Thursday, March 09, 2006

Chapter 4.3 - Starting from scratch and feeling good about it

(Pic: November 2001, "Artists against Terror" gig)

At first, it wasn’t easy in Ireland. I had to share a house with complete strangers, some of them plain weirdo’s and even though it is within Europe – Ireland and Germany couldn’t have been more different. In later years I started to prefer the Irish way in comparison and made it my home.

But in the beginning it was very, very difficult. Being unemployed for a good while was a huge hindrance in Germany and as I always felt that I don’t really belong there anyway, I wasn’t reluctant at all to except the offer to work abroad.

I emigrated to Dublin in August 2000 and in October 2000 I had made Arrangements for my wife and my daughter to come on over. The people in the house agreed that I could have the bigger en suite room with our own shower, so that we can live as a family, and it wasn’t planned to be forever anyway. I thought that’s o.k. for the start. Only 5 minutes from my new home there was a crèche and they would have accepted my daughter.

We had discussed in Germany that it would be a big advantage for a toddler to grow up with two languages and as my wife’s English was good, getting a job shouldn’t be too difficult. In fact, I had already spoken to the Irish department of the company my wife worked for in Germany and they assured me that they would take her on board.

It was all good and all set up – but reality proofed to be different.

My wife, and our daughter Vanessa came over on Christmas of the year 2000 to spend a week in Ireland. Whatever I did or showed my wife wasn’t good enough. To me it is clear, that she had made up her mind not to come over to Ireland. She didn’t necessarily want to end the relationship but I made it very clear that I am not going back.

This new job proofed to be a springboard for success and financial freedom (at least for a while) and all I would have achieved by going back to Germany would have been unemployment and social welfare.

Been there, done that – no way.

To cut a long story short. Only months after I’d left it was clear that they would not be coming over to live with me – so, divorce number two was filed, and I had another child that wouldn’t live with me.

So, I escaped again, deeper and deeper into my music. And it started pretty good anyway. Just six weeks after my arrival I was lucky to co-host a radio show, called: The Pulse, on Tallaght – Radio where I was interviewed and where they played “African Queen” and “Light of Love” from the new Midnight Dreamer CD.

I became known to the locals for singing at the Karaoke – Pub “Fables” in Tallaght village and I was performing in front of 260 people at the Christmas party of the company I worked for.

In early 2001 I managed to perform again at a Valentines Party – for me as a “light entertainment romantic pop musician” it is the best time of year.

I sold quite a few CDs even though the industry I contacted did not respond to it.

I got promoted within the company and was pretty busy. I also had a new girlfriend soon, a new life altogether, and was happy with were I was.

It wasn’t all sunshine of course. My Insulin Pump broke pretty much straight away after my emigration and because I had only been in Ireland for a few months the Eastern Health Board refused to cover the costs for a new pump.

German authorities told me that there is nothing they can do either as I am out of the country and as I paid my taxes in the republic of Ireland now, I had to sit tight until such a time when I paid enough.

Doctors in Ireland also were not even half as efficient as German doctors and there was no way that I could find a half decent Diabetologist. So, without any medical help I had to change from Insulin Pump to injections again. It was horrible. I lost plenty of weight (and I gained it back and more over the years) and I went to Tallaght Hospital’s Diabetes Day Care Centre every so often, but I was never satisfied.

On top of everything they had discovered cancer within my mum – far too late. There was treatment but no cure. My mum lost weight rapidly and all her strength was gone. She managed to visit me in Ireland twice, once even on her own, before she passed away in 2004 and it is not so easy having relatives and loved ones living 2000 kilometres away.

And still – I remained because I felt something I hadn’t really felt before: I felt home!

I didn’t bother promoting my music too much really until the day the world changed: November 11th 2001!

We had a meeting scheduled in the afternoon at work and my boss cancelled it some when during the day. Even though mobiles weren’t allowed at work, she, usually the most strict of all, didn’t give a damn.

She later explained that she has relatives living in New York but she couldn’t get through. We heard about the first plane, then about the second plane – and I spent the evening watching TV with all my housemates in sheer disbelief of what we saw on screen.

I was working for an American company and there was a creepy feeling that everything American could be next.

Days went by and the death figures rose and rose and rose. I used to work in a Call Center as a team leader and we had plenty of nations in the building so I approached some of them and asked for assistance in putting together a program for a benefit concert.

I had done this before on numerous occasions and I was never in for the fame (because there is none to gain, it is hard work and you almost always get less out of it than you would like).

Over the years I had performed for children’s homes, kindergarten, high – security – prison, the AIDS help, the German Diabetes Federation and so on and on and on. And I believe that because music has no boundaries and is the international language, it should and must be used as an eye opener, a “weapon” of some sort.

In the end we had five acts, including me as the opening act.

29.11.01 " Artists against Terror " @ The Library Tallaght / Dublin ( IRL ) with TJ, William Knight, DJ El Vino, DJ Holy Exzess, Bianka F.

253 Irish punts were fundraised by the artists on this very evening and this money had been sent to the New York Fire Brigade.

It wasn't hard to convince the Library folks to give us the room for free as they knew that there would be a lot of people around and they all would be pretty thirsty. Due to the very serious topic they stepped back a bit and only offered us a Thursday night instead of a Friday or a Saturday which was in fact intended earlier.

We took the Thursday to make sure that the event is going to happen.

It was easy to find helpful people as so many people were concerned about the recent events and so we found a native speaker to host the evening.

I started off with my romantic pop thingy after being introduced as a good soul with a big heart. There was Wim aka William Knight, a Belgium guy I once performed a concert with, and 2 DJ's, Holy Excess from Germany and DJ El Vino from the Netherlands.

Bianka F was juggling and she sang her version of Tracy Chapman's "Behind The Wall" so brilliantly that I wrote a song for her to sing shortly after the charity gig.

Bianka recorded her song and a sang together with me for my “Eternity” CD. She also accompanied me in February '02 when I played at the Civic Theatre

Roughly 150 - 200 people came to see the 5 very different acts - it was a huge success and we all are really proud of it.

The next thing I managed to pull off was to play the famous Civic Theatre, where big Irish names such as the likes of Francis Black and Ronan Keating had played. Of course, I wouldn’t be able to fill the big room, but the so called “loose end” was perfectly fine – and so in February 2002 I performed there. I had started to work on new material already and was busy recording, using Dublin’s Elektra – Studios quite frequently and I was in the middle of the production for my next album: “TJ – Eternity”. The gig @ the Civic was the perfect opportunity.

It also was a bit of a gamble as I had to pay for the P.A. / use of the room. I needed to sell at least 35 tickets to avoid having to pay something out of my pocket. In the end 46 tickets were sold and it was a good, energetic and positive night.

Shortly after this event I was ready to release the "Eternity".

The Eternity CD is best described as the ambient album. It is really different to its predecessors and that’s a natural thing because I was influenced by completely different things, a different country, different environment et cetera …

Funny enough, it has more soul vibes to it than any other TJ – release, when in reality it is the most electronic album of them all as I was using only loops and programmed sounds.

At the end of the day it is how you do it and what you do with your voice that makes the songs sound groovy, electronic but still soft.

But perhaps its just too much for normal ears as it didn’t get me anywhere, really.

You can’t really plan for things to happen and yet you have to. Perhaps I should have postponed the Civic gig to a later point in time when I could sell the Eternity. On the other hand it was no harm to further support the Midnight Dreamer because wherever you go – your material is always new. Doesn’t matter how old the songs are, because you are a nobody, not signed, not promoted, people put no value on you and they don’t know your songs – so, to them, it is always new.

As you progress and grow as an artist and values change with the years, so do the songs. That’s the reason why you put it out there, over and over again.

It is almost a vicious circle – but I have noticed from promoting the 2005 Best Of release, that people like the newer songs best, because the English is better, the sound quality is better, the songs are more mature and they give you extra credit for consistency.

It is also great to see that, obviously, I have created real classics over the years. Songs you can play wherever and whenever and they are always liked, like “Like An Angel” from the Hitech Systems or all the Pure Love stuff.

In Summer 2002 another love relationship came to an end as my then girlfriend decided to go back to Germany for good. So, heartbreak is always just around the corner, and although I like steady relationships I don’t seem to be able to manage them properly on the long run.

“Music was my first love and it will be my last”, la la la …

They said it on “Judging Amy” the other day: “… life wants to be a mess” – perhaps that’s true, perhaps it isn’t. What do I know.

As 2002 drew to an end I did a free gig @ a Pub in Tallaght village and that was the worst ever gig I had done.

The “Eternity” never received the attention it deserved because of many changes in my private life at the time.

I felt the album was underrated and I couldn’t get any magazine to write about it.

The concert at the Civic Theatre earlier that year was a real good one and although I performed many songs from the Eternity, which hadn’t been released on time, I wanted to make up for it by offering a free gig.

The Malloy’s gave me their space and their P.A. and I brought a small crowd along on a rather quiet Monday. So it was a fair deal.

I was quite prepared and I had just purchased a new Double – CD player and a new micro-phone to be better equipped for my “one man show”.

Honestly, this was perhaps the worst concert I had ever played. And, in all honesty, I wasn’t to blame.

I had practised intensely and the people in the audience were mainly German colleagues.
And exactly that was the problem.

Almost none of them were able to really understand the lyrics and to grasp the meaning of the songs. Only during the performance of danceable songs they were a participating audience.

Indeed, I sang of love and loss and broken hearts while watching them getting drunk.

I can’t say whether my love songs should not be performed to people under 25 any longer as I fear to fail that age group or if the current generation is not able to really listen to music, at least not all of them, I know, I shouldn’t generalise.

Admittedly I have to say that a pub is maybe not the ideal place for my kind of music.
In either case it was a huge setback for me.

In all fairness, not everything I did and do is worth listening to and I am open enough to acknowledge failure and one of the reasons why I tape every single performance of mine is, to be able to learn from it, and then to move on.

But after all these years, and still no success in sight – that evening was a hard one to swallow and it took away confidence.

One of my colleagues I had known for years did a webmaster course in Summer 2002 and approached me as she was looking for a “victim” for her exams.

I was grateful and took the opportunity to get a real good website for free in return of the story of my life and some pictures and MP3s – and because the task at hand was so intense J, this webmaster became my girlfriend.

Yes, you have every right to think that the old bastard is never going to give up on woman. I for one do not care about anyone’s opinion on that matter.


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