I read skepticism in his eyes when he asks me about my record and the city. I’m not sure if he even heard it completely. Probably the fact Berlin was my inspiration turned this journalist off. Another berlin artist, I hear him think. I can’t blame him. There were already too many stories and failures, it became a cliché, everybody knows it’s overdone.
I came to Berlin in 2007, I was nineteen years old and in my backpack a lot of ambition. I stayed in a hostel at Rosenthaler Platz and just like many others I was looking for a cheap room. I have always followed my intuition and the decision to move to Berlin was pure gut. I lived in a small town in Holland, but after high school I had musically not enough to say and I was drowning in a sea of mediocrity in online releases. Technology and the Internet brought a lot of possibilities, but since it was so easy to create and distribute, everyone around me was releasing every fart they made.
By moving to Berlin I bought myself time to experiment and to find the depth I was looking for. I gave myself 5 years to find my own sound or I would go into social work and actually mean something to society. Soon I figured I wasn’t the only one with this genius idea. Just like people went to India to buy spirituality, people came to Berlin to buy individuality and credibility. Berlin just officially exploded. The result of this explosion was a huge wave of young artists making their temporary home in the city. Rents were going up fast and you felt a certain hierarchy between newcomers and people who were already here for a longer time.
Now in the years I’ve been here I saw Berlin as a phoenix literally risen from the ashes. People came from all over the world looking for a new life in the city of constant transformation. I felt this strong feeling of hope. There was a positive vibe in making a fresh start and having creative freedom. It almost sounds like paradise. In my early songs, which you can also find on my record, you can hear this naive romantic hope, that I felt when I just arrived. Everything around me was so ironic. So deconstructive.
I felt I was part of a new wave of young people looking for a certain beauty again in art. I called this generation the future sound. I used my excitement to write an add on the local craigslist page in the hope to meet ‘kindred spirits’. After around 20 different meetings in bars, homes and clubs I realized, that as a result of the popularity, Berlin was over flooding with slackers. People just coming to be cool, even only for two months. It was hard to make friends because most people left anyway so after a while I gave up. As a result I drifted into solitude.
I had a lot of ambitions. I wanted to succeed. I wanted to become the best. In songwriting and producing, a craftsmanship. Like a writer who sits down everyday to hone his craft, I wanted the same. Maybe I couldn’t find these kindred spirits, but still I imagined myself being part of an imaginary scene, that was not gravitating towards the post modern deconstruction, but was looking for a certain beauty in art. The whole city was looking for individuality but therefore everyone became the same. I wasn’t really part of anything, just felt whenever I played my stuff live people thought it was too pop. Hell, Berlin was so uptight, that even techno with vocals was not done. I was working everyday alone in my room on new songs.
I had silly jobs to pay the rent and ended up writing music for various other artists. It proved to be my entrance to the German music industry. I always chose these jobs above a bar job as long I was still learning something from it. In the meantime I started to become really good in writing and speaking German and the songwriting jobs started to pay off financially. Summers went, people laughing and drinking on terraces, winters came, empty streets, tourists gone.
I collected over 80 songs before I decided I was ready and ‘have something to say’. After four years there wasn’t much left of my generational future sound feeling. I felt alone and hope became despair, living inside my own thoughts for too long. I knew I wasn’t part of the city, but on the other hand I was one with the city, and wanted to give back to it by writing about it. Just like in film noir I considered Berlin a character. Maybe a femme fatal with suicide lipstick and an untraceable foreign accent. She was exciting and we were alone together. I loved and hated her at the same time.
My record took too long too make. There were many reasons why it took so long, not all of them my own fault. Since I was so disappointed in other people I became over protective and didn’t allow anyone near my project. I became obsessed and I wanted perfection. I had to master so many jobs (art director, songwriter, lyricist, producer, mixer, musician etc.) in one person and I set the bar pretty high, that all these voices in my head made me pretty crazy. I started obsessing over too small details. Everyday I biked to my studio in Lichtenberg, the empty factory, where I worked. I used the empty halls to record the sounds I was looking for and used the old machines to achieve sounds I was sure nobody had. That industrial area became my life even though Berliner’s thought I was crazy to work there.
All I know I wanted to build something from and give something to this city. ‘Hylas’ became the name of my album. It’s a story about a boy who’s trying to find water on an island and gets seduced by water nymphs. In the end they drown him and he becomes one of them. The nymphs as a metaphor for Berlin, this record became my ode to this wonderful phoenix. After some years of struggle I started to get good feedbacks from my first releases, that I did myself on my own label Hylas records and for the first time in years I felt things were turning around. After years of despair I found back the same hope I had when I arrived here.
Now I’m so happy I kept those innocent and hopeful songs on my record because they make it complete and give me hope again. The record became a balance. A play between hope and despair. I’m still here, and even though I understand the skepticism I get here in Germany, feel that this record is my gift to the city and I mean it. I just hope people give it a chance. Because I came here to stay.
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