My first album ILLUSION has been a very personal, important project and an integral part of my life. From the first sound + vision to the adventurous experiment of creating and realizing it via crowdfunding, I am now celebrating its release over a year ago and take a look back at a recollection of memories and a collection of songs that I want to share with you to give you a new and more personal insight, telling a little story about each song.
(this post is currently only available in English)
HEARTS ARE DIGITAL
As I started putting together the order of the songs for the album, it was pretty clear for me that it had to start with Hearts Are Digital. I co-wrote this number with Michelle Leonard and Christian Neander with whom I worked before in the past. The original melody of the chorus had more of a staccato 80s Kraftwerk feel to it, the 2nd hook in this version still echoes that. Prior to writing this song, we talked about several conspiracy theories regarding chemtrails and the idea that everyone of us has a digital persona that basically exists in a cloud. As much as I am involved and in love with social media, this was a moment of thinking about the way we communicate in a more critical way. Asking ourselves questions like „does the person on the other side of the screen really receive what I’m trying to send or is it just an interpretation of my digital self?“. The intro with my falsetto voice echoes the idea that I think of my falsetto voice sometimes as an instrument.
I am proud of how message-heavy the lyrics of this song are. In its core, it is a declaration to challenge and fight your fears and the things in live that hold you back. But in order to burn your fears and find the right track you must burn first. Michelle and I wrote that song with Seth Jones, a talented songwriter and musician from Nashville living in LA who spent a few weeks in Berlin during which we worked on some songs. We’ve had many talks about heaven and hell and the revolutions we are dreaming of in this world. I remember that Seth and I were listening to some of Gesaffelstein’s tracks before this one was born. The original bass line of the song was a bit more playful yet very industrial. We recorded my vocals on that one before Seth continued working on it. He went back to the States and as he sent me the polished and more minimal version I needed to listen to the song so many times cause I was absolutely freaking out over how much I loved the changes he had made. It’s a very minimal electronic pop song that isn’t very pop at the same time and it remains one of my favorites on the album.
Compared to the rest of the album, this song is a bit more light-hearted. It was written by Michelle and Hannes from the Beatgees and the first time I heard it, I wanted to have it for me cause I thought it was a perfect match for the sound of the album. As I was living at Michelle’s place during most of the process of creating the album, I also met Bonnie there one day. I immediately fell in love with her, she has a very special way with people and she is super creative. It also helped that she wore a Marilyn Manson T shirt that day. We’ve been out a few times and became friends the moment we met. One day, I dreamt that we would sing a song together as she was also working on some material these days. The morning after I dreamt of a duet, Michelle asked me whether I could think of working with Bonnie. This couldn’t be coincidence and so I approached Bonnie and was super happy that she wanted to do it! I suggested to do Electric together and some weeks later we recorded our vocals together with Nicolas Rebscher who produced the song at the Funkhaus Berlin.
The 80s influence with this one is heavy, starting with the synth bass through the song and even the angel-theme is typical 80s in my eyes. It was Michelle’s idea to write a song called Angel and after a lot of talks about exorcising the demon of my past relationship, we wanted to pour that into a positive cry for help. Although the lyrics are rather simple, they reflect a lot of the break-up I had gone through but it also echoes the sudden death of my father and the need of an angel in my life during that period. I love that we managed to pour all that into a song without making to too heavy on the heart.
Ever since we have written this song, I felt that there’s something very special about it. I loved singing it with my band, I loved singing it in a stripped down version on my solo tour and I really wanted to record a new version for my first album. As we decided on which songs to record for the second release of the album, I decided to go for My Obsession and continue the legacy of that song. My friend Thomas also re-worked the song once again for a remix version that was released at the end of 2015 with my remix EP MxStrify. Somehow, many of the love songs we write are about being consumed by the relationship. It’s about giving but also demanding, it’s about bulding something beautiful but at the same time destroying it. It’s the epitome oft he juxtaposition of a constant constructio and deconstruction of a relationship and your own self. I guess I am very consuming as a lover. Originally, when I got into the studio in Cologne in 2008 or 2009 to write this song, I had the idea to write a song called fetish in which you don’t fetishize a particular aspect or body part of someone but the whole person. That was the main idea of My Obsession.
JUST AN ILLUSION
This song was written about the same time as My obsession but didn’t make the cut back then. Somehow the song wasn’t of such importance then as it is form e today. I didn’t fight for it when the label didn’t want to put it on our second album but somehow throughout the following years I always found myself humming it and singing along to the melody. It was then, that I realised the meaning of the song had also shifted. The production took the longest for this one since the orginal demo had a complete different sound and was more of a guitar heavy rock-electro song. The synth in the intro is an homage to Bowie’s ‚Ashes to Ashes’. It was a journey to get the song to where it is now but I love Nico Rebscher who produced it and he’s on of the most talented and creative producers I could work with. Lyrically, I sing about the way our imagination can shape the reality we live in. How we try to hold on to our dreams in between of obstacles that we must face and that dancing it all away can save us in the end since none of it is real.
LOVERS WHEN IT’S COLD
I just can’t help but to think that I would have been a superstar if I had lived in the 1980s. This synth pop mid tempo gem once again shows my love for the music of that decade. It’s a new romantics song infused with modern synth pop. I co-wrote that song yet again with Michelle and Seth, this time joined by another super talented songwriter from LA called Tofer Brown on a typical cold day in autumn where you just wouldn’t want to leave the house. On a day like that you can feel a special need for love. The song’s about an unhealthy relationship in which you need one another not because you like to have them around but because you are afraid of being alone. In a way it’s still a beautiful thing to be together but there’s a bittersweet twist to it cause it’s like an addiction you don’t want to get rid of.
FACE TO FACE
Face to face was in fact the first song to be recorded to eventually be released as part of the album. Actually, it even was one of the first songs I recorded when I went back to the studio after Cinema Bizarre disbanded. It was written by Alex Geringas as he knew that I was looking for material reminiscent of the 1980s. The vibe was very Duran Duran to me with Bowie-esque deep vocals. I recorded the first demo back then in Hamburg with Alex, who is living in Los Angeles now, writing amazing pop songs for songbirds like Kelly Clarkson. He’s a great, super-talented guy and it was a fun day at the studio. I was happy to feature the song in my Russian show „Strange New World“ and came back to it when we decided to record new material for the re-release with the label. The version on the album, however, was produced by Timo Loosli in Berlin.
The first time I heard this song was in the studio with Michelle and Christian as we wrote ‚Hearts are Digital‘ together. We were talking about several song ideas when one of them mentioned a track that they had been working on in the past with Ben Ivory that wasn’t released though. The instant they played me that song, I fell in love. It still had Ben’s vocals on it and I’ve been a fan of his work for some while and couldn’t understand why that song didn’t make the cut. There was a certain energy that reminded me of Madonna’s „Rain“ which will always be one of my favourite songs. All the harmonies in the chorus and the thumping bass gave me the chills. I needed to have this song and persuaded Michelle to hand that one over to me. I think regarding the songwriting it truly displays Michelle’s incredible talent and it’s one of the best songs of the album. However, I feel like the production doesn’t really do the song justice since we didn’t have enough time to work on it. I still remember my manager asking me whether I want to use the song for the album or not since I really wasn’t sure about the production. Many people have told me that it’s one of their favorites so I am really happy that it made the cut in spite of my doubts.
This song was written during a weekend in Budapest with two Hungarian producers and Michelle. It was the first time I went into a recording studio after the death of my father. The great thing is when you create something, that you can create something that you need, want to hear or couldn’t find. This song was what I needed back then, but I wanted to hear and feel.
NOT MY GOD
Sometimes I write verses and little poems into a book that I take with me and this song was built from one line taken from a small verse that was called „I don’t pray to your God“. It’s premise is easy to understand and not wrapped in any metaphoras or hidden in symbols. I am a spiritual person but not a religious one. I reject the idea of praying to a text book god because text books teach me that too many wars have been fought in the name of these. The fact that different ideologies and believes are the reason for hate and violence saddens me every time I turn on the news or read the papers. Love is universal and only the universe can save us.
Depeche Mode have always been a huge inspiration for me but when it came to the beat, I wanted to go full Master & servant with this one. The first version of the lyric was called „Work the machine“ but I completely reworked it with Michelle and turned it into the song it is now. Most parts of the original text was kept though and just slightly changed. Apart from the title the whole song is a homage to the film… Metropolis obviously.
Another song that we’ve written in Budapest. The whole idea started before we went tot eh studio during breakfast. I was still caught up in my last relationship and felt like I couldn’t be free yet. I needed a mantra to remind myself to finally let go. I love the story and the visuals of the verses.