Long Profile (of me as a “music maker”)
I was born on September 42, 1967 (There was no October that year) in the rather small Austrian Town of Feldkirch. Even though I have always been a fan of music, I resisted learning an instrument up until my 20s. Why should I? My main interest has always been the creative side of music, which means the only thing I would have liked to be in music was a songwriter. But I did not see any reason why I should replay something on an instrument, which somebody else has written, thousands have played before me and which would always sound better when you listen to a proper recording of it on a record.
My mother just didn’t want to believe that. One day she came home with a recorder she bought for me. (I am not talking about a video- or audio recorder, I mean the woodwind musical instrument called “recorder”). She wanted to send me to a music school with that, but I immediately went on strike. RECORDER! Of all instruments in the world she picked a bloody recorder!
Why did she do this? Because some “smart music teacher” told her that you always have to start playing instruments with a RECORDER and only afterwards you can work your way up to the “bigger instruments” ...
Some years later, she started her next attempt to make a “representable musician” out of me, so that “the boy” one day could deliver the performance of his lifetime... at a campfire in the forest around the corner in front of 7 people.
For years I told her that the only instrument I would probably, maybe, perhaps, by any chance eventually be interested in would be an electric guitar. And so, one Christmas eve I actually received a guitar. But without the “electric”! A simple wooden “campfire guitar”. The type of guitar I mainly knew from parody and sketches about old fashioned German folk musicians on TV.
Why did she do this? Because another “smart music teacher” told her that you always have to start playing guitar with a simple acoustic guitar and only afterwards you can work your way up to the “electronical” guitars.
Maybe it was also because there were no power sockets in the forest around the corner, but nevertheless ...
For a couple of days, I even tried to make some use of this kinky “folk music thing” and briefly looked into the book called “my first guitar school” which came with it. And what did I find in this “clever book”? Only fingering charts of the most common guitar chords and musical notes of “campfire songs”. At that time, I did not even know what a chord was, and I wondered why on earth guitarists are supposed to press down all 6 strings of a guitar. Up until then I actually believed that the only reason why guitarists even touch their guitar strings with the left hand is because that’s the way to end a note, which they just played with their right hand, or they correct their playing mistakes with that method. At that time, I really thought that you can always only play one note at a time on a guitar (just like on a recorder).
Well, I did find it rather strange though, that guitars only have 6 strings and I always wondered how they can play whole songs with just six notes, but my explanation for that was that the people who write melodies for guitars always take care that they only use 6 different notes in every song and that this would probably be the reason why rock-guitarists often change their guitar after every other song. So, I believed that they have one guitar with these 6 notes, another one with other 6 notes and so on ...
Well ... after that misunderstanding was resolved, and I found out how you can really play solos on a guitar, I tried to replay some guitar solos from popular Rock songs on my “campfire guitar”. However, that didn’t sound much better than if I’d tried that same thing on the laundry rack in our house. According to my mother, this was because I just could not play. According to me this was, because this was just a bloody “campfire guitar” and not a REAL ONE!
You don’t want to know what I considered to be the proper use of such a WOODEN “campfire guitar” at a campfire ...
Soon after that I also realized what chords on a “campfire guitar” are good for: For creating “background music” in case there’s someone who sings. To make the whole thing sound at least a little bit like music. Something nice and innocent in the background, perfectly suited for people like my old neighbour Mr. L. who became “famous” with songs like “Put on the safety belt, my dear Margret” and who was THE superstar of the Kindergarten road safety education program on the local radio. But that wasn’t actually where I wanted to go musically ...
During the 80s my musical “career” looked like this: I was considering myself to be the most talented songwriter of all time who is just a little bit misfortuned, because he never learned to write musical notes, sing or play any instrument and so he would always forget his terrific song-ideas with world hit potential.
But then – in 1993 – the biggest technical innovation of all time (for me) was released – the “multitrack audio cassette recorder with built in mixing console”. With this I could do what I was always dreaming about: Record my own songs on a number of audio tracks, by adding one instrument after the other until the whole thing sounds as if it was played by a complete band.
I immediately knew, I MUST have one of these and now I really have to teach myself playing instruments ASAP. Not only one instrument, but many. At least the most important ones: e-guitar, e-bass and bongos!
Bongos? Yes, BONGOS! Because a drum kid would have been too big, too expensive and too loud (for practicing). But bongos were small, inexpensive, quiet and completely “unpretentious and easy going”.
All of a sudden, I found myself eagerly practicing playing guitar and bass. Learning chords however was something I bypassed elegantly, after I found out that it would also do if I just press down only 2 guitar strings at a time. This method would also give me some kind of a “chord light” and I used my multitrack audio cassette recorder to record several guitar tracks one by one in order to tinker myself some chords later “in the mix”.
I also developed myself an “elaborate” method how to learn playing guitar and bass:
I used a small audio mixing console and combined the outputs of my CD-player and my e-guitar or e-bass, so that I could always play along with my favourite Rock- and Pop-songs. I always added some “creative guitar solos” or “groovy bass lines” during the whole song. Of course, I only used headphones for this, so nobody could hear it, which was especially important in the beginning, when the ratio of right and wrong notes I played was about 50:50.
My consideration behind this studying technique was the following: Using this method I could play with the best musicians in the world and if it sounded weird, then the one who played wrong would always be me! But if I had played in a band at that time, I would not have found any other band mates then Duffy, Wuffy, Huffy and Luffy who were beginners like me. And in such an amateur band it wouldn’t even matter if I played right or wrong. It would always sound weird anyway.
In the LONG RUN this method really worked out and I learned to play some instruments that way. In addition, I learned a lot about arrangements by adding instruments to an already existing sound pattern. Later I used the same method to learn playing keyboards.
My SHORT TERM problem however, was that patience was not one of my core competences, so after only a couple of weeks practicing I considered myself to be good enough in playing guitar and bass and already started recording my first self-“composed” songs. But I did not just “leave them in the drawer”, I already used them as “soundtrack” for my movies "So Nicht" and "Was soll das" which I was working on at that time.
The movies were quite well received but this was surely not BEAUSE of my music, it was DESPITE my music! At that time, somehow nobody dared to honestly tell me that replacing professional music by well-known artists with my own music was as much of a “progress” for my movies as if a beer brewery would decide to replace hop and malt with frankincense and myrrh.
Nevertheless, I managed to learn from these “imprudent snapshots” and from then on, I took as much time as necessary for my songs and stopped to make two songs out of every half idea. Furthermore, I realised that I just have to throw away something that’s just not good enough more often.
By the end of 1994 I had 5 songs ready. All of them instrumentals. Here is one of them:
"Blancmange" from 1994
Even tough I did my best to make the songs as different as possible, in the end they all sounded the same, because there were always the same 3 instruments on every track: guitar, bass and bongos! That’s when I realized, I’m in a “dead-end street” with these 3 instruments, and the only way to get out is to learn myself how to play keyboards.
Looking back at it now, it seems a bit strange that it took me many years to realize that keyboard is THE instrument a studio musician like me needs and guitar is “nice” but not really important. But these were just different times. It was the 90s, “guitar music” was very popular, every youngster wanted to be a “guitar god” and “keyboard music” was a bit “80s style and out”.
The great thing for me was, that when I started to play keyboards in 1995, suddenly the “whole world of musical instruments” became available to me. By that time you could already play virtually every instrument on a keyboard through a synthesizer/sampler. I was very enthusiastic when I learned that I could easily play instruments like piano, strings, saxophone or even some unknown world instruments on a keyboard and add them to my songs. This technical progress has been continuing ever since. Every year new very realistic sounding sampled instruments arise on the market as software instruments and it becomes harder and harder to tell if there’s someone playing sound-samples on a keyboard or someone playing the original instrument.
By the end of 1996 my first album "Cold Flame on Hot Ice" was ready. In the beginning I released it as an audio cassette. And “released” at that time meant “handmade and given away for free”, even to people who did not really want it.
When I began to torture my family, friends and acquaintance by imposing my cassette or (self-burned) CD of “Cold Flame on Hot Ice“ to everyone, I became rather “allergic” to a certain comment: “There’s nobody singing here!”
That’s when I realized that I can go roar with my instrumental music, as most people in my age were only interested in standard pop- and rock music and had no understanding whatsoever for this “strange thing where nobody sings”. Instrumentals were “alien music” for most of them.
Even though I knew it is impossible, I somehow still wanted to make music which EVERYBODY likes and that’s why I brought myself to the point when I finally began to sing on my songs in 1997. Not the best idea I ever head, I might add ...
I called my second album, which I recorded between 1997 and 1999 “Greatest Hits Vol. 53” to make it sound as something a little bit “more”. However, this “ingenious” album title idea could not really conceal that there’s obviously somebody singing who never really wanted to sing and somehow STILL DOES NOT WANT IT. As a singer I had this magic “I-don’t-want-to-be-here charisma” in my voice and as a “sound engineer” I knew that and constantly tried the impossible thing to hide my lead vocal in the background of the mix as much as I could.
On the technical side I upgraded myself a lot at that time. I now had digital recording equipment and I also improved a lot in playing instruments, composing and arranging. But ... well ... what’s it all worth when I “blow up” the whole thing in the end with my vocals?
But it wasn’t only my voice. It was also my LYRICS! Even today it still pulls all my guts together when I think about it that I actually “let those lyrics out” at that time. It only took about a year for me to realize that. Already in 1999, I was completely annoyed by my (somehow late adolescent) lyrics and my own voice. My reaction was that I made instrumental versions of 7 of the 8 tunes and ... behold ... as soon as the voice was gone (and took the lyrics with it) I even began to like these tunes. Here is one of them:
"Frostfire (Instrumental Version)" from 1999
One thing I really hated, was writing lyrics for my songs – especially for ballads. Because I could not use my usual cranky writing style here, which I normally used in my movies and other funny projects. Here I was supposed to write something really serious and meaningful and I considered myself completely incompetent for this, as I never really cared about song lyrics. Usually I always did my best to overhear them and only listened to the music. I never wanted to confine my songs being only about a certain serious subject, so I always tried to find something which sounds somehow philosophical, fits perfectly to the music but does not say much. With other words, I always wanted to say absolutely NOTHING but with powerful words. And all this in English, which is NOT my native language. Phew ... I think in the time it took me to write these lyrics I could have taught a fish alpine skiing ... in summer ... and by talking to him in some bizarre Ukrainian dialect.
Since then I know, there are certain professions for which I am absolutely not born for: Atomic physicist, astronaut, brain surgeon, ski jumper, pope ... SONG-LYRICIST and SINGER!
Shortly before the turn of the millennium I managed to “save” my second album with the instrumental versions and renamed it “Greatest Hits Vol. 54”. And then ... I went on a little musical time out with one very brief and bizarre exception - my first (and most likely also last) LIVE PERFORMANCE as a “musician”:
Even though I always said I am a studio musician only and I will never do any live performances, by mate Bernhard Linder considered it a good idea if I and another of his mates called “Jockl” will join him at one of his concerts as “guest musicians”. Only for the last song of his set and only for jamming around with his band a bit. Even though this was just a small concert in a restaurant in Vienna, I said that the only instrument I would dare to play live would be my small bongos. I thought that I could easily get through this short performance by just playing the same basic rhythm as the band’s drummer on my bongos for 5 minutes and that’s it.
But it turned out “slightly different” than I expected. After Bernhard announced the two of us, “Jockl” played a really long guitar solo and at the end he strikingly pointed over to me and everybody understood his gesture as “Now George will take over with a great percussion solo”. But I had absolutely no idea how I could possibly play an improvised solo on these tiny little things on my knees. For a brief moment I considered it an option to pretend to be dead, but then I decided to go for a somewhat less dramatic solution: I was “faking a technical defect” by just hitting my bongos so quietly that nobody could hear them. Only a couple of seconds later the sound technician came up to me and tried to push the microphone further in my direction. But he was on a “hopeless mission”, because I would consequently react to this by hitting my bongos EVEN MORE QUIETLY. In the end he gave up and pointed to the band that something like: “Can’t fix it! Microphone’s broken! Just play something quickly!”
So, just in case anybody considers asking me for a live performance again. This is how it could end up!
That’s it. This was the rather detailed description of my musical beginnings and all of it happened in the last millennium.
And now (every marketing professional would crack up now) I will use only the last few lines of this “long profile” for an extremely short description of my current musical projects (even though it would be EXACTLY THESE that I am supposed to “sell to you” here. But I rather like to write about my funny failures of the past than about things which turned out to be good):
I am currently working on my first OFFICIALLY RELEASED album (together with the two unreleased ones it would be my third). I gave it the working title “Skurillo Tunes” but it will surely have a different album title in the end.
In September 2019 I started with my first official release. My Halloween song “Hollowine” is now available on all major digital music distribution and streaming services (iTunes/Apple Music, Amazon, Google Play, Spotify, Deezer etc.).
In October 2019 I released my song “Zaluanda” – the soundtrack for my (German language) short movie “Skurillo Tours 3“ on the same stores.
And if everything goes according to plan (which is rarely the case with me) I will have more new music and music video releases starting middle of 2020.
Thanks for your attention!
George Wolf / Interfool