Self-Portrait (of me as a "music maker")

Greatest Hits Vol. 54 CD cold flame cover liegend kl 


I always like to use my homepage and my social media sites to present my creative stuff, but when it comes to writing something about myself personally it's always quite a "tightrope walk" for me. Because I am actually someone who would prefer to go through life completely INVISIBLE and my ideal definition of privacy would be that nobody doesn't know nothing about me ... at most!

However, I knew that this attitude does not really hold up, once I started to release my own music. Spotify, Apple and others have "artis pages" which should be filled with information and even on this homepage I cannot promote my stuff by just writing: "Listen to my songs, but leave me alone. Greetings George"

George Wolf Interfool Icon 2019But luckily, I am also something like a "hobby writer", so I solved that by writing my "self-portrait" like most of the other texts on my homepage:

I intentionally "diluted" everything with my occasionally weird sense of humor, so the reader never really knows if I am really serious.
I wrote quite a lot about entertaining trivialities,
a lot about things that happened ages ago,
I alternately understated or exaggerated things,
left out 99.9% of the actually important stuff...

Just what you do, when you don't really want anyone to look into your life, but you still somehow enjoy writing about it...

So in case you are wondering, after reading this self-portrait, why you still don't know what kind of a guy "that George Wolf dude" actually is ...

So far so good, then let us begin with my ...

„Self portrait“ of me as a "music maker":

I was born around September 37, 1967 (there was no October that year) in the small Austrian town of Feldkirch. After I was born, I was a baby, but that changed later on. 

As I am Austrian, I assume that I am a descendant of either Mozart, Haydn or Beethoven. I did not really check that in detail, but Austria is a small country, somehow all of us are related here.

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 point in replaying 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.

My mother just didn’t want to believe that. So one day she came home with a recorder (the woodwind instrument) and 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 that? 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” ...

1980-05-30 Stereo GW

Some years later, she started her next attempt to turn me into a “representable musician”, 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” part! A simple wooden “campfire guitar” (which was my term for it). The type of guitar I mainly knew from parody sketches of cringey German folk musicians on TV.

Why that? 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. 

For a couple of days, I tried to make some use of this “weird folk music thing” and briefly looked into the book called “my first guitar school” which came with it. It said something about "chords". What the hell is that? And why on earth should you want to press down all 6 strings of the guitar at once with your left hand? You obviously can't hear a thing if you do so, Duhhh... !

At that time, I actually believed that the only reason why guitarists even touch their guitar strings with their left hand is because that’s the way to end a note, that you just played with your right hand, or if you quickly want to correct your playing mistakes with that method. I actually thought that you can always only play just one note at a time on a guitar (just like on a recorder).

Well, I did find it rather strange though, that guitarists only have 6 strings on their instrument. Meaning only 6 notes and I always wondered how they can play a whole song with just 6 notes. But my explanation for that was, that the people who write the 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. They have one guitar with these 6 notes, another one with other 6 notes and so on ...

Well ... after that misunderstanding was resolved, 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 first have to LEARN how to play the guitar. According to me, because this was just a bloody “campfire guitar” and not a REAL ONE!

And sometimes in those days I let my mind wonder: "How long? .... How long does a "campfire guitar” actually burn?"

After a while I finally realized what chords are good for on a “campfire guitar”: For creating “background music” in case there’s someone who sings to it. Something nice and innocent, perfectly suited for people like my old neighbor Mr. L. who became “famous” back in the day with songs like the epic "Schnall den Sicherheitsgurt an, Margarete"! (in English: "Put on the safety belt, my dear Margret”). He 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 ...

So during my childhood my music “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 can't write musical notes, sing or play any instrument and so he would always forget his terrific song-ideas with guaranteed world hit potential. What a pity!

Tascam Portastudio 464

But then – in 1993 – I discovered the biggest technical innovation of all time (for me): The “8-track audio cassette recorder with built in mixing console”. With this I could do what I was always dreaming about: Recording 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. 

Or to put it less spectacularly: What professionals in music studios have been able to do since the 1960s was now available in primitive sound quality at an affordable price for home use.

I immediately knew, I MUST have one of these and now I 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 expensive, too big 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 guitar-chords however was something I bypassed elegantly, after I found out that it would also do if I just play 2 guitar strings at a time. This method would also give me some kind of a “chord light” and that was good enough for me at the time. Problem solved! Where's the "recording button"?

For learning how to play guitar and bass in "high speed time" I developed myself an elaborate method:

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 play along with my favorite rock- and pop-songs. And I always added some “creative guitar solos” or “groovy bass lines” to the songs. 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 ... at BEST.

That was actually kind of cool to hear myself playing together with rock bands like Guns and Roses, closing my eyes, imagine that I am on the same stage with them ... and ruining their performance with my awkward guitar solos ... 

My consideration behind this studying technique was the following: With 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! So I could learn from my mistakes and improve. 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 myself to play some instruments that way. In addition, I got a good practice in arrangements by adding instruments to an already existing sound mix. 2 years later I used the same method to learn myself 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” music for my movies "So Nicht" and "Was soll das" which I was working on at that time. (Well, not "professionally working" ... just as a hobby ... But I guess you already got that from context ...)

George Wolf 1995 Swap-Video George Wolf 1993 Gipsy Train George Wolf 1995 Swap2

However, replacing professional music by well-known artists with my very first homemade songs, turned out to be about as much “progress” for my movies as if a beer brewery would decide to replace hop and malt with frankincense and myrrh from his own gardening.

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 three songs out of every half idea. Plus, I realized that I have to throw away all bad musical ideas immediately and not waste my time on them. 

From time to time, I expanded on that method and I threw away more ideas that I even had, which left me in a bit of a "creative lurch" as I might add.

Cold flame on hot ice cassette

By the end of 1994 I finished the first 5 songs for my first album - all of them instrumentals. But even though 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. Something I tried to avoid in the beginning because that was the 90s and like "everybody" else I rather wanted to be a "guitar god" than a "nerdy keyboard weirdo". 

But once I stared playing keyboards in 1995, I was very enthusiastic about all the new possibilities this opened up for me. Because now I could play virtually any instrument in the world on a keyboard through a synthesizer/sampler. This technology was still rather new at the time, but I could have discovered it a couple of years earlier if I would have ended my “keyboard phobia” a bit sooner.

A keyboard and a synthesizer/sampler is EXACTLY what a “sociopath” like me needs, who wants to do everything by himself anyway when making music.

By the end of 1996 my first album "Cold Flame on Hot Ice" was finished. In the beginning I released it as an audio cassette. And by “released” I mean “handmade by me and given away for free”, even to people who did NOT want it.

When I began to torture my family, friends and others 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!” (meaning "Why? What this, dude?")

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”. This general "I-am-only-interested-in-Hit-Radio-Music" attitude and lack of interest in any instrumentals made me so angry, that I would have gone completely bananas if anyone would have asked me the most annoying questions of all: "When will you finish this thing and record the vocals?"

Even though I knew it is impossible, I somehow still wanted to make music that EVERYBODY likes and by that time I realized I only have TWO options for this:

Either I start singing on my songs, or I find a singer who would sing my ...  ... O.K. correcting myself - I had ONE option!

Forward to 1997: I am now also SINGING on my songs. Yeah !!! 

I called my second (unofficial) album, which I recorded between 1997 and 1999 “Greatest Hits Vol. 53”. But this “ingenious” album title could not really cover up the fact that there’s obviously someone singing here, who never really wanted to sing and somehow STILL DOES NOT WANT TO DO IT.

As a singer I had this magic “Let's-just-get-over-it charisma” in my voice and as a “sound engineer” I knew that and constantly tried the impossible to hide my lead vocal in the background of the mix.

On the technical side I upgraded my equipment a lot at that time. I now had digital recording equipment with up to 32-tracks and I also improved a lot in playing instruments, composing and arranging. But ... what’s it all worth when in the end I “blow up” the whole thing with my unmotivated singing?

What was even worse than my singing were my LYRICS! Even today it still pulls all my guts together when I think about it. Just one year later, in 1999 I realized how horrifying awfully terrible the lyrics of 6 of my 8 songs were. 

On these 6 songs I tried to bring in some strange kind of "humor". However, what I considered "funny" at that time matches exactly how I would define the expression "utterly stupid" these days. If medical science ever finds out that there is something like "humor amnesia" or a "temporary joke-wise death of the human brain", I can totally prove that: Me - 1998 - here we go!

My reaction in 1999 was to make instrumental versions of nearly every song and that saved the album from being useless for me, because the "vocal versions" of these 6 songs became absolutely "unhearable" for me. I would still need either high quality ear protection or general anesthesia if I would have to listen to them ever again.

In the end I renamed the album "Greatest Hits Vol. 54" which was still the most ironic album title I could find.

Greatest Hits Vol. 54 CDWriting lyrics for this album was extremely annoying for me. I absolutely hated it and I always felt that it just keeps me from the REAL music making process and eats up way too much of my time.

I've always had absolutely ZERO interest in (serious) song lyrics. When growing up I soon realized that it just "dumbs you down" if you listen to closely to most lyrics in rock/pop music. Even though compared to country music or German folk music those lyrics stood out like “philosophical masterpieces”, even if they just go "Do do do, Da da da"...

And as a "natural defensive reaction" against disturbing song lyrics I have trained myself to always block out lyrics or their meaning when listening to music. But as a result, I now lacked any “background knowledge” on how to write song lyrics myself.

My hardest struggle with lyrics were two ballads called "Frostfire" and "Vanishing" which - in my opinion - are the two outstanding songs on the album. I am glad that at least on these two tracks I took the task of writing lyrics seriously and I did NOT ruin them too with weird joke lyrics. Because even back then, I knew that humor and ballads fit together like eating a fine plate of hot soup while riding a roller coaster.

So I spent "ages in hell" struggling to find serious lyrics for these two songs, and it took longer that forever to finish my writing. Sometimes I even doubt that I ever have. Even today I sometimes still wake up bathed in sweat, just because I had this haunting nightmare again, that I still haven't finished the lyrics to "Frostfire". And that was way back in 1998!

My expectations in serious lyrics were the following: I wanted to write something that perfectly fits to the music, sounds nice when sung (even by me) and that can easily be overheard by people (like me) who don't care about song lyrics. They should NOT tell a story and should NOT SAY ANYTHING AT ALL, but using GREAT words to do so.

But people who DO listen to lyrics should be completely blown away by their greatness und should go: "Wow, I have no idea what this was all about, but that was EXACTLY what I needed to hear at this very moment, in this particular situation that I am in right here right now. Listening to these lyrics was a life changing experience for me and it made me a better person". 

I am not too sure though, if I really archived that goal. Maybe not ...

To sum it up I would say that what I ACTUALLY wanted to produce between 1997 and 1999 was NOT an instrumental album, but definitely a fine album with vocals. But one without lyrics and ideally you shouldn't hear all that singing at all...

And that concludes the detailed report on my musical beginnings. That was all way back in last century. And now let's switch to the present:

Zaluanda Single Cover Hollowine Singe Cover 2019 Seamless Seasons 1-7 Album Cover

In the last couple of years, I made some film music for my (German) comedy movie series "Skurillo Tours", in 2019 I released two singles called "Hollowine" and "Zaluanda", here is the link to my new album "Seamless Seasons 1-7" and the next one will follow in 2 years. 

Thanks for your attention!

George Wolf / Interfool
in April 2024