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Lake of Tears – Melancholy

We had sex to the music of Lake of Tears. Frequently. The Scandinavian band entered my life in the middle of the 90s and is one of the few influences from the period to stay with me. They are part of my musical DNA. If Forever Autumn was a straightforward metal album I would probably add it to my list of the three best metal albums of all times. But it is different. Its style haunted me for so long that it integrated into my music as an explicit influence.

And so the song title Lake of Tears was born. A song in which I planned to pay tribute to this versatile, great band and also to somehow summarize what I hear in their music. But I am incapable of straight imitation. And so, of course, things turned out differently.

There is an intense connection between my lyrics in this song and the band, one that by far surpasses the title. It is most evident in the refrain which reflects my high regard for the unique mood Daniel Brennare and his bandmates reliably transfer me into.

This song has been new ground for me on many levels and I worked on the production a lot to figure things out. It turned out very differently from what I expected and I am still not sure whether I really like it. Time will tell. I still need to grow as a musician. Grow so very much.

Nevertheless I would like to share this with you.

Seasons

Parts of this instrumental track started out as a kind of study and then merged into this track about seasons. Some parts of it remind me of the track Tristram from the very first Diablo game.

Chocolate Cream

The unique Chocolate Cream Song is my tribute to the supremely delicious food that is chocolate cream. Made of only an avocado, a banana, some cocoa powder and a pinch of salt it is easy to make, healthy, tasty and also paleo, vegan, raw, vegetarian, dairy-free, gluten-free… oh food can be so much these days. Let’s keep it simple: Chocolate Cream is delicious.

And here is the song with an animated video:

Here’s the audio only:

If you want to support me and my music, you might consider buying this track wherever you like: iTunes, Amazon MP3, Google Play Music…it is everywhere.

What is success? The definition of making it.

Success is relative.

And yet our society shares a generalized, very narrow and absolute definition of making it which usually only involves the dimensions of accumulated wealth, social class and fame. Thousands of famous and rich stars who just can not get their lives sorted out clearly show the fallacy of this thinking. Frequent divorces, unhappiness und drug addiction seem nothing worth striving for and are certainly not signs of true success. Most of those unlucky stars will agree. Not even from their own point of view have they achieved success.

A girl managing to keep her promise to run five miles every day has made it. An elderly woman who finally learns to speak a foreign language has made it. They both are truly successful. Only the individual can define success. Furthermore the individual must define success. If you do not know where exactly you want to go you will never know when you get there (but mind you, you can be happy without a specific goal).

To relate this to music: Many musicians dream of making it in the music industry. Which is a vague dream. It usually seems to involve getting some kind of record company to take advantage of you and taking your rights from you in exchange for a measly share of what they define as profit in the form of money, the value of which is fleeting and questionable.

If that is your definition of making it, you might want to reconsider. Think about the fate of people like Jaco Pastorius. Was he successful? He is famous, he is a bass legend. But was he sucessful? Did he make it?

It is vital for you as a musician to ask these questions, to ask where you actually want to go yourself. I spent years practicing the guitar in order to improve my technique to play faster. I never set this goal for myself. Improving technique is just ingrained in our instrumental training culture, particularly on the electric guitar. After six years of lessons I realized that I did not care at all about speed and technique. What fascinated me was composition. From that moment on I was no longer a guitarist but a musician who happened to play mainly the guitar and I picked up the piano again and started to play the drums and sang and wrote a lot more songs. That is where my success started.

Think about the millions of lightning fast guitarists who are unhappy and still have not made it even by their own definitions. Put that in perspective while looking at the many technically sloppy or slow guitarists who are considered successful and revered the world over like Keith Richards or BB King. They, in turn, might consider themselves unsuccessful.

Success, clearly, is not universally embodied by money, fame, involvement with the music industry or technical prowess. Instead it is multi-dimensional and individual. Success is subjective. You can and you will succeed precisely when you achieve your goal.

Thus, you can only be successful if you know what your goal is. In order to make it you need to define what that means to you.

Success starts in your head and ends there. Therefore I will write about finding your making it in my next post: Strategies for guaranteed success.

If you would like to follow me on this journey of making it subscribe to my free newsletter. I am going to write about how to achieve success next and even how not playing music can make you a better musician.

I am going to make it as a musician

Making it as an artist is simple. Based on my experience in the games industry, as a self-publishing author and as a musician I am writing this series to help other artists achieve success. This post tells a story not unusual for many artists.

22 years ago I took my first guitar lessons. Those had not been my first music lessons but it was the first time I knew that making music was going to be an essential part of my life.

I did not want to be a rock star, I did not care about girls melting at my feet or about being cool, whatever that means. I was just madly in love with music.

At that point I had already taught myself the basic chords. It took just an hour and showed me how easy things are when your priorities are set. The following years I spent most of my spare time with a guitar in my hands and playing like a maniac (I just dug up recordings from that time).

22 years ago I was a kid. Which made life even simpler. The only significant duty you have hereabouts is going to school. Guitar and music and school were all I needed to take care of.

Then school ended and things got complicated. Making a living comes into play and opportunities arise and you get confused. I clung to music for years after that but finally gave in and got a proper job freelancing in the video games industry (if you can call that proper in the 2000s). Fascinating, those things called career and work and colleagues and financial pressure: They pushed the guitar to a cobwebbed corner of my life out of which it only slowly made its way back into my life. I kept playing, but rarely and with little thought. And yet I learned vital lessons about creative work. Lessons that without my knowing then would help my success as a musician.

Several years later the games industry bored me and I quit and became a successful self-publishing author. I did not actually plan this. It just happened and it, as well, is quite an exciting, albeit labour-intensive job. Music slowly returned and I found out that I am not really a guitarist but a musician who happens to play mainly the guitar. As a self-publisher I learned many more crucial things about creative work and how to make a living from it.

The greatest love of my life came back with full force at some point in early 2012 and coerced me into writing and recording an album, finishing one song per month. That turned out to become the monster called Blood and Souls.

Two years later I followed that with another album, Love and Passion.

Both were and are successful albums. That is why the title of this post is misleading: In many ways I have already made it as a musician.

Making it is a vague term and I will explore that in detail in my next post. Let us for now agree that the definition of making it depends on your perspective.

As a devoted lover of music I take making it, first and foremost, literally: I have made it as a musician because I keep making music. I compose, I play, I learn. I have failed in the past. Even between Blood and Souls and Love and Passion I have sometimes failed. I will continue to fail from time to time.

But if I were to draw a graph between 1994 and 2016 you would only see a steep drop from 2003 to 2005, a steady increase until 2007 and a dramatic surge back in 2012. We all live through these highs and lows. They key lies in not quitting.

So making it as an artist, in the most general sense, is very simple. You need to make art to make it. It is incredible how many talented musicians already fail at this stage because they expect music, money or fame to just flow their way. But making music is work. Success is not in sitting at home and complaining about the state of the music industry.

Of course there are more specific definitions of making it and success. Those I will explore in my next post in this series.

My experience as a creative professional tells me what I need to do in order to accomplish my goal and I am going to share this knowledge with you. It really is quite simple. Most of the time it is not easy, though.

With many of you I share the desire to spend most of my time just making music. I want to write and play and record and perform and share my music. I am closer than ever before to that goal, yet not fully there.

But I am going to make it.

If you would like to follow me on this journey subscribe to my free newsletter. I am going to write about what exactly making it means next, how to achieve success and even how not playing music can make you a better musician.

Love and Passion for the world

The world could do with a lot more love and passion. So why not check out my brand new, second album Love and Passion?

Look at this magnificent cover artwork by the one and only, the talented artist, decent person and crazy girl, Andrea Christen:

Love and Passion by Felix Olschewski

Does it not tickle you to find out more about what is behind the wolf, the boy and the muse? Click here to learn more and to listen to all the lovely acoustic music for free. You can also buy the album as a very limited edition CD, only 100 copies were made. And if it is too late, why not buy it digitally? If you click here, you can also learn more about every single song on this album and to whom it is dedicated.

Choices

Just when I had pressed down the plunger of the carefully prepared French Press and was about to pour a cup of my freshly ground, cherished Rosetta Asuvim coffee, my Parisian host’s oldest son entered the kitchen, drew a cup from the drip filter machine that had been idling there for at least an hour and rammed it into the microwave. Inside me a little kitten died right that moment before I regained my composure and smiled. This is the variety of life. I like my coffee. You like yours.

We live in a world where you can listen to as much Justin Bieber as you like. And I am free to listen to Richard Einhorn or Miles Davis. If and when I like. We all have these choices. That is beautiful.

Later that day I encounter a café near Notre-Dame that sells their cup of black water for an impressive 6€. I chose to pass on this opportunity to try another cup of carelessly brewed hot beverage. After a while you learn to spot the signs of both careless and careful baristas at work. That allows you to make careful choices, save money and improve your day.

We have all these choices. What makes me sad is how few people are aware of them. Most coffee drinkers know only their black roasted, pre-ground, drip-filtered, microwave-reheated coffee. They are not aware of the alternatives. They do not know about origin, processing, roasting or filter methods. They do not understand that all these factors make a huge difference. They can not believe that coffee can, in fact, taste like tea or juice or chocolate. They live in blissful ignorance.

I smile again, wider this time, when I finally enter the doors of Café Craft and gratefully receive a cup of carefully V60-filtered Ethiopian joy – my first thusly brewed coffee in months. Intense memories of honey still linger on my tongue hours later and the day’s circle closes. And I just can not stop smiling.

I don’t expect for everyone to drink specialty coffee only. Instead I wish for everyone to drink the coffee he or she likes best. That, though, requires education. If you do not know your alternatives, you do not know what you like best. This education every single one of us can take into their own hands. You do not need to study music theory in order to understand jazz or classical music. All you need is your senses and awareness. We have plenty of that but waste it staring at screens or fantasizing about irrelevant things past or future.

If you want to learn more about the choices you have in life, just turn on some music, close your eyes, listen closely to every single sound and be aware of what it does to you. Switch off all expectations. Do not expect the music to do anything to you. Instead watch how your body and mind react to the sounds. And stay aware. Listen to as much and as varied music as possible. Never stop.

That is the only way to find out which type of coffee you like most.

Blood and Souls Acoustic Suite

Blood and Souls Acoustic Suite

This is an acoustic distillate of my Brütal Metal album Blood and Souls. During writing I was actually surprised by how many beautiful melodies went into the original album that I did not really recognize at the time of its creation.

I am very proud of this song and of my vocal performance. By no means am I content with the vocal track and I still have a lot to learn. On the other hand I know exactly where I started singing-wise around two years ago: With nothing. No training, no experience, no practice. Words can not describe how grateful I am to my vocal coach Angelika Norwidat for guiding me through the darkness and giving me confidence that I can learn how to sing. Without her I would not be singing in public today. Without her I would never have written my upcoming album and I might have quit making music altogether.

If you would like to buy this track, you can do so on iTunes and Google Play Music and Amazon MP3 and just about anywhere else.

You owe the world

In his book What to do when it’s your turn Seth Godin basically says:

„Even when you make your art – the world owes you nothing.“

And I think he is right. As an artist I am not owed respect or applause or even recognition. Why would I?

Steven Pressfield, in The War of Art, writes:

„Creative work is not a selfish act or a bid for attention on the part of the actor. It’s a gift to the world and every being in it. Don’t cheat us of your contribution. Give us what you’ve got.“

Again, I believe the author is right. By the way: The War of Art ist a mindblowingly incredible book, you should buy and read it right now.

What those quotations leave us with, though, is this: If you are an artist, you have to give and give and give and never expect anything in return:

You owe the world. No one owes you.

That might sound daunting. At the same time, I think it is liberating.

Go out and rock. Now.

(And get those books, they are priceless.)