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When I moved to Berlin this summer I met a boy I can call one of my best friends today – Jack Strify. Not also a generous and inspiring personality but also an creative and powerful artist. As his first solo album is just about to be released (November 30th on pledgemusic.com) we talk about his boy band days in the past and what we can expect from him in the future.
RS: Five Years after the last Cinema Bizarre record was released you are finally coming back with an incredible solo project – Illusion. This is something not only your 30 000 Facebook Fans will be excited about, what kind of feelings does this bring to you and why did you think the time for this project was now?
JS: I didn’t want to rush myself, I wanted to give it the time I think it needs and the time that I needed. It’s not my first release though, summer last year I put an EP on iTunes and made some videos for the songs. However, my album is the real thing and more mature and I think the songs are stronger. I am really excited to finally have finished this album and can’t wait to go on tour with my new material.
RS: Was it difficult for you to distance yourself from your former boy-band days?
JS: I think I am at a new beginning with this album and need to establish myself again. People forget artists very quickly. That’s a bad and a good thing for me I think. But for my fans, I have always been there. That’s the amazing thing about our age and social networks. I feel blessed to have them. So this album is also a thank you to them. I wanted to create a bridge with this album: It reflects on my past and foreshadows my future ideas, both blend into the present and create this album.
RS: You have been on several magazine covers, toured with Lady Gaga and lived a pretty glamorous live at a very young age – then the CB ending and a long break. What have you been doing the last years and how was the time after your band time ended…and the question which I am interested the most, did you have something like a Lindsay Lohan period after all?
JS: (laughing) First of all you have to explain me what a Lindsay Lohan period is?
RS: A phase in which you get away from your teenage image and maybe lose yourself in nightlife and its temptations?
JS: Actually, I didn’t want any of this for a short while. So many things have happened within my last band and I have had enough of pumped up egos. I actually went back to school and redid my A-grades, so it seems it’s the opposite of a Lindsay-phase. After a while I started working on music though which eventually resulted in my EP and songs I have played earlier this year during my first live shows.RS: Back to the album, what can we expect from you as a musician and what is it written about?
JS: I like to call the sound of the album Synthwave. It’s new wave, it’s synthpop. It is hugely inspired by my favourite music of the 1980s but transcends that feeling into contemporary pop music. I think the album is pretty diverse but overall it can be described as electronic with an edge. I wanted to incorporate industrial elements on this record. You can hear all that on the first song we have already put on soundcloud to promote the album. It’s called Metropolis and that one is heavily 80s influenced and screams Depeche Mode. Other songs are more beat-driven like the hypnotic Burn/Fear or bittersweet like one song called Lovers When It’s Cold.
RS: 80s vibes and new wave, not exactly the kind of music you get to hear in a modern club. Why did you choose exactly this sound and why didn’t you care about something more commercial for your new beginning?
JS: Most record company people wanted me to start singning in German or do a more dance driven record. I’ve been sent many songs from labels that were straight up dance records but with this album I wanted to have it my way. I listen to so much 80s music at home… it wasn’t really a rational decision to make and just a natural, intuitve feeling. That sound felt right for me. By producing this album without a record company and with the help of my fans (crowdfunding) I felt I didn’t need to follow any trends or what’s on the radio. I didn’t care about that.
RS: Illusions and dreams are topics you are singing about in your songs – can I ask you in what kind of illusion you live and maybe what dreams you have for the future?
JS: I think the world we live in is highly artificial. There are many illusions to fall in love with but I think we actually need them because they make so many things in life more bearable but can be a burden too. I want people to fall in love with yet another illusion: with this album. As long as we are on this planet, we should dance all the worries and cares away.
RS: Although you had a pretty long break, there are thousands of fans who still support you and believe in what you do, why do you think are they still there?
JS: I feel really blessed! I think they feel that I truly believe in what I do. We could only make this album happen together. We have become more of a community through my crowdfunding campaign. I couldn’t have made this album without them and I couldn’t say thank you enough! I can’t wait for them to hear the album first!
RS: Next to a tour in Russia, they made your dream of a solo album come true by crowdfunding and pledging your album, why did you choose the risk to produce it all by yourself and not get signed to a big record company with budgets and experts?
JS: When you make an album and you have a record company supporting you, they want to have a saying in everything you do. They might have a point in some things but sometimes they also don’t have a single clue. I don’t say I will never be signed to a label again – actually I am in discussion with some labels at the moment – but I wanted to seize the oppurtunity and make this album independently. It’s also an answer to all the critics saying pop music is less credible and just a product of money-hungry record bosses. No, it isn’t. This is the music I want to make and not to get rich and super famous but because it’s fun. I am an unconventional self-made pop star somewhere between mainstream and independent pop. With this record I can shut those voices up and I can proof my point.
RS: Beside all your supportive followers you also have to experience (especially during the last months) criticism and hate. What does online bullying make you feel like and is there something you’d like to tell those people?
JS: The tone and way people act on the internet is more aggressive and hateful compared to when I started putting out records in 2007. I’m a digital native and the internet has always played a huge part in my life but there really wasn’t this big hate culture on MySpace. This is something I have to get used to but if you want to reach people, there are always a few black sheep who project their hate and frustration on you. I think that critisicising my work and music is one thing but hating on my friends and private life is sometimes kind of difficult to deal with. Usually, I try not to react to it because it will mostly only add fuel to the fire and I also understand that sometimes things in the internet get misinterpreted too easily. In the end, I remind myself that I don’t want to be everybody’s darling anyway and that polarising means that I must do something right.
RS: Androgynous looks, society criticizing phrases and unconventional make up, as a boy who also is living this way of life, I may know how difficult a life like this may be on the street, but how is it as a musician in Germany?
JS: I think there’s a tendency in Germany that people prefer the boy/girl next door. Even in music business. Very often I feel like an alien. And I don’t even think that I am doing anything special but this position also gives me the oppurtunity to go even more extreme in the future. It is 2014 but sometimes people still seem incredibly conservative and easy to shock. It seems too confusing for people that there are more than the labels they are used to. For so many people, only gay and straight seems to exist, even bisexuality seems to be invisible for them. They hold on to the idea of men and women being from different planets but gender is something extremely diverse. All those labels are just more illusions they hold on to so they can deal with their ideas of life. Being a musician might give you more freedom regarding that look but I know that there are many young people who deal with the same kind of thing and I hope that one day I can do more things like that and make people think more about their boundaries and prejudices.
RS: Your album is just to come out – what do you wish for 2015 or generally for the future?
JS: The way we are going with ths release is quite progressive and new for me. At the end of November my album will be released through PledgeMusic and from that day on, it won’t be available anywhere else. We are planning a proper album release in spring 2015 and start promoting it with concerts in several European countries. I just want to sing and play a lot of shows.