TJ - Love Letters From Cyberspace

TJ - Love Letters From Cyberspace
TJ - Productions 2010

Monday, December 19, 2011

What a great year

After an afternoon concert and an evening DJ session at The Urban Retreat in Birmingham during their Yule Tide Party on Friday, December 16th 2011 this year has been a really awesome one for TJ with many concerts and many nice comments about the Love Letters From Cyberspace CD.

The next album is currently in production and so the story continues!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Live on stage

TJ and special guest Neil Arthur Williams at the Ward End Christian Spiritual Church, where they both performed their respective sets to an apreciative audience.

Next TJ gig: 16.12.2011 @ Our Urban Retreat, 22a Caroline Street, Birmingham

Saturday, December 3, 2011

More gigs

We are happy to announce yet another TJ concert before Christmas.

While the concert at the Ward End Spiritualist Church on December 10th featuring special guest Neil Williams (see picture) is only a week away, TJ will perform and then DJ on Friday, December 16th 2011 during the Yule Tide Party at the Our Urban Retreat spiritual centre at 22a Caroline Street, Birmingham.

And guess what: Entrance is FREE, too

What more could anyone ask for!!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Pictures from the gig at Cafe Blend in Birmingham

Sunday, November 27th 2011 saw Thomas "TJ" Janak perform songs from his back catalogue as well as brandnew tracks to an audience at Birmingham's Cafe Blend.

While some people just seemed to have time for their drinks and their mobile phones, others were very appreciative of TJs songs.

Songs from a possible future release went down well indeed.

Next stop: Ward End Spiritualist Church Birmingham on Sunday, December 10th with special guest Neil Williams

Quite a lot on offer at Cafe Blend

After the gig with some members from the audience

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Album # 14 in progress

TJ is still promoting the "Love Letters From Cyberspace" CD and will be doing so for a while, while the next album is slowly taking shape.

TJ has decided on a title: TJ - The Rainbow Bridge and has already created a blog for it.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

TJ Live @ Cafe Blend in Birmingham

We can now confirm that TJ will be performing live and free of charge at Cafe Blend* in Birmingham on Sunday, November 27th 2011 from 6.30pm

* - Unit 4, Orion Building, Navigation Street, Birmingham B5 46A

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Artwork explained - the visible part of the music

All the releases have been as much a personal journey as well as a journey through two decades of ever changing styles and musical tastes.

I always felt that a CD cover should be taken as seriously as the music itself and although I have often somewhat failed in producing album covers that highlight and reflect the mood of the songs, it wasn't for lack of trying.

Have a closer, in-depth look at the thought process behind the artwork:

1. Digital Dreams - German Groove - released 1990

Not a great album and, admittedly, not a great cover either. The idea of using a portrait of myself and my then girlfriend and now ex-wife # 1 was loosely based on the famous Kraftwerk "family day out" pictures from their mid 1970's release "Trans Europe Express".

I like to think that both the music as well as the artwork have improved heaps since then.

After all, the very first album of mine was a collection of raw, unfinished songs, recorded on a 4-track tape machine.

2. Exzess - Technological Age - released 1992

The album was a collaboration between myself and Armin Schwarzfeld, with whom I had played together very briefly in a band called "Spirit of souls" in 1985. I met him again in 1991 and we started working on an album straight away.

He had his own little 8-track machine and a few synthesizers and I had a Commodore Amiga 500, which complemented his equipment well. We recorded 2/3 of the album in his room and I had recorded some tracks in a studio, where some future songs took shape as well.

I met Franca Pettrich during the making of the Exzess album and continued my Digital Dreams project with her after the Exzess album was finished.

Armin and I thought long and hard about the artwork and wanted the album to be as mystical as the music appeared to be at the time. My brother Hans Juergen had made some masks and we asked him if we could use one for the cover.

We went to a photographer and used portraits of ourselves for the inside of the tape and the mask was placed on a red shirt and photographed and became "Exzess".

Another handcrafted mask made by my older brother Hans-Juergen

3. Digital Dreams - Hitech Systems - released 1994

Techno and trance rode high in the charts back in 1994 and it was a great time to have an album out back in those days. We were young and daring and the album managed to climb to # 4 in the DRMV charts and we ranked among the Top 10 of all unsigned bands in the Rhein/Main area and enjoyed great success with the album as it opened doors for us to play at a Star Trek convention and later at a festival in front of 6000 people before performing in a high-security prison.

I have no idea why we put a truck on the album. The yellow background is in fact sand blown up and enlarged and it would have made a far better cover without the truck and the spelling error - then again, nobody cared. Artistic freedom is a great thing.

The music on the album is very electronic and soundwise very unique and it all worked well together.

Photoshoot for the album 1994

4. Digital Dreams - Vesicula - released 1996

I collaborated with many musicians on this full-length album and could only afford to have it released on tape.

All songs were recorded in a first-class studio in Frankfurt/Germany, where I could record a bit cheaper than most artists, simply because I had worked with the studio owner/soundengeneer on a number of releases already. Having said that, it was not cheap by any stretch of the imagination.

I was only able to put together my own little studio around 2004/2005.

Vesicula is a medical term for sperms and "life will find a way" is a theme that I explored on the album as it explores relationships among other things. Using a supersonic image was a great idea and also cheaper because the image was black and white and therefore cheaper when it came to having the artwork duplicated.

In retrospect, the cover isn't as strong as I wish it would be but as an unsigned artist one gets used to working within limitations.

Originally released as a MC, many songs found themselves re-released on later Best Of albums

Inside the tape

5. TJ - Pure Love - released 1997

After my techno/trance/dancefloor years I prepared for my very first solo record, which came in the shape of a 20-minutes-long EP.

After dressing up a lot for stage and photoshoots during my times in/as Digital Dreams, I wanted to portray a seriousness for the first TJ solo outing, that's why I chose to wear a suit on the front cover.

The idea was to remind people of the new romantic era in pop history as well as preparing some of my followers for a radical break from all that came before, even though it wasn't that radical a break.

I was in the process of getting divorced when recording started in 1996 and I wanted to dedicate the album to my son Kevin, which I did and he is on the cover as well.

We shot the pictures in my licing room and played around with the lighting to create a shadow of sorts. The "black strip" that underlines the title of the CD is my upside down couch. The room was a mess but it was so much fun.

The Gods were on my side in those days as the album turned out to be a real winner. It managed to get to # 1 in the DRMV charts and the reviews were all very positive.

Three different guitarists are playing on different tracks on the album and to this day it is one of my favourite releases.

Booklet Page 4

During the photoshoot for the "Pure Love" cover (1997)

06. TJ - Darker Than Black - released 1999

After the success of "Pure Love" I felt the need to go against what I had just done and recorded fully digitally and without any other musicians. The cover was shot by a professional photographer and I used a different recording studio to get away from previous influences.

The background wasn't yellow but green and we changed it simply because it didn't fit. The portrait was sort of based on George Michael's "Older" CD cover where one side of his face is hidden, which I thought was rather cool.

The 6-track-CD impressed quite a few people and I was invited to perform on TV and was also been given the opportunity to have a video done for the title track, free of charge.

Of course, some critics said that the album has " a home recording charm" and was "too Europop".

Still from the video shoot to "Darker Than Black"

1999 on German television perfoming the title song and talking about the CD

This is how the CD itself looks

07. TJ - Midnight Dreamer - released 2000

The 1999 CD "Darker Than Black" was very Europop and I was using the same instrument to work on all songs for the "Midnight Dreamer" but the album is completely different to the Darker Than Black CD.

The reason for this is because a) this was my very first TJ full-length album and b) I wanted to highlight myself as a songwriter rather than a sound-manipulating-musician as I had done on some of my albums. The Midnight Dreamer has a much more acoustic feel to it.

While promoting the Darker Than Black in London in 1999 I came across these fun-o-mats where you could make pictures with different backgrounds for £1,- and the picture that ended up becoming the front cover was one of those.

Ultimately, the picture shows a reflection of a person (myself in this case) and I always liked the idea of being a reflection of moments in time. Also, being "behind glass" as it were added some quality to the cover.

08. TJ - Eternity - released 2002

Eternity was released in 2002 and was my very first album recorded and produced outside of Germany. It was recorded in Dublin and differs drastically from any of its predecessors.

The CD contained a 12-page booklet with all the lyrics and information as well as this picture

While nearly all instrumentals had been build around loops in the 'drag&drop style' all vocals were recorded at Dublin's Sun Recording Studio in Temple Bar.

The sound is much darker than usual and on the strength of this CD I was accepted on a digital media course despite the fact that there was a long list of applicants who wanted to participate.

Burned out cars was a common sight in Ireland and my then brother-in-law photographed the one I chose for the cover. In my mind this car was on display there forever from now on and it would become a burden on the landscape, nothing more and I thought about how said that was thus "Eternity" both the song as well as the album title were born.

09. TJ - Sensitivity (the very best of) - released 2005

Released in 2005

Every artist is different - when my mother passed away in April 2004 it was clear that I would put together an album with all the songs she liked plus a few new ones and dedicate it to her.

Maybe I went a bit overboard with it as the cover also contains a picture of her grave but it was a good way to deal with the grieve and the void she had left behind.

The album was ready for the world in early 2005, which also marked my 25th anniversary as a musician/songwriter, therefore the album served more than just one purpose.

For the cover I wanted to appear hidden or obscured and I thought that would be achieved easily by putting my hands up in front of my face.

The label for the CD

The original cover before it received a 'colour treatment'

10. Digital Dreams - Best Of - released 2008

In 1988 I had renamed my music project "Travel Direction" to "Digital Dreams". Between 1990 and 1996 three albums followed under that name and all throughout my 'techno/trance/dancefloor' years my best friend Michael Seib would patiently listen to and genuinely like my music.

He passed away in 2006, aged 36, after a short battle with cancer. When the 20th anniversary of Digital Dreams came around I thought it would be nice to dedicate a CD to him, so I put together the best of compilation and added some new songs to the album.

Digital Dreams had been quite succesful and had enjoyed quite a bit of media attention. Since the album highlights output from a number of years the idea of making a collage from all the newspaper - clippings came to mind and somehow stuck.

11. TJ - Painted Dreams - released 2009

In late 2008 we'd moved from Dublin to Ballymore Eustace, where we lived in a very quiet cottage, surrounded by mainly cows and sheep and only a stone-throw away from the magnificient Blessington Lakes.

Needless to say that the scenery very much affected how I wrote and recorded songs.

The pictures used for the album aren't drawings but photographs altered with a cheap photo editing and altering software. No photoshop was used.

Before the album was finished a video(which is out of sync, unfortunately)was shot at the lakes and I wanted to have as much nature as possible in the video and on the CD cover.

Picture of the Blessington Lakes, which became the back cover image of the "Painted Dreams" CD.

Once I had the cover it was easy to find a suitable title for the album.

12. TJ - Love Letters From Cyberspace - released 2010

Another emotional abum recorded in my small studio in the Irish countryside. The songs for the album came together pretty quick and, to me, it feels almost like a second "Painted Dreams" album and I wanted the cover to somehow reflect that yet be different.

For a while the working title of the album was "Crossroads" and I had planned to photograph a worn-out road but once I saw PK's drawing of the couple sitting "underneath the perfect sky" on her myspace page, I knew I had found the cover.

A couple of emails later I got the go-ahead to use the picture. It was then when I asked her if she had other drawings for the cover and the one with the lake appealed to me very much, especially since the "Painted Dreams" album also has a picture of a lake on the back cover.

PK's original drawing without the writing

Working together with an artist and being able to highlight someone elses work through my CD is a fantastic feeling.

13. Final Composition - Pure - released 2011

I always felt that there is an element of purity in the mellowest of electronic music and that a female vocalist adds some mystique but also some 'clarity' to proceedings.

After playing around with some ideas it became apparent that using the feathers of my parrot Hogan, which he kindly donated, really gives the cover some warmth.

As a juxtaposition, black and white as a theme for the inlay pictures worked well. Sarah Hoyle, who sang the vocals on this production and who is from the West Midlands, suggested the gritty spaghetti junction for a photo shoot and since purity can often be found in the unlikeliest of places, my girlfriend Nicole took many pics of the two of us for the cover.

I turned them into black and white pics and changed the saturation slightly to give it a bit of a harder, industrial feel.

January 2011 at Birmingham's Spaghetti Junction

Artwork explained

There is a decline in CD productions, many albums aren't released in a physical format at all these days, making it more and more difficult for artists to showcase what they are about.

Strong music is one thing but many artists also express themselves visually and branding is everything these days, which contradicts the trend to not release music on CD or vinyl.

There was a time when music lovers found great delight in the artwork of their favourite bands. The Sweet once released an album on vinyl in the pre-CD days that revealed an almost real-looking guitar once the LP cover was opened up.

Kiss offered their fans do-it-yourself kits of a gun in the inner sleeve of their mid-70's album "Love Gun" album and one didn't need glasses to decipher the lyrics.

When CD's came along a lot of the once hailed artworked became secondary, while posters of Iron Maiden's Eddie figure still sold well at gigs for instance.

Being an 'old school' artist who loves any artistic output that comes as a package and includes exciting and meaningful artwork, I will take my albums apart and tell the untold stories behind the cover in soon-to-follow posts.

Please don't settle for nameless downloads. There is a reason why band T-shirts and merchandise still sells well.

Another gig secured

TJ gigs have always been rare. In 30+ years TJ only performed 38 live gigs.

In amazing places one might add as he performed at Star Trek Conventions, a high-security prison and children's homes.

TJ always stretches himself to find venues where people come to listen to music rather than bump around to beats.

What could be better then a Cafe? TJ will be performing FREE OF CHARGE at Cafe Blend in Birmingham on a yet to be determined Sunday. Watch this space!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Bigger and Better

For those who can come along to the scheduled TJ gig on December 10th at Birmingham's Ward End Christian Spiritual Church (Free Entry) a special offer is waiting:

2 for 1 - two full length CD's for only £10,-

Monday, September 26, 2011

TJ Fan Page

For all things TJ, a fan page has now been created on facebook where one can not only listen to countless songs from numerous releases but also check out video clips, pictures and blogs about TJ's 30+ years in music.

Rehearsals for the December gig have also begun.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Listening made easy

We have made listening even easier now. Listen to 28 tracks from different releases right HERE

Listen to the music

In 30+ years Thomas "TJ" Janak's back catalogue is enormous.

Over 1500 songs have been recorded since the late 1980's alone and 176 songs have made it onto the numerous albums TJ has released over the past 20 odd years.

On December 10th TJ will perform many songs from his long musical journey, which is far from over.

The main focus will be given to his 2010 album "Love Letters From Cyberspace" and for lyrics and to listen to tracks from the album please visit HERE.

You may also enjoy listening to some songs from the now abandoned Final Composition project - listen HERE

To get a broader idea about TJ's output we recommend a visit to his 2005 Best of TJ album and his 2008 Best Of Digital Dreams album, the latter showcasing his 90's dance/trance output.

Or browse all albums and song snippets here

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

About Neil Arthur Williams

TJ is delighted to have Neil Arthur Williams as a very special guest during his pre-Christmas gig at Ward End On December 10th 2011.

Neil Arthur Williams, a Preston-born and bred resident of Tamworth is a self-employed writer, composer, musicologist and, not least, clinical hypnotherapist. He was a late-starter to musical training and only had his first-ever piano and theory lessons at the age of 27. Now aged 49, Neil is an internationally published composer via the worldwide digital release of his debut album entitled "The Hand of OMG – 34 Eclectic Instrumentals 1997-2011". On the road to this success Neil studied music and composition for 2 years at the University of Birmingham (1997-99) before winning two first-prize trophies at the Tamworth Millennium Music Festival (March 2000), including the ‘Composition Open Category’ first prize and the ‘Best Composer’ trophy for all categories.

He continued his musical training with the Open University for another 6 years gaining a music diploma, a BA with first-class honours, and an MA in Music with distinction (the first-ever awarded to an OU student). He is a recognised and published scholar on the great English composer Gustav Holst and is a world-authority on Holst’s orchestral masterwork The Planets of which he owns at least one copy of every commercial recording of the work ever made.

Earlier this year, BBC Radio 4 made a programme about Neil and his vast collection of material relating to Holst and The Planets. Several of his own piano compositions have been premiered at the annual concerts of the Holst Birthplace Museum and Trust in Cheltenham, of which he is a life member. He has also given talks about the Holst family and their creative output both at the Holst Birthplace Museum and the 2010 English Music Festival. His tastes in music are extremely eclectic, and he intends to perform a variety of music ranging from his own classical compositions to music from the world of media and pop.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Next TJ concert scheduled

TJ will soon be on stage again. The next gig has been scheduled for Saturday, December 10th 2011 3pm and will again be FREE OF CHARGE.

Listen here to some songs from the album that will be promoted.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

TJ's first ever UK gig

After practising for a number of weeks the day had finally arrived and TJ's first ever UK gig took place on Thursday, September 8th 2011 at the Zen Shop in Birmingham/England.

TJ performed the majority of songs from his 2010 album "TJ - Love Letters From Cyberspace" as well as brandnew material. Of course he threw in a few 90's tracks and also performed a song he wrote for a girlband in Dublin back in 2005.

The audience was attentive and the venue being a spiritual shop lent itself very well to TJ's dreamesque songs.

One listener later on went as far as saying that TJ's voice is reminiscent of Neil Tennant from the Pet Shop Boys which is a very nice compliment.

The new PA also worked well!

TJ live in Birmingham

An attentive audience at the Zen Shop in Birmingham