The Black Sea Storm adventure started in 2002 in San Diego California. The initial recording gear was pretty basic and quite unusual. I had a Line 6 DL4 Delay Stompbox Modeling Pedal to fake multi-track recording, and a Sony DVC camera to record. I was creating electric bass loops with the DL4. If a loop sounded good to my ears, I would record it with the camera for several minutes. At times, some of the loops I’d come up with, would create this suiting sound ambiance inside of the apartment where I was living at the time in North Park. Each loop would set a particular mood. Listening to the loops over and over again had this pseudo hypnotizing effect on me. It would help me focus, and energize me mentally. At times I would leave the loops go on for long periods of time as background music. The ephemeral aspect of the loops made them special to me. The Line 6 pedal only had a memory for one loop, once I’d hit the switch to start a new loop, the previous loop will be gone forever. Of course I was recording some of the loops with the camera, but the playback did not have the same impact as playing the loops live through a bass amp. At the time, I had hooked an external microphone on the camera to get more of the bass frequencies, but it remained an all public microphone for a all public digital camera. I wasn’t able to record a great range of frequencies.
I was introduced to the Line 6 DL4 by Kenny, a band-mate of mine at the time. We had just started a 3 piece band called Channing Cope in San Diego. Kenny was playing guitar, Chris the drums, and I was playing bass. Kenny, an absolute genius guitar player in my opinion, was using the Line 6 in very creative ways on some of our songs. Since we were a three piece, and we didn’t use much effects, occasionally, when Kenny was using the DL4, it was adding something very special to our sound.
I never used the Line 6 with the band, and I didn’t really used it in the way Kenny was using it either. The DL4 just allowed me to be able to jam alone, and eventually come up with those ambient loops. It served more like a virtual band-mate that I would jam with when alone, rather than a delay pedal. The Line 6 had a very organic way of recording the loops. The more you added layers, quieter the first recorded loops would get. If you were to keep adding layers, the first ones would eventually start fading out and disappear. You could jam for hours, passing from one idea to an other without interruption. I also had the feeling that the electronic components of the actual pedal were adding some extra warmth to the sound.
Vegas and New Recording Gear
I messed around with the Line 6 outside of band practices for more than 2 years. I was first introduced to Vegas by Rafter while recording Channing Cope’s first album “Leaving The Ramp” at Singing Serpent in 2002. In 2004 we returned to the studio to record our second album “Sugar in our Blood”. Rafter was still using Vegas. Later in 2004 a friend of mine gave me a copy of an older version of Sony Vegas. I installed it on my computer, and decided to do some proper digital multi-track recordings with it. Vegas was perfect for me, because it was very easy to use. I had little bit of home recording experience since I had a solo project attempt in the late 90’s when I was still living in Switzerland called “Deniz’s Home”. Back then, all my gear was all analog. I think I recorded about 20 songs. I wanted to physically release them, but the main guy working at one of the coolest record stores back then in Geneva advised me not to do so. He told me that I should get better at writing songs first. I still don’t know if it was a good or a bad advice, it would be nice today to have a physical copy of my first solo album attempt from the 90s. At least to have a good laugh. I’d love to get a hold of those super early songs one day. I know they are on DAT tapes in a basement somewhere in Switzerland.
Back to the story, San Diego 2004. I installed Vegas on the computer bought a pre-amp, a microphone, and headphones. Put the computer in Channing Cope’s practice room. We were using the same DVC camera to record our jams for the band. So the computer replaced the camera, and outside of band practices I was able to do recordings on my own. I had access to drums, and the practice place sounded better than my apartment. Probably because it had carpet on the floor, and on the walls. Also there were about 3 drum kits from all the bands sharing the space. I think having drum kits around adds something interesting to the sound, as they tend to resonate with what is being played and recorded.
With the new setup I was using Audio Technica 4040 as the sole microphone. I would record everything in mono. A year earlier for my birthday Chris had given me the best gift ever! The Recording Engineer’s Handbook by Boby Owsinski. It was a book about recording principles and technics. The book had a pretty kitsch cover photo, but all the information in it was so valuable. There was a passage in the book where Steve Albini was recommending the AT4040. He was saying that it was probably the best mic in terms of quality price ratio. He was also mentioning that the mic was very versatile. The minute after reading that, I remember driving to Guitar Centre to see if they had one in stock. Not only they had one, but the mic had a discounted price on it. I also remember buying a pair of Beyerdynamics headphones DT770. To this day the AT4040 and the DT770 are probably one of the best purchases I’ve ever made in terms of recording gear. I also got a small PreSonus pre-amp named TubePre that was also perfect in terms of quality price ratio. I used the AT4040 for about 12 years. Over time it has lost little bit of brilliance and crispness, but at the same time it sounded as if it had gained in warmth and character.
The “2005” Album
The first recordings with the home studio setup are on the “2005” Black Sea Storm album. I didn’t own nor had access to a guitar at that time. So the songs on that album are made of multilayered bass lines, vocals, and me plying Chris’ drums. By the crispness of the sound, we can hear on the recordings that the AT4040 is brand new. It was a lot of fun to be able to record on my own. Having an active main band, and a side project was a great situation to be in. I could experiment things on my I own, and have the opportunity to get better at creating music. I think it naturally made me contribute more to Channing Cope. I was constantly in situations where I needed to think and create through the bass guitar. It made me love and respect my main instrument even more. Being able to articulate ideas and construct some sort of back bones for songs, is fascinating to me. What I love about it, is that usually it keeps things open for the next layer of instruments.
One of my favorite things to do during this period was, to record a song, make a rough mix, burn it on a CD, and listen to the new song inside my car, on my way back home. Sometimes I wanted to listen to the song over and over again for over a dozen of times, so I’ll extend my route, in order to get more plays out of the ride. San Diego is probably my favorite city on Earth. Combining the pleasures of driving at night on empty streets, listening to something new that I had just recorded, and having the urban scenery as moving visuals, made me feel like the happiest person on Earth. I think, just for moments like these, it is worth recording my own music.
Following the first batch of songs that are on the Black Sea Storm “2005” album, I had a period where I was into writing a song a day. We had just gotten back from a month long US tour with Channing Cope. We had decided to take a bit of time off from practicing with the band. The thing that got me really excited back then, was to be able to record a song in one day and put it on the internet the same day. I would eventually get feedback from someone who had listened to the song in a different part of the world a day later. To me that was truly amazing. It was extremely liberating, to get out from the mentality of writing and releasing albums. The idea that one morning there was no song. During the day I would write and record a new song. At night, I would put it on my website and myspace. The next day a friend from Ankara or somewhere else in the world was able to listen to the song in her mp3 player. I don’t know if it was the proper way of doing things, but it was definitely an exciting moment in my rock journey. At that time, it felt like being in the middle of a big paradigm change in terms of putting music out in the world.
This situation motivated me to constantly produce songs. Also myspace during the actual period was a great place to be. It seemed like there were actually real people with real accounts who really cared about the music on the platform. The exchanges I was lucky to have with music lovers were enriching ones. On myspace Black Sea Storm had a good amount of streams, in addition to all the mp3 downloads from the website. The project had a small, but yet an existing audience. For a “band” that had never played a single live show. That was amazing to me. I started understanding the upsides of having a DIY solo project in the mid 2000’s. It didn’t need band-mates, and it didn’t need a label or a pro recording studio either. Everything was on me. I just needed to produce and produce more. This situation was very empowering. On the less bright side of things, with our main band Channing Cope we started to feel the change. It was getting harder and harder to sell CDs at shows, and in record stores. During that period I was able to record all the songs that are on the “2006” Black Sea Storm album.
I don’t exactly remember if it was late 2007, or early 2008. Around that time, Chris decided to leave the band. Kenny and I wanted to keep going. We moved out of our practice space, and started to play with Brandon of Sleeping People at his practice space. There were a bunch of other bands sharing the room, and we could only go there with Brandon. It didn’t really seemed possible for me to pursue the Black Sea Storm adventure over there. I brought the computer back home, but my amp was most often at Brandon’s rehearsal space. During that period I purchased an acoustic guitar at a pawn shop in Normal Heights, and was able to record some song ideas. For a long while I forgot that I even had recorded those songs. In 2017 I released them as they were roughly recorded and mixed in 2008. The 10 song album is called “Found Acoustics 08”.
After the departure of Chris, we were able survive as a band for about a year, playing shows. We had some amazing ones. We weren’t able to produce new material with the new lineup, but the live experiences with Brandon were very powerful. The way he would lay his drums on our existing songs was just astonishing. Just when I was starting to think that the band may still have a future, one day Brandon called me, and said that he couldn’t keep playing with us anymore. After the departure of Brandon, without any hard feelings, Kenny and I decided to call it the quits. This was the end of the band we had put together in 2002. We were able to stay active as a band for about six years, practicing at least 3 times a week. We played hundreds of shows, and released three albums. The Channing Cope adventure is probably, one of the best things that happened to me in life. It was an extremely fulfilling rock n roll and human adventure.
The After Channing Cope
Kenny and I still wanted to play together, and start something new. Kenny was able to get us a practice space in Carlsbad at his day job. I was able to bring all my gear over there. Kenny had a drum set, so in addition to his guitar gear he brought the drums as well. We were meeting regularly, but for some reason we weren’t able to create anything concrete anymore. Once again, I understood the importance of being a functioning band in which the contribution of each member is so important. Without Chris being in the room, the creative process wasn’t working the same way. It was a sad, and a strange situation. The three of us were able to create music on our own separately, or as a band, but the two of us couldn’t. After several unproductive writing sessions, we kind of understood that this wasn’t going anywhere. Then Kenny did something that only a true brother would do. He let me use the space for Black Sea Storm, even if we were not to play together anymore. He let me use his drums as well. He was even able to convince his boss to let me come alone at night to make music. I was blown away by the fact that his boss was fine with me making music on site without Kenny being there with me. It took me 45 minutes to get to Carlsbad, and 45 to get back home. I didn’t mind the commute at all. On my way up there, I would listen to my song ideas and prepare myself mentally to record. And on my way back, I had almost an hour to listen to what I had just recorded. It was a lot of fun. Driving on the 5/805 when there’s no one else, often gave me the sensation that I was flying a plane.
Having Access to Guitars
In early 2009 I started working for a friend of mine named Daniel. He had a on the side small eBay business. I was helping him sell the stuff on the platform. I had some extra room where I lived at the time, so I was able to take care of the transactions, and the logistics for shipping. I soon discovered that Daniel was really into guitars and music gear. He didn’t seem to consider himself a musician, but he had way more knowledge about gear than most musicians do. Our individual tastes in music were different, but we did have very similar appreciation for music gear. He was all about good sounding vintage stuff, and good quality boutique amps and pedals. I later discovered that he had a pretty serious guitar collection. He was occasionally selling and buying gear online. He also put me to work to sell some of his guitars and effect pedals. In the meantime he allowed me to record with them. All of sudden, my job of selling stuff on eBay became the best job ever. In addition to the stuff I was selling, Daniel let me borrow a bunch of gear like a 74 Fender Super Reverb guitar amp, a Keeley 4 Knob compressor, a pedal board, and more…
I was still initiating the song writing process with my bass guitar. Having access to all the guitar gear, allowed me to add guitar tracks on top of the bass and the drums. Most of the songs recorded during that period are on the “2009” Black Sea Storm album. I was able to record everything at Kenny’s work in Carlsbad, with his drums, and with the gear that Daniel let me borrow in addition to the gear I already owned. I could never thank them enough for their support.
Moving Back to the Old Practice Space
By the end of 2009 my working situation had evolved in exciting ways. I was still working for Daniel, besides the business on e-Bay, he put me to work to help him to get his upcoming new restaurant to be ready for business. In 2010, A couple weeks before the grand opening he offered me a new job opportunity with high responsibilities at his restaurant. One day during work, Nick showed up. Nick was very active in the San Diego rock scene. He was playing lots of shows with his band Republic of Letters, and was constantly booking tours. On top of all that, he was the managing the rehearsal studios where we used to practice with Channing Cope. Of course we started to talk about rock, and our current situation as musicians. I told him that I had access to a rehearsal space in Carlsbad, but now that I had this new job, it was a bit more difficult to find time for the commute to Carlsbad. He told me that I could move in to their rehearsal space in Clairemont, bring all my stuff, and use his drum set. He told me that he would charge me just like one musician and not like a full band. This was a great opportunity for me. The practice place was 11 to 15 minutes away from the restaurant, and I already knew that the space sounded good for my recordings.
After moving into the new/old practice space, I started this pretty insane routine. I would usually get off work between 11PM – 12AM. Drive to the practice space, and record until the next morning. I would sleep for 5 or 6 hours and go back to work. I would do this 5 to 6 days a week. Since I would be recording late at night, there was no band practicing in the entire complex. So no dudes trying to learn Stairway to Heaven or having a double kick drum pedal action next door. This was ideal for recording, since no sound leeks from the neighbors. I never had to interrupt a session because someone else was practicing next door. This whole era was one of the happiest periods of my life. It was so fulfilling. I had an amazing job, and finally was making some decent money. I had the best boss in the world who understood what is to be a rock musician. I had a 24/7 access to a practice space close to where I worked. What else one can want out of life? Yes, live shows maybe? Well, during the same period Kenseth from Sleeping People, asked me if I could play the bass for his solo project. We’ve played a bunch of shows together. The line up would slightly change from show to show, but the musicians participating in helping out Kenseth on his solo project were all amazing musicians.
In the new practice place, I started to write some new material. Until this point in time, all my lyrics were in English. I did not have a particular desire to sing in Turkish. As a matter of fact, I never thought that I could write decent lyrics in Turkish. My references for Turkish lyrics where either from extremely deep and poetic authors, or from songwriters with a predictable approach, thus uninteresting to me. The level of people who mastered writing good lyrics in Turkish seemed always unreachable. I don’t consider myself a singer, but more like a guy who sings. And the most important thing for me when singing, is to be myself. Therefore, I wasn’t going to write lyrics the way a wandering minstrel from Sivas, Türkiye would, or attempt to imitate my favorite Turkish Rock artists from the 70s.
At that time I didn’t know any artist among the current generation with a similar approach to the one I had in English. I could not relate to anything that existed, saying, oh yeah I could of written something like that. In a way, I had a voice and a style that corresponded to me in English, but not in Turkish. At least not yet.
One day something unexpected happened. I started putting together a song called “Onca Onsuz”, and when it was time to lay down the vocals, I started writing the lyrics in English as usual. By the time I hit the first verse, I started to sing in Turkish. It was so natural. I almost had no control over what I was writing about. It was a sort of an automatic writing situation, but at the end, even though the lyrics had most of the time this abstractness to them, somehow they made sense. It also felt like they had a higher poetic quality than my lyrics in English. It was really exciting, but at the same time I didn’t know if this sort of subconscious inspiration in Turkish would last or not. After “Onca Onsuz”, I wrote “Boş Yelkenler Altında”. I couldn’t believe that I was the one writing those lyrics. It was very exciting, and at the same time surprising to be able to sing in my native language. Only after laying down the tracks, I would get a sense of what really emerged in terms on meaning. It was a bit like revisiting dreams. I still don’t know how it works, but I enjoy the process a lot.
Once I understood that I could sing in Turkish, I got really excited by the idea of Turkish Rock made in USA. My music project now was going to have some sort of a cultural experimental component to it. Back then, I had plans to put a Black Sea Storm band together to play shows. So I started to project myself into the future, and try to guess how people would react, if with Black Sea Storm I had the same types of tours that we did with Channing Cope. Playing all bunch of different US states, and singing in Turkish on stage. Would it help the band to differentiate itself? Would the hipsters of the United States of America find it cool? Would I get shot on stage? Or maybe, it would have not been an extraordinary thing for people, since not many people actually listen to the lyrics.
Beyond these questions, being able to sing in Turkish in the US felt extremely good. It sort a gave a sense to my entire rock journey. I was born in Ankara, learned how to play in Geneva, was able to tour and play shows in the US. Now I had my own project bringing together everything I had learned and developed in these different places. It felt like, the natural evolution of the music I was creating, was getting even more aligned with who I was as a person.
First Physical Release
Since now I was singing in Turkish, I had this idea to have 7 inch release for “Once Onsuz” and ”Boş Yelkenler Altında” as a B-side. When growing up in Ankara, at our place we had lots of 7 inches from the Turkish Psychedelic era, although no one called the actual genre Turkish Psychedelic in Türkiye. Artists like Bariş Manço, Cem Karaca, Erkin Koray had a great influence on me during my childhood. In my eyes they weren’t just musicians, but I was perceiving them as sort of super-heroes. Their 7 inch covers were fascinating to me. Long hair, Turkish mustaches, 70s clothes and psychedelic lettering had a great visual impact on me. Back then, I would have never thought, that one day I’ll be releasing my own 7 inch, have long hair, and a Turkish mustache too. In a way, it was beyond a childhood dream becoming true.
A friend of mine Glenna, a super talented photographer I had met while studying at UCSD, took the photos for the cover art. Kenseth did the mix and mastering. It was a great opportunity for me to see him work on my recordings. He was also using Vegas so that was perfect. When he opened up my Vegas files for the first time, I realized how messy and unprofessional I was with organizing my projects. To me everything made sense, but obviously it wasn’t the best approach to keep things clean and workable for other people. Since then, I got way better at organizing my DAW projects, and sound files. Kenseth did a great job with the mix and mastering. I had not recorded in a real studio, and everything was recorded mono with the same mic, so I imagine that this situation had its own set of challenges for him. Kenseth is such a talented musician, composer, and audio engineer. All my musical encounters with him have been very enriching experiences.
The entire pressing process was exciting. Once I received the pressed copies, and played the 7 inch for the first time, I had stars in my eyes. I knew from the beginning that I wasn’t going to sell much of them, unless I played shows. It didn’t matter to me. For being able to live that moment, it was all worth the effort and the money.
Initiating the Song Writing Process with the Guitar
I started to use less my bass guitar to initiate the song writing process. Instead I would use the guitar. It was so much easier to write with the guitar than with bass. The only disadvantage I could see writing songs with the guitar versus the bass, was that the backbone of the song would very rapidly define where the song was going. When the moment to record additional tracks would come, it would feel like there was less room to take the song to different places. That’s why I find initiating the song writing process with the bass guitar very interesting. It tend to keep things open. It’s a harder process for me, but there’s a reward at the end of having the sensation to experience a journey to an unknown destination. This is totally a personal observation of course. I’m sure it has a lot to do with, how I approach different instruments to initiate the song writing process.
An other factor that took me away from initiating songs with the bass, is that my situation as a bass player had changed. I did not have an active band where I could play, create, and think through the bass anymore. All these different factors influenced the song writing process for Black Sea Storm, and the overall sound of the project. Songs written during that period are: “Kayıp Bir Aşk” “Dönen Bir Rüzgâr Ötesinde” “Seçtiğim Yer” “Boşalan Dünyam”, and “Yollar Üstünde”.
Consequences of Singing in Turkish
Me switching to Turkish for the lyrics had it sets of mini-consequences. In the US some people would ask me, why sing in Turkish? I would just answer, why not. Or, why should I sing in English? I also had the impression that some of the listeners living outside of the US, giving some credit to Black Sea Storm, mostly because they were thinking that it was a band from California, were loosing interest in the project. Paradoxically, the project was all of a sudden a lot less exotic from their perspective I guess.
For reviews, and people interested mostly in the musical style; It felt a bit like they were having harder time placing the sound into a defined genre.
Overall, switching languages, did not have any spectacular consequences. I still think that, If I ever get to opportunity to perform live with this project outside of Türkiye, there will at least be questions like: ”What language is that?
On the positive side of things, an unexpected support and interest came from Türkiye, and the Turkish speaking people. In a short amount of time the number of people following Black Sea Storm on Facebook raised considerably. Difficult to say how many of the actual followers had a real interest in the music. Nonetheless, I started receiving a good number of messages from people. It was really exciting. Türkiye is an enormous country in European standards, so the popular interest was all relative and remained of course minuscule compared to the size of the country and potential number of music lovers. For Black Sea Sea Storm this was still a unprecedented situation in terms of getting love and attention.
I was crazy enough to invest a bit of money in merchandising for Black Sea Storm. It was mostly silk screened T-shirts, and vinyl stickers. Robert, a silk screen artist and drummer I had met during the Channing Cope era did the silk screening. He did an amazing job. He used to have a nice little shop in North Park.
Later on, I even had an online store. At Merch Lackey they were really nice to have me on their sites. During that period I still had the desire to put a band together and tour. Since it did not happen, I was left with a lot of T-shirts and stickers. It was nice to be able to give away some to friends. I have now about 40 medium size Black Sea Storm T-shirts for personal use. I didn’t have to buy tees for years. And the stickers come in handy when I need duck tape, wrap, or attach something.
First Video – Kayıp Bir Aşk
In addition to having merchandising, I also wanted to have a music video to reach music lovers through different channels on the web. Back in 2002, Chris and I were auditioning guitar players, for what was going to become Channing Cope. With Chris, we used to play in a band called Bosom of the Urgent West. We played about 20 shows with the band. After a year or so playing together, surprisingly, both guitar players decided to leave the band almost at the same time. Chris and I wanted to keep on going, and started auditioning guitar players. One day a French Canadian guy named Steve responded to our Craigslist post. We scheduled a jam session with him. Some band names he would drop during our first conversation were among my favorite bands. He even mentioned that he was part of the Godspeed You Black Emperor collective in their very early days, back in Canada. Steve ended up not joining us, but somehow we became friends. I would often run into him at shows during the following years in San Diego. I also used to play soccer in a county league. One day, during a game, I noticed that the player marking me was Steve. It was a funny situation. We were opponents, but when the action was far away from our playing zone, we’d start to chat about music, and other things.
Around 2010 I found out that Steve was doing video production. I knew he had good taste in music and a contemporary artistic vision. I decided to present him my project, and told him that I’d be very happy if we could collaborate. He accepted to shoot the video for Kayıp Bir Aşk. I expressed my desire to have a video centered around the city, rather than having a playing band situation. I wanted to show my favorite city from an angle that corresponded to my everyday surroundings. I find North Park, City Heights, Normal Heights, and University Heights fascinating. Although I love the city as a whole, and enjoyed back then spending time pretty much in all neighborhoods, I do have an emotional attachment to these areas. There’s so much going on, yet it’s not all that obvious at first. That makes all the charm to me. It always felt like there were hidden treasures to be discovered everyday, in each of these neighborhoods.
For the video, Steve came up with a little story. It was about one person finding a handwritten note on the ground, reading it, and passing to a second person. The hand written note will then travel throughout the city, from one person to the next. At each encounter, the receiver would read the note. At the end of the chain, I appear in the video as the final receiving character, I read the note and the video ends there. Steve did all the shooting and editing on his own, and later on sent me a link to download the video. I was amazed how the end result exactly corresponded to what we had initially envisioned. I didn’t even have to intervene once, and it was done exactly the way I was picturing it in my head before the shoot. It was a great pleasure to work with someone who was totally in phase artistically.
I uploaded the video on YouTube, it did not get enormous amounts of views, but the feedback was in general very positive. A lot of people would ask me: – What was written on the piece of paper? It was interesting to see that for some people, the story component of the video stood out more that the music, or the urban scenery.
Leaving San Diego
In early 2011, I probably took the worst decision in my life, and decided to leave the US. It was heart breaking to sell some of my music gear. Kenny kept the 74 Fender Super Reverb for me. I managed to keep all the guitars, cables, and anything that was portable. I took about a month to get ready for departure. I couldn’t record, I wasn’t working, but I still enjoyed my last weeks in San Diego a lot. I needed that much time to say goodbye to my favorite city. A city that had given me tremendous amount of joy, and had made my dreams come true. San Diego and the great people I have met there, will be a part of me for ever.
Back to Switzerland
March 9th 2011 here I was back in Geneva. Geneva is the city where I grew up, and started to play in bands at the age of 14.
From San Diego, I managed to get two bass guitars, my Gibson Les Paul Custom Shop, and all the portable gear like my microphone, cables, pedals, and more small stuff. I had for over 265 pounds /120 Kg of extra luggage. At LAX, the airport agents made it so it wouldn’t cost me too much to cover the extra luggage fees. The fact that we were communicating in Spanish with one an other may have helped the situation. The Swiss customs have not given me any hard time either, even though I was entering the country with three guitars and heavy luggage.
It was almost spring time in Switzerland. The weather was nice, it sort of attenuated a potential shock due to the weather. Geneva is Geneva. It has definitely its upsides, but for me personally, it has always been the most difficult city to pursue projects. I find it to be a very challenging place culturally, and psychologically. Things tend to move extremely slowly as far as the rock music projects are concerned. The weather can be depressing for long periods of time during the year. And from my humble point of view, there’s definitely a lack of love, and genuine friendliness in the air. On the positive side of things, the city is beautiful, extremely clean, well organized, and we have it all in terms of material needs and social security. The wages are way higher than most European countries, and taxes aren’t as brutal as in neighboring countries such as France or Italy. That said the cost of living is extremely high. It makes it very difficult for rock musicians, and artists in general to be able to focus on their craft, and be financially independent at the same time.
After having spent the third of my life in the US, I was perceiving the surrounding energy as very low. This was starting to affect my mood negatively. I did not have the intention to surrender. I had to make it happen with what I had, and accept my reality. Now that I was here, I had to find a job as quickly as possible, and keep on going with Black Sea Storm. I had enough money to live for about a month in expensive Switzerland.
It took me about two weeks and a half to find a job. It’s sort of a miracle in Swiss standards. It was a well paying job at a software company. The offices were in Lausanne, so I had to commute everyday, but after 3 months me working there, the upper management decided to move the offices to Geneva. This was really good news for me. It meant less time to commute, and more time to make music. The timing with cash also worked out perfectly. The day I spent my last American dollar after being employed for a month, the same day I got my first Swiss pay-check. Not having to worry about money, at least for a while, was a great relief.
I had brought back the Line 6 DL 4 with me. Since I did not have a recording home studio anymore, I decided to go back to basics. I purchased a small Fender Super Champ Amp, and started producing Loops again with the Line 6. As I had signed up for a cell phone plan in Geneva, the provider had given me an iPhone 4 for a symbolic cost of one Swiss franc with the obligation to commit to a two year plan. It was the first time I had a smart phone. The iPhone 4 replaced the DVC camera, and helped me record ideas. I was mostly playing my Gibson Custom Shop, and very little the bass. Speaking of my Gibson. It was a Gibson Les Paul Custom Shop G0 R0, limited edition especially designed for Guitar Center, with a Dark Burst /Tobacco finish. An absolute beauty! I always liked Les Paul models, because of the the heavy solid body, but I usually find them to be hard to play. With the 60s reissue though, since the top of the neck was narrower, it was perfect for me. Just holding the instrument in hands was enough to get me inspired to come up with new ideas.
Since I could not produce music other than DL4 loops, I had to do something that kept the Black Sea Storm project going. Not being in the US, and not being able to produce music was stressful. I did not want my project to die because of logistics and location. I decided to go over all my unreleased Black Sea Storm recordings, and turn them into albums, and digitally release them. At this point I only had digital distribution for “Onca Onsuz” and “Kayıp Bir Aşk” as single albums, for a total of six songs. In the past, I would have most of the songs from prior eras available on my website and on platforms such as myspace, ReverbNation, later on bandcamp. But I did not have global digital distribution for them. That is mostly why the “2005”, “2006”, and “2009” albums are named as such. I wanted to be clear that they weren’t new releases. The chronology is important to me since I see the project as an adventure that accompanies my life story. I see songs and albums as markers of moments of my life. This is a huge upside of having a solo project. It allows it to be about one person’s story, and will go and exist anywhere that person goes. In a way it’s split-proof. As long as I can pursue Black Sea Storm, it will exist as an active project. This situation has a huge edge over active bands. You never know what’s going to happen with a band in terms of longevity.
It was exciting to release all these albums, this is also when Spotify was starting to get popular. In a short amount of time, I released “Boşalan Dünyam” “2005”, “2006”, and “2009”. They were all songs recorded in San Diego. Only the cover art photo of “Boşalan Dünyam” was taken in Switzerland. The title means “My Emptying World” in Turkish. The album title, and the photo represented to perfection how I was perceiving my current situation. I constantly had the feeling that I had woken up from a great dream. A dream of 11 and a half years living in America’s finest city. Now I was back to something that felt more like reality. From my emptying world, I had to rebuild a new life, and keep the project going.
New Home Studio
Now that I had a regular job and making some money in Switzerland, I could build a home studio again. I started investing some of the money I was making in recording equipment. Olivier an old friend of mine, who always worked in music stores, now had his own shop called Leadmusic. Olivier could get good prices on gear, and special order pretty much anything I wanted. He was a great help to me in the rebuilding process of my home studio. It still took me over eight months or so to save enough money and have a functioning recording studio. Now I was using a nice Mac Pro equipped with ProTools. As a pre-amp I still had my Pre-Sonus. I ended up purchasing a Universal Audio UA 610 Solo. I wanted to get the same Avalon VT-737SP I had in San Diego, but new it was above my budget. Since I also wanted to try something new as a pre-amp, I went with the UA 610 Solo. It was a good pre-amp, but I preferred the Avalon VT-737SP way better.
Overall the gear I was purchasing was of really high quality. This did not translated in me having a sound I liked better though. As a matter of fact, I struggled a lot in the beginning to set up ProTools properly. Then I was having all these issues related to how the room I was living in sounded. For some reason it has always been very challenging for me to get a good sounding takes in Switzerland. I personally think that it has in parts to do with architecture and the materials used in construction. I also soon found out that the whole ProTools thing was a money black hole. At each OS upgrades ProTools required and upgrade as well. Extra plugins and virtual instruments were pricey. As a result, I ended up not upgrading my Mac OS for several years to avoid extra costs, and only purchased a plugin to have a virtual drums.
This more bourgeois approach to recording wasn’t working very well for Black Sea Storm. Everything was sounding bright, empty, and soulless. I had a terrible guitar tone. Partially because I was using the little Fender Super Champ. Therefore, I decided to ask Kenny to see if he could ship my 74 Super Reverb from San Diego to Geneva. Again, he did something that only a brother would do. He took the shipping and handling mission really seriously, investigated among a bunch of places to have the most affordable price for me. Then the way he packaged the amp was just pure art. He did an amazing job. I still had the original tubes on the amp. For that reason, it was paramount that the packaging was done properly. Thank to Kenny, the amp arrived in one piece functioning the way it always did. I could never thank him enough for this. Because of the voltage difference in Europe, I needed to get a voltage converter. I got a Litefuze Lt-5000. The converter was quite heavy, but since I wasn’t using the amp to play shows, It wasn’t too cumbersome.
Black Sea Storm Songs Made in Switzerland
With the 74 Fender Super Reverb, my guitar tone had improved, but I was still not satisfied. I tried all bunch of techniques to isolate the amp, put things on the walls to have less hard surfaces. I was making progress, but it was a lot of efforts for little results. After a lot of work put into mic placement, and tweaks of all sorts, I started to get a better sound. In the meantime I was constantly jamming in order to collect ideas for a new album. I was quite productive, and my ability to create seemed to be intact. Still, there was something missing.
I think by returning to Switzerland I had the feeling that my identity as an adventurous international rocker had taken a big hit. Also, I soon realized, how of a wonderful network of friends I had built in San Diego. Not having all those wonderful supportive people around was a huge lost. In Geneva I had old friends, and tons of acquaintances, but for some reason I was having a really hard time reconnecting with them. In order to adapt to Southern California I had to switch the operating system of my brain from Windows to a Mac. And now that I had to evolve in a Windows dominated world again, I was having a hard time functioning socially with my brain wired on a Mac OS. It was very difficult for me to convey the idea that I had gained some important experience as a indie rocker, without appearing pretentious. I guess I wanted people to see me as an opportunity, as someone who could bring some added value to their rock experience, but this wasn’t happening. Nobody really seemed to care that much about what I may have accomplished in the US. The skills and experience I had acquired in the US did, nonetheless helped me professionally, but not so much for rock, or socially. I really didn’t feel like joining a band again in Geneva. I wanted to play with other musicians really bad, and rock out live, but I thought that culturally it was going to be very difficult for me. All my band experiences in US had been great ones. There has always been that balance between friendship and getting things done, that I find to be very positive, and motivating. I was pretty much sure that I wasn’t going to find anything close in Geneva. I was feeling that the local mentality, and the slow speed at things usually tend to progress in this town, will sooner or later give me a sort of cancer. So I didn’t even bother to find, or start a band.
My situation was a depressing one, but I did not allow myself the luxury of getting depressed. I decided to focus on my day job, and producing songs for Black Sea Storm. I wrote a bunch of unsatisfying songs I did not release. At one point I started capturing a particular mood that corresponded more to what I wanted to express. This situation gave birth to the album. “Renk Son Güneş”. (The translation in English would be something like:”The Color Last Sun”). The main challenge to put the album together wasn’t necessarily finding time, but rather having enough mental energy left from work to invest in recording. When I was working in coffee shops, and restaurants, going and record music after work had this balancing effect on my lifestyle. It was actually refreshing to go and record music after a day of hard physical work. With a desk job, sitting all day in front of a computer, the dynamics were different. I had the feeling to go from one computer screen to an other. In early 2013, I managed to release the album, but at the end I was mentally exhausted. I also did the mixing and mastering myself. Those two last stages were pretty challenging for me, because for the first time I was trying to have a more polished and pro approach. During the same year, I released an other album named “Issız Ada” (The meaning in English is: “Desert Island”) I did the mix, and the mastering was done by Carl Saff.
After the release of “Issız Ada”, the Black Sea Storm project entered in its less productive era. For over three years I had not produced anything. When I look back at this period, I still don’t understand what happened. I am unable to justify the lack of productivity. I was still playing the guitar on a regular basis, and I would record ideas, but I did not produce anything for over three years. I got a promotion at work, that was requiring more energy from me. A lot happened in my personal life. I was overall not very happy to be in Switzerland. All those factors may have affected me, but they could of also have been creative triggers. Somehow, I wasn’t able to turn the challenges that life was throwing at me, into opportunities for creativity.
The best explanation I can give, is that my rocker identity had taken a huge hit by me returning to Switzerland. The adventure component of my life had diminished enormously. Everything that was going to happen in a single day was very much predictable. In addition, I had the feeling that my current life wasn’t producing experiences worthwhile putting in songs. It was an extremely hard period for me in relationship to my project. I was feeling like a parent who doesn’t take care of her child. That said, mentally I never gave up. Black Sea Storm was never over for me. I just needed to find a new entry point, a new start. A major change at a personal level, that would bring me to feel the way I feeling while living in the US. I needed to put things back on track.
The idea of Leaving Switzerland
Since the first day I moved back to Geneva from San Diego, the idea of leaving Switzerland one day, was always present in a corner of my head. The six years I had spent there had been very positive in terms of me falling back on my feet again professionally, and financially. The price for it was that the adventurous international rocker in me, was now in a a death row. In late 2015 I got divorced for the second time in my life, and soon after I lost my job. These are usually major negative events in someone’s life, but for some reason, I perceived what was happening to me as an opportunity to realize the major changes I needed in life.
Late 2014 for the Christmas holidays I had spent 10 days in Buenos Aires. I fell in love with the city, and did almost not want to leave once my vacation was over. A year later when I was told that I was getting laid off, I technically needed to work for 2 more months. Since we needed to physically leave the building we were in, I ended up working only one month, and I had one month of paid vacation. It was once again the holiday season, it wasn’t the most ideal period for job hunting in Switzerland. I decided to return to Buenos Aires for a month. It was technically a vacation, but I also wanted to see if there would be any opportunities for me over there. It was summer time in Argentina, the time spent there felt really good. I was able resource myself, and my morale was high again. I put a plan together to get back at producing music with Black Sea Storm, and I started to apply for jobs in Geneva from Buenos Aires. I was trying to prepare my return from vacation. I knew it was going to be difficult, but I wanted to give it a one more shot to make it work for me in Switzerland.
Early January 2016, I was back in Geneva. I went and register for unemployment. I was sending resumes and motivation letters to all jobs that corresponded to my professional profile. I was getting all negative replies, or no replies at all. It was a bit of a shock for me. I had now more professional experience than I did before. In addition I had acquired new professional certificates during the five years I was employed in Switzerland. All the additional items on my resume did not translated in more love from recruiters. I started questioning if I was being discriminated for my age, or my origin. I hate adopting a victim mentality, and have for long accepted the fact that we live in an unfair world. I don’t care, if the wind blows against me, I’ll still find a way to make it work for myself. That said, with all the anti-Muslim and anti-Turkish propaganda going on in the mainstream European media, I had to take in consideration that the situation could have a negative effect on me finding a job in Europe. That is when, I started putting more thought into a plan B. A plan B where I’ll be able to bypass gatekeepers who may be under the influence of media propaganda. One thing I had noticed in Argentina was that, people I would meet, had no prejudice against me at all. My name didn’t surprise them. The social interactions were very genuine and natural. There is a pretty important community of people who migrated to Argentina from the Ottoman Empire during the last century. During my interactions with people, I had the feeling that they kind of knew about history, and where I was really coming from. I think the main difference with Europe, was that the anti-Muslim media propaganda was not as present. Therefore people were way more relaxed. The month I spent in Buenos Aires was also a great break for me, to escape from the unnecessary artificially constructed tension that is present in Europe.
Weeks, then months, started to go by. I was getting very few interview opportunities. In April 2016 a major change happen in my life. I decided to completely change my eating habits, exercise more, and adopt a healthier life style. That experience has been very beneficial for me. To the point where, I’m in the process of putting a blog together entirely dedicated to share my healthier living experience with others. With the mind clarity the new lifestyle brought me, I was getting more and more convinced that there was no future for me in Switzerland. At least not a future where I could be a happy person, and pursue my dreams.
Working on Plan B
Leaving Switzerland is one thing, but how was I going to survive in a foreign country and pursue my Black Sea Storm project? I started to reflect on my entire career as a rocker. In my early teenage years things were pretty easy since I was living with my family. All I needed to do was go to school, and rock the rest of the time. Once leaving home, things became a bit more complicated. Rock music never really paid my bills. For that reason, there has always been a constant conflict between investing time into something I love to do without generating an income, and work on things I am less passionate about in order to make a living, so I can pursue my true passion. For long time I thought that I should focus on doing what love doing, and eventually I’ll get good at it. Becoming good at it will most likely allow me to make a living out of it. Well, I was never able to succeed with this strategy. It’s probably not a bad one, but I personally never was able to make it work. I am certain that the actual strategy has more potential to succeed with other careers. I truly think that there are extra layers of complexity when it comes to making a living as a rocker. I never considered myself a musician, but a rocker. Making music for commercials, or giving bass lessons, that’s for me not making a living as a rocker. I don’t feel like I have much in common with a guy who teaches classical guitar at a conservatory, and gets his pay check at the end of the month. In my book, being a rocker, is to create your own music, and try to do everything you can to get it out in the world. By doing this, if you can create enough interest in people for you music, then maybe you’ll be given the opportunity to make a living out of rock.
After all these years trying to combine my rock adventure and ways of generating income for living, I decided to look at the problem from a different angle. If instead of blindly pouring most of my energy into making rock music, working small jobs, and getting higher education, I had spare from the beginning 10% of my time to create my own business, maybe today I’d be completely autonomous financially, and will be making music all day without worrying about money. Having a profitable business is not an easy thing either. Once the business is profitable, to have it run itself without the owner being to much around is an additional challenge. It’s definitely not easy to succeed as a business person, but far from being as difficult as making a living with rock music in my opinion.
It would have been great to start a business when I was 14 years old. Well I unfortunately did not have this great idea back then. I thought, it’s never too late to change though. I don’t care if I’m in my 40s now. I’m only going to live once, and if I’m going to fail in life, I rather fail with my war boots on, trying to make my dreams come true, rather than failing in a depressing studio in Switzerland without truly pursuing any dream. I decided to ask myself, what can I do in a foreign country to make a living? What kind of business can I put together with my own means?
While living in the US I had the opportunity to work in coffee shops, and restaurants. When we’d tour the West Coast with Channing Cope, one of the things that would make me the happiest touring individual, was to experience the whole third wave coffee shop scene in Portland and Seattle. I was so fascinated by it. This entire new approach to coffee, and to interior design of the actual coffee shops were really inspiring. Most importantly, I could sense a healthy work environment in those establishments. It seemed like the baristi were happy to work. Usually they’ll be playing some good indie rock music. I could also sense that there was a sense of community around each coffee shop. I thought how wonderful must be to work in environments like these. In the corner of my head I started having a little dream of being the owner of such coffee shop one day. Where my staff will be happy to work there, the community will be happy to spend time in the coffee shop, and I will be happy making people happy, and having a steady income. I even called this dynamic of all stakeholder being happy, “The Golden Triangle of Happiness”.
My Plan B in case I was going to leave Switzerland, was to to get certifications for opening a restaurant, and get certifications from the SCAE (Specialty Coffee Association Europe) on coffee. Move to South America, and open a third wave coffee shop. Eventually, if I was successful at it, I’ll be able to produce some music again. It was a super challenging plan, but if I was able to succeed, in less than a year, I could turn my boring Swiss life into something really exciting, in a country where I will be feeling more comfortable socially. This plan involved me selling almost everything I had, and leaving everything behind.
In addition to job seeking and getting certified for my career in IT, I started taking classes on coffee to get certified as a barista. Four months prior of me getting laid off, I had somehow subconsciously anticipated what was going to happen to me. I had started taking night classes to get a federal certificate in order to be able open a restaurant. I didn’t share the fact me taking night classes with anyone I knew. My goal wasn’t to open a restaurant in Switzerland, but I wanted to get the knowledge and education so I could bring with me the Swiss level of doing things anywhere I go. I was told that I got laid off a couple days before the final exams. I took two days off from work to pass multiple exams. I tried to focus as much as I could, in order to not be affected negatively by the bad news of me loosing my current job. The exams were held in huge room in the “Stade de Genève” complex, with a fantastic view on the soccer pitch, and the interior of the stadium. That is where our legendary local team, the Servette FC plays its home games. Also the historical comeback of the Turkish National Team against the Czech Republic during the Euro 2008 took place in the exact same stadium. I was extremely happy to be there. I looked between the goal posts through which Nihat Kahveci scored the third goal for Türkiye, and sealed the victory that day. It got me in a mood where I was feeling like I could accomplish anything I wanted. The exams were way more difficult than expected, but I managed to pass them all with good scores.
My plan B was starting to become more and more concrete. I was going to move somewhere where I could leverage my Swiss savings, and open a third wave coffee shop, rebuild a home studio, and be happy. Little by little, the Plan B was becoming the new Plan A.
….(more to come soon)