CHRIS GELBMANN :: Biography :: english

It can hardly be said that Chris Gelbmann’s life has been uneventfull. Music has always been the focus of his life, even if his approach to it often followed many unconventional paths. After long years of intensive songwriting, touring and recording he was faced with many unfathomable questions inside the unpredictable and chaotic music business. To get out of this situation, he decided to figure things out, and eventually learn how to play the business by it’s own rules. After a rather short time, this led him to one of the most influential backstage jobs on the Austrian music scene. Chris Gelbmann has never forgotten his true roots, which were clearly always grounded in creative accomplishment. Testament to this is his current CD “The Pink Beast of Love“(Release date in Austria: 07.10.2005). The recording is the result of a long journey containing several detours through seldom-travelled areas in the music scene- a voyage few singer-songwriters can truly claim to have experienced. The musical result of this journey is an album which is both elaborated and conceptive, but at the same time conveys an essentially emotional experience.

Chris began to make music at the tender age of 8. He started off playing harmonica and at the age of 12 he changed to ukulele and, finally, one year later turned to the guitar which would eventually allow him to note and set down his written lyrics to music. In proper style, he played his first gig at sixteen in a home for maladjusted girls, where the trio made considerable waves and liked to name itself “The Earl Grey“. During the next 4 years this formation played regularly in miscellaneous locations throughout the south of Vienna; made their own stamp on the Viennese scene, and front-man Gelbmann became something of a symbol for integration of the surrounding area of Mödling. Consequently, in 1991, one day Chris found himself in charge of the programming and management of the youth club “Spiegel“ in Perchtoldsdorf, near Vienna. Through this he began to discover that, unlike most musicians, he possessed an uncanny talent for behind-the-scene activities. Nevertheless, for the time being his main focus remained on his own music. “Earl Grey“ played one gig after another, song after song emerged and rapidly the singer and guitarist, constantly seeking action, began to look for a more accessible medium through which to channel his music, which was by now rocking more and more…
He was now looking for ambitious musicians and eventually met his most important musical companion, Alexander Nefzger. The avant-garde pop group they formed together, “Ynis Witrin”, at first experienced a weird energetic rise to success, but broke up two years after its formation due to several irreconcilable misunderstandings between the band members. As his activity for the “Spiegel“ also ended 1994, Chris Gelbmann decided to concentrate again on his solo career and exchanged the “e“ for an “a“ in the syntax of his well proven alter ego. The “Earl Gray” gigs from 1993 to 95 are remembered by the public as extensively orchestrated crossovers of folk to rock with numerous guest musicians performing with the charismatic frontman. As reference to this period of creation, the “Earl Gray“-EP “Love is Easy?“ was released in 1995 on Bourbon Records / Bellaphon. Gelbmann financed the EP completly out of his own pocket and recorded it in only three weeks’ production time in a little Viennese studio.

During the commercialization of the product, the ambitious singer-songwriter soon ran up against strange and, to him, unexplainable barriers and obstacles. However, this gave Gelbmann the impetus to engage himself closer in the background and business aspects of an industry which did not seem to function in accordance with the laws of a free market economy. After a little training, Gelbmann signed on to EMI Austria as marketing manager in 1997, where he ran the strategic marketing department for two years. In 1999 he switched to the market leader Universal Music, where in the following years he formed the biggest artist & repertoire department of any major label in Austria. Under Gelbmann’s direction from 2000 to 2003, some outstanding achievements were made including: the reunion album of Papermoon, the two highly successful debut albums by the only current “Austro“ pop star Christina Stürmer (“Freier Fall“ and “Soll das wirklich alles sein?“) as well as the first major signing of the exceptional, extravagant, Austrian artist Hans Platzgummer (“Convertible“). However, the masterpiece of his a&r activity is undoubtly the sumptuous 3 CD compendium “Ruf & Echo“ by André Heller, who Gelbmann single-handedly had to convince to take up music making again. This monumental opus, which multimedia artist Heller recorded with numerous notable guest musicians (Thomas D., Xavier Naidoo, Edo Zanki, The Walkabouts, Brian Eno, etc ...) at the Garda lake, is probably the most exceptional and financialy adventurous work the Austrian music industry has produced over the last ten years. None the less, it has had success from both an image point of view as well as regarding the sales figures. At the same time, it also documents the main turning point in Chris Gelbmann’s business career, after meeting an old acquaintance during the recording sessions in Gardone. Notable Viennese artist Terzi Shogricht, now a resident of New York contributes an adorable Version of “Dann bin i ka Liliputaner mehr“ to the Heller compendium. This interpretation of the artist’s calling impressed Gelbmann deeply and in a way reminded him that he still had a job to do in this respect. At the beginning of 2004 Gelbmann resiled his highly remunerated contract with Universal Music and therewith made an end to his career in the major music industry.

The year 2004 finally marked the return of Chris Gelbmann from the direction to the recording room. Now with the addition of new companions like the ingenious “Söhne Mannheims“ pianist Florian Sitzmann at his side. At the beginning of 2005 he finalised the melancholy, and exceptionally produced CD “The Pink Beast Of Love“. Since the summer of 2005, this has been presented to an expectant public in a fresh line up - Chris Gelbmann, Karl Sayer (double bass), Gottfried David Gfrerer (national and dobro guitars) and Martin Mader (keyboards) as “Chris Gelbmann and The Pink Beast Of Love“. As expected, Alexander “Lexy“ Nefzger officiates as producer and engineer, other comrades-in-arms from nearly all epoches of Gelbmanns artistic journey have also made their musical contributions to this impressive opus.

Coincidentally, the opus took its name from a statement by American cult and bestseller author Tom Robbins. Because Robbins’ novel “Still Life With Woodpecker“ provided a lot of inspiration for Gelbmann’s debut album, the writer became one of the first exemplaries of the CD and reacted promptly with a comment on the album which sums things up perfectly- “Chris Gelbmann dances with the pink beast of love, falling into its grasp, then falling out; like a matador with old wounds, flirting with the bull, hypnotizing us with the slow movements of his cape, as he longs finally to become the beast itself.“

Franz Joseph Sauer
Vienna, August 2005