Nonetheless Thomas Godoj takes a critical view of his time with DSDS and the commercial music business. In several interviews – including those with radioBerlin 88,8 on the 16th December 2014 and Scenario, the young people’s editorial department at the Recklinghäuser Zeitung on the 3rd September 2015 (both on youtube), he had some hard words to say about the not exactly gentle business attitudes of the television format and the few remaining global record companies where everybody earns good money – with the exception of the musicians who, when all’s said and done, scarcely earn enough to survive. This is why he decided to take responsibility for financing his fifth album with the title “V”, which appeared on the 24th October 2014, with the help of crowdfunding via the Internet platform startnext.com; and to launch it on the market under his own label Tomzilla. Within 24 hours he had reached his financial aim of 55.000 Euros, thereby breaking the European crowdfunding record for music. After nine weeks he had collected €158,000 from 784 supporters. This success also enabled Godoj to produce his first studio acoustic album “V’stärker aus”, in which his band played their instruments without amplification. It appeared on 25th September 2015. Crowdfunding for his sixth album began on 22 January 2016 and around €140,000 had been pledged by the end of February. The campaign ran until 26 March 2016. Thanks to crowdfunding and his own label Godoj has been able to make the music he wants to make without being subject to instructions from a record company and the pressures of the music industry. He will be going on tour with his new album.
Thomas Godoj, whose original Polish name is Tomasz Jacek Godoj, was born in the Silesian town of Rybnik in the south of Poland in 1978. In 1986 his parents moved to Germany with him and his sister, and two years later they settled in Recklinghausen. The family arrived in Germany after a conspiring a planned holiday in Yugoslavia on the Adriatic coast. In Belgrade they waited for a visa for a month. After arriving at the border reception centre in Friedland and a short stay in Unna-Massen the family finished up in Mettmann. Here they lived in a small emergency apartment for two years – after one year they had to share the apartment with another immigrant family – before moving to Recklinghausen in 1988. This is where Thomas Godoj says that he finally feels at home, for this is where his friends are. As a teenager he admits that he “hung around in rehearsal rooms“, bought his first drum kit and wrote his first song texts. Recklinghausen is well known for its rock ‚n’ roll scene, also for its heavy metal and hard-core bands, and these influenced him greatly in the 1980s and 90s. He won first prize in a Newcomer Festival in Recklinghausen with his own very first band Cure of Souls.
From 2003 to 2005 he was the lead singer with the Nu-Metal band Tonk! with whom he performed his own German-language texts. After training as an engineering draughtsman and eight semesters studying to be a building engineer he abandoned it all in favour of becoming a musician. Between 2005 and 2007 he was the singer with the band WiNK. In summer 2007 he applied to appear in the casting show Deutschland sucht den Superstar and reached the final with a selection of rock songs. In an interview with radioBerlin he said he was highly grateful for the opportunity given to him by DSDS because it enabled him not only to present himself on stage but also to get a foot in the door of the music industry. But in retrospect he didn’t like the way the producers treated the participants afterwards, nor the way “the business ticks”. The fact that the priority of commercial music companies is to balance the books has, in his opinion, nothing to do with making music and this “was a shocking and sobering experience”. For him music is “still a gut feeling“. He regards the way he was treated during the casting show and the way the PR machinery used his life and personal statements as “absurd”.
Godoj’s victory on DSDS meant that the Sony Music Entertainment record company had an option to produce three albums. His debut single, the rock ballad “Love Is You” appeared on 23rd May 2008”, and topped the singles charts for 13 weeks in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Indeed after only two weeks it had already received a Golden Disc for selling 150,000 copies. His debut album “Plan A!”, appeared six weeks later. The title was a reference to his victory on DSDS and his professional career as a musician, and the fact that there had never been a “Plan B”. In Germany the album reached gold and platinum status and was awarded an Echo in 2009. At the start of December 2008 Godoj began touring the album through 16 German towns and cities. This was followed by a further 22 concerts in February 2009. “Richtung G” (“Direction G”), the title of his second album, also produced by Sony, which appeared in 2009, is a reference to the fact that he insisted on having some say about the production. In Berlin he met up with other songwriters and suggested themes to them. The rest of the lyrics he wrote himself. Most of them are stories about personal relationships. His version of the song “Winterkinder” (Winter children) – it deals with the sexual abuse of children – that he penned with Christian Bömkes in 2006, and which can be seen on YouTube with the band WiNK, has been called up on no less than 247,419 occasions. Godoj sings nine songs on the album in German and three in English. The sole Polish song “Zwykła Miłość” (English: Simply Love) was written by Godoj in Warsaw in collaboration with Robert Gawliński, the singer and songwriter with the Polish group Wilki.
In 2010 Godoj decided not to sign another option with Sony for a third album in favour of a move to the SPV record company in Hanover, which was well known for allowing artists to have their own creative freedom. “So gewollt” (English: “That’s the way I wanted it”, 2011), the title of his third studio album that was produced there, is a reference to his withdrawal from the international record industry. The songs written with Bömkes are socially critical; many of them are related to his own past and love affairs. The next two albums also appeared on the SVP label. “Live ausm Pott” (2012) contained recordings made during the “So gewollt” tour. The Internet portal metalglory.de wrote about his fourth studio album “Männer sind so” (“That’s the Way Men Are”, 2013), that Godoj reaches a “degree of hardness […] on a level with bands like Revolverheld”: and that fans could look forward to a “timeless, honest rock album at a high level”.
“Over the years I have continually withdrawn from the music industry and tried to make an independent start”, said Thomas Godoj in an interview with radioBerlin. His separation from the SVP record company and the crowdfunding of his album “V“ (perhaps this is not only a Roman “five” but also a V for “victory”) were not the only steps he took on his own. Since then Godoj has been responsible for the whole production, the studio musicians, the production team, filming the videos and marketing the end result. What is important to Godoj is well produced rock ‚n’ roll, “heavy guitar riffs” and “gut feelings”. He says that the album offers a broad range of songs in which quieter pieces, featuring acoustic guitars and strings, play an important role. Some of the content in the songs are directly addressed to his fans who helped finance the album. Another song “Das tiefe Tal” (The Deep Valley) reflects his own fears about how the enterprise might turn out.
His last acoustic album “V’stärker aus” featured acoustic guitars, double bass, a jazz drum set and percussion instruments alongside a grand piano, cello and violin. The album contains elements of swing, reggae and ska, Latin music, rockabilly, country music, rhythm and blues and even chilled-out hip-hop. Critics have applauded the new arrangements. “I can hear a musician with a rare capacity for empathy” wrote Thomas Becker in the portal powermetal.de, “and the ability to reach his listeners with intelligent, reflective lyrics on everyday themes both large and small, and even move us deeply at the right point in time”. The album tour started on 9th October 2015 in the Cologne Kulturkirche, and was then performed at venues like the Christuskirche Bochum, the Stage Club in Hamburg, the Jim+Jimmi arena in Hildesheim, the municipal theatre in Glauchau, the Leipzig cultural centre Moritzbastei , and finally the Lindenpark cultural centre in Potsdam. Up till 19th February 2016 he gave a total of 23 concerts in venues specially selected for their atmosphere.
Thomas Godoj lives a down-to-earth life with Jennifer Opitz with whom he has two children. Reading his Facebook entries over the last few years it is clear that his fans are just as friendly and down-to-earth as he is. “Hy, you is de besst singer thatt cud be my frend, my naym is varnan“, wrote a fan from Sri Lanka who lives in Zürich. In 2015 Godoj produced a video exclusively for his Facebook fans with a song entitled “Vermisst du nicht irgendwas” (Don’t You Miss Something). It can only be seen here, and was shot during the “Vernetzungen” exhibition by the sculptor Danuta Karsten (along with Dirk Hupe). Danuta Karsten also comes from Poland and lives in Recklinghausen. You can read all about her online exhibition here at Porta Polonica. Godoj became aware of her installation in the engine house of the former Scherlebeck colliery in Herten over the Internet. Both artists got on well together and the music video gives a good impression of the friendly atmosphere that resulted equally from Danuta Karsten’s spindle shaped “Lichtfallen” and the performance by Thomas Godoj and his band. To date it has been called up no less than 148,922 times on Facebook.
Godoj also appears on other occasions alongside his concerts and tours. In 2008 he appeared in the Grugahalle in Essen at the Polish Festival Koncert Gwiazd (Concert of Stars), alongside legends in the Polish music scene like the rock bands Kombii, Oddział Zamknięty and de Mono. There he was awarded the “Journalia 2008” prize for his contribution to German/Polish international understanding by the Polish language magazine Samo Życie, published in Dortmund. In 2009 he received an Echo in the category “Best National Newcomer” and recorded the song “Helden gesucht” (In Search of Heroes), with the German U21 international football team for the European Championships. In 2010 he appeared with the Neue Philharmonie Westfalen in the Ruhrfestspielhaus in Recklinghausen on the occasion of a benefit concert for Kindernothilfe (Children in Need) since when he has been one of its ambassadors. In 2011 he shot a music video on the roofs of Berlin entitled “Dächer einer ganzen Stadt” (Roofs of a whole City), and in 2013 he shot the video to “Männer sind so” along with the YouTuber, Alexander Böhm. The publication of the studio album of the same name led to a cooperative project with the publishing company Carlsen-Verlag from Hamburg, for whom Godoj wrote a humorous book also with the title “Männer sind so”. Taking the roles of different types of men he answers 21 questions that women have always asked about men. In 2016 Godoj will be concentrating on a campaign to raise money via “Krautfunding” for his new album “Crowdrock” (and not the other way round, as Godoj announces on a commercial video).
Sources: There are a considerable number of well-researched articles on Thomas Godoj and all his albums on Wikipedia. As well as his interviews on YouTube there are many fan pages and internet forums and of course the artist’s Facebook pages. Thomas Godoj’s PR department can provide texts and photos.
Pix: Thomas Godoj