"Live for the music" at the world's biggest music meeting
Artist biography Olivier "BJ" Genten
Olivier "BJ" Genten has left Cirque du Soleil's highly acclaimed and award winning show Quidam after over four and a half years on tour and more than 1700 shows on four continents.
While to many this already seems like a very busy and stressful schedule BJ Genten did not stop just there. During the short breaks between individual cities he also flew around the world to play on recordings of talented and upcoming artists and to give workshops.
The first leg of the tour in 2001 brought shows all over Europe and visits to the Abbey Road Studios and Peter Gabriel's Realworld Studio. London, Manchester, Antwerp, Hamburg, Copenhagen and Zurich filled the tour plan and the very limited time in between was filled with trips all over Europe. BJ met very interesing and talented people and found friends he still has and will probably always cherish.
In 2002 the tour moved to North America. BJ Genten was one of the few German drummers to ever play a major tour in North America with a show from North America and did so with great enthusiasm. After Miami came Charlotte, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Boston, and Tampa. Deeply settled in the show, BJ felt confident and really enjoyed the tour. He made more friends and started to work on exciting projects such as Mavis' XRNR album that is still in the making due to the tight schedule of all people involved. He learned a lot about recording and miking drums.
After Tampa, Quidam flew across the Pacific to open a fourteen months tour around Japan. The schedule was brutal and many things occupied BJ and his time. There were more than 500 shows to be played during those fourteen months and everybody on tour had to learn in their own way how to deal with the Japanese culture and customs. BJ Genten found out that he really loves the Japanese food and culture but unfortunately due to the tight schedule he didn't see too much and never really learned how to speak Japanese.
When the Japanese Tour with its incredible workload finished it moved to Canada for two cities and then to Australia. Finally, BJ Genten had the time to dig out his ProTools studio for the road, work on music for others, compose, arrange and refine his production skills. He met many interesting and cool people and started to work on wonderful projects like new material for former Cirque singer Denise Gonzalez or sessions for the debut album of Canadian singer/songwriter Jessica Beach.
A few months into the Australian Tour, BJ Genten left the tour to look for other challenges and different opportunities. No drummer had ever played that many shows on Quidam. His influence and contributions to Quidam are enormous and will be appreciated by many for a long time.
Currently back home for a while, BJ Genten is reorganizing things and has started to work on many interesting projects that you will hear about very soon...
Drumming did not come to BJ Genten through a ray of light. There was no specific incident that one could consider the trigger or the reason for BJ's deep love for drums and music. He grew up in a very musical home and was constantly surrounded by music. In the early days it was mostly classical music, but in the years to come the musical spectrum became wider and wider. Bands like Supertramp, Dire Straits or Pink Floyd influenced him at very early stages.
His mother - a music teacher - and his grandfather - a lover of classical music - along with many people who visited and spent a lot of time at BJ's home influenced him. He partly grew up in Spain. At that time, the folk music from Central and South America was very popular in BJ's environment. On many weekends friends would gather and listen to music or sing Latin American tunes. Thus, the rhythms from Mexico, Peru or Argentina were the soundtrack of BJ's first years.
At age 6 BJ Genten expressed the wish to learn the drums and almost immediately started lessons. His mother borrowed his first drumset (a Sonor three piece in silver sparkle) from her school where it was never used. Back then, money was tight and it was a fortunate incident that this drumset was available. BJ had weekly classes and started to study Dante Agostini's and other traditional methods. Very soon he was considered "talented and worthy of support" and thus became a member of the school orchestra and received scholarships. Since his school was a public music school, the fee was cut in half - the community would pay the other half. He was educated in modern drumset, timpani, orchestra percussion and mallet intruments.
It was soon clear that BJ Genten was a rather intuitive player who was guided by his emotions and feelings. It never was his greatest pleasure to sit behind the drumset and train for hours and hours trying to perfect his rudiments and chops. He would much rather play along with his favourite music and try to play and sound like his idols. He would spend hours behind his drumset, headphones on, eyes closed and imagining to be in his favourite band playing a big concert and feeling the energy of the crowd and the incredibly intense emotion one feels when sitting on stage in front of a large audience.
At age 13 - after having attended drum classes for already more than five years - BJ Genten formed his first band with friends from the neighbourhood. They played cover versions of U2, Simple Minds and The Cure and performed in clubs and even in the local church. "I will never forget this one gig for as long as I live!", says BJ. "The gitarrist called me one day and said that he had organized us a gig. I was pretty excited because it was one of our first gigs ever and I asked him when and where the gig would be. He then told me in a low voice that the gig would be NOW and in the local church during the service. Our reverend was a progressive man and tried to get the youth to come to church so he asked our gitarrist because he knew he had a band. I packed my drumset on a trolley and walked to the church. We set up and played four songs during the service. It was odd to play The Cure in a church but that was all we knew so we had no other choice"
Later they started to write their own material and performed it in local clubs and at parties. But at the age of 17 BJ stopped to play the drums. One day he packed his set away and did not touch it for more than one year. "This phase reflects my emotional relation to drums. Sometimes I have to stop and not touch them for a while in order to feel the hunger again. A lot of the things you try to learn will only come to you if you give them time to sink in. Your body understands things in a very different way than your brain. It takes longer yet it goes deeper! I did not conciously stop drumming because of some strategic way of learning. I just didn't feel like touching drums."
On the day of his 18th birthday he received some money from his family. Some cash that his aunt had put aside during his first 18 years. Despite not having touched the drums for more than one year, he immediately rushed to the next music store and bought a drumset. From that moment on he knew that he was determined to be a drummer. "I did not think that I should now get up and buy a drumset. As natural as it felt to stop and care about sports, school and girls it felt to start again and to totally throw myself at it."
BJ Genten immediately started to play with bands in school or local rehearsal rooms. He played Rock, Wave, Pop, Jazz - just about any music he could form a group for. He trained again and spent a lot of time learning about different cultures of rhythms and beats. He continued to teach himself and dug out the old drumbooks. After a short time he received the first calls from local studios and bands that needed a drummer. And the rest is a well known history...