First steps on a new journey – Back To Zero

Today marks the release of “Back To Zero“, my debut track:

(Shameless plug: It’s out on Spotify and other platforms!)

I’ve been making electronic music since I was 9 years old, and it helped me through the tough times in my life. Starting with ModEdit, then Scream Tracker, then Impulse Tracker, then Reason – these tools enabled me to lose myself in music and rhythms.

Back in the days, I would make hip hop beats and rap and sing. After a while, life happened and I ended up choosing a different path: Games. When I started Paladin, my game studio, I had a big vision of building an awesome game studio and working on great projects. This vision took a decade to materialize, and as I was bootstrapping it was a rough ride to get there. Throughout these years I poured my heart and soul into this company, and I am proud and honored to see what the studio is today.

As the studio grew and grew, peaking at close to 60 people last year, my role as a founder changed quite drastically. Being the CEO of a 7 people team is one thing, being the CEO of a 60 people team is quite another. The people were great, the games were great – I loved this company and still do. However, I started resenting the excel sheets and meetings – the endless array of management stuff. And when things seemed to be looking up up up, I realized that the thought of “more of the same” was terrifying. I was heading for a burn-out.

After some serious introspection, I decided I needed to make a sharp turn and hand the reigns over to someone else. I needed to break free from the cage that I’ve built around myself, the cage in which I was complying with my own standards and beliefs about how to do things. So I fired myself, hired a CEO, and went off the radar.

I finally had time for more reflection and introspection. But before the magic started to happen, first I got in the way of things.

The first thing I was drawn to was music. I would make tracks for two weeks in a row, and I couldn’t be happier. However, something was nagging – the tracks were not up to my quality standards and I got very frustrated very fast.

So I dropped music again, saying “this is not for me – I just had to get it out of my system, now it’s time for something else”. This time, I was going to make a game. I really like programming, and this time I kept it up for several months, tinkering away at a little game.

However, not all was right in the realm. I was quite happy, but slowly the doubts started to creep in. Did I really leave my game studio to fend for itself, only to make games by myself? Was that truly my calling? Furthermore, the studio needed me. Not in my old way of working where I would be managing day-to-day stuff, but in a new way. They didn’t need me as a King Arthur, but they did need me as a sort of Merlin the Wizard.

So I went back to support the executive team. There was trouble brewing and we needed to put in a lot of effort to set things straight in order to survive. But after a few months, when the dust settled, we got to a point where things were on track and we found a great “triforce” with the executive team. My role: To safeguard and nurture the vision, the “soul” and the magic of the company.

With that clearly defined role, I had time again to do… something else. And with my “game making fix” covered with my involvement in the studio, I realized that music was the thing. No matter my skills, no matter all the doubts, no matter my limiting beliefs – I felt very clearly this calling to make music, to use it as a catalyst for lighting a fire in the world. I don’t know what that fire is yet, but I know it has to do with my creative journey.

So to make a long story short: It started with confusion. Only when I looked into the darkness, into the empty void of pure creative potential, I could feel that I was approaching my deeper purpose.

To illustrate this, I’d like to share an experience when scuba diving in Bali. We dove across an underwater cliff edge. The darkness that was looming in the deep ocean was terrifyingly beautiful. The void of creative potentiality evoked a similar feeling in me. It’s pure potential and pure terror.

There is no tool, no trick, no gadget, no shortcut that can avoid it. The only way is INTO IT. But once there, the Great Force is with me. I played with it, learned to let it work through me. My music improved as a result.

My music battle station right now.

There’s much more to share with you, so I’ll post more of these stories along the way. For now you’re invited to have a listen to my track on your favorite platform here!

Enjoy, and see you around ๐Ÿ™‚

-Derk

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