Were we to make it easy for ourselves, we could say: Robin tom Rink is a 27-year-old postman with a past of drug abuse and an evident talent for writing songs who is now about to put our his first record, ‘The Dilletante’. By doing so, however, we would leave unmentioned the fact that it is by no means a matter of course, but rather a miracle that this album exists anyway. The fact that Robin tom Rink still exists is another, but let´s take things from the top.
When you notice early on that the best road to take in that small town is the one that leads out of it. When you thus spend your childhood and youth in a waiting position – waiting for real life, the right people, the right feeling… that´s when failure in a far away place is the one nightmare that must be avoided. Anything but turning back! But is this really always true? What happens if you don`t always keep going no matter what? Maybe then something completely new, something much bigger, emerges? This was just about the case with Robin tom Rink, but of course he didn´t plan for it to happen.
While the others are examining ways to continue their education after having passed the Abitur, the then-18-year-old grabs his guitar and goes to: Berlin. The spirit of optimism, the mid-90s, the capital is about to have its comeback. And tom Rink is in the middle of it all. He jobs at a place that rents out rehearsal rooms to musicians, has a small flat and does what he´s come here to do: write songs. Just like back when he was still in school, several major record companies start taking notice of his music.
But then something goes wrong. Berlin kind of swallows tom Rink. He spends too much time taking drugs and not enough time working on his dream. The songs that he keeps writing in spite of this increasingly function, above all, as a means of self therapy and an aid for survival. They are what keeps tom Rink from falling apart.
But at some point there´s just no more carrying on: tom Rink makes an escape. Back to Münster, back to his parents, back to where it all started. Back home tom Rink faces his problems, but also reprocesses the lost years, guitar in hand. And he comes to realise that these years may not have been so lost after all, they have brought about a great deal of songs.
But the story continues: in 2007, the songwriter once again feels drawn to distant shores. He is doing better now. He feels Münster is narrowing him down, he is tempted by the anonymity – and probably also by the myth – of Paris. At the banks of the Seine, fate seems to favour tom Rink. He has a steady engagement at a hotel, a small flat, and he writes, almost as if he were in a frenzy, the most material he has written in a long time. But then he suffers the next setback: tom Rink is struck by a mysterious disease which costs him another year of his life. Once again, he walks through deep, dark valleys.
The doctors explain that, of all things, the phases which Robin tom Rink feels are his most productive, the phases during which he obsessively puts ideas to paper, would be so burdening to him that he were virtually operating on the verge of a nervous breakdown. “When I am writing something, I´m feeling very bad at that moment,“ he says. “But I am happy afterwards because it´s a way for me to deal with my problems.“ He says that when he listened to the first mix version of ‘The Dilletante’ in the studio recently, some parts initially gave him a feeling of sickness as the drama so inseparably linked to these songs was being brought back to life before his mind’s eye. “But on the other hand there also was a good feeling because I realised: that chapter’s closed, I’ve moved past that.“ And after all, this is the reason why we must explain the story of this eventful life in such detail. Because it is inseparably connected to small and the great stories that can now be found on ‘The Dilletante’.
Songwriters and solitaires the likes of Leonard Cohen, Nick Drake, Dylan of course, and Jacques Brel are and have always been trusty companions on tom Rink’s path. But also James Joyce, Sartre or lyricist Sylvia Plath. All of them have left their mark on this impressive piece of work which developed over the years in Berlin, Paris and Münster. He cannot remember the creation process or the exact background of some of the songs, like for instance that of ‘Whatever Evaporates’ which features the great line ‘what a fool I am to believe this mellow spring could change anything.’ He can only remember that he had to get them out. Then and now. Because you can tell that these songs mean to say something, they tell a story, they breathe life.
They are songs that tell of a great yearning. In the writing process tom Rink is sometimes inspired by the great Romantics such as William Turner or Eugène Delacroix in that he thinks of composing songs as though they were paintings. Examples for this are the fragile swansong ‘Sugar We’re Going Down’ or ‘Black Black Coffee’, which steadily walks the line between uproar and sacral melancholy. Those songs are in fact scarcely instrumented, but nonetheless exceptionally picturesque landscapes. Permeated by infinite warmth, by a great melancholy, but most of all by a great talent which you do not find very often in this country.
Last August he finally recorded these songs of his. Together with musicians of the band Elyjah, whose bass player Martin Praetorius also produced ‘The Dillettante’. For the recordings, he went back to Berlin to the local Villa Friedrichshöhe studio. It´s not in our interest to defile this piece of work with any more technical detail, but maybe this is the greatest success: that in this city, to which he owes a good deal of his songs, but also the traumatic experiences which are mirrored in them, he managed to bring it all to a good end.
Robin tom Rink will soon turn his back on Münster one more time. With ‘The Dilletante’ in his suitcase, he may just happen to play in your town. Go and listen to him, it’s worth it!