Here we are. It’s 10:50 am on a Wednesday morning, and the thermometer reads 5 degrees. On the opposite side of the street, the sun shines through the tall buildings. On our side, there is a very inconspicuous entrance, here at 2 W 8th St in New York. On the mirrored window, it says “Electric Lady Studios,” and a broad doorman stands in front of the equally mirrored entrance door. “What’s your name?” asks the friendly lady sitting at a small table in front of the window, set up just a few minutes ago. “Norman Gräter – himself and in person,” I reply with a grin. She smiles and hands me two neon-yellow wristbands and two passes to hang around our necks. After passing through the heavy iron door behind the mirrored entrance, we turn sharply left around the corner, and a steep staircase leads downstairs. There, a large picture of the studio’s founder, Jimi Hendrix, hangs. In front of the picture, the stairs click to the right, leading past album covers of the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Taylor Swift, KISS, and many others who have recorded their music here over the last decades. We take our seats in Studio A and wait for the initiator of this (as it will turn out) very special experience. His name is Gene Simmons. And if that doesn’t ring a bell, you definitely know his band. Because Gene Simmons is the singer and bassist of the recently retired KISS band, who played their last two tour concerts at Madison Square Garden in New York last weekend. Today, Gene is in the Electric Lady Studio. And Anke and I are there too. Why? Gene wants to record a KISS song with us and a few other wonderful people today. Which one? We don’t know (which will almost be my downfall later as a non-KISS fan).

It keeps getting better than you think. That’s my new favorite belief. How did I come up with that, you might be wondering. Well, on that day in New York, I expected a lot. But not this much. But one thing at a time.

Gene Simmons enters the studio shortly after us, radiating joy, and sits down on a bar stool at the front. “Good morning. Nice to see you. Before we start, a few words about this studio. This is sacred music ground. Until today, no visitors have been here. This place is exclusively for musicians, and you have to be lucky to get an appointment for your recording. Usually, photography is prohibited here. Today, the studio is making an exception for us. Today, you are the stars, and you can film and photograph anything you want,” Gene says. He also mentions that everything in the Electric Lady Studios is still as it was at the founding. The same sound system. The same furniture. The same carpet. Yes, the same carpet that Eric Clapton, Adele, Led Zeppelin, Stevie Wonder, David Bowie, and many others have stood on. The same couch that Taylor Swift used to listen to her recently recorded music, the same toilet that they all have seen. Unbelievable, and now we are standing here. In the same place. At the same microphone. On the same carpet.

Gene first brings all the men and then all the women forward to sing the chorus. He has chosen “Rock’n Roll All Night.” I at least know the song from the live show. I quickly get the chorus. It’s going well. Now it’s time for the verses. “Who wants to sing a line each? I need a powerful and gritty voice for the first line.” Well, since there are professional musicians in the room, I don’t raise my hand directly and wait. While the mix of professionals and absolute amateurs gives their best performance, Gene also repeatedly sends bold singers back to their seats who just can’t hit the notes.

If only I could practice the song a few times in peace, I would nail it. However, there’s no chance for that. Not today and not here. Live is live. After the brave ones among our 30 wonderful people had already raised their hands, I seize the opportunity and audition for the next line. Since I’m sitting directly in Gene’s line of sight and seem to be the only one raising my hand, he invites me forward with an inviting gesture.

Let’s go back in time for a few minutes. I have googled the lyrics by now and read along with what is being sung. So, I see which line should come next. And I memorize it on the side. Understand me correctly – it’s a few words. However, at this moment, it is very challenging for me to memorize these few words. Anyway, it’ll work out. Courage is always rewarded.

I have now arrived at the microphone. With the following sentence in my head, I await my cue. “You’ll keep on saying you’ll be mine for a while.” I also mentally hum the melody of this opening line of verse two for 15 minutes. Gene briefly looks at his phone, contemplates, and says, “And you say you wanna go for a spin.” He looks at me. I look at him. Can he see my sheer horror? Because his line has absolutely nothing to do with the line I practiced in my head. Neither in terms of lyrics nor melody.

I don’t know if you’ve experienced being so confused that it borders on a blackout. I mean, “And you say you wanna go for a spin” is nine words. And when he read the line, I had already forgotten the beginning. Have you ever had such an experience? It wasn’t entirely black for me, but it was pretty dark brown. Because my words in my head had nothing to do with the words coming out of his mouth. Beautiful shit (I kindly added the beautiful – at that moment, I just thought SHIT…).

Let me summarize the next 16 minutes. In the first five attempts, I can’t even get into the beat. “Didn’t I sing all the lines in my head while sitting in my place? What’s wrong here?” The solution: In my Google text version, the word “And” is missing. It only says, “You say you wanna go for a spin.” Now an “And” should be added before that. Sounds easy, but it’s not. Because now the whole thing has a different rhythm. Shit. I know, I’m repeating myself.

When I finally find the rhythm, I have more or less forgotten the lyrics and sing, “And you say I wanna go for a spin.” In the finest German, Gene calmly explains to me the difference between “you” and “I” – that is, between “du” and “ich.” If my patience hadn’t already run out, it would have been a hilariously funny scene. Okay. So let’s do it all over again with “You” instead of “I.” Shit… you know. What also drives me crazy and completely throws me off is my pre-singer, whose half-line I still hear to get into my text block. “Can I please have only the melody?” Gene nods and passes the information to the sound director. Now only the melody comes. Bam, messed up again. I look at him with one eye and at the front with the other. “Don’t look at me (Gene sits to my left on a bar stool), look straight at the microphone.” Internally, I’m on the verge of a panic attack. If I look straight ahead, I don’t see when it starts. And if I look at Gene, I sing past the microphone. “Gene, may I ask you to stand in front of me and give me the cue?” “Sure.” He stands up and stands in front of me, sings the part to me three, four, five times. I sing along, and together we belt out the song. Great, I got it. “Super, playback…” Gene calls. And who messes it up again right away? Me. I’d rather sing it without music altogether. Just like a moment ago. Together with Gene, and he eventually stops, and I continue alone. But that’s probably not going to happen because it would be too complicated to cut into this project.

You know what my biggest fear is at this moment?

Well, you’ll have to wait a week for that and the rest of the story. Like in the old days with a daily soap. Cliffhanger at the end, and next week it continues. I know. Therefore, I wish you a fantastic week, and the continuation follows next week…