Hubert von Goisern
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INTERVIEW

Miscellaneous: 1995

"The climate has intensified"

Profil Nr. 11 13th March 1995 | Text: Christian Seiler

Hubert von Goisern on his compatriot Jörg Haider, political responsibility, his new CD
and the retirement from his active career

Hubert von Goisern, 43, celebrated tumultuous success in Austria and Germany with a synthesis of rock and folk music (Hiatamadl). After detailed concert tours, in autumn 94, he declared his retirement from active pop music and coupled this with the release of a new live double CD, which will be delivered next Monday (Wia die Zeit Vergeht, BMG Ariola). Goisern launched a rustic-elegant fashion collection and is currently working on Josef Vilsmaier's filming of Robert Schneider's novel, Schlafes Bruder. In the past week, Goisern gave his opinion via the Austrian Press Agency about the remarks from Jörg Haider who had spitefully commented on Austria's most famous rock musician's benefit event for the victims of Oberwart. Haider on the "state artist": "Hollow beliefs in democracy". Goisern on Haider: "Tasteless".

Must Austrian artists engage themselves politically?

An artist is responsible for everything like anyone. Also for the rights of fellow human beings. The climate has dramatically intensified in the whole of Europe - not just Austria, I have already commented on it in my concerts.

You have taken care of sharpening your political profile with growing popularity - criticism against Waldheim and Haider. Why?

As a folk musician I must take a good look at the unhealthy regionalism. I have antagonised many people by doing this. With the first sold out tour I have, let us say, insulted 20% of the audience. They wanted to hear my music, but not my opinion on social politics. But I have never let myself be ordered to be quiet and half the 20% certainly started to think. The other half left during the interval.

On the first album Aufgeigen stått Niederschiassen, you recorded a song against the Federal President at that time, Kurt Waldheim. How did that go down?

In my narrow homeland, I am often addressed in the local papers, there are critical readers' letters and cynical articles.

You have also picked an argument with your fellow Goiserer Jörg Haider.

A few people at home say that I should shut my mouth and make music. Jörg is, after all, a son of Goisern and is admired there because he has brought it to something.

War of the great Goiserers?

A bit.

You are almost exactly the same age as Jörg Haider. Do you know him from your childhood?

No, I only know his father, who was often with my grandfather. He is still firmly convinced that everything was right in the Third Reich.

In the country, folk music was always synchronised with conservative homeland ideology. As a child, could you listen to folk music neutrally?

Yes, I grew up musically in brass music, which was completely unpolitical for me. I played the bourgeois music as a child from a working-class family, there was no problem as long as the music worked. First when I suddenly wore my hair shoulder-length, I began to rub people up the wrong way.

Holy world in Bad Goisern?

Totally. A highly violent situation like we have in Austria now was unthinkable in our lonely village. There was no crime, we still locked neither our houses nor our cars. Everything evil only came through the TV.

Why did you decide to make folk music?

I left Bad Goisern, went to Africa for four years, to Canada for two and a half years, studied music in Toronto and went to the Philippines for six months. There I came on the folk music trip.

Do you first have to listen to world music before you can value your own folk music?

Yes. I lived in the Philippines for four months with natives in a stilt house settlement, where there was neither electricity nor radio. There folk music had a liveliness like I had never experienced before. Then the thought came to me: our music must once have been like this too.

Bad Goisern is a centre of this folk music.

Yes, but the true folk musicians operate rather underground. They outwardly convey the feeling of total intolerance. Music sounded played as though it had always been played. That was the aura.

With what approval was your pop-like processed folk music met with by the conventional folk musicians of your region?

Nobody thought it was negative. The big debate happened when Goisern became a phenomenon. Fault was never found with my music, but with my criticism of society. The people were not pleased that I had no problem with gays and pulled Haider to pieces, they immediately did not like my music any more.

You were not the first person to make folk music in a broader sense, but you were the first folk musician to reach a mass audience. Have you never worried about your own effect when full beer tent gangs bawl Hiatamadl in chorus?

I have never been in a beer tent (laughs). As soon as you have written a song, you lose influence over it. People do what they want with it, whether they understand it as a great attack on intolerance, or as a pure entertainment for beer drinking.

But you wanted exactly that, to leave people to their own devices, otherwise you would not have given interpretation instructions in concerts and on the record covers.

That's right. Naturally you can be furious about what happens but you cannot change anything.

Did you feel what a difficult potential your biggest hit possesses?

When recording the title, I was not certain whether or not it would backfire, painting incredibly, but also letting me stand there in rags.

Why?

The lyrics (Koa Hiatamadl mog i net, mog kane dicken Wadeln net) came to me very quickly, just a funny little song. But: if you don't listen to anything else from me - which has practically happened with the incredible airplay of something of Hiatamadl on the radio - you can get a very wrong impression of what I actually do.

Hiatamadl hits the mark between pop music and Musikantenstadl.

My manager wanted me to appear on Musikantenstadl. He thought it would be a subversive affair.

Did you have to justify your success to yourself?

No. But I felt that very many people came to my concerts and expected something completely different of me because they only knew Hiatamadl. At first it made me uncertain. Then I began to enjoy it because I recognised the chance to reach people I would never have been able to reach.

Beer tent music, Musikantenstadl for the youth etc. How did you cope with these reproaches?

Naturally they rankled me. The argument of the general public, whom I was trying to please, also did not help. I wanted to reach them, to make them listeners and critics. When the Salzburger Nachrichten once slated me, I descended upon the department head conference and played the accordion for them. After a slating, I invited Franz Endler to a TV discussion, he was vain enough to come, thank God.

Has the Goisern message for tolerance and against stick-in-the-muds come over in the meantime?

It is something which has gone on. There are things which are still to be said which I must first formulate musically. For that I need the break which I have announced.

How definite is this departure?

I am still doing promotion for my live CD, a few interviews and one or other TV appearance. I still have no intentions for afterwards.

So how long will the break be?

No longer than six months. My priority is abstinence from the stage. Then I want to wait until something itches me so much that I have to scratch.

Do you use your popularity in order to advance something political?

I do not want to be a politician. I am firstly concerned with human rights, then with the ecology of reason. I believe that we work too much. I do not think it should be a disgrace to have little money.

Easy for you to say.

I already said that when I had no money at all.

What could you concretely do for paradigms change?

Inform better. We are involved in establishing an artist platform which comments on the events of the day, how advertising, industry or politics are doing now.

For years you have whirled around recognition: how do you feel when suddenly your opinion on world events is of public interest?

Good. But it is also a lot of responsibility. If something happens like in Oberwart, I have to give my opinion on it, and I have to do it so that it reaches who it should. That it does not sound like me is really difficult. To express myself about music and poetry pleases me more easily.