Hubert von Goisern
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LINZ EUROPE TOUR 2007 - 2009

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Interview with Hubert von Goisern

Nürnberger Nachrichten 17th June 2008 | Text: Susanne Helmer

The world musician talks about his tour on board a ship, which will also be leading him to Nuremberg

On the 1st and 2nd July Hubert von Goisern alias Hubert Achleitner will be setting anchor in Nuremberg harbour. He is covering his Linz Europe Tour 2007-2009 on a ship. In 2007 he travelled the eastern part of the Danube on board his concert boat, this year the tour is going west. In 2009 Linz will be the Capital of Culture and there will be a grand harbour festival to mark the end of mammoth project. We spoke to the 55-year-old artist about his unusual tour.

How did the idea arise to go on tour with a ship?

It was back in 1997, in Tanzania on Lake Tanganyika. I played at a festival there in a refugee camp. The people there didn't get along at all, but the music brought them together. I thought to myself: you could organise something, a floating festival. I still haven't put the idea into action. But while I was fishing on the Danube a friend asked me: why don't you do it here?

You want to bring people together with the language of music and speak of a "cultural eastward expansion". What were you able to take to the people of Eastern Europe?

I'm idealising it of course. But I noticed that at first the people were distrustful. They just couldn't believe that somebody would want nothing from them, not even an admission fee for the concert. They are only familiar with people coming to them wanting to first and foremost earn some money. They saw for the first time that something just has a heart.

Your flotilla sails very slowly along the Danube. Did this slowness have any effect?

Yes, you notice it in the new album too, although only a couple of songs arose on the ship. There's nothing hectic about it, the longest number goes over nine minutes. But I can only recommend the way of life on such a ship. On the Danube you travel through so much nature and so much history. I'd never thought that there would still be anything like it in Europe. In principle it's no different from the way it is in the Alps: it's just that they're up high and the Danube flows in the valley.

What kind of people did you meet in Romania, Serbia or Moldova?

They are distinguished by a kind of resignation to fate. Nothing on the banks of the Danube is built for ever, because the river can destroy everything. Everything is completely flat in the Danube delta. When the river rises a metre it looks like an ocean. There are also barely any settlements, you see at most a couple of gypsies with their wagons. It's a bit like the Middle Ages. The whole trip was like an adventure for me, it had something wild about it.

How is music handled in the east of Europe?

It is an object of daily use, there isn't always a cultural aspiration behind it like there is at home, there aren't listeners and players. It's much more the case that music belongs to particular occasions, like weddings or birthdays.

You're taking on board Konstantin Wecker for the concert in Nuremberg. What is it you like about him?

The radical nature of his artistic expression. He has a way of playing and singing that you just can't escape, whether you like him or not. It's something unavoidable. Human kindness and respect also mark him out.

Rivers of sound - Interview with Hubert von Goisern

WWF 7th May 2008

Last summer, Austrian musician Hubert von Goisern took to a barge to bring his music and environmental message to the people who live along the Danube. Now he is planning a similar concert tour along the Rhine. Andreas Beckman, from WWF's Danube Carpathian programme, asked him why.

The launch of the concert ship

4th June 2008 | Text: ORF | Photo: Linz09
Hubert von Goisern in Wallsee

The preparatory work in the dry dock has finished and the Linz Europe Tour ship
was launched into the water today at the Linz shipyard.

Just another 22 days then it will be "ship ahoy" for Hubert von Goisern, the start of the Linz Europe Tour 2008. Hubert von Goisern will be setting off on a musical journey for the second time as cultural ambassador for Linz09. This time they are heading west along the Rhine Main Canal to the North Sea. On Wednesday the converted concert ship was let into the water at the Linz harbour.

In pouring rain the newly adapted concert ship for the Linz Europe Tour West was let into the water: it is green, 77 metres long, weighs 350 tonnes and for two months will be the new home for Hubert von Goisern and his 50-strong crew on the 5000 kilometre waterway to Rotterdam.

Hubert von Goisern is looking forward to the commencing journey: "I'm crazily excited about living on the water for another whole summer and being able to welcome guests and fellow artists. I will be moving onto the ship in 14 days."

The centrepiece of the so-called barge - the hydraulic concert stage - has been made even more attractive with new visual elements. Since the concert ship must pass beneath many bridges along the way, the entire roof construction can be moved hydraulically.

On and below deck the team will have to close ranks a little more though. An additional barracks ship must be done without this year, because the Rhine Main Canal is too narrow at many points, explains Linz09 manager, Walter Putschögl.

The musician has many hopes for the tour to the west: "That the meetings with the artists and collaborations will hopefully be as successful as possible and that we will be able to inspire the audience and give them a good feeling", says Goisern.

On 26th June the floating concert stage will leave the home port of Wallsee and set off once more on a journey of adventure across Europe.

Launch of the concert ship

The musical survey of Europe

Süddeutsche Zeitung 28th April 2008 | Text: Anna Fischhaber

Hubert von Goisern is once more setting off for new shores with his music boat - this time he's going westwards. And the conciliator of folk music has his new album "s'nix" on board too.

World music, folk music revolutioniser and alpine rocker - Hubert von Goisern is all these things. This time the versatile Austrian is planning to do a musical survey of his own continent. A ship will lead the man of the mountains to new shores. Last year he sailed down the Danube to the Black Sea together with his band and stage. This year von Goisern is heading west.

"I think Europe is an unbelievably exciting experiment for cohabitation. We can set an example to show that it works," says von Goisern of his project. "And if you can't build any bridges, then you can just take people part of the way with you on the ship." The Austrian alpine rocker will have covered 12,000 kilometres on the rivers of Europe with his converted stage barge by the time it comes to the grand finale in Linz in 2009, which will be the Capital of Culture that year. The eastern part of the three year tour - the Danube to the Black Sea - is already behind him. At the end of June he will cast off on the second part of the journey, which will lead him westwards along the Danube, Rhine and Main.

Preview of the new album in Kaltenberg

Around 25 concerts are planned, the first with Konstantin Wecker in Nuremberg. The 77m long and 12m wide concert ship with its dragon flag will not be docking in Munich - the Isar is too narrow. Instead there is a preview of the tour for Munich residents on 30th May in Kaltenberg. "It'll be loud," promises von Goisern, who has become noticeably rockier once more with his new young band.

This can also be heard on the new album, which Hubert von Goisern - real name Hubert Achleitner - has recorded apropos of nothing. S'Nix (Nothing) is the title and it will be released on 23rd May. "Perhaps it is because we have played so many open airs - and you really have to go to town for it to work. And that's the feeling with which we went into the studio", the artist said of his new sound.

But von Goisern, who still looks a little done in from the months of work in the studio, doesn't really want to talk about the album. Instead he has brought with him a stuffed fish and lots of adventurous stories from the first part of his journey through Europe last year - such as when a storm nearly ruined everything in Vienna, or of life as a seaman at 40 degrees in the shade. Then he talks of bombed ruins and the bureaucratic hurdles in Croatia and then enthuses over the hospitality in Serbia.

"So near and yet so far away and foreign"

It was the people from the Balkans who especially impressed von Goisern. "The most important thing I took with me from the journey to the Balkans was that these countries are so near and yet so far away and foreign. And that there is a lot to discover." And when you listen to him you could think that the cultural eastwards expansion with the music boat is more exciting than an Atlantic crossing. Going downstream the alpine rocker did not only gather stories, but melodies too. Even if you barely hear it in von Goisern's new album - only in Herschaun does the obligatory yodel mix with the gypsy tunes of the Balkans.

"It will be a little while yet before I have processed all the influences", says the artist. Nonetheless there is a great deal of the journey in s'nix. Von Goisern is back to his favourite subject, the tour: "I have the feeling that the new album has something epic about it. Perhaps because the Danube is so long and so wide. Those who travel for so long with such a big ship no longer make small gestures." The journey east as cultural ambassador allowed the 55 year old to fulfil a very personal wish. After the treat, now to business for him. While all the concerts last year were free, the expedition by ship to the west also involves making back some of the four million Euros the project is costing.

Nomads of the new world

"I see the Rhine as more of a motorway, while the Danube has something wild about it that we won't find in the west," von Goisern has said prior to his tour. Now, shortly before the start, he is hoping for an adventure again. "I am intrigued by the elements of water and ship, which will take us prisoner again, carry us and move us to a different attitude towards life."

Stars such as Bap and Xavier Naidoo have already confirmed their appearances on the ship. A taster of the interaction between the powerfully voiced soul sing from Mannheim is offered by von Goisern's new album. For nine minutes the two sing of the nomads of the new world in Siagst as.

This summer the alpine rocker will be going as far as Rotterdam, Brussels and Basel with his "floating village", his affectionate name for the flotilla with 750 horsepower. Although in Switzerland barely anybody will get excited about the project at the moment thanks to the upcoming European Championship. "Anything that isn't round is very difficult to sell there at the minute", says von Goisern. "But I'm hoping for the last moment." In any case the tour will be exciting to the very end, an adventure even.

A few eastern European bands from last year will also be joining the westward journey, for example the Moldovans Zdob și Zdub. Singer Roman Iagupov and von Goisern have a great musical relationship - even if Roman at first found the Austrian and his ship pretty "crazy". A culture shock in his homeland, where there is barely anything like showbusiness. The Moldovan band have meanwhile made a kind of living proof of the cultural eastwards expansion with their ethno punk version of Hiatamadl. And proved too that von Goisern is by no means the only European who knows something about dusting off foreign folk music.

Hubert von Goisern docks in Nuremberg

Nürnberger Zeitung 16th April 2008 | Text: Stephanie Siebert | Photo: Gerullis
Hubert von Goisern

"It's fortunate that I didn't know what I was letting myself in for. Otherwise I probably wouldn't have done it." Hubert von Goisern looks around him with a serious expression on his face. When the idea came to him of setting out on a grand concert tour along Europe's great rivers, the difficulties he and his team would face were as yet unknown to him.

His Linz Europe Tour began last year. He travelled down to the Black Sea with a specially adapted ship with a hydraulic stage: from Regensburg to Romania and the Ukraine. He stopped at 21 harbours and gave free concerts - from on board the ship.

Hubert von Goisern is also travelling as an ambassador: Linz is the 2009 Capital of Culture and linchpin of the river tour. But the singer is also getting involved for a "cultural eastward expansion". He would like to make a contribution to the Danube regions having a stronger connection to each other: "My aim was not for everyone to shake hands and then all be eating Viennese schnitzel by the end of it. I wanted much more to learn about the differences."

For this purpose Hubert von Goisern invited bands who came from these regions to join him and they played together with him at the concerts. The singer wants to do this on the second part of his tour too, which starts in June. The fact that the guest star in the Nuremberg harbour will be Konstantin Wecker, who is not a Franconian, should not perturb: "I chose the guest musicians mainly according to one point: that I like them," says Hubert von Goisern. In Cologne the group BAP will accompany him, in Mannheim Xavier Naidoo will be playing with the Austrian.

But before they set off to the west in June, Hubert von Goisern is taking stock: "Not everything worked out as I imagined it would. The risk is greater than for any other project I have done." But as with the proverbial donkey, who goes dancing on the ice when he gets too complacent: "it's so great to put on musical ice skates." Nonetheless, he now understands why nobody before him has put into practice such an project, although there have been 15 or more similar ideas: "that was probably the smarter thing to do."

As fast as a brisk pedestrian

The planning of a concert tour on water is a difficult undertaking: "Such a tour is great for those on the ship, but it's pretty bad for the organiser," says tour manager Hage Hein. "The problem is: the ship is as fast as a brisk pedestrian, downstream perhaps a slow cyclist." Thus one cannot give consideration to local conditions. "We simply have to travel the route in linear fashion, there's no other way." This slowness is reflected on the new CD S'nix, due to be released on 23rd May: "The songs have all turned out quite epic, there are many long ones on the album."

Yet although Hubert von Goisern has gained a new attitude to life through the style of the tour, not all experiences were of a positive nature: in Budapest he experienced a great deal of xenophobia: "it wasn't directed straight at me, but it still really shook me."

Elsewhere on the other hand Hubert von Goisern experienced a great deal of warmth, "most of all in Serbia and the Ukraine". And yet there was always a certain mistrust because von Goisern did not charge any admission fees in Eastern Europe: "I wanted everybody to be able to attend the concerts. But the people there know Western Europe as a very efficient place. It was very surprising for them to have someone from Western Europe who was not concerned with money."

Such a tour is not feasible without sponsors. Yet despite two big supporters von Goisern is still investing in it himself: "I have to recoup it," he says and adds with a smile: "Well, otherwise we'll have to play benefit concerts for ourselves for two years."

"Pure harmony would be ever so dull"

OÖN 9th April 2008 | Text: Bernhard Lichtenberger | Photo: Volker Weihbold

For him it is "one of the last great adventures you can still have in Europe". After his musical expedition by ship into the east in 2007, Hubert von Goisern is taking the Linz Europe Tour West as a Linz09 project through the Rhine Main Canal to Rotterdam from the 27th June. The OÖN spoke to him.

Hubert von GoisernHow rich were you on your return from your Danube East Tour in the summer of 2007?

For me it was the summer of the century for encounters with lots of people and artists. Friendships have borne fruits, which will also lead to collaboration in the future.

Did all musical encounters meet expectations?

There were some, where you wondered if anything would come of it, where they developed really well. With others there was too little cooperation, either down to a lack of interest or time.

Does approaching people work?

It is said that the borders have been put back, that the EU's are now where the Ukraine begins. But you constantly come up against boundaries, but that's why I do these things and take on board people who are also prepared to push themselves to their limits and see what happens. At worst you don't get over the barrier, so you just get to know the other person at the fence and make exchanges there. On this tour it wasn't about showing what we have in common. It's rather the differences in which it is exciting to live. We shouldn't all be taking everything from the other, so that at some point we become a homogenous European community. With all due desire for harmony: pure harmony would be ever so dull.

You new album s'Nix is just being finished and will be released on 23rd May. It sounds to you like the Danube. What attitude to life is within it?

The Danube has something epic, grand and secret about it. It's untamed and is boundless in times of flood. It has a peacefulness and calmness and the flowing element - and violence in the power of the water. It is a grand gesture that this river makes on its way through Europe. When you've lived and played music on this river for two and a half months and you then start to play in the studio with the people who had this adventure with you, then everything resonates.

In the east the crowds seemed very open-minded towards the foreign musician Hubert von Goisern. At your finale concert in Linz last year though, the intolerance towards the artists from the east was palpable because they wanted to hear you.

After the concert I apologised to Rambo Amadeus on behalf of the people, because that didn't happen to me in Novi Sad when we played with him. But he said: "No, that was my fault, I played for too long." I thought that was an incredible gesture. Of course it's also that in the Ukraine , for example, so little happens there. And so when someone comes along there is a greater willingness to engage and listen than here at home, where people are continually confronted with cultural offerings, taking away their curiosity. That's why I undertake journeys to sharpen my senses. If you are always surrounded with familiar things, you think you know everything. If everything is new, you wake up.

What expectations will you take with you on your West Tour in June?

No expectations, only the hope that it will be an equally wonderful summer, that the weather will favour us so that we'll have neither low water, nor pouring rain and awful weather. I hope that there will be more positive surprises than disappointments. But nothing is out of the question.

Linz Europe Tour 2008: Press conference in Linz

ORF / Linz 09 8th April 2008 | Photo: Linz09

Hubert von Goisern presents the Linz Europe Tour West

Hubert von GoisernOn 26th June it will be time for Hubert von Goisern and his band to "cast off". This summer Hubert von Goisern will be going on tour once more as an ambassador for the Capital of Culture Linz 09 with partners such as Konstantin Wecker, BAP and Xavier Naidoo.

The second part of his Linz Europe Tour will lead Hubert von Goisern westwards along the Danube, Rhine and Main. Hubert and his band will be touring until the end of August through Germany, Switzerland, Belgium and the Netherlands with a floating stage as part of a converted convoy of ships. Around 25 shows are planned.

On the West Tour HvG will also carry with him experiences from the East Tour. The first part of the Linz Europe Tour 2007 - 2009 will be present in film flashbacks - thus providing for further musical exchange. Special encounters are also guaranteed with the numerous bands, whom Goisern met previously on his Danube tour in Eastern Europe. So in the course of the West Tour there will also be guest appearances by Karandila, Zdob Si Zdub and Rambo Amadeus. Piece by piece the sound of Europe is developing in this unique project.

Have no fear

Hangar 7 Journal, Edition 01/08 | Text: Herbert Völker | Photo: Jürgen Skarwan

The interim result of being different. The experiences of gliding downstream along the Danube, the cultural booty of the tour, the artist's kick. The sequel to the meetings. Hubert von Goisern talks to Herbert Völker.

Linz will be the European Capital of Culture 2009. The "Linz Europe Tour 2007 - 2009" with the ship belonging to Hubert von Goisern and his band is part of the preparations for this event. There are meetings with the people living in the Danube's drainage basin in around 60 harbours along the Danube and connecting rivers and canals. In 2007 the tour went to the east, down to the Black Sea, this year they will travel west up to Rotterdam and for 2009 the harbour festival in Linz is planned.

HERBERT VÖLKER: You once said: the water that flows out of the mountain behind my house in Goisern flows by a stream into the Traun and into the Danube and into the Black Sea - and you were curious to follow it. How has this curiosity been satisfied?

Hubert von GoisernHUBERT VON GOISERN: It really exceeded all my expectations: what an unbelievable nature reserve is there in the middle of Europe - untouched, untamed for the most part. In Austria we know the Danube as being dammed up to the eyeballs, but from the Iron Gate, actually from Hungary, it flows freely. And so for weeks at a time you're right in the middle of nature, I'd compare it with a mountain range, it just goes down instead of up, but really it has the quality of the Alps for me, or of the Himalaya. The way such a large river constructs its own biotope and feeling of being alive across an enormous landscape - and you realise: in fact it is the rivers that form the connection. 80 million people are connected via this water, whether they like it or not.

When the Danube then finally ends after 2800 kilometres through ten countries, after all the emotions it stirs up and sweeps along, through Germany and Austria, Slovakia and Hungary, Serbia, Croatia, Bulgaria and Romania, finally Moldova and the Ukraine, what then occurs to the musical westerner?

We made a collective dive into the river. The Danube doesn't linger with pathos as it runs away. Mind you it's an impressive thought that the thrust of the mass of water is so powerful that it only takes two seconds to push the total daily volume of pee from this 80 million person sinkhole down into the Black Sea, so the rest is effectively clean water. I worked that out one time, I like it, hope it's right.

When you return to the mountain lands after three months on the ship, are you wishing for a waterbed?

Not a waterbed, but I was unbelievably comfortable with the light rocking on the ship, and it was great to wake up with these movements and the gurgling of water. And then you think, oh it'll be funny when the bed doesn't move any more. But then my return home was the best I've ever had after a tour. Normally the adjustment on coming home is always really stressful and nobody understands me, because I'm completely different, and I don't understand them either. And this time it was simply a soft glide home. Then I ran up to the heights to see whether all the mountains were there. They were still there, thank God.

An essential purpose of the tour was to seek the cultural connections along a great waterway, for which music is an ideal medium. You wanted to integrate artists from each of the countries or regions into your concerts - how did that go?

There were quite a number of highlights in collaboration and in mutual appreciation and curiosity too. For example the Romany band Karandila from Bulgaria, who came from a completely different planet and who also released something freeing within me with the way they played. I learned a great deal by watching them, but I have no idea how I will process it, because it is rather more an attitude towards life that flows into music-playing. Haydamaky from the Ukraine were also wonderful. Darinka Tsekova, a gadulka soloist from Bulgaria also played a special role, I definitely want to integrate her into the band this year, she is a musical wonder and will hopefully be with us until Rotterdam. And then a wonderful partnership has also arisen with the Moldovan band Zdob Si Zdub, which recently led to Hiatamadl being recorded for their forthcoming album. So Hiatamadl will even get into Eastern Europe...

... where of course nobody can understand the lyrics. Let me recap for those who don't know. The song came into the world in 1992. The provocative lyrics are concerned with the differences between girls from the mountains and from the city, with an example of a preference for brawny or thick calves. The racy lyrics were accompanied by comparably rousing music, with which Austrian folk music reached a mass audience for the first time. However this led to the song being sung in beer tents by raucous choirs. You then distanced yourself a little from this super hit ... right?

I simply stopped playing the song in concert. I needed a break, I didn't want to get onto this treadmill where you just repeat, repeat, repeat - just because it works. I am not of the opinion that you have to make hay while the sun shines. You can let it stand too and leave it to the wild animals.

Then evidently a lot happened to you in this break ...

... absolutely. This long break led me elsewhere, like to the meeting with Jane Goodall or the Tibetans. And then when I had the desire to produce something myself again and to go on stage, something else arose on account of the distance, in time and place, as well as the new environment. That shouldn't mean that I rejected what I did before. But it's always the way with me that I have to do something new, so that the tension is retained. You need this "not knowing what is around the next corner", so that your senses are very sharp too. That goes for what I'm producing soon with my new band. It is simply something new, something I've never done before. I have no desire to make songs according to a certain model over and over again just because they go down well. That's not my thing.

Change of subject. You play your concerts with apparently as many instruments as you like. How many do you actually play?

It depends how you count them. Whether you call the mouth organ an instrument. Whether you differentiate between guitar and bass, between trumpet and flugelhorn. Basically it's button accordion, guitar, almost all kinds of flutes, some brass wind instruments, clarinet, piano, drums.

So you could play a number in the studio all on your own ...

... yes, but playing alone is dull. I think Lenny Kravitz and Prince have recorded numbers where they have played all the instruments themselves, but I think the most exciting form of playing music is playing together. And this autistic "I do everything myself", no, that's not my way. There's no really good recipe with just one ingredient.

You are known best for playing the accordion though. What do you say when someone speaks to you on the obvious eroticism of this instrument?

I have a love-hate relationship with the accordion. I rejected it because this funny attitude comes from it, which for me is so old-fashioned, dusty, stuck-in-the-mud. But there are sounds I hear in my head that are not executable on the accordion, so I simply have to leave the idea and play other instruments. That's when you can easily hate the instrument. On the other hand, I know to value this reduction that the instrument forces upon you too, making a much higher creativity necessary. Then there is the attraction of contention again too. I like the positive attitude towards life that comes from the instrument. You can play something melancholic, like a blues for example, but the melancholy will never get such a gravity. This shimmering sound results in a positive attitude and I do like that.

You when you romp about with the accordion on stage you present a real strong guy. This contrast of the display of physical strength with the subtle artist personality of course has quite a special attraction. Does this "burning", both inside and out, sustain itself over the decades?

The display of physical strength is subtler, but for the time being it is no less. Of course you also have to give age what it demands, that is more economy with the physical resources. I think I'm less tense than in earlier years because I have more self-confidence, that I can do things the way I want them and I can just let them happen too. I don't have to always run ahead with the flag in my hand. But the spectrum between fury and resignation is still completely there, there's no let-up in intensity.

"Let-up": How do you manage in the meantime to decouple from the normal madness and find peace?

The slowness of the journey by ship was a good example. I shall say a word now that I take back immediately, because it's one of those terribly fashionable words - deceleration, but you get what is meant anyway. I am indeed someone who pleads to do nothing. It's okay when someone does nothing. There's too much bustling around, so hamster-like. I think you can do nothing for a long time too and it can be very valuable, because you can also make something else of it. Now and again I just want to sit there and let things come, without the demand that I must do this and that, call that person, answer that mail, but rather just stare into space.

Back to the main subject: how does the tour continue this year?

Between the end of June and the beginning of September we will be travelling westwards along the Danube, the Main-Danube Canal, the Main down to Basel and then the whole way to Rotterdam, with a bit of the Neckar and Ruhr in between, then the Meuse, it's quite complicated as far as moving our little convoy is concerned, which is why there are still only a few exact dates. But that will be made continually more concrete on the sites www.linzeuropatour.com and www.hubertvongoisern.com. The dates of the TV film about the east tour will also be there. There will be three or four parts in May and June 2008.

Isn't that a difficult situation? All the high points of the Danube have been anticipated with the wild east. What can the disciplined west add to that?

Certainly we will be missing this free spirit of a untamed river. Now we're coming to more of a ship motorway, on the other hand I think that what has happened recently on the Rhine in terms of nature conservation is exemplary. Apart from that, we want to be surprised. There will be a very different kind of dynamic due to the higher population density, and so larger crowds. The people there also understand my lyrics. And I can also talk to them between the songs.

One more word on the message of the "Linz Europe Tour 2007 - 2009"?

It has already been said: "Have no fear!" Meaning, don't be afraid of one another. It is an exciting, bright Europe in which we live. And we should be delighted by this variety, rather than being afraid of what is different.