Interview with Hubert von Goisern
Nightlife met Hubert von Goisern, the Austrian superstar of folky music in Vienna. He is currently on a promotion tour with his new album Trad II and justified himself to us with regard to his new tour and his upcoming tour. During the interview in a pub in the 9th district, Hubert seemed very relaxed and rightly proud of his youngest record. This was recorded on the Krippenstein at 2100 metres above sea level, in fullest seclusion in an empty hotel. Mixing desk, amplifiers, instruments, compressors and filters made their way up there in order to put Hubert's folklore pieces from long gone days into new garb.
Why did you take so much trouble and record your new album in complete solitude? Substantially less money would have gone with a studio in Salzburg.
Since I very often went skiing in this area, I thought that this, for me, very impressive landscape and solitude would be an ideal place for the production of my album.
What influence has this unusual place had on the musical translation of your chosen pieces for Trad II?
You can't say exactly what would have emerged if we had recorded the album in a studio. Whether it would have been the same or not, nobody knows. I think, though, that this place has had an influence on the production. I am not someone who always looks at what basic conditions a production must have. You must be able to work everywhere. But the silence up there, no cars, that has certainly had effects.
According to what criteria have you chosen the songs which are to be heard on Trad II? Apart from the fact that the pieces most likely appealed to you melodiously.
I have a very special bond to this style of music. They are all pieces I have known for years, which are a part of the story of my life. I hear something, think it's beautiful, then I put it away again. It then appears again sometime. Sometimes not until during the production.
You worked with musicians from six different countries. Was that chance, or was there a very particular reason?
It was more or less chance. They are all old friends and acquaintances of mine who are all very busy themselves. But the wonder is the fact that they all had time at the point of recording. I had wanted to work with some of them for years and now it's worked.
When are you going on tour again?
My next tour begins on Ash Wednesday and takes me through Austria, Germany, Switzerland to Scandinavia and also to eastern countries. Like Ukraine and the Czech Republic among others.
What music do you listen to privately?
I listen to everything really, except my own things of course. (laughs) That would be too hard for me. I would be thinking the whole time, 'Ah! I recorded it like that back then' and then I would be debating how I would do it differently or better now. I like listening to Ö1 and at home in Salzburg I get all the German broadcasts fine, I also like them very much and sometimes even Ö3. Depending on how I feel! But basically, I listen to very little music, mostly when I'm travelling in the car. Singers in particular I really like listening to are Suzann Vega, Bob Marley and Peter Gabriel, but classical music from Beethoven and Wagner too. Mind you, only Wagner in the right doses.
Finally, a question on the subject of Starmania. What do you think of the way in which stars are made today?
I don't really feel competent to give a judgment on that - since I once looked at it half an hour in and followed the whole thing, but I think that if it didn't exist, there would be nothing at all. I just don't know whether or not it's the right way to promote an artist. On the one hand, it's good that something like it exists, on the other hand, I don't think it's necessarily good to press a young artist into a given track and take every form of personal development from them. But that's a matter of opinion.
At the peak of emotions
Hubert von Goisern recorded his new record at 2100m above sea level and now presents it in the lowlands. Bad Goisern in the Salzkammergut is famous for two things: for its most famous inhabitant, the musician Hubert Achleitner and for the Goiserer, a double-stitched mountain boot. As robust as the shoe is, the 51 year old Hubert von Goisern has also worn out of few of them: on his journeys through Canada, Tibet, the Philippines, Egypt, South Africa, West Africa and above all between January and March 2003. Then, together with his band and studio equipment the folk and world musician climbed the 2100m high Krippenstein in the Dachstein massif in order to play and record music in a deserted hotel at the summit station. Those who hear the merry and quaint record Trad II, which came to life completely up there, wish that more groups would go to a cloister instead of a city studio. Because "such a place calms the senses, the eye, the ear, and everything becomes more sensitive," as von Goisern says. "And if you record in the city, everyone goes home in the evening, here everyone had to stay there." Hubert's guests from Austria, Italy, Germany, England and Switzerland apparently all stayed with pleasure, all being able to bring their personal music history: lap steel, dobro, mandolin, violins, electronic drums and many more things foreign to the species fit into the record, pleasantly, discreetly and excitingly, spontaneously like at an evening in a mountain hut. Above all, von Goisern sings, plays the Jews' Harp, yodels, plays the accordion and harmonica, in his grumpy-soft way as on Trad I (2001), through old folk songs, poacher pieces, country dances and melodies which he has grown fond of in the course of the years, and which all come from Bad Goisern and the valleys around.
At night everything seems bigger, more mystical in the mountains
I grew up in Goisern, in the Salzkammergut. So I was surrounded by the rubble of the Dachstein massif from when I was small. Mountains signify memories from my childhood and memories also mean: security, safety. In the lowlands you are much more exposed, mountains offer protection. I have always felt that.
When I was ten, I went from Goisern, up half an hour into the mountain forest, to stay there alone overnight. It was a bit eerie, the wind blew, branches and trees creaked here and there. Nevertheless, I have never felt the noises and darkness to be ominous. At night, the horizon moves far away, no little things distract you, everything seems hazy, bigger, more mystical, quieter, more mysterious. And as a child with a lively imagination, I thought: if you meet a goblin now, it would be high time.
I cannot say whether I gather strength when I climb a mountain alone today, mostly around the Dachstein, because I mostly know my way about there. But I know most certainly that it has a cleansing effect which is eternal to also stay in these surroundings at night. All the knots that seem to be undoable during the day undo themselves there. In the mountains I am frequently successful in suddenly seeing things completely differently. I feel that there is a way out of the thoughts which I previously thought I could never overcome. It has always helped me.
The enormous nature, the masses of rock let those things come to light which were always there, but which are much more difficult to detect in a loud world. In the cities, also in little Salzburg, where I live, you must first cut out all the noise, the acoustic as well as the visual. But no neon lights flicker on the mountain and people aren't scurrying about everywhere. You are thrown back into yourself, into your own mind which you consider. And you notice how the senses are calmed, the eye, the ear.
When you go into the mountains alone at night, with great certainty, you don't meet anybody. And yet I don't feel the loneliness up there, there I can establish contact to each and every person via fantasy and dreams. I only feel loneliness in very different moments, in interesting ways in each case, when I am among other people: when I am incapable of approaching someone myself and nobody approaches me.
For me, the deserted environment is the main thing in the mountains. Therefore you can also read something in to everything, every romantic thing and every horror. Perhaps the mountains are nothing more than a big mirror, big projection surfaces for our souls. Just like the desert and the sea. Mountains, desert and sea are all the same. I need the mountains because I have grown up with them. They were always there and when I cannot see and feel them for a long time, cannot go into this landscape, then something is missing for me.
We recorded my new album at the top of the Krippenstein, 2100m above sea level in an abandoned hotel. Some musicians were sceptical at first, but when they enjoyed the panoramic view of the Dachstein mountains for the first time, all doubts flew away. We even went skiing in the middle of the night with forehead lamps. Can there be a more fantastic environment in order to work?
Hubert von I don't give a damn
The development of Hubert von Goisern's new CD: Presentation of Trad 2
Hubert von Goisern presented his new CD Trad II at more than 2000m above sea level on the Krippenstein, talks about the tour with Mounir and gives the prospects for his future.
Trad II was recorded last winter. That's why the first question is about the more recent tour with Mounir and his 13 member band: was it worthwhile?
We all howled our heads off on the last day. Yes, it was super. Much better than we had dreamed. A real exchange took place. Now I can just say what we got from them: we felt an unbelievable warmth. That also worked very positively when they were gone. Their way of behaving was so affectionate, yes, from a smartness, that it lost us a little. Concerned with sensitivity and primarily harmony. That also spread within our groups. We played music - that is afterwards, when the others were gone, I really missed them. Because with these numbers which we played together, a dimension came to them, which yes, it is a shame that it was only three weeks. But I hope that there is a second chapter sometime, or actually a third, I should say.
But afterwards, the old band was dissolved, was it not more difficult to separate after this?
Well, perhaps it made it easier. Because this time with Mounir - not just with him, but with the whole group - was restricted, which then catches on. I am grateful that I have these three weeks in my life. And you can't keep hold of things, in the moment where you try to keep hold, then it slides from you again and is funny somehow. So you must take things as they come, and when they go, then it simply goes again. With this recognition, then comes a certain ease, which comes in useful when there are separations.
The new band?
We recorded up here in the winter last year and it was clear as we were together, I would really like to go on tour and I asked them and each was excited by the idea and now I am doing it.
The new violinist comes from the Bairisch Diatonischer Jodelwahnsinn?
I have known her for a long time, I met her for the first time at a festival, in 1993 I think, so ten years ago, and then we saw each other time after time, when I was in Munich and then in 1999, when I produced Fön, I asked her whether she wanted to join the new group. The Jodelwahnsinn still existed then and she didn't want to be unfaithful and then just yodelled on Katholisch. So she came into the studio and when she then dissolved the band last year, I asked her straight away whether it would now work.
And then it worked?
Yes, she is quite worried that it will be too exhausting for her, the way I play music, so intensively we play and tour. The Jodelwahnsinn never did that, they went home after each concert. We played, I don't know how often, but certainly only a fraction of what we play, or what I play, and she thought, no, that's too steep for her. But after the Jodelwahnsinn were then dissolved, she thought, yes, you can try it, if it doesn't work, it doesn't work. Well, I can endure it.
How do you do it?
The most difficult part is the tour preparation phase. Until everything is organised, until the team is together, not just the musicians, but the whole sphere, the mechanics, the logistics. And when it works, I think: okay. Super, that...
... that works.
That works. It's like if you have to simply get a really big jumping wheel moving and when it then goes, then it's really cool. I like travelling and I feel when the time has come where I think, do it now, but then instead I say: enough.
You left when you were 20 or 19, because everything had become too close for you. Austria, the closeness and so on and now you play Austrian folk music. How does that fit together?
I could not do it if I had to play these songs with a local folk music party, I couldn't do that. I can't say that I have made peace with the scene. It was indeed the scene that drove me away back then. For me, I feel personally weakened, it was, for example, how the people who played folk music and so were in the scene, complained about the Beatles. They were only the most harmless of all. So I think that I don't want anything to do with the people who do not understand, those who disapprove. I don't want to come in, because otherwise it will be: they were all like that back then. So I rejected the scene and with it, its music and what goes together with it.
But there are those with whom you have become acquainted via this music, aren't there?
No. I got to know the folk songs, really got to know them, I heard them, but somehow they entered and left, the melodies certainly remained in my subconscious, but I really got to know them through friends.
If I sing it such a way, if it fits.
Yes, exactly. When you then think, cool. There are quite incredible stories in them. And what I simply don't like, with many, many of these so-called authentic performances of folk music - when it is sung - this constant singing in two or three voices. It's terrible. Because each song has a story and when three people tell a story at once, when it is in unison or in a beautiful harmony, then it is somehow something very artistic to say, yeah, super. The voices are set somehow, but the story falls by the wayside. Then it is just such a product where the style of conveying is more important than what is conveyed.
Trad two, Trad one. Difference.
Of course. It is, I would say, the next step. It is freer. And there are also different musicians.
Trad II was recorded in a deserted hotel at 2000m on the Krippenstein in the Dachstein area. How did it come about?
(silent) Yes, silence is now not something only acoustic. There is silence for the eyes. Up here, it is so impressive, so calming for the eye too. Every day you wake up and perhaps the weather is different and the clouds are different, and the light is different, but there is never a parked car that stands there and somewhere else the next day. There are no hoardings, there is no neon light. The senses can really calm themselves and come down and through that you become much more attentive to what is now really happening, you become more aware of the light and the clouds and the sound of the guitar, which is now simply different, because...
But that is all a long time ago in reality.
Yes, it is October now, it was seven months ago.
Well, now there is this. Now there is a tour with the programme, with only folk songs. A seated ambience and not as big as even open airs or festivals are, 1000 seats roughly speaking. There are a few which are two, two and a half thousand, but, on average, they're about a thousand.
Is that not somehow a renunciation - of money?
Ah, I have the good fortune that I never have to think about things like that. A renunciation of money was doing the Mounir tour, that cost me 50,000 Euros. We simply had crazy costs, flying thirteen people around and feeding them. But I am very grateful that I can afford it and that I do not have to watch the money and that I am in this privileged position, when I have an idea and the itch, that I can say: let's do it. And I do not have to see, calculate this or that.
What differentiates Trad II from the first Trad are the yodels. I wanted to record two, three yodels on the first one, but then this would have gone beyond the scope of the disc and I actually made Trad II because I wanted to do yodels. But there are five yodels and eight songs on it. When I am finished with the presentation, then the next thing is that I make a film about this music, or with this music. The Bayerischer Rundfunk and Julian Pölsler are making it, he is a good friend of mine, from whom I have learned many folk songs. A Styrian. He made the Fernsehsaga, the two-parter for which I did the music.
It will actually be eight video clips with a connecting story. And we are filming this inside and when it is over, we have the last day of filming on 18th October, so the weather can play tricks and then I am moving into a new house and new studio. Then I need a bit of time to put it straight.
Folk songs are the musical ABC
What always bothered me with Trad, the first production from Hubert von Goisern with old, handed-down folk songs, was the missing warmth. As I put Trad II into the CD player with according scepticism and pressed the play button, I was really confused by what opened up before me. Kohler, the lead-in yodel, the following De Gamserln (a version with ample hit potential), the excellent pub music of Da Insrige to the closing yodel Schönberger, it radiates the intuitive warmth of folk music, moreover, HvG succeeded a proper gold grasp with the musicians.
What I did not know at that time was how it came to be that this production comes over so much more homogeneously and naturally than in comparison with Trad. Good tip, because Hubert von Goisern presented Trad II where it arose: 2100m above sea level, on Krippenstein.
The snow was knee-deep in some places. Bongo, Hubert von Goisern's dog, had a great time with it, dipped his head into it, ate the snow and rushed about. In a place exposed to the wind, when the trudge was done (it should have originally been a walk), the folk singer gathered the crowd around him, patiently answered some questions, and declared the CD quasi open. "Why there?", was one of the questions and the questioner pointed with his finger down to the closed hotel, in which the baby Trad II developed and the questioner followed up with "the hotel reminds me of the Shining." On the Krippenstein, says HvG, he had already spent some months of his life if he counts it all up, and as far as the hotel is concerned, well: it is simply there. If it wasn't there, it wouldn't be a shame, but again: it is simply there. And because it was there so immediately, he packed the necessary things together and stopped off with his team of musicians and technicians in the shut hotel. "The great advantage up here was that we were together the whole time. This special atmosphere could come through that because: nobody could leave. You could go out when there was a break, but there is nothing outside." You hear this in each tone of the CD and is the secret for this warm, intimate, peaceful and ordered sound.
On top of that is the interesting combination of the instruments: Max Lässer plays lap steel, mandolin and dobro, Arnulf Lindner plays bass, Bernd Bechtloff is the drummer, Burkhard Frauenlob worked the keyboards, the wonderful violin playing and the female voices come from Monika Drasch, Walpurga Höller and Marlene Schuen. The singer himself plays the accordion, harmonica and Jews' harp.
Destruction by acknowledgement
"It is important to me that nobody tells me how I should do it when I play music. Only: many are not so ready yet. That is the main conflict for many who say to me: "That sounds like this, and not how you do it." But that's ok. Qualtinger once said: "There is a destruction by acknowledgment." Hubert von Goisern spoke these words in his inimitably leisurely speed hours later in one of the empty empty rooms of the former hotel on the Krippenstein. And this too: "I learned to yodel at the age of 37, I had never yodelled before and really always believed that you had to be born yodelling, otherwise it simply doesn't work. I learned it from a cassette - mind you, not from a Langenscheidt cassette.
"A twelve-year-old yodelled on it, and I just thought: Wow, what a groove in this melody! - and thereupon I wrote out all the syllables and, taking the yodel in via my Walkman, I took myself to a motorway bridge in Regensburg and yodelled for hours. At the beginning, it is important to yodel where nobody can hear you, because it sounds terrible at the start. Years later in Tibet, I discovered that Tibetans learn to sing at waterfalls. So, at a place where they can likewise not be heard."
Whoever thinks of folk music, automatically thinks of homeland too. HvG, when he defines homeland: "There, where I get involved, I am at home. There, where I keep out of it, I am not." And tradition? "It would be nonsense to say that you have to re-inventing the soup bowl. In my many journeys through other countries, I learned to esteem tradition in principle. And if I learn to esteem the tradition from, for example, West Africa, then I must also be able to learn to value my native tradition." What impression folk music made on HvG was a question which got a particularly long think and ended with the closing sentence "Through something which makes an impression, you always come to somewhere where you would not voluntarily have gone, and it can also be something great where it hits you in this way."
Hubert von Goisern on "Du und Du mit Lu"
Thursday, 30th October: The alpine rocker Hubert von Goisern proudly presented his new album Trad II to the Arabella listeners. He revealed how he came to this name and what influences he has processed on his album in the personal interview.
With Trad II, Hubert von Goisern returns to his Austrian roots again
Hubert von Goisern (actually Hubert Achleitner), born 1952 in Bad Goisern in the Dachstein area, Austria, can probably quite rightly be called the founder of alpine rock. But first of all, the father insisted that his son do something down-to-earth, so he trained as a chemistry laboratory assistant. But Hubert had barely held the certificate in his hands, before he left the narrowness of the village. He moved to South Africa, Canada and to the Philippines. In Canada, he studied flamenco guitar and harmonic theory.
"Trad" stands for "tradition", "folk tunes" and "wisdom of the folk"
In the Philippines he disappeared into mysticism and the archaic of a remote mountain village. In 1984 he came back to Austria again. He worked as a freelance musician and composer and studied electro-acoustic and experimental music at the music college in Vienna. In 1986 he learned to play the accordion. Hubert brought roots of traditional music with him from distant countries and that awoke in him the wish to look for these roots in his homeland too. From that arose country dances with rap, Styrians with rock, with blues and funk. In 1986 Hubert von Goisern and Wolfgang Staribacher became acquainted, in 1987 Solide Alm arose and shortly afterwards, the two musicians founded the Alpinkatzen.
The famous chimpanzee research scientist Jane Goodall inspired him to visit Africa
After a short excursion into film music (Schlafes Bruder), Hubert von Goisern dissolved the Alpinkatzen in order to develop from an alpine rocker to a world musician. For this reason, Hubert von Goisern undertook a journey to Africa and to Tibet too, in order to let new musical influences have an effect. The results was the two albums Gombe and Inexil. Hubert von Goisern retired from the music scene for a while and devoted himself completely to the help for Tibet. The renewed wish "to compose something" first arose in summer 1999, in autumn 2000 Goisern released his fourth album, Fön, a year later Trad followed. His current album Trad II stands for "tradition" and he has also stayed true to his distinctive style with this work.
Hubert von Goisern has "mixed up" the folk music scene
On Trad II, singer offers "folk songs which I like
as I play them"
From February 2004, "perhaps the last tour for a long time".
Vienna (APA) - Hubert von Goisern is "trad"itional again. On his current album Trad II (BMG), the singer dedicates himself again to his very own interpretations of alpine folk music - without the HvG-typical rock, pop or world music additions, but dusted off and without clichés. HvG took the composure not to write himself for Trad II, but to interpret traditional songs, from his career between Hiatamadl and world music: "Without the past history of having mixed up the whole scene, I wouldn't have done it," says HvG in the APA interview.
From February 2004, the Goiserer is going on tour - the first on which he will only interpret folk songs, and "perhaps the last tour for a long time," says HvG. "To musically realise what I like: I don't begrudge myself that with Trad II," the singer says about the motives behind dedicating himself to pure folk music another time after Trad (2001). To be heard are "folk songs which I like as I like them."
He wanted the new recording, which contains a good many yodels for which there was no more room on the predecessor, high up from the start: Hubert von Goisern appropriately recorded his new album at 2100 metres above sea level, in the Krippenstein Berghotel on the Dachstein plateau. Musicians from four countries - Italy, Germany, Switzerland and Austria - gave a fresh sound in the dizzy heights to traditionals from Kohler to Schützenmarsch. ""I have become freer in my dealings with the songs," says Hubert von Goisern.
The fact that the singer, who has lamented the missing support of Austrian musicians through ORF radio as well as private broadcasters again and again, is also not really radio compatible with this album does not annoy him: "It is naturally a niche programme. But valleys are also niches." Trad "worked very well" with the fans. Radio, that "makes it as easy as possible for itself" underestimates the public.
Indeed the mass media is "always searching for the sensational - but only once it is a mass phenomenon." With the recording of his later success album Aufgeigen stått niederschiassen, he "knocked on doors for two years."
HvG will give around 60 concerts on the indoor tour, also in eastern Europe and Scandinavia apart from Austria, Germany and Switzerland. To play where one has never been heard is "the ultimate excitement." Whether you can win the audience in the Ukraine or in Poland with alpine folk music is indeed "a big question mark" - but it has hitherto "always worked". The journey into the pure traditional is "limited" for the singer: "No matter what the resonance is, the Trad programme comes to an end with the end of the tour. Then all 360° are open."
Film tempts the singer, either as a composer of film music ("up to the big orchestra"), or as an actor again (he previously gave his debut in 1990 in a small TV role under the direction of Julian Pölsler). He first wants to go on tour again when he has made something "completely new" that makes the meeting with the audience exciting. "When you know that a programme works, the concerts are only a collection of past work, with the worry of being arrogant." I want to be curious, to see how the people will react to my music. Then it stimulates me to go on tour." At the moment, from the end of September, the end of the tour, everything is open - not unpleasant for HvG. "Chance is something so cool that it's not something I want to deny myself."