Hubert von Goisern
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TRAD II TOUR 2004

TRAD II TOUR 2004 >> Interviews: 1 2 3 4 5

"It works when I can enchant myself"

www.donau.de April 2004 | Text: Mechtild Angerer

Relaxed conversation over sausages and beer on the banks of the Danube

Hubert von GoisernOn the 1st April, Hubert von Goisern made a guest appearance in the Audimax and brought the audience to boiling point. Before the concert, over sausages and beer in the Regensburg Wurstkuchl, the artist spoke to the Rundschau about his music and the programme with which he is also making a stop in Schwandorf on 8th August - our tip: get your tickets in time!

Mr von Goisern, when did you decide that you would be a musician - was there a musical "awakening experience" in your childhood?

No, music was always something completely natural for me. As a child I bathed in feelings when listening to music, in the beautiful sounds, from the radio too. And at home in Goisern back then, I had the feeling that everyone played at least two instruments - it must have been similar, after all, in my homeland there were seven brass bands! After a concert by one of these bands, I was certain that I wanted to be a musician - at that time I was five years old.

And then off it went with the systematic musical education? After all, you play a number of instruments - in the current programme, apart from the Styrian, there is also trumpet, guitar, flugelhorn...

It was not as systematic as that at all: I taught myself most of them, apart from a few years of trumpet, guitar and clarinet lessons; and of course I played in the town band.

That explains the strong homeland reference in your music - but where does the desire for sound experiments come from?

I occupied myself with that during a degree in electro-acoustics and experimental music - the meeting with the avant garde was really fascinating. But after one semester, that was the end - I really didn't like the attitude of the people there, it was all too narrow-minded. For me, music is something open, not a terrain with boundaries.

Border-crossing also shows up very clearly in your newest programme, Trad II, which ties in with Trad I. Folk music in rocky clothing - doesn't that bring a good many admonishers and protectors of the good and true into the arena?

Of course there are many who turn up their noses at folk music with electric guitar and drums. But I don't see that as tragic - a century ago, there was the same discussion when the accordion made an entrance into folk music as a new instrument. Nevertheless, in the long-run it is important that you play the melodies in a way that touches you - and not on what instrument they are played, and whether or not this all comes straight from the same mountain village.

In the programme, how much is actually by Hubert von Goisern - the melodies stand firm, don't they?

I withdrew quite a bit as a composer in the programme. I tried to arrange the folk tunes in a simple, cautious way. I didn't want to make any contorted rock pieces out of them, put on shrill costumes, but draw out the musical essence from them as I feel it.

What is the most important thing for you when making music?

I try to perform magic with my music. When I manage to enchant myself, then it works. Music gives me the feeling of vastness, when I play and it's good, like a medium with something greater, I reach another level of consciousness.

It sounds almost as if the audience isn't so important to you?

No, that's not true - the audience has a fifty per cent share in how a concert will turn out. Nevertheless: I above all play each concert for myself.

Do you want to make something happen with your music?

Yes. I want to make myself feel good. I cannot seriously mean that I possibly want to shake someone up with my lyrics with the pure folk music programme - with earlier programmes, that admittedly looked different. It is important that I can identify with what I do.

Do you have musical role models?

Loads! With Miles Davis, the constant search for the new fascinates me, with Puccini and his operas, I love the romantic, almost kitsch intoxication of sound; I am growing ever more fond of Verdi as an opera hit composer, the magic of sound and the innovation with Steve Reich captivates me. And then there's still Mozart, Beethoven, the Viennese Strausses and Richard Strauss, Bob Marley, Wyclef Jean ...

Apart from your folk music, you have also worked extensively with non-European music. Do you know in what direction you will continue after the Trad II tour - connected to the homeland, innovative, border-crossing?

The tour comes to an end on 11th September and then I will first have a two year break from the stage. I will withdraw, compose, but what really then happens, or rather in what direction things will go, I still don't know.

The eroticism of the yodel

Süddeutsche Zeitung 25th March 2004 | Text: Stephan Handel | Photo: Elli Christl

Monika Drasch plays not just the violin with Hubert von Goisern and maintains the groove of the country dance

Monika Drasch and Hubert von GoisernHer hands are bright red, but that is certainly not due to the violinist practising her until her fingers were sore before the tour. It's much more that Monika Drasch just poured a load of colour into her hair. That is one of her three trademarks if you will: fire red hair. The second is her violin, which she once painted green in a touch of anarchy. The third is her job: folk musician. But what a folk musician.

Monika Drasch sits in a cafe, nibbling the biscuits which lie next to her cappuccino with red fingers, and says after a little thought: "It is really unbelievable, the intensity and strength which comes from the band when they let rip." Monika was a third of the Bairisch-Diatonischer Jodelwahnsinn for more than ten years, but they disbanded two years ago. She allowed herself a year and a half break; now there is something completely new for her - she is going on tour with Hubert von Goisern, 70 concerts until autumn, this evening they are playing in the Philharmonie. And while with Jodelwahnsinn it wasn't just diatonic, but above all cabaret-like, she is now standing on stage with a real band. She plays violin, bagpipes and sings and in addition there is guitar, percussion, bass and of course Hubert von Goisern, mainly on the Styrian accordion and vocals.

Although Monika and Hubert have known each other for more than ten years, they first worked together on the recordings for the Trad II CD - apart from a small appearance on the Fön CD. She didn't want to join the band at this point in time: the Jodelwahnsinn still had a lot of concerts and she did not want to be unfaithful to her two fellow musicians. "I have a lot to thank Otto for," says Monika. "It was a liberation when he first said: it is not important whether everything you play is right. But it must live."

Monika Drasch comes from a village near Deggendorf and perhaps she would have become submerged in the dusty world of traditional folk music, which is apparently considered to be so weak that it must be looked after: in concert halls, in traditional costumes, in academic stiffness. Perhaps she would have become submerged if there was not this rebel, this boisterous person who lets the listeners be amazed: how this gentle, quiet and thoughtful person whoops it up, how she gets a voice from her chest which is so powerful, so earthily natural, a yodel which would sound almost ordinary were it not so ... erotic.

Erotic yodelling. If there are two people who bring these two words together, then they are Monika Drasch and Hubert von Goisern, and so it is perhaps very logical that they are now standing on stage together. Monika admits that everything is still a bit unusual for her, at the start she was also worried that it could be too loud for her, but now it's fine. All in all she now finds that it is less stressful than with the Jodelwahnsinn, because she is now only a minor character on stage and Hubert von Goisern has to bear the burden of being the frontman almost alone. She thought the earphones were funny at the beginning, through which she could indeed hear the other players, but heard little of the audience. And she also worried about whether she would like going from one town to the next in the nightliner. But amazingly: she sleeps wonderfully in the bus and she also now sees something of the towns. With Jodelwahnsinn she usually went home after the appearances.

Was that already mentioned? Hubert von Goisern, Monika Drasch and the other musicians play folk music in these concerts, original Salzburg songs, country dances, yodels. Mind you, they play in the style of a rock band, sometimes they lay in electronic grooves and they yodel so that probably every homeland protector would get the blues. And Monika also remarks: although Hubert von Goisern is a meticulous worker, writing highly complex arrangements, live every evening is nevertheless new. "It would be a horror too if everything stayed the same with 70 concerts," says Monika. Her hair, for example, is redder than ever. The hair is red, the violin is green, the colour of her fingers will soon wash off. It can get going.

"Switzerland is very far away"

Berner Zeitung 28th February 2004 | Text: Tina Uhlmann | Photo: Keystone
Hubert von Goisern

Hubert von Goisern is on tour with traditional songs. As one of the first rock musicians, he experimented with alpine music 15 years ago - a definition of the position before the concert in Bern.

Where did you learn to yodel?

You can't learn to yodel. You are either born for it or not. Personally I listened to it from a cassette - somebody slipped it to me and on it was to be heard a female yodeller, who really impressed me. I then wrote everything out, sound for sound and syllable for syllable and transcribed it down into my pitch. Yeah, and then I went to a remote place, where nobody could hear me and practised.

Why should nobody hear you?

Well, because it is always an impertinence when somebody is practising. Certainly not for the person in question, but for everybody else. It's the same with instruments. My daughter for example, she plays the violin...

... and you yodel. How does that feel? Similar to singing?

Yes, it is simply one of many possibilities to use the voice musically. But you can only yodel quietly with great difficulty, you have to always give full thrust, so therefore you need somewhat more courage for yodelling than for singing. Yodelling is something very solo. You have to consciously decide to make how you do it important when you yodel.

At the end of the Eighties, you were one of the first rock stars who began to work with alpine music. Where does this genre stand today?

In a very different place from 15 years ago. Back then there was a real dam burst, at least in Austria - something had been bottled up. There were many groups who were suddenly interested in their own folk music and got it moving again. It's moving today. You are not breaking taboos any more when you yodel.

In Switzerland too, there are ever more people from jazz, rock and pop, who are on the track of alpine music. Are there contacts across the country borders?

Only very few. There are some great Swiss musicians in Vienna. And currently the Swiss guitarist Max Lässer is with me and we are rehearsing for the upcoming tour with the Trad II programme. I would wish for more such contacts. But the free communication of musicians is much smaller with us than in the Anglo-Saxon cultural area for example. Switzerland is very far away for me. Geographically too.

Geographically?

Yes. I mean, you are there quickly, but when you have a destination in the mountains, you can sometimes drive complicated routes for hours, for what is a very short flight.

That's down to the nature of this area. In Switzerland, the musical styles can sometimes vary in the extreme from valley to valley - just because the valleys were barely joined with traffic routes for a long time, despite it being only a short way as the crow flies. Is it the same in Austria?

Absolutely. It's 30 kilometres from Goisern to Ischl and yet it sounds very different at one place compared to the other. Mind you, for outsiders, these differences are barely audible. I also experienced that when I worked with Tibetan musicians. For about a year I had the feeling of always hearing the same thing, until I noticed the nuances. But back to Austria: the differences there also blur gradually. I would say: thank God!

Why thank God?

Because it is not good when you want to stubbornly conserve things. So, as for example the people who criticise my music, have always criticised my music.

You call them the "200 per centers". Is their resistance a problem for you?

No, it was never a problem, on the contrary. I have always been pleased about these discussions - they always stimulated something. I was always in the way for these people. That empowered me - as the saying goes: the more danger, the more honour.

In Switzerland, there are written rules for how you should yodel for example. Is that the same in Austria?

No, it's not so crass with us. Fortunately.

Before the folklore-like TV formatting of folk music, there was still a "real", archaic folk music in the alpine area. In Switzerland for example, Rees Gwerder was one of its last representatives. Is there also such a "master" in Austria for you?

Yes - in the Salzkammergut for example. Fritz Toifl is a rock in the scene. He has never let demands be placed upon him. I am interested in what such people do, but I have always had to look for my own way.

On this way you have now arrived at the second Trad record with traditional pieces. Where do you know these pieces from - did you cut your teeth on them?

No, we barely sang at home. They have been pointed out to me during the course of my years as a musician, and the really good melodies simply remain with you. Then sometime they push into the foreground. And then it is also a type of exorcism, when you let them out loud, lend them their own voice.

You recorded Trad II on a mountain, the Krippenstein. How did you think of this place?

My father gave me the idea. I was visiting him and he told me that the hotel on the Krippenstein was locked up and was now standing empty. I was often there as a child. My father once participated in the building of the cable car and I worked for a winter at this cable car. We know the mountain. I wanted to go up high to record the record, but when, after a few discussions, we were given permission to set up our studio in the hotel, I was nevertheless the most sceptical of everyone taking part.

Why?

I did not know how the cloister situation would affect the music - in winter at 2,100 metres. I said to the musicians, it's an experiment, and if we have a good time and in spring come down again with nothing as an experience, then that's okay too. But then it just went so smoothly up there - it was a special atmosphere. The people came from Germany, Italy, Austria and Switzerland up there, looked around once, marvelled at the enormous view and - yeah, were involved.

Was this the first such experience for you?

I have already recorded on the mountain, in caves, when I wanted a natural echo for a certain piece.

Despite electroloops and slide guitar, Trad II sounds very "original". Did you never think of also working in original instruments - dulcimer, "Hexenscheit" (precursor to the zither)...?

I don't like dulcimers and I leave the alphorns to the Swiss. We include the Jews' Harp - an instrument which has a living tradition in Austria. I have orientated myself much more towards people. When I meet someone like Max Lässer, whom I like, whose way of playing music I like, then he is involved - and with him the slide guitar.

Lässer says that his experiments with alpine music are strongly connected with a very specific landscape. Is that right for you too?

Absolutely.

Do you suffer under the fact that the landscape is disappearing?

You mean it's being built on? That's just the way it is. There was a time when I sympathised with the radical conservationists. But in the mean time I have understood that such a thing does not work without elitist demand. I think that the mountains should be accessible for everyone.