The journey to America
A new brand of yodelling
March 1994: Manhattan, Times Square - Hubert von Goisern and the Alpinkatzen have penetrated the heart of the music industry. The peak which Hubert has conquered this time is made of steel and concrete: on the 42nd floor of the Bertelsmann building, on the boss's floor the Austrian quintet play in front of the impressive scenery of the Empire State Building and the Manhattan skyline. Salzkammergut sounds in the middle of New York, Steirer and Schleuniger a good 200 metres above a megalopolis.
An American dream?
A small world tour with stops in Paris, Austin and New York proved that Hubert von Goisern's music indeed has regional roots but is unequivocal international in its translation.
Eurofolies is the name of the series of events from Radio France International, the French short wave service, on which groups from all over Europe are presented in Parisian suburbs and can be heard over the airwaves all over the country.
There was enough time for two songs. Hubert von Goisern and his Cats could pull the audience to their side with the Steirer Iawaramoi and the Wildschütz-Räp. Frenetic calls of "plus" ("encore"), pogo-dancing punks in the front row prove: the French could also definitely get on with more in ethno rock from Austria.
"Austria's only country band" plays great in Austin
The appearance in Texas will be a home game for Hubert von Goisern! Already in the afternoon, the first fan appears. An American who was sent the Aufgeigen stått niederschiassen CD from England has come specially from Florida in order to be able to experience his idol live. As the queer fish is asked for a statement by Bayerischer Rundfunk after the concert, he can only stutter that this has been the best day of his life.
South by Southwest is the name of the music fair, in the framework of which a good 400 bands provide concerts in a dozen music clubs within five days in Austin's city centre.
A favourable review of Hubert's latest release Omunduntn in the Austin Chronicle means that the Santa Fe Club is full at the announced start time. Outside stands a waiting line. Nobody else will be let in as Solide Alm is also heard on the street.
The presenter introduces the Alpinkatzen as "Austria's only country band". The organiser of the festival have put the band in a club where otherwise country rock is played. And so apart from the specialist audience of the fair and music journalists, every crowd of locals with Texan hats have also come to hear "new German Volksmusik mixed with rock, punk, R&B and yodelling" (as according to the advert in the festival programme).
But Hubert also quickly has this audience in his hand. "We are definitely not from Germany, we are Austrians," he makes clear right at the beginning. Slight uncertainty with the introduction of the band.
"On guitars, Reinhard Stranzinger from the wonderful city of Braunau" - a couple of hands actually stretch up in front of the stage...
But here in Texas - the state with the most German-speaking inhabitants and with many German place names - Steirer, Schleuniger and country dance fall on good soil. And the larynx acrobatics of Alpine Sabine, called "yodelling" here thrill the audience to a storm of enthusiasm.
And then as finally Hiatamadl also roared above their heads, there was no holding the Yanks back. "This could be a big hit," thought one. With the American dimensions, one doesn't dare to reply that it was already.
Already by midday, the Alpinkatzen have their first appearance in the New World behind them. At the fair they complete an unplugged gig. And there in the dreary hustle and bustle can already excite attention. A good many organisers of big European festivals show interest in the band.
"Goisern is like Manhattan"
Skyscrapers and mountains
New York in general, Manhattan especially instils respect. But everything is relative: the Dachstein with its 3000 metres is almost ten times as high as the two towers of the World Trade Center, Hubert tells the New Yorkers in the jazz club The Cooler.
A good 200 visitors have come to the renowned club in Greenwich Village. The audience is mostly made up of journalists (Village Voice and MTV are represented all the same), people from the record company and members of the Austrian colony.
Hubert von Goisern has problems neither musically nor with his announcements between the individual songs in captivating the listeners. Hubert, who speaks perfect English (after all he lived for some years in South Africa and Canada), compares Manhattan with ... Goisern!
There are the mountains there, in Manhattan the skyscrapers probably provide the blues. Hubert's song Ganz Alloa is proof. It was not written by chance by a New Yorker (Thelonius Monk).
And also the contrasts between metropolis and province, which Hubert goes into in his programme, are also there in the USA, exactly the same as populist politicians. That Hubert revised the German national anthem, the Americans know from Jimi Hendrix, who did something similar with theirs.
As far as the expressive yodels like Sarstoana, Alpera and Kuahmelcher are concerned, only one thing occurs to the Americans: Soul!
Hubert von Goisern thinks back to "an interesting adventure, a successful experiment" and assesses the USA trip: "I still have the feeling that America is a country where I would like to tour with a production and where I would like to travel. We would certainly have had a chance there!"
Hubert and Heidi
Hubert von Goisern tested his songs in New York.
The Yanks liked the alpine sounds, but recommend a name change.
"Hubert goes to Hollywood" was planned. Documents and CDs from Hubert von Goisern and his Alpinkatzen were sent to Arnold Schwarzenegger, but the Styrian oak remained silent. The first step out of the German-speaking area was nevertheless successful. After shows in Paris and Houston, Goisern played his first concert in New York on Tuesday night.
In front of around 200 people in the scene bar "The Cooler" in Greenwich Village, our alpine Zappa realised a long-cherished dream - "to play in the city of cities". For two hours he offered a cross-section of his albums Aufgeigen stått niederschiassn and Omunduntn. The Yanks flipped out for Hiatamadl too. Goisern moderated in perfect English and explained his subjects.
Goisern on the leap across the pond: "It's a test balloon we've sent up. We had to reach into our own pockets to do so, but it was worth it. It's an experimental tour. We must wait a few weeks, at the minute everyone is just clapping us on the back and saying "great!""
"Something completely different" the listeners were agreed. Just the pronunciation of the name is a problem. "Hubert von Goisern und die Alpinkatzen" is a tongue-twister. Recommendations from the audience: just "Goisern", "The Alpine Cats" or "Heidi".
416 W., 14th Street: Alpinkatzen fiddle up in New York
New York. The poster promises "Lederhosen rock". "A new brand of yodelling comes to New York", announces the record company BMG. Hubert von Goisern und die Original Alpinkatzen in America. To be more precise: in New York, Manhattan, 416 West, 14th Street - somewhere between Chelsea and Greenwich Village: the club is called The Cooler, in which "the anarchists of the Austrian folk music scene" (Hubert) today played before 200 people - many German speakers among them.
The reactions of the audience in this order: a little mistrust ("What's this?"), mild astonishment ("very interesting"), exact listening ("WOW!"), cheerful grinning ("it's fun"), great enthusiasm ("that's just fantastic").
"Now the nervousness arrives," the Goiserer said a few hours before the appearance late in the evening. But nothing more was to be noticed on stage. The Alpinkatzen fiddled up, played really well.
Hubert von Goisern also managed to bring across his puns between the numbers in English too. The later it became, the hotter the atmosphere. "Really exciting!" thought three bearded fans in leather jackets. They were hearing the band for the second time. They had been at the concert in Austin, Texas. At the end were standing ovations and vocal encores. "Feels like in a church!" said a New Yorker.
What was it then? "Alpine grunge" someone described it. Another was reminded of a Scottish band from the early eighties. "Blues and rock 'n' roll with traditions mix" heard a third.
The Goiserer himself recognised similarities in the Yanks' reactions with the Austrians. The first echoes here in Austria were also "what's that?". Nobody knew what pigeonhole would be relevant.
The Alpinkatzen's mission statement had already come over the ether before the concert. The culture broadcaster WBAI offered an interview . Under which a few samples of alpine singing were to be heard. In conversation with presenter Matthew Finch, Hubert did away with the folk musicians cliché of "yodelling mountain idiots". It is a sacrilege to touch Austrian cultural tradition, which has remained unchanged for decades and was once occupied by the right wing. A lot of intellectuals would have equated folk music with gloomy nationalism. Being boozed up and raucous bawling is on the label.
The Goiserer - incidentally a fan of formations like the Pongauer Viergesang - sets that opposite a principle: "We do not need to be ashamed of yodelling. It is an art form." The appearance seemed "like a dream" to him in New York, the city of towers and ships' masts" (Walt Whitman), the "wonderful catastrophe" (Le Corbusier). Manhattan is a chaos of stone, glass and asphalt populated by millions. It is the district of junkies and the Mafia, the stock exchange and Broadway, jazz and rap. Woody Allen lives there and Madonna, Robert de Niro, Tom Wolfe and Cher. And now those with Hiatamadl right in the middle of it? Correct.
"It's crazy there!" thought Sabine Kapfinger, 20 - "Singer and yodeller" by trade, with a completed apprenticeship in hairdressing, once in the Walchsee Seerosen Trio. "A city you never get out of on foot," the Goiserer commented dryly. Nevertheless, whoever's hoping for the story of the flabbergasted, gawping mountain dwellers in the big wide world, is hoping in vain. A certain disrespectfulness is an urban virtue. The image of the band may be earthy, their English is not. The band didn't leave the mountains yesterday.
Reinhard Stranzinger, 33 - the whom to whom the US trade magazine Billboard assigned the "heavy rock guitar" - once hitch-hiked through Europe and ended up in Munich, where he kept his head above water as, among other things, a trained carpenter, carving statues of the Virgin Mary. Drummer Wolfgang Maier, 33, on the other hand, completed a self-prescribed music programme in Morocco, appearing in small theatres for some years with a beer tent troupe through Canada and Europe. In the repertoire: everything from Oktoberfest to Kasatschok. Hubert Achleitner, in plain language Hubert von Goisern, looks back on years of travelling. In the Philippines, he astounded the audience with the skill in noseflute playing. And keyboarder Stefan Engel, 27, a trained pianist and punk rocker once emptied a jazz festival in Budapest with his band Mozart Mix 6.
"So we are really here in New York and it's going!" The man saying that with mild amazement is Erich Zawinul, 28, son of the jazz musician Joe Zawinul, who arrived in the USA a long time ago. Junior set up the story with Manhattan. The acquaintance of one of the Alpinkatzen's technicians was the impetus: "We're playing in Texas, could you get anything in New York?" Zawinul could.
The Alpinkatzen's producer jumped up. "That's so crazy, we have to try it," stressed Heinz Henn, born in Cologne, chief executive in the Bertelsmann Music Group (BMG). The exotic foreigners from overseas even climbed to the 42nd floor of the enormous BMG building on Broadway. And played something on the spot for the manager of the music giant.
"Something really unique," so Richard Zwertz from the record company Arista summed it up during the Cooler show: "traditional made new, everyone's pleased." And: "it's great entertainment."
Goisern goes to the U.S.A.
Hubert was on the Dachstein and on the Großglockner a good dozen times. But he could not prepare himself in the Alps for the expedition he led with his Alpinkatzen in March: his departure to the summit of pop - to America. Live in concert. The diary of a first inspection.
Falco did it: he was number one on the US Billboard charts with Amadeus. Edelweiß, the Bingo Boys and Opus also placed one or other number in the American charts. The common factor of all Austrians hitherto successful in the USA: their music has an international sound, could just as well have been recorded in Vienna as in London or in New York.
Now someone wants to know, who draws his whole potential from the cultural inheritance of Austrian tradition: Hubert von Goisern with his Original Alpinkatzen. Biggest hit until now: Koa Hiatamadl. Record sales until now: 15,000 from first album Alpine Lawine. 400,000 from success album Aufgeigen stått niederschiaßen, (almost four times platinum in Austria). Already 100,000 from the new CD Omunduntn in just 14 days. Route of march: forwards.
Now new folk music is daring to have an adventure. Paris, Texas and New York - the three stops of the alpine expedition without rope. The accordion as hand luggage. A small, middle European, traditional culture afflicted with inferiority complexes shows itself.
Hage Hein, the manager of the Alpinkatzen from Munich, had organised the concerts and set up the trip without the support of the record company ("they reacted with the motto 'it flies if it wants to, we will not prevent it'"). The threefold purpose of the trip, with a total of ten flights and 25,000 covered kilometres: firstly, as a primary step to sound the depth of an eventual career abroad, whether a minimal acceptance of songs like Koa Hiatamadl or Oben und Unten could be registered outside the alpine cultural area; secondly, to have a unique life experience; and thirdly to have as much fun as possible.
Expensive fun in any case. The adventure costs a good quarter of a million Schillings. Half of it is financed through the paid fees and through a subsidy from the Austrian Cultural Institute in New York. A quarter is finally being paid for by the Austrian Goisern record company as reimbursement for the media presence in the homeland following the long haul journey.
The rest, roughly 10,000 Mark, remains as a minus in Hage Hein's account. As an option for a global future of alpine sound experiences. Goisern and his four Alpinkatzen play for nothing, getting only a little pocket money.
Paris. Appearance at the Eurofolies Festival, which lets diverse exotic groups play in clubs in the suburbs. The posters hang all over Paris. "Goisen" without the 'r' is on the card which hangs on the dressing room door. The dressing room: a redesignated corridor. It is close in Club Lino Ventura in Torcy, near Paris. Thomas Boulais from Radio France Inter asks astounding interview questions ("Is there a rock scene in Austria? Do you receive subsidies?). The deputy ambassador Helene Lamesch welcomed them, somewhat generically, cordial greetings of the country. The concert (around 250 French people with free entry) only lasts 12 minutes or three songs. It is part of a strictly timed live radio programme (which will later also be broadcast worldwide on short wave).
The audience reaction: a couple of punks go wild in front of the stage, the more discreet French call with choruses of "plus, plus, plus" (in vain). Encores. Contacts for further appearance possibilities in the autumn are made. From the European late winter to the American early summer. Texas. Sweltering heat. After 25 hours in the aeroplane, there are no more rooms in the hotel. At 4am, you are finally in the refreshing horizontal.
Eight hours later: sightseeing in San Antonio. A German camera team who are accompanying the journey, are treading on the alpine master's heels. Continuation of the journey in the car to Austin, capital of Texas and the American musical up-and-comers: every evening on the famous 6th Street about 100 rock clubs with live bands court the potential audience strolling by the door.
This weekend the situation is intensified: in the framework of a four day festival with associated music trade fair, "South by Southwest", 450 groups from all over the world develop a Babylonian pot pourri of sounds. The Alpinkatzen complete an unplugged concert in a trade fair hall at midday, before the "real" appearance should take place in the evening. The planned soundcheck in the Santa Fe club fails: the required equipment is not on stage.
Just before midnight: The Santa Fe is full, outside there are still another 50 Alpinkatzen-willing Yanks. Diagonally opposite in the Catfish, Seven Ages from the Vienna Neustadt have just enthused people with their ethno-oriented music. Now they are in the front row at Goisern's concert. Red-white-red solidarity.
It works out without a soundcheck. And: The Americans are more than taken with it. Terrific, incredible, funny, great show, unique - are the comments. One thing is already fixed: the next New York trip prospects of a career in America? "Yes, as a sideshow", comments an expert journalist. New York. The expedition became a caravan. The ORF, the German television and many Austrian newspapers follow the master through the wild East.
There is a cappella playing for the New York Vice Senior President of Goisern's - hitherto with waiting tactics - record company BMG Ariola, Heinz Henn from Cologne (The President is a Carinthian, but is unfortunately abroad). Henn skillfully avoids the question from Goisern's manager, about how it now stands with a release in the USA: "you must carry on, not forget your origin, not let yourself be interrupted. Then everything is possible."
A quarter of an hour later, at WBAI 95.5FM, there is a radio interview. And then, in the evening, it comes to the appearance. The club on 14th Street is called The Cooler. Somehow it is reminiscent of a modern Viennese U4. Erich Zawinul, son of the Austro-American jazz giant, Joe Zawinul, organised the concert. About 60 guests pay for the entrance for Goisern, completely unknown to them, the other 150 are invited guests from the media: New York Times, New York Post, Village Voice and colleagues from countries like Brazil, Israel, Italy and Germany. The Austrian Cultural Institute is present as sponsor.
Goisern, hyper-nervous the whole day, pulls out all the stops. And satisfies. Three encores, the last long after 1am, after about two hours of live music, are necessary. While quite a lot of Austrian living in New York go to clap Hubert on the back, Manager Hein looks around for contacts. "Give me the group for a day, I will make them famous," one US manager offers. Another estimates three days.
An adventure comes to an end, and there is alter time to reflect: Three hours after their arrival in Europe, the Alpinkatzen are already standing in front of German television cameras again. Hubert von Goisern's first assessment: "My confidence was strengthened. We found that in other countries they are no different from anybody else and that what we do can be placed quite beside what other people do. You must expect that something of the euphoria with which the Americans prevailed after the concerts remains."
Goisern meets America
About someone who took off ... Hubert von Goisern
is number one again in the Austrian charts with Omunduntn.
Together with the Alpinkatzen he yodelled last week in America - from Texas to New York.
NEWS Lokal observes an alpine expedition.
The young American flew for four hours to Texas to see his idol. Jonathan Hayney, 25, lives in Orlando/Florida and is America's biggest Alpinkatzen fan. This is a piece of cake: he is the only one among his compatriots who can sing Hiatamadl by heart. In German. Two years ago, a friend from Europe gave him Goisern's Aufgeigen stått niederschiassen CD. Since then he has been learning German ("a new word every day"), wants to go to "wonderful Austria" soon and is desperately searching for Omunduntn.
He has not found it yet, and that may among other things have something to do with the fact that he can only pronounce the title with difficulty. Now he stands, speechless with happiness, eye to eye with his idol. Because Hubert von Goisern is pushing - no longer a hazardous business since the Trapp family - in the direction of the USA with alpine folk. NEWS accompanied him on his tour.
A phenomenon spread across the border: Hubert von Goisern & die Original Alpinkatzen, over 500,000 sold records strong. The two year old CD Aufgeigen stått niederschiassen, stands just before a sensational four times platinum (200,000 sold records).
The new work Omunduntn balanced within fourteen days with platinum. In July at the latest, 100,000 should be sold. Goisern got rid of a bit of rock elemental force for this CD in order to musically proceed in more sensitive, almost avant garde ways. The ingredients for the musical mixture are chosen more craftily, more carefully.
One flew over the ocean. This success agrees with the notorious open-minded thinker and his style: an attractive fusion of traditional folk music and rock, supplemented with style elements from reggae to rap. The clever media work between provocation and denial achieved its ends. Nobody can claim today that Hiatamadl is a quick chance success. In order to test the durability of the phenomenon, he now proceeded over the ocean.
"Six years ago with our first record, I wanted to go to Japan. The ridiculous seriousness with which the Japanese take our culture made me think of this. But there was no chance without national success. Going beyond the German-speaking borders has always fascinated me!"
This time, strengthened with plenty of precious metal, it worked. After a live appearance on the Parisian Radio France Inter, the Alpinkatzen are sitting on a jet to Texas. In Austin they play as one of 450 bands at America's greatest music festival and fair, the South by Southwest festival, in front of 300 people in a (sold out) club. Impressed Yanks, calls for encores, comments like "terrific, funny, great show, unique".
"I don't say that the majority of Americans will be interested in us. But I think that we have something to say and explain there. Why otherwise would umpteen thousand of them come to Europe? Because they would not be interested in what happens with us? It is exciting to try it."
Crazy Austrians. The Goisern manager, Hage Hein, from Munich, uses the packed gathering of people of action from the music business to look for meaningful contacts for records and concerts. But the critical stop is next: New York. Goisern's record company BMG Ariola, who have not (yet) released the Austrian's CD in the USA, were visibly confused by the stubbornness with which the crazy Austrians were interested.
Hage Hein: "First of all, they just thought we should simply go if we thought they could not stop it anyway."
In the final minutes, the BMG team then tried their utmost to assist. The fruits: a radio interview on WBAI 95.5 FM and a gigantic press list from the New York Times to journalists from Brazil and Israel at the concert in The Cooler, a small club on 14th Street in Manhattan.
"I was in the Cooler the night before our appearance in order to breathe in the atmosphere. On the stage was a band with an unbelievable groove. Terrifically good musicians who otherwise played with Miles Davis. But: it was not anything special. One number like another. I thought to myself: we have a considerably broader spectrum. I don't think it will ever be so boring with me as with a 08/15 funk party, which sounds the same for hours."
The chance. With 140 minutes of new Austrian folk music, he wants to show the gathered representatives of the record companies and media what native cats are capable of: softest folk songs, loudest rock songs, a instrumentation from horn, guitar and trumpet to piccolo, amusing commentary in perfect English. How possessed Goisern fights for the new continent. Motto: you have one chance, so use it.
"You go out and notice: the people are good. After a time you believe that it is possibly the loud minority and that the silent majority cannot do anything with it. I then partly stood a metre behind myself, I looked at myself and thought. Look, somehow it works."
Fast fame. At half past one, after three encores, the present foreign Austrians line up to back slapping. At the same time the management works hard at making contacts. An American manager offers: "give me the group for a day, I'll make them famous." Hage Hein does not really trust the man, with good reason.
"The desire to work internationally has partly become very big during this trip. But you must see the thing so: that is euphoria which is to do with momentary feeling. You have to wait for what remains. I found it partly totally absurd to go into the gorges of New York and think of my house in Goisern. This extreme contrast was unbelievable. No idea how I will be when I have reflected on it."
The fashion line. Quite possible that the USA adventure, part 1, perhaps part two will follow still this year. Even though after the tour in April presented by NEWS there is still a load of work. A main role in a ZDF TV film, a personal film project, a live CD and a fashion line. But the US feeling was captivating enough to soon be extended. Although in the cities the Goiserer hungers for homeland quality of life.
"Charm and comfort are missing for me there. Everything is a façade. You can indeed order many more different tequilas, but all are lovelessly prepared. America is a country with a thousand facets and contrasts. But the love of detail is missing."
Paris - Texas - New York
An international commuter's travel diary
Hubert von Goisern, the most successful representative of the new yodel rock craze, and his Alpinkatzen fulfilled the dream of all musicians. They played in the States - and earned enthusiastic applause.
Monday, 14th March 1994
Stress in Munich. Appearance at the Live aus dem Alabama, the first in a big city with the programme of the new record Omunduntn. Goes quite well. Afterwards the presentation of the fourth platinum record from Austria. A good day, a good start to a perhaps mad undertaking.
Tuesday, 15th March 1994
Flight to Paris. Everyone is in a good mood, but a bit nervous too. We are playing for the first time outside the German-speaking area at a festival on the outskirts of Paris. Telephone home. Casino Salzburg has won in the quarter finals of the European Cup.
Wednesday, 16th March 1994
Flight over the big pond. Then the collapse. We were travelling for 26 hours, arrived in San Antonio at 20 degrees in the shade. Were at the hotel at 4 o'clock in the morning, unpacked everything and then found that there were no rooms. Wrongly booked. We get packed again, somehow find 13 rooms. Am at the end of my tether.
Thursday, 17th March 1994
Sightseeing in San Antonio. Terrible - I seem like a summer holidaymaker in the Salzkammergut or at the Salzburg Domplatz. It is a type of tourism which I really don't like. Am rather depressed. The terrible food on the aeroplane is still lying in my stomach. But I have perhaps also drunk too much.
Friday, 18th March 1994
Flight to Austin. Here is no better either. Everything is so functional. So rational. Everything is just a façade. Anyway:I'm missing the cosiness, the comfort. Unfortunately I do not visit the country. Texas countryside. I imagine it is beautiful.
Saturday, 19th March 1994
I am dreadfully nervous before the appearance. After all, at the "South by Southwest Festival" several hundred bands play 25 or 30 bars, it changes every hour. Our set is at midnight. The musical level is amazingly high. They all play like world masters and groove like hell. Naturally we are the exotic things. But it is great to feel that we groove just like them. The organisation is miserable. There is a wonderful atmosphere in the club, frighteningly close, not just because four hundred people are inside and another hundred are waiting outside. It suited us, it suited the audience, it was top-class.
Sunday, 20th March 1994
We fly to New York with a good feeling. We know: it works. Arrival at JFK. We are dog-tired. But you immediately feel the energy of this city, the impulse. This strength positively goes right into us. At one o'clock at night, after we check in at the hotel, we go out onto the street. Walk around and can't close our mouths at the fact that there is something like this. I had imagined New York to be so dangerous, but all the mixed feelings vanish when you see how nicely the people treat each other. I have a deep liking for these people because they still always manage to be in a good mood in such a city.
Monday, 21st March 1994
Afternoon visit to BMG Ariola in the Bertelsmann building, 42nd floor, with Heinz Henn. One of the three bosses. Sing a Gstanzl with a view over Manhattan. We are told how the business works in the big wide world. But do not learn anything new. One of the most important experiences in New York: I didn't meet anybody who would be crazier than we are. We then played a bit of street music with the cow bells, together with a saxophonist on Times Square.
Tuesday, 22nd March 1994
Up on the World Trade Center. Above on a roof, it is like a flight over the city. Like standing up on the peak to, seems to me that this peak is made of people. And in it we played in New York. In a club, "The Cooler". I was hyper nervous because I did not know: will it work in this city, in which there is an insane amount on offer, in which everyone is occupied with themselves, in which everyone has to become egocentric just in order to survive. Yes. We played. In front of about 200 or 300 people. Highly motivated, highly concentrated. We wanted to show them. And we managed it too. The people were in a really good mood, they were in a euphoria like I could never have dreamed of.
Yodelling in the gorges of Manhattan
Travelling with Hubert von Goisern, who has ventured
the jump over the Atlantic
as the first representative of new alpine rock
New York, in March - to claim that the whole of New York has fallen victim to the yodel madness since Tuesday evening would be exaggerating. But after this evening certainly some people from Brooklyn, Queens or Manhattan have tried to see how the amusing vocals work and determined that yodelling simply sounds better when it comes from original Austrian throats. But these people rewarded with standing ovations the fact that a young man from the valleys north of the Dachstein set out to bring yodels, country dances and gstanzls before an audience who really only listen to the most aggressive gangsta rap or drumming dance.
They have learned to understand why Hubert von Goisern and the Alpinkatzen have taken up the cause of "not letting the Right, the traditionalists and folk music scientists have folk music." He told the people in the rock club The Cooler on New York's 14th Street in flawless English. "I come from Bad Goisern," Hubert said into the microphone and explained that he had now begun to play his beloved folk music in just his way, in order to take it away from the representatives of "alpine junk folk", the Moiks and Mariannes and Michaels.
It was a tough job that evening. Not only that Hubert and the Alpinkatzen had
now completed an arduous week's tour with stops in Paris, Austin (Texas)
and New York. Whoever enters the even more unknown music club in the
Greenwich village, has to face the consequences, he's not getting an easy treatment. The Cooler - a narrow, low styled cellar with cold enamel in the middle of a slaughterhouse right next to a cold-storage depot.
The audience - the mixture typical for the city of spontaneous arrivals and trend seekers, very young girls and very handsome men, colourful intellectuals and white party promoters and - in accordance with the cause - the cause in accordance with - an Austrian crowd, who established themselves between Hudson and East River. One came in order to be able to be seen, not in order to listen. And so a cool lack of interest prevailed at the beginning of the first set. The applause was not even polite.
Hubert sweats. Wipes the towel over his face. Does not attach much importance to the monologues between the songs, but gets through the programme with the songs from his record Aufgeigen stått niederschiassen, so successful in the German-speaking countries. Tries to forget the words and laughter there below. Thinking in the meantime that it is a little crazy to be playing Hiatamadl, Wildschütz-Räp or the Ausseer country dance in the hottest music metropolis in the world; perhaps he thinks of Heinz Henn's words, who had said to him the day before that musicians like him should rather remain, where they are understood and liked. But it belongs to the programme of the tour to persuade even this Mr. Henn that at least New York and perhaps the whole of America have only been waiting for Hubert von Goisern and his Alpinkatzen.
Heinz Henn is one of three senior bosses of the record company BMG, to whom the German Bertelsmann group belong. After a 400 million dollar bankruptcy a few years ago, the media brokers from Gütersloh were able to acquire a pretty skyscraper directly on Times Square. One of the companies in the groups is the German Ariola, who brought Hubert von Goisern onto the market at home. So seen, the Alpinkatzen's visit to Heinz Henn absolutely made sense, because under his patronage for example, Whitney Houston has sold ten million copies of her latest record Bodyguard. Heinz Henn was indeed quite taken with the presentation Hubert and his Cats gave in his office over Broadway, but could not conceal his scepticism. "If you don't sell more than a million records here," he said, "you don't earn a single penny." At home, Hubert von Goisern reaches scarcely 400,000.
Gilbert comes from Brooklyn. But Henn could have certainly contradicted the 29 year old colourful film maker with a preference for Charly Parker and Miles Davis. Indeed, as Hubert entered the stage completely alone at the beginning and began to play on the Styrian accordion, he moaned to his friend about whether he would have to listen to this noise the whole evening. But in the interval Gilbert said that it was surprisingly "a very interesting combination of music". And also the BMG market study crew, instructed by Heinz Henn to go the Cooler, had stopped talking and listened with interest to the foreign sounds.
In Texas, at the South by Southwest Festival, it was relatively simple to bring the audience to similar rapture as one is used to at home. This is because the Texans, but especially the cowboys, have established yodelling in country music. Getting the audience going is successfully done in New York with the second set. Suddenly a strained peace prevails, the party din has given way to intimate concentration. Gilbert stands in the first row, swaying in time to the Goisern version of Blue Monk, hums quietly with the third encore, a quite original and totally yodelled Alperer. He would, he then says, happily buy this record. A first step to the first million.