Hubert von Goisern


GRENZENLOS >> Interviews: 1 2 3

"Now I need more than rock musicians"

Kieler Nachrichten 20th November 2002 | Text: Manuel Weber

Hubert von Goisern on guitars, folk music and tradition

In conversation with the Kiel Szene, the widely travelled folk musician tells of the area of conflict between confrontation and cultural contact.

Many people regret that you do not work with the Alpinkatzen any more ...

I have been on the road with a new band and new programme for one and a half years. That chapter is crossed off. I experienced it and when I listen to it or see it today, it is like a photograph from another time. The Alpinkatzen were a good body of sound as a rock band, but for what I am doing now, I need more than rock musicians.

What must the current accompanying musicians bring on impulse, what more must they be able to do?

Well, it is more funk, it is more soul and also has differentiated jazzy elements. That requires a different playing talent.

You have worked in many musical cultural circles. Has that distanced you from the native folk music, or brought you closer to it?

In my youth, I chose the way to go away from our own tradition and out into the world. The cultural contacts made it possible for me to have a freer, more creative dealing with our own tradition. It is an eternal process, but in the meantime I have a much more relaxed relationship with my own tradition than ten years ago, where I was still deliberately heading for confrontation and also provoked ill humour. Indeed I still do that, but I am surprised because I do not see this conflict any more.

What is folk music for you?

There are different interpretations and for every person, the meaning of folk music is different. In the end it is music, which shows a special regional tradition, which has developed like a biotope on a continent, in a region or valley over generations. It is an attempt to give expression to your joy of life or sorrow. That has something which creates identity, which is not only positive because with a specific identity, you have the problem that you stand outside the other identities. The individual tradition can also be a hindrance. But that is life, full of changes, full of inspiration and reciprocal fertilisation. And anyway, the folk music in the Salzkammergut has also always moved and changed over the centuries. If someone says that electric guitars have lost nothing in folk music, I can only smile about it. The accordion, which today is a natural ingredient of folk music, it was also not there 150 years ago, and I bet that the first accordion player had a similar image as today when someone arrives on the scene with a synthesizer.

Is there something which unites all the folk music of the world?

Rhythmically and harmoniously, probably not. No matter in which cultural circle I move, whether polyrhythmic or beatless music. A great part of the emotional life functions via music. A joining, swinging together in a feeling. Sorrow can be dissolved this way for example, because you also concede in the group.

The searching international commuter

ka-news 4th July 2002

Hubert von Goisern plays in Murgpark - presented by ka-news

Rastatt - He is an international commuter. With the Alpinkatzen just like as a solo artist: Hubert von Goisern. The most recent example is his appearance together with Mohamed Mounir in March in Egypt. Grenzenlos is also appropriately the name of his tour, which leads von Goisern and his band on Friday to the Murgpark Open Air in the Pagoden castle complex at the Badner Halle in Rastatt. The concert will be presented by ka-news. Werner Herkert met the musician before the start of the tour.

You now have a very impressive concert tour through Africa behind you. You said that you found "different perspectives". Which?

I have collected very different impressions within the countries. In West Africa, for example, there is a culture industry which is not existent as we recognise it. The people there live from hand to mouth. Music is indeed a part of their lives, but concerts are foreign to them.

How could we imagine your concerts there?!

We gave two in each country. With one we simply put up our sound equipment or unpacked acoustic instruments and played free of charge.

And in the end which impressions stuck with you the strongest?

Everything was so intense that I must first digest it. For instance the session in the poor district in Dakar was very moving. Everyone thought that we were mad to play there. They worried about the people. But nobody begged from me there. The people are too proud to do so [...] I now have the feeling that I am not so naïve any more. Which has disadvantages. I will have problems in future with my music.

Under which signs do your further concerts stand or did they stand on the Black Continent?

The tour through Africa opened my eyes. Villages without electricity and you simply unpack the accordion and play our folk songs. It is clear that in these countries my own compositions are not in demand. There tradition meets tradition: Africa meets Europe, meets Austria. It gives you a security as a musician. In any case since the trip I have a new respect for the cultural achievements which we have here at home. But that does not mean that everything is good. I am also a bit shaken. That's why also naïve.

What are your views on tradition?

Tradition is a strength, but also a rucksack which you go around with. But I get involved in foreign parts with people, their food and their rhythm. I think that is the fascinating thing. That is local colour for me. Tradition is mostly embarrassing at home. In Africa the people oppose it. I have still not found the solution for me. For I have also felt how restricting tradition can be for communication. I think that individuality brings more communication. The "folksiness" can also be a burden. And I see the main burden as tradition in connection with national pride.

Will you do another Africa tour?

The tour was so exhausting that I would not have been able to hold out one week longer. And that went for the rest of the band too. It was often absolute chaos. Nothing was as agreed and then sometime the tolerance potential is exhausted. It demanded everything from me, from each of us.

A new CD from you will be coming onto the market. Like your current tour it is called Grenzenlos. When will the record be finished - autumn?

I hope so, but I cannot do anything now. Summer tour, then holiday with the family ... But perhaps a miracle will happen. Else we will release the CD in 2003.

Do you actually like to be on tour or is it a necessary evil - in order to sell records and to continue being talked about?

I really like to tour. But it always lasts until I am in the tour machinery. Playing live is no necessary evil for me. At the end of a row of concerts I even have real withdrawal symptoms. But during the tour creativity is locked off with me.

Your open air concerts: what can you visitors look forward to?

To my old and some new musicians and a female singer in the band. I wrote my CD Fön from a silence. After a break of six and a half years. Everything came from the slowness - an introverted CD, also like its successor Trad. Now, after 100 concerts, have become louder and faster again. More than half of my concert consists of ten new songs. The second part is not exactly a "Best of", but instead a "Loudest of" - everything is louder and dancier.

Your tour of concert halls was totally sold out. You had to play many additional concerts. What expectations do you now have for your summer tour?

The sold out concert hall tour surprised me very much. I was very happy that the people went my way with me. I wished and hoped for it. But I was a calculated pessimist because I had a very cautious expectation. Now for my new programme the first test in front of a homeland audience was on 11th May in Bad Reichenhall. The people accepted the concert very well then. And even though I did not make it easy for them. At the beginning I only played new songs. The old songs are rather like stepchildren to me. But I hope that will go during the tour.

On your old press photos you had very short hair - almost bald. Now your hair is longer - that is often a sign of a change. Are you a "new person"?

I don't think so. I am still the same person at heart. But I am a searcher: challenges and frontiers. Therefore also the tour and CD title Grenzenlos (Boundless/Without Frontiers)!

Hubert von Goisern, family man and inventor of alpine rock

Mühldorfer Anzeiger 10th July 2002

"I am not ashamed of Hiatamadl"
The Austrian talks about his past, the fans and the future

An hour until the performance. but no hectic rush is felt with Hubert von Goisern - alias Hubert Achleitner. Due to a problem with the setting up of the stage (see below) the soundcheck is delayed. The 49 year old sits on a blanket on the grass in front of the old city wall, reads the collected works of Max Frisch and is peace itself.

You have it comfortable here ...

Well, I would rather there were no cars at all.

You have been in Mühldorf since yesterday evening. What have you have done today?

I had a good sleep, then I had a short walk and bought myself some Aspirin C because I have had a cold for the past three days. I also got a couple of plums and two bottles of red wine. In view of the fortune in the misfortune with the stage construction it has been a very nice day so far.

You must feel very at home here. After all Mühldorf has belonged to the Salzkammergut for more than 1000 years now ...

Yes, I read that. But the South German area has long been a part of my homeland. I have certainly played many more concerts here than in Austria. There is a very grateful and attentive audience here. And it is scarcely any different scenically from Salzburg land.

Does something in Mühldorf remind you of Goisern?

No. Goisern is much smaller. And it lies in the middle of the mountains and I do not see any mountains here at all.

Accident during rigging

For a few minutes it looked as if Mühldorf would have to do without Hubert von Goisern's appearance. At about 4pm during the stage construction, the lights crashed down. The girder could not remain standing under the weight of the lights. Two stagehands were slightly hurt in he accident. One of them was already back at work at the concert in the evening, the other had a rest at home with lightly bruised ribs. With united workers, new girders were got hold of and the stage was made fit for the concert in the last minutes. Therefore the soundcheck took place two hours later at 8pm.

Hubert von Goisern was able to welcome the 1000 visitors at 8.45pm, with a 45 minute delay. "I am pleased that nothing more happened and in the face of such good fortune, nothing more can go badly wrong this evening," said the artist. And nothing went wrong, instead it was a remarkable concert evening.

Many people come to your concerts now who still have the old Hubert von Goisern in their heads and want to hear Hiatamadl.

It can be that there are also some again today who would have liked to have turned the clock back. But in the last ten years a lot of water has flown along the Inn. And you cannot just reverse that. Some things have changed with me during this time and certainly with the listeners too. I find it much more exciting to really be aware of my interests, my curiosity and the challenges which I feel, than to warm up something old again and again. Not that I would be weary of Hiatamadl or the old things. I have a lot to thank these songs for, but life goes on.

Do you still play Hiatamadl at all?

No, I have not played it since 1994. But once, in 1997, I performed it alone in Tibet. I simply have no access to it any more. I lived up this phase, very intensively even. I would think it wrong to now pack the song in a new disguise or to "modernise" it in one form or another. And there are enough people who play the song.

But is it not embarrassing to you?

No. It belongs me, is a part of my history just as my youth is too. There are only very, very few things in my life of which I am ashamed ...

... for example?

No, I am not saying anything now. But Hiatamadl is not one of them.

How is your relationship with your fans? This evening about 1000 are coming to this concert. That is half an exodus for Mühldorf.

I am happy anyway that there are people who are interested in my music and go my way. My own audience has often surprised me with how open they are to experiments with African or Tibetan music. I am basically someone who makes music for himself and I am amazed time and time again that it works. Perhaps it is also a gift which I inherited, that again and again I successfully put together the right sounds or present the right people on stage.

What does the future bring? Is there something you still really want to try?

Yes, there is enough. For example to write something for a large orchestra. Or things that have nothing to do with music, for example shooting a film.

Perhaps learning another instrument?

I am a very lazy person who does not want to practise. If something concerns me, then I make music with it. And if I am not successful, then I leave it again. For instance, I really cannot play the violin. Alone until you draw the bow so that a beautiful sound comes out, that takes too long for me. I see it with my daughter. She is 8 years old now and plays much better than I ever could. It is rather proof that I have my limits.

When the world becomes smaller and larger

Naturfreund 3/2002 | Text & Photos: Fritz Kalteis

Hubert von Goisern has a new programme which went through a baptism of fire on stage in Africa. In the Naturfreund interview which Fritz Kalteis held with him in Africa, he talks about the rhythm of life, Filipino nose flutes and his relationship with street and folk music.

Hubert von GoisernSomewhere in Senegal, sunset. On the beach of the Foundiounge in the Saloum delta, a small child is playing in the sand and singing to himself. "Holareidulliöööhhh!" he yodels. No wonder, for Hubert von Goisern is in town. For four weeks in spring, the shining light of Austrian (world) music along with his band has set out to travel Egypt, Cape Verde, Senegal and Burkina Faso. In their luggage, the new programme for the tour beginning at the end of June 2002 and the hope for many fruitful meetings with native musicians.

What do you hope for from this Africa trip?

I hope that this programme takes some of these influences with it, though on a rather unconscious level. Mostly I first notice it after six months, when I can reflect on my work. Then I say: "Hey, look that is a rhythm we heard down there." And because I am of the opinion that Africa is absolutely the groove continent, the programme can only do good. The music of the Western world is rich in harmonies and melodies, but poor in rhythm. Our folk music is never so complex as in Africa or in India.

What happens at meetings with musicians?

For me, music is a language which goes through the body. Musicians talk to each other with their instruments and voices. It is a challenge to search for what makes common ground with other people and cultures. When that happens, no matter whether in Kenya with Massai, or in Tibet, a feeling of world harmony appears. The world becomes smaller and larger at the same time. Larger because it makes me richer because people and countries move much closer and will be part of me. Smaller because everything is reachable and does no only exist in theory any more. The travelling is very interesting: you know that there are cities like Cairo, Dakar, Delhi or New York. But first when you get there and see that cars drive there, people populate the streets, cook, nurse their children, seeing how they get on with life, then the black points on the map come to life.

Hubert von Goisern gives a concert in the middle of the street in the Dakar slums - does a large circle close there?

I have played street music many times before. You stand there and play away. I always close my eyes. There is no obligation, it is about the joy of playing.

You have a lot to thank your time as a street musician for...

Yes, the most important thing: I concluded my first record deal in the Vienna Innenstadt am Graben! I play, play and close my eyes as someone with a trench coat and an executive case stands in front of me. Willi Schlager from CBS. He would really like to make a record with me. So I began to write numbers. That lasted a year and he did not forget me. I wrote him appeals to hold out every month on postcards I drew myself: "Hurry with a while", "Good things take a while", "Comes time, comes advice". He was so curious and impatient that he even placed adverts in the Falter, in the Kurier and the Kronenzeitung: "Hubert von Goisern, please call, Willi". After a year, my cassette was finished. I went in and knocked and he cried "There you are, finally!" It was like a film. At that time I signed as 'Hubert von Goisern' for the first time. I was 36.

How did you find your entrance to folk music?

There is no music which I reject on principle. In principle here is only music which is played well or badly. It is more about the how than the what. Before, people who played folk music were reactionary types to me, who rejected anything that had nothing to do with folk music. I did not want anything to do with this scene. I did not want to play like everyone else anyway. It was first in the Philippines that I came upon what folk music really means, what traditions can be. There, where I was, everyone could sing all the songs. The whole village sang and danced, some not so good, the others better. There it is not those who play music and those who listen. I brought a bundle of flutes and bamboo instruments with me from the Philippines. I thought to myself, now I will make my career with the nose flute. I only got to know one nose flute player from the Philippines who can still play this instrument. It was in a military prohibited zone in Kalinga in which the rebels from the New People's Army had entrenched themselves and there was still head-hunting and blood-feuds. Nevertheless, I wanted to go in because the last bastion was traditional instruments. Once a year in Sagada there is folk music festival. I was the first non-Filipino who made an appearance there. They asked me if I wanted to play the nose flute because there were no more native nose flute players. So I demonstrated it.

Hubert von GoisernTraditions are also lost with us ...

I really like lived-in cultures. Everything is very industrialised with us. Almost only those whose job it is dance any more, music is only played when there is an audience. This naturalness that music and dance also have here in Africa. That is great. I really like this causal playing, at the end of which someone does not have to applaud. When someone is well-known it is very difficult for example to do something like that in a pub. Because the moment I step on stage, they say: "Ooh, now Hubert von Goisern is playing". I want to play music completely informally and without great attention.

Nonetheless, your popularity has helped you to start musical projects with Tibetans for example.

I would certainly never have been able to do it without Hiatamadl, I am not so naïve. I became acquainted with the Tibetans on their tour through Austria which I presented. After those two weeks, I though: "I must look at that now!" After the visit to Tibet, I was so charged up that I had to express it musically. So the collaboration with the Tibetans and the Inexil CD arose.

What experiences did you have in Tibet?

I did not hear any music at all there - only one individual lute player in Lhasa! In Tibet there is no culture scene any more. Because the Tibetans could appear through their culture, they were stopped. Apart from that, the Tibetans would not write any protest, they are different about that. They do not rebel against something, they look at it all from the standpoint of karma.

How is your relationship with the church?

I personally presented Archbishop Eder with a CD of Katholisch in Salzburg. I was with him for about an hour and he talked for 55 minutes of this hour. He always looked up for inspiration, seldom looking me in the eye and then straight above again. I think that is the problem with many priests, that they preach too much and cannot listen any more. I left the church as it is a patriarchal system which is incompatible to my attitude to life. At the municipal authorities they wanted to have a reason for leaving. I wrote exactly that in capital letters.

Travelling seems to be an important part of your life.

A journey is a special situation: you are constantly stimulated by the completely different culture, by the different body language, by the dealings with other people. But I also need time in which I am alone in which I can let my thoughts wander and let my feet go on their own and not say from my head: that is the aim. I need this drifting and looking into the madhouse.

Do you keep a diary?

Yes, into which I mainly put things again and again for self-reflection. In the moment I am writing something, I have to formulate my thoughts, my feelings and then it often becomes clearer for me. I also wrangle with situations again and again and I am not above such things as it comes across in interviews. When you wrangle with something, you should first see that you can cope with it. But there is a point at which you should not deal things by yourself.

Do you think about writing a book?

To write a book is something I have wanted to do for years, but for which I have never found the time. I would find it very exciting to write for one or two years. I do not know in which form - perhaps a mixture of aphorism, philosophical contemplation and travel experiences. It would also appeal to me to write a novel. I have enough ideas.

What would be the title of a book about your Africa trip?

The first that occurs to me is Africa. So much is conjured up with this. However, I cannot imagine a book about the trip. Rather, to introduce stories in this culture area with the famous view from outside. I am not an African, I will also never be one. The concepts of "homeland" and "home" also constantly change through such journeys. I have earlier had the requirement that there, where I go, I am at home sometime, that I create that. I now have a lot of trips under my belt. I knew that the surroundings in which I grew up have really shaped me. I always look forward to coming home. To Hildegard, my wife, to the children, to work which waits now, the recording of the album. Just as I have been happy on the journey, I look forward to what comes along now.

Do you regard it as a privilege to be a musician?

I see it is as a privilege to be able to lead this life so I can fulfil my dreams. That I find musicians who want to work with me, that I have success, that I can afford things, that I have family who support me - all these things are a privilege. In the time in which I was a musician, living from hand to mouth I found that you actually need very, very little. And that it is more important to do what is enjoyable and what is important to you, than to make compromises. I am also not someone who goes on "holiday". Holiday from what? Holiday from life? I live my life so that every day I can say: "I am good at what I do".

Faster, louder, more extroverted

Südwest-Aktiv 6th July 2002

In the past year Hubert von Goisern was on a long, successful tour with pieces from his album Fön. Now the alpine rocker returns to the stage with a new, lively Grenzenlos programme. Udo Eberl spoke to Hubert von Goisern.

You have many new songs in your current programme again. Was it high time you newly invented yourself again?

It happened last summer, because I felt a different energy after the second tour block. I had to write songs that corresponded to this feeling and with it I shed another layer of myself.

What does that mean exactly?

The pieces are louder and faster. That also happened through appearances in front of an audience. If you have played a hundred concerts, it is different from writing your songs out of the silence, far away from the stage, like with Fön. That record was more introverted, the new pieces are very extroverted.

What will we hear now?

Really almost the same as we already played in Egypt and Cape Verde in the spring. About half the programme of last year. And lots of new things.

Are you cross when your new sound is compared with that of Manu Chao?

No, not at all (grins)

Will influences from your last music journey to Africa will be heard live?

No, it does not work so quickly with me. I did not go there in order fertilise this programme. The experiences have certainly shaped me and some of them called into question what I do or made me more determined. But I am not so fickle that now I think that now I must do something completely different. I think that in a couple years something will consciously and unconsciously flow into my work.

What impressions have you brought back from your last journeys?

The feeling for my tradition has become deeper, in a good many ways aspects I am more sceptical than ever. Our style of rhythm for example which has something. Even if I play music in Dakar, I have a good feeling. Even though the audience sits there with question marks in their eyes. Despite all scepticism the experience that the audience had no doubts with me was worth a lot to me. I have also experienced how an attachment and perseverance can be a protective mechanism in a tradition, to not have to have a good look at other things.

In West African culture, music above all is really lived for.

There is no culture business in West Africa, as we know. It can only work in affluence in which people have spare time and spare money and do not know whether they should go paragliding now, to the cinema or to a concert. There, the people are almost solely occupied with supporting their family. Mind you, the culture there is very alive and is integrated into daily life. All occasions are sung for, drummed to and danced. There is no DJ. Simply half the village then sings and the other half dances along.

And you were right in the middle?

We played in the ghettos too. People said to us beforehand that we would not come out alive. But there of all places, with the people who have nothing, we were not begged from or harassed. We set up our things there and played - in front of 2000 people who had never experienced a concert nor such music. Suddenly there were girls who after they heard the first yodel, yodelled as if they had always done so. People leapt onto the stage, grabbed a microphone and sang as if they belonged there. It was amazing.

You are playing at the International Donaufest in Ulm. Do you have an affinity to other Danube lands?

I only grew up on the Traun, a little river, which flows into the Danube in Linz, but I am very interested in the subject. On account of the heated discussions about the eastward expansion in Austria. The Liberals and the Right want to fence off because it just costs money. I am for opening up, otherwise I would not be playing a tour called Grenzenlos. I feel associated with theses ideas about integrating these countries, getting to know them and playing concerts with people from these countries. I hope that happens too. And not just in Ulm.

Do you also see problems in the opening of the eastern countries and in the engagement of the West?

In recent years I have become acquainted with many people who deal with the East. 90% are sly foxes. They go down because there is something to get and not because they have in mind inside instructions for understanding and opening up or culture. Those are the worst people. Most of them with suits and ties.