Hubert von Goisern

LINZ EUROPE TOUR 2007 - 2009

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"There's no going back!"

Passauer Neue Presse 26th June 2007 | Text: Katrina Burkert | Photo: Petra Hinterberger

Four days with Hubert von Goisern on the Danube:
How music and a vision of Europe stand the battle with storms, ship engines and the authorities

Hubert von GoisernFriday, 22nd June, 18.00 hrs: The wind whips the rain in gusts across the deck. People run across the boards shouting, throwing themselves onto the technical equipment on board, keeping it from flying away with their body weight. With their bare hands they try to beat off the gale that is drumming on the planks. Cut. Silence. A shaking hand moves the camera over the deserted stage of the ship with which Hubert von Goisern was to start his three-year tour along the Danube that evening. The last setup shows the chief technician in the midst of his instruments. He looks around him, stunned, water running from his hair. And puts his hands to his face.

Storm over Vienna puts paid to the start

Saturday, 23rd June, late evening. Goisern's manager Hage Hein, the film crew and members of the band sit in a cabin that has been turned into an editing room, looking at the pictures over and over again. "Those were moments of misery," says Hein. "Everyone was thinking: that's it. It's over, before we've even begun." He speaks in the past tense because the situation has changed in the last 24 hours. The electronics have survived their involuntary bath without serious damage. The cancelled concert at the Donauinselfest in Vienna can take place on Sunday. That's good.

Nevertheless the incident has left traces that shape the first days of Goisern's new project: a withdrawn, almost unapproachably serious Hubert von Goisern moves through the hustle and bustle on board without a word, frequently disappearing below deck. "He's pretty angry at the moment," says Hein. "He's been working on this for a year and a half. And then comes the storm. It's difficult to keep your chin up." Hein has to raise his voice while he speaks about the Linz Europe Tour in Goisern's place. The awnings over the converted cargo ship rattle loudly in the wind above him. Next to him three guest musicians are singing Carinthian folk songs. The clatter of dishes escapes the kitchen container and bass riffs can be heard from the direction of the stage.

In the mélange of sounds a central thought of the tour fulfils itself in passing: people from different parts of Europe are coming on board the freighter, which over the next 3 years will pass through 14 countries. They will play music, eat and talk together and part once more after a few days - taking with them many new ideas, new friendships and the good feeling of having set an example for a united Europe.

The artistic side of this ideas works: it is shown at the opening concert in Vienna, that was a musically spellbinding event, cheered by the people of Vienna despite all the breakdowns and improvisation. It is shown by the journey to the next concert location of Melk, during which music is to be heard all day because Hubert von Goisern and Claudia Koreck are preparing the shows in Passau on Saturday and Sunday with their bands. And it is shown in the openness with which the musicians, technicians, film crew and nautical personnel accommodate each visitor - although they don't really know each other yet.

It seems all the more tragic that the young mission has problems on the logistical side of things, which in the worst case scenario could cause what the storm failed to: capsize everything. From the very beginning the biggest problem child has proven to be the ship that is pushing the stage ship and the barracks ship for Goisern and his band that is coupled to it: it is too weak. The journey to Melk takes about 20 hours, six hours longer than scheduled. At dinner Goisern counts the 100-metre markers on the bank, timing it and calculates the speed to be four kilometres per hour. He gives a tired smile and mumbles something like "we can shoot ourselves".

As simple as the solution seems - a more powerful tugboat, putting it into action is difficult. Manager Hein is constantly on the phone, but the shipping company remains firm: the ship is enough, the slow speed is normal and is even desirable for "reasons of safety". During the journey through the Wachau the Goisern-freighter is overtaken many times by ships from the same company, whose crew wave happily. On board people put on a brave front - but annoyance increases, soon nobody wants to wave back. "It's not as though we would otherwise have no challenges to face," says Hein with the calm friendliness behind which he tends to hide strain. "These are not normal tour conditions here. There was no previous model for this project, a lot remains incalculable for us still." The venues in particular are among the imponderables. "Where we can appear, for how long and under what conditions" is a question that Goisern and all the rest are concerning themselves with even after the start of the tour.

Passau is a real annoyance from their point of view. "The Rathausplatz was not my choice," says Goisern. "I'd rather have played on the Inn, but that didn't work out. I'm worried about the houses. We're playing right up against the houses." Sound technician Wolfgang Spannberger, a long-term companion of Goisern, is also critical: "In Passau they have dictated that, like elsewhere in Bavaria, the volume limit is 60 decibels. A normal conversation can be about 60 decibels." He ruffles his long hair.

Concern about the concerts in Passau

But the city of three rivers is still a long way away. "I can't think about Passau at the moment," says Goisern. His voice betrays exhaustion. "So many logistical things have come up that I have to think about. We've lost so much time, we have to prove that we need another ship." He breaks off and disappears below deck again. Outside more ships pass. One is called "Destiny". It is going in the opposite direction.

"There's no going back!" says Goisern with a determined voice and with narrow eyes looks first at the person opposite him and then to the windswept Danube. As if a good spirit heard him, the shipping company consented yesterday evening: today he will get a new tugboat with twice the power.

Soundcheck in Vienna - 22nd June 2007

26th June 2007 | Text & Photos: © Sarah Marchant

The sun was shining and the sky was blue as Hubert von Goisern and his band ran through a soundcheck for their kick-off concert on Friday, 22nd June. The Linz Europe Tour stage ship was docked near the Ö1 stage at the Donauinselfest and ducks swam about happily on the river below as the musicians performed their last checks. Unfortunately the blue skies did not remain and later in the day a sudden storm and torrential rain damaged the stage. Musicians and stage crew were drenched as they worked to rescue their instruments and equipment from the rain. The concert was postponed until Sunday, 24th June. On that evening the start of the Linz Europe Tour 2007 - 2009 drew an enormous crowd as Hubert von Goisern and his band played with guest musicians the Hohtraxlecker Sprungschanznmusi and Willi Resetarits.

A "great heap of engineering" makes the banks of the Danube sound

Der Standard 22nd June 2007 | Text: Markus Rohrhofer | Photos: Alfred Habitzl

A ship is coming: Hubert von Goisern starts the Linz 09 tour

Martin Heller and Hubert von GoisernWallsee - "David, please don't fall in." The warning call from Hubert von Goisern reaches keyboarder David Lackner just at the moment when he can only stop himself falling on the slippery jetty with a circus-standard balancing act. A ship has its pitfalls, the river is rough, especially for musical land rats.

Nonetheless, it was "cast away" for Hubert von Goisern and his band and ship crew on Wednesday evening in Wallsee, Lower Austria. Promptly at 19.30 hrs the world musician from the Salzkammergut started off on his musical journey on the Danube between Bavaria and the Black Sea as ambassador for Linz 09. In the first stage the exceptional musician plans to give 22 concerts with more than a hundred artists across Europe.

"Together we will make waves and make the Danube and her banks sound," Goisern is convinced. "The idea of the European tour was born on the Danube while fishing with Franz," the musician remembered. Aside from his hobby, fishing Franz is the head of the family firm Brandner Shipping. The long-established company set afloat the boat for the advance project for Linz 09.

Between engineering ...

KitchenThe 700 horsepower heart of the convoy is the MS Wallsee. Harnessed to the tugboat is a barge which has been converted to a high-tech stage and the barracks ship for the 25 members of crew.

"The convoy is like a living entity. Fascinating, but dangerous too," Hubert von Goisern justifies the dragon on the flag. There is "a great heap of engineering" on the ship and you can "really hurt yourself if you get something wrong". With this the necessary caution is aroused for those wishing to look around, but Mr von Goisern adds: "Mind your head, mind your step - I get a bad feeling when outside people come onto the boat." But one is far from meagre ship's life on board the culture cutter. "Today there was Asian chicken with vegetables and basmati rice and cheese noodles as an alternative" - ship's chef Holger Alt does things in style. Past the fragrant rosemary bush and an open air bathtub to the village square. There is a green grass carpet and a large table and nice leather sofas invite you to stay with the view of the Danube.

... and fishing meditation

"This is where communal life takes place aside from the tour," explains tour manager Jonas Steckel. But a fight in the camp is not something to worry about. "Meditative fishing in the Danube delta relaxes you," smiles Steckel.

Free concerts along the Danube, including in Austria - the start is the Viennese Donauinselfest on Friday -, Germany, Hungary, Croatia and the Ukraine are on singing captain Hubert von Goisern's tourplan. "The project is a test of self-confidence and faith." The man of the mountains is part of the waves.

Danger of flooding in memory cells

Salzburger Nachrichten 16th June 2007 | Text: Bernhard Flieher | Photo: Esher

In a few days it will be "cast off"! Hubert von Goisern took the time for an in-depth interview before his most ambitious project, the Linz Danube Tour.

There is a light breeze in the garden, as on board when calm prevails and only the speed of travel moves the air a little. On the wall at the entrance to his studio 54 year old Hubert von Goisern has hung a map. On it are the Balkans and the neighbouring countries. That is where he will be going from Thursday next week. The kick-off is a show at the Donauinselfest in Vienna. With a quick excursion up to Regensburg, the first leg of his Linz Danube tour will lead him for two and a half months along the south east part of the 2845 kilometre long river.

On the shelves under the steps to the studio are piles of press information and the CD of the artists with whom the Goiserer will be playing on this tour. The thrill of anticipation creeps in when he speaks about these artists. The respect "particularly for what can happen on such a tour" is also climbing - but: "there has to be a degree of uncertainty, otherwise it would be nothing," says the Goiserer.

Concert barge

The concert barge

Why are you setting off on this journey?

When like now I hear the lawn mower at my neighbour's I get the feeling that I'm leaving to find peace and concentration. But all kidding aside: I wanted to go on tour again. But I didn't want any repetition - and even a programme of new content would have been a repeat. It would have been the same halls and towns. And you best learn about other regions, other attitudes towards life, when you go there and do something with people.

The first leg of your three year tour goes through eastern Europe, through countries that have just joined the EU, that in some cases are only recently independent states, or are licking the wounds of recent wars. What sort of political dimension does this tour have for you?

I am a convinced border eliminator. On the other hand the European Union is in the areas where we're not moving "brilliantly". With the accession to the EU of Romania and Bulgaria really massive boundaries have come up between what were once very closely connected regions. Where the EU border separates Romania from Moldova for example. There the Danube as a border river forms a boundary as big as in the time of the Soviet Union. On one side people today can now get on better with Salzburg or Vienna than with the neighbouring village on the other side of the river, with which they have a relationship going back centuries. It's super for those who can afford it. But for those who can't, the EU shows its elitist side.

On your journey you will mostly be where the borders run: on the Danube. The river is a source of life and of danger, a boundary and a uniting element.

Oh yes. This journey is the most complex thing I have done - and not just in terms of organisation and technically. In just three months it goes through ten countries and we will be meeting seven languages. Then every few days a new life groove and a new musical language will come on board with the local artists.

"Such an exchange requires enormous strength." That sounds tough.

Yeah. On the other hand, it's only about two dozen concerts. Otherwise we would be playing up to 100 concerts a year. But the project needs the longest breath nonetheless, not just because I have been working on it for the past year and a half. The exchange, the getting to know one another, the music playing, the checking out and also the being checked out - requires enormous strength.

So, to ask again: you had great success in the past and so don't have to prove that you are a world citizen and an attentive traveller. So why do this to yourself if you know it's going to to be tough?

I have a bit of a queasy feeling. But it's a bit like it is with mountains. You look at a mountain for a long time from down below and at some point you pluck up your courage and go up, even though you know that it will be strenuous. But what wins is hope for an unbelievable view, for the conquest. And I do all my things because I am a searcher. And with that I'm not just looking for the prettiest walk around a lake. Apart from that, this tour is by far and away the most exciting thing I have done. I'm hoping that the water has the calming effect that I have always experienced when travelling on a boat. A great peace comes over me, there's barely any hecticness. Lots of things just happen by themselves. Water, I never feel stress there. But I do have fears that the memory cells in my heart and mind will become so full this time that there will simply be no room for anything else.

What will happen then?

Well, playing together, that always works out, but there has to be more on this journey than just playing a few concerts together.

How should "more" be defined?

I hope that the journey will be the starting point of a long process. It would probably be too audacious to expect that something huge comes from the ship. If it - quote - goes differently, then all those taking part will feel the enthusiasm. We'll meet again and hopefully produce something together. That's then work for the next three, four years.

You're presenting a "best of" programme on the tour with a new band. Why are there no new songs?

I did want to do something new. But producing while organising - that simply didn't come off. The programme suits the eastern part of the tour well. But there should be something new for next year in the west, when we're going through a lot of familiar land. We'll be well attuned as a band too. We also have time on board when it will be just us - and the new band are loud, cool music people. I assume from that that we will come back with something from which a completely new programme can develop.

"It'll need a bit of residual anarchy"

OÖN 14th June 2007

On 20th June MS Wallsee casts off with a floating stage. Hubert von Goisern is setting off on the Linz Europe Tour, a project for the Capital of Culture 09. The boat from Brandner Shipping will be docking for 21 concerts on the east tour between Regensburg and the Danube delta. In 2008 the tour goes to Rotterdam. An OÖN interview with Hubert von Goisern and Captain Franz Brandner.

What bring a man of the water together with a man of the mountains?

Hubert von Goisern: The Linzer Klangwolke. There was once talk of me doing it and so I should have a look at it myself. I got a VIP place on the "Josef". We met there and I was allowed to take the helm one time. But perhaps you're not allowed to say that out loud.

Brandner: You can do that in the presence of the captain. I stood next to him and he steered like an A grade student and didn't take any of the pillars off the Nibelungen bridge.

Do you have boat experience?

Hubert von Goisern: I'm a canoeist, I learned to row on a barge, like a gondolier.

How do you get on with Hubert's music?

Brandner: He had his accordion with him one time, fishing underneath the Strudengau, where I have 9 kilometres of fishing rights on the Danube, and in Wallsee in an oxbow lake. He caught a pike ...

Hubert von Goisern: ... it was 70 centimetres long.

Brandner: ... and he played too.

Hubert von Goisern: But that was the one time that we didn't catch anything, on the bank holiday. In order to bring forth a bit of fishing fortune we sang the national anthem.

Brandner: ... but that didn't help either.

Hubert von Goisern: And you told me about the first time you went down the Danube with your father.

Brandner: That was 1938, down to Budapest with the raft. I was six years old. We didn't do much until '45, my father was serving and after the war we began again, my two brothers and I with our father. Back then there were no power stations except above Passau. Only the Russians were going with their gunships, 13 of them, each with 9000 horsepower. They were stationed below the Enns estuary, in Au on the Danube. When they came along they made waves as high as houses. If we had had no oxbow there, it would have been over.

How did the project come about?

Hubert von Goisern: Franz's stories about the journeys to the Black Sea and this desire for adventure came together with an idea I'd had ten years ago in Africa: to organise a festival with local bands with a ship on the Tanganyika Lake. Why not transplant this idea to the Danube?

Brandner: You wanted to sail with the "Negrelli", but that went wrong.

Hubert von Goisern: We wanted to adapt this ship, that belongs to "Via Donau" and the Austrian state, for the project. That was a tug of war with the authorities like no other, nobody understood. They gave us the runaround for six months, until we gave up. But I'm so happy about the way things are now, that now I say to myself, who knows what that was good for?

How do you feel about the approaching start, what are the expectations?

Hubert von Goisern: I am anticipating being able to dock everywhere, wherever we want, that the river rights and official saga have been sorted. It'll probably need a bit of residual anarchy to enact all the plans. For example the mayor if Ismajil had all my lyrics translated to make sure that there's nothing revolutionary in them. And then I am hoping for a good moderate water level, not too high, not too low. We are playing on the ship on a stage with optimum sound and light engineering and we don't have to rig and derig every day like usual. We have a floating stage, so we can produce night and day, even when we are travelling.

What will come from it?

Hubert von Goisern: A DVD, so that everybody can see what happens when musicians meet. We have a film team with us who will be documenting everything. That will also be on the television as the ORF are making five 30-45 minute programmes about both journeys.

What do you tell someone who asks what good your project is in cooperation with the Capital of Culture?

Hubert von Goisern: The operators, particularly manager Martin Heller, know very well that being Capital of Culture is not a case of setting off as many fireworks in a year as is possible, that will then blow over. The idea of travelling the two European rivers, the Danube and the Rhine-Main, before it begins and promoting the hub of Linz makes sense. I promote my concerts beforehand too.

You're playing free of charge in the east?

Hubert von Goisern: I don't want anyone to stay away because they can't afford it.

Who is bearing the cost?

Hubert von Goisern: A third comes from Linz09, in which federal government, city and country are represented, a third from Red Bull and a third from me and my management.

What is important to you in this: an artistic, humanistic or political aspect?

Hubert von Goisern: It does have a political aspect, because apart from Serbia, Croatia, the Ukraine and Moldova, all the countries we are travelling through are part of the European Union - but there isn't really a feeling for each other yet, particularly towards the east. I include myself in this and I want to correct this, in that I'm going down there and meeting people. We always get in the news, "oh, now they're coming from the Balkans, from the east and we don't want them." And when I was in Bulgaria and Romania last year, I noticed that they are all afraid of the EU. That's interesting: here we're afraid of those down there and down there they're afraid of us up here. I think we all belong together and I don't like these border controls, I prefer a free passage of people and goods. If transport were no longer supported and agrarian exports were no longer subsidised, an equilibrium would be established.

When you bring musicians from the southeast to the Linz Fest, people are delighted. If the musicians were to ask for work here, they would probably be told "sod off!".

Hubert von Goisern: Is that the case? I don't know. If someone offers their talents and there is no use for them, you can say so nicely.

And if it's different?

Hubert von Goisern: You must accept it. But you can make a personal contribution to improving it.

Mr Brander, will you be captain?

Brandner: I have said that I will sail, but at the moment, I don't know whether I will manage it because of my health. But I will certainly be along for some of it.

Hubert von Goisern: He is the best.

To the "blank spots on the map"

Wiener Zeitung 15th June 2007

Hubert von Goisern sets off to Europe on 20th June

Vienna. (ju) Linz's time as Capital of Culture officially begins on 1st January 2009. However, a forerunner starts as soon as 20th June 2007. A gigantic forerunner to be precise. Next Wednesday Hubert von Goisern begins his Linz Europe Tour. For three years the Danube will be his home. In the first year he will be travelling by ship to 20 harbours. He will be covering 12,000 kilometres. And will be playing music and giving concerts with local musicians.

Start at the Danube Island

The first concert takes place on 22nd June at the Donauinselfest - here von Goisern's first partner will be Willi Resetarits. From here the tour will go with three ships to Regensburg and Passau and then in the direction of Croatia, Romania, the Ukraine, Hungary, Serbia and Slovakia. The first leg of the three year tour comes to an end on 1st September in Linz again. In 2008 they go north through the Rhine-Main Canal to Basel and Rotterdam.

In recent months Hubert von Goisern travelled the eastern countries, dealing with officials and artists. And he told at a press conference in Vienna of the many bureaucratic hurdles that he and his team have faced. Although many barriers have fallen, many people also have "a barrier in their mind". The project and the musical collaborations should "give others the courage to approach each other and listen to one another." He is looking forward to "entering the blank spots on the map".

Four million project

Goisern is taking on a part of risk of the tour himself. The first two years of the project are costing 4 million Euros. A third of this will be carried by the Capital of Culture Linz, a third by Dietrich Mateschitz, that is, Red Bull, and a third by the artist himself. This should be made back by the concerts. Only in the eastern countries, Vienna and Linz will there be no admission charges.

Ö1 will be accompanying the project: with concert broadcasts and "supporting journalistic work", says Ö1 Head of Programming Alfred Treiber. The concerts will also be documented by local broadcasters as part of a cooperation. Culture Minister Claudia Schmied, who has taken on patronage of the project, said: "Music knows no bounds and rivers know no bounds either."