Hubert von Goisern


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

Zeitgeist: Hubert von Goisern "My credo is openness, you must be open to everything"

Neue Kärntner Tageszeitung July 2004 | Text: Christiane Webernig

What do you associate with Carinthia?

I really like coming to Carinthia, especially to go skiing. The Salzkammergut, where I come from, is very similar in its landscape and feeling of being alive.

How do you see yourself?

That always depends on my mood. Sometimes I think I'm pleasant, then I feel like an arduous contemporary again. Unfortunately, giving a good picture is not always successful.

Do you see yourself as a zeitgeist?

We are all zeitgeists. People are spiritual beings, who float through time. Some are old-fashioned, others are more avant garde and again others are planners who don't get on in the time in which they live.

What does the title of your current album Trad II mean?

Trad stands for the English word "traditional", that is folk tunes. Folk tunes are works whose authors are unknown. On Trad II, things that have been verbally handed down are dealt with, that is the "hits" from the day before yesterday. Each song goes its way, takes another form and is subject to a constant change.

Which themes are dealt with on Trad II?

I can't restrict it to a common denominator. Everybody should listen to the album themselves. I can't restrict it, there's no listening guidance from me.

Where do you find the stimulation for your songs?

For one, I listen to a lot of music. When I like something, it remains in my memory and then comes up again sometime. Then it can be that I let it be incorporated into a new piece. Other ideas come totally from me. The most important thing is to be an attentive and patient listener.

What is the message of your lyrics?

I don't demand any message. Each person should take what is important for them.

Do you feel you belong to "Austropop"?

Yes, somehow, because I come from Austria. My musical - the alpine - tradition is something like modern folk music. And that comes close to pop music.

What do you think of the short life-span of pop songs?

We are all short-lived. Wanting to design something eternal would be foolhardy. Even of the ancient Egyptians, only "dead piles of stone" remain today.

In your music, you combine the exotic with the native...

I have been influenced by ethnic folk music through my travels. That is simply an awareness of music and of life. My credo is: openness. You must be open for everything that comes along. I was in North America for two and a half years. There is no constraint of tradition there as we know it, except with the Indians. The people are open for everything. I really liked this attitude to life. And the people have few reservations, I think that's great.

You're a globetrotter...

I love travelling. New situations sharpen the senses. The unknown demands new definition of positions.

What does the term "homeland" mean to you?

I have two definitions: on the one hand it is memory. That doesn't necessarily have to be positive. Someone can have bad memories of their childhood through war or violence. Nevertheless, these memories are somehow a piece of homeland. On the other hand, any place where you get involved is homeland. As soon as you leave the passiveness behind you ("I don't like that"), it becomes your homeland.

Where is your homeland?

Currently in Salzburg. My wife and my children live in the city and "coming home" is really one of the nicest feelings I know.

Music unites people all over the world

Passauer Neue Presse 29th July 2004 | Photo: Ausserer

An interview with the Austrian musician Hubert von Goisern
- two open air concerts at the Passau Domplatz on 1st and 2nd August

Hubert von Goisern

The Austrian musician and globetrotter Hubert von Goisern sees to it that traditional folk music is given back its dignity. Simple protection of the old tunes is not enough for him - the world musician re-invents traditional music time and again so that it can survive. After many journeys through Africa and Tibet, he has musically returned to his Austrian homeland with his latest CD Trad II. On 1st and 2nd August, he makes an appearance at the Passau Domplatz. In an interview with Anna Ausserer, he talks about tradition, homeland and how music can soothe the soul.

You recorded the Trad II CD up on the 2100m high Krippenstein in Austria. The transport of the equipment by cable car alone was very expensive. Why all the expense?

We wanted to record the album in an ambience that allowed us great concentration, because there is just no distraction where you are and you are much more dependent on each other than in a studio where people come and go. Then I also really liked the idea of not recording in a studio, because that's always a bit daunting. Up in the mountain scenery, everything was much freer and I think it was worth the expense.

How do audience in Austria differ from those in Germany and Switzerland? Who is more enthusiastic?

I like playing outside Austria. The further you are from Austria, the greater the openness and the scope of interpretation of what we do. The people at home partly know my songs and often connect a personal story with them. They know the old folk songs from before and often don't understand why I play them this way or that, why I leave out a verse, or give them a completely new face. There are quickly parameters of comparison and the benchmarks are stronger, the nearer to the epicentre you come. Abroad they approach the music without prejudice, because it's really exotic.

What's it like with the language barriers?

Despite the exotic pronunciation, it's still the German language. I think that most people think that dialect is much better understood than many English lyrics.

The new CD has the name Trad II, which indeed stands for the English "traditional", that is folk tunes. What does tradition mean for you?

Tradition is what we have received from our ancestors, and that has a bearing on everything we do. We move as our ancestors put it before us. We are also often caught in our traditional ways of thinking and often it occurs that they are actually prejudices. It's similar with music. It doesn't always have to be the folk music tradition. With me, there were also great influences from the radio. The Beatles, The Who, Santana. I also came into contact with the blues very early. Through the blues I have perhaps got this access to freedom in music. This feeling that the musicians are not playing to notes, but that the soul is inside it.

Hubert von Goisern is always a bit of a globetrotter. Where does this feeling of always having to go out into the world come from?

I have an adventurous nature, like taking risks, and basically curious about what's around the next corner. I also like to expose myself to situations which are totally unfamiliar to me and challenge all my senses. Situations in which I must throw all my patterns of thought overboard. At home we like to get into a routine. We know where we can buy our bread rolls, or where we can find a bed to sleep in. When you are far away, this is suddenly unfamiliar and that makes me feel alive, it gives me the chance to look at myself from the outside, I can learn to laugh at myself again, to question myself.

Where do you especially like to travel to?

I like being in landscapes which require attentiveness, where humans take a back seat. Whether desert, ocean or mountains - I feel grounded there.

And nevertheless you are someone who is very connected with their homeland. What does homeland mean for you?

Homeland is always a memory

On the one hand, homeland is where I play a part. In the moment where I play a part in a foreign culture, in a foreign country, I make it my homeland. When we don't play a part, we are not at home anywhere, always just guests, whether that's far away or in our own country. On the other hand, homeland is always a memory. And according to whether we have positive or negative memories in our personal biographies, homeland is beautiful or not for us. The term homeland is not to be seen judgementally and you shouldn't romanticise it. The term homeland quickly gets a taste of something paradise-like. There are many people who grew up in war zones, for whom the concept of homeland is anything but positive.

You have travelled a great deal and had contact with folk music from many distant lands. Is there a common denominator between all these different styles of music?

Common ground is common ground! In order to be called folk music, a musical tradition must simply have this collective. It's not about one person performing and the others listening. A characteristic of folk music is that everyone attunes, everyone celebrates together. The opposite of that would be the concerto, where one person stands on stage and the others let him play. I see the togetherness less in the individual elements of the music, like rhythm or melodics, and rather more in the fact that music unites people all over the world. The more music becomes an art form, the less people do it really.

What kind of music especially moves you?

It can be anything, as long as it is played with the soul. Most likely orchestral music, which is very complex, or opera. In any case, music which lasts and into which you can let yourself completely fall. Romantic music. Mahler or Mozart of course. Since I am a musician. I need ambitious music so I can stop listening to individual instruments and I can forget myself as a listener. This works best with music I haven't made myself.

"I'm the black sheep"

Vorarlberger Nachrichten 29th May 2004 | Text: Christa Dietrich | Photo: APA

VN interview: Hubert von Goisern is in Vorarlberg on the 9th June with up-to-date music

Bregenz (VN) You listen to him yodel, hear folk songs, wonderfully arranged, clearly interpreted. With Trad II Hubert von Goisern, Austria's most well-known, gentle and unmistakable alpine rocker is back again, soon in Bregenz too.

Hubert von GoisernThe new production Trad II contains more Austrian folk music. It's said that you have found your way back your original music style. Would you agree?

I don't think you can put it like that. It's the first time I've done something like this, so it can't be the original thing. But it is also about the foundation of my music. I have restricted myself to one style, although there are people who maintain the opposite. They are folk songs from my own homeland that we are playing as I like them.

Where have your musical roots settled?

Folk music is a part, blues is another important part, then jazz, funk and soul. They strongly influenced me in my development. I would add folk music in its broadest sense because I grew up with it. I only really became aware of it after I had been abroad for a long time.

Journeys to Tibet and Africa have inspired you. How important was that, or rather, what remains after some productions which inspired by them?

After these two productions, I had the feeling that it was something I had occupied myself with, that it was over. But I believe that things always come from the subconscious. Composing is a very unconscious procedure now and then.

I recently spoke to the author Michael Köhlmeier. He likes listening to your songs, is somebody who regrets that German songs, especially due to misuse through politics, unfortunately often have an aftertaste, so he therefore grew up with English songs. What do you think?

I agree. Ambros and Heller were very important people for me. Today young people must take detours in order to get to German songs. It doesn't appear in the media. The only German thing you hear is the folksy German schlager. Even the Bavarians have fewer reservations than the Austrians. It's a sad thing about the Austrian broadcasters.

Apropos Köhlmeier, could there be a collaboration with him?

We met because there is a project, I like him a great deal. I can imagine it.

Did you have to learn to yodel properly, or could you do it as a child?

Yes, I had to learn. I'm the black sheep of the family in that I make music and the idea that I wanted to live off that was a horror for the family.

Was there someone who influenced you musically?

There are very many. Miles Davis for example, whom I really admire. It's not just the compositions, but the personality too, which made these sounds so magical. Many electronic musicians too of course. I am an admirer of Mozart, that's the height of composing. It's not so bad, to not be so good, because there's no second anyway. I like Mahler too, I'm a fan of Verdi and Puccini, I like listening to Wagner too...

Do you like living in Austria, what do you love, what do you like?

I like the mountains, they're a piece of unspoiled nature, otherwise everything is built on. In the mountains you can still say, this stone belongs to nobody, so it belongs to me. I also like to sometimes spend the night in a sleeping bag alone up there somewhere.

I assume that you do not really avoid people. What's the feeling like when you stand in front of thousands of people?

I like it, I certainly also like being among people. But I'm not someone who goes to parties or pubs, I'd rather cook myself something. But what I like too, is this collective, experiencing something together, that I can have too when I stand below, I like going to concerts or opera performances myself, but you can't plan what arises. I really like this collective, the fact that it will be perceptible by every individual.

You announced that the journey into the traditional is a restricted one. What comes then?

I don't know, I only know that I'm playing the last concert on 12th September, then I'm having a 2 year break from the stage in order to let a few ideas mature. Well, perhaps I'll hang another concert in Bad Ischl on after the 12th September, I began the tour there.

Thank you very much for the interview and have a good time.

"Homeland is where you get involved"

Kurier 6th June 2004 | Text: Michaela Mottinger

From this week, Hubert von Goisern is on tour in Austria. An interview about distant lands, other morals and a vehicle with which you move to God.

You are currently touring through Austria with the Trad II programme. In the development process of the CD, you climbed the Krippenstein three times. What are you thinking about when you going up a mountain?

About not falling down (he laughs) I like being in landscapes that require an attentiveness, where the person goes into the background. Whether desert, ocean or mountain - I feel grounded there.

Is Trad II "real", pithy homeland music again?

I don't think so. We have brought in a few country sounds with the slide guitar. And in any case, the true folk music fans see my way of interpreting pieces as sacrilege. They get het up just about the use of percussion instruments.

Have you worked with American folk music?

With Eskimo singing. Country music is an indefinable term and of course there's a kind of Musikantenstadl in America. The real folk music of this continent would be the Indians' singing and dancing - and there is very little of that to be experienced.

Nevertheless, you have the feeling that wherever you go, you take something musical with you.

Not necessarily. I was just travelling with Bedouins for a week and we never sang. Only on the last day did we talk about music, but then agreed that I'll go back in six months. And then we'll have sessions in the desert.

What do people react to most on your journeys? Yodelling?

Singing is more personal than every instrument and there are different kinds of yodelling all over the world. The children mostly laugh when they hear a yodel. In Africa you have to play music that grooves, otherwise the people can't get into it. In Tibet, people like long drawn-out musical arcs with intensive voices. So, it depends where you are.

It will probably be exciting when your tour takes you to Scandinavia.

In Lappland, certainly. In spring there's a festival of Sami singers. I'd like to go there.

What would it be like with the founding of a Hubert von Goisern Archive for folk music from all over the world?

My descendants can do that. I am an opponent of archiving. The world collects far too much and with it, they lose the view of the present.

Back home and into the past: a critic in the FAZ write that Hitler's favourite song was on Trad II. You don't have a problem with that?

Ah, he meant Abend spat. No, I don't have a problem with that. It's a part of our homeland, a part of our tradition. Unfortunately! You can't say that we're not touching that any more because a darker figure seizes something. Because that leads to such people evacuating the terrain. On the contrary, you must take things away again from this way of thinking. Abend spat is a wonderful song.

Homeland is an oft misused word. Do you have a definition?

Not just one. Homeland is where you get involved. When you are a guest somewhere, you don't mix in, it doesn't concern you. But when I mix in, I make the matter a piece of homeland.

Is Tibet homeland then? You have mixed yourself in quite a bit there.

Yes, of course. But I have another definition there: homeland is memory. Where memory does not have to be something positive. There are people with bad memories of the past. Nevertheless, they will always be a part of them.

Homeland and tradition are also to do with religion. You have left the Catholic church, but haven't gone over to Buddhism. Where do you separate religion and faith?

For me, religion is like a vehicle with whose help you move to God. When you begin to worship this vehicle, then it doesn't work any more. That's what I didn't like about the Catholic church, which wants to be worshipped as an institution. To believe in a non-concrete God is a great challenge - and I want that. I don't want a picture.


I see religion as a body of thought that helps us to get along with each other. You can't control everything with laws, so it is important to have moral values and principles. But for me, to leave the Catholic church and become a Buddhist would be like jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire. I don't like belonging to a party, I like to have no boundaries, I don't even want there to be nations.

But with your music, you make something very regionally specific. Where is the lack of boundaries there?

I have the feeling that my productions are without boundaries. Otherwise I would have my songs sung with dulcimer and zither and three girls as a three-voiced choir. On the other hand, you can't say that tradition is fundamentally bad either, and I am reinventing the wheel every day. Everyone needs a bridge back and a projection forwards.

Apart from music, you are interested in the medium of film. I read that you want to film the novel Stiller by Max Frisch.

I would like to stand in front of the camera again. And Stiller is a subject for me. I like this story of identity, where someone seems not to be who they once were. It's like that for everybody: you get up early and who you were yesterday and what you did is of no use to you at all. Then you meet the first people and they begin to pigeonhole you. So long until the expectations that people have of you become your own. That's travelling is so important for me. It gives me the opportunity to look at myself from a distance.

When you are not travelling, you live in Salzburg with your wife Hildegard and your children Niko (16) and Laura (10). Are they interested in their father's music?

They can't get away from it. In the holidays, my daughter comes on tour, she loves the casual life on the tour bus. My son finds my life rather stressful.

There is a Hubert von Goisern 55 cent stamp. Do you like it?

I think it's quite funny, it's okay.