Q&A with versatile guitarist and singer Hermann Posch - one of the top Austrian blues players in the traditional direction

"Blues and rock music bring people together, regardless of their ethical background and origin. That is the great thing about this music. From a socio-cultural point of view it is very important and a way that really works in reality. It's a logical conclusion that comes out of it, because only the music is in the foreground. Also politically we can get to know each other through this music."

Hermann Posch: So Many Blues Roads

Austrian musician Hermann Posch born in 1961 in Mürzzuschlag, Styria, he grew up with seven siblings, some of whom also made music and taught him blues and rock music. He came into contact with the music of Johnny Winter in his early youth, a little later the "old" bluesers like Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson and Sunny Terry were among his first musical influences. Back then, in the civil profession, roofer only had time at the weekends to devote himself to his music. In 1982 Hermann Posch founded his first band, the "Coldriver Band", together with 3 of his brothers. Hermann Posch describes the attendance of concerts by the Allman Brothers (1980 in Munich) and Sonny Terry & Brownie Mc Ghee (1986 in Vienna) as the first formative musical experiences. It is certainly no coincidence that Hermann Posch developed into a pronounced team player due to his family background on stage and besides his role as a sovereign band leader also stands out as a sideman with authenticity and down-to-earthness. After the days of the “Coldriver Band”, numerous musical projects followed which made Hermann Posch what he is today.                                   Hermann Posch / Photo by Lennart Brorsson

His musical heroes today include Mr. Slowhand Eric Clapton and Jerry Garcia. The conglomerate of these charismatic models is clearly reflected in Hermann Posch's play. He knows how to tell stories with the guitar and his pictorial texts revolve around the central themes of life, which probably concern and touch everyone: emotions and relationships - the blues. Hermann Posch describes his greatest success today as having played with almost all blues musicians in Austria and thus becoming part of the music scene. Well-known international musicians also used his services as a guitarist and he feels it is an honor to have the opportunity to play with artists such as Honey Boy Edwards, Phil Guy, Zach Prather and Bob Brozman. For Hermann Posch, however, success also means taking on the musical patronage for festivals like the legendary Stadlblues Chill Out and thus making a significant contribution to the local blues scene. His personal vision is that the musicians feel good when they are playing and that the music scene sticks together because it is the only way to keep minority music like the blues alive. In summer 2019, released the 12 tracks studio album, "So many Roads" with Zach Prather as guest.

Interview by Michael Limnios

How has the Blues and Rock Counterculture influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

Music, mainly Blues and Rock, has always meant freedom for me, but also rebellion against the bourgeoisie and the fact that I could regulate my own emotional world better with the guitar. Music was and is for me a valve, which I was allowed to take along on my musical journeys until today. I am very grateful for this. Music is a way of expressing things that need to be said, but for which there are sometimes not the right words.

How do you describe your sound, music philosophy and songbook? Where does your creative drive come from?

My sound is, first of all, a mixture of blues and rock elements. I was strongly influenced by greats like Muddy Waters, Elmore James but also by the great jambands like the Allman Brothers, Grateful Dead and also other concise acts like Mike Bloomfield, Ry Cooder or Peter Green.

My philosophy about my work as a musician is: Play everything that feels good! For me, music is something that connects people - no matter what colour of skin they have or what origin they are. The body is the vehicle and music serves as the fuel for it. My songs tell about personal experiences or about a dream journey I sometimes go on. The creative drive is often desperation and the desire for love and recognition but on the other hand also the wish to make people feel happy by playing music for them. For the moment of the performance they should be able to fade out and forget the grey world that sometimes surrounds them and in the best case return to their everyday life with a different perspective.

"Music, mainly Blues and Rock, has always meant freedom for me, but also rebellion against the bourgeoisie and the fact that I could regulate my own emotional world better with the guitar. Music was and is for me a valve, which I was allowed to take along on my musical journeys until today." (Hermann Posch & Zach Prather / Photo by Johannes Wahl)

Which meetings have been the most important experiences for you? What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?

One of my most important meetings was in 2006 when I had the chance to play with the delta blues legend Honeyboy Edwards in Vienna. I knew Honeyboy of course from his records and books but to be on stage with him was unbelievable.

The best advice for me came from Phil Guy, with him I played also in 2006 and 2007, one year before his death: “Always play as if it were your last day". There were more concerts planned but unfortunately he died much too early. Also formative for me was a conversation with my friend Zach Prather, who was able to spend a lot of time with the late Willie Dixon and who was also allowed to take some of his wisdom with him. It was about the fact that authenticity is, what probably reaches and touches people the most. Always be yourself when you play and do your own thing, don't try to copy someone else. That strengthened me a lot in my creativity and on my personal path, because as an artist you usually question your own work very critically anyway.

Are there any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

There are, of course, some nice memories. In 2015 I played at the European Blues Challenge with the great harp player Christian Sandera in front of about 2000 people in Brussels. It had a strong energy and we were the only acoustic blues duo among all the electric acts that made a great impression there. I have been organizing the Stadlblues Chill Out Festival in Austria for over 12 years and there were a lot of good musicians playing like the Stevie Nimmo Trio, Ian Siegal, Ripoff Raskolnikov, Doug MacLeod, Carolyn Wonderland, the Mojo Blues Band, David Philips, Oliver Mally, Hans Theessink, Pete York and of course my band with Conny Schlegl (b), Michael Strasser (dr), Zach Prather (g,v), just to name a few. I also organized an Acoustic Blues Night for a long time, because the original form of this music was always very important to me and I also wanted to bring this wonderful music closer to the public.

The last studio session to record our current CD, "So many Roads" with Zach Prather in summer 2019 was another highlight for me! We had a timeslot of only 3 days, because Zach had to go back to the USA. It was recorded 99% live in my cowstable studio. Really oldschool! I think that this kind of music comes across best when the musicians interact live. I am more than satisfied with my current band, in which Zach Prather is a permanent member from 2020. In this line-up, the long-standing friendship among each other is the foundation of this band, as well as the fact that we are all very strong team players and each one subordinates his ego to making music together. It’s always the song that counts. It makes me very happy to play with these people.

"My philosophy about my work as a musician is: Play everything that feels good! For me, music is something that connects people - no matter what colour of skin they have or what origin they are. The body is the vehicle and music serves as the fuel for it." (Photo: Hermann Posch & Conny Schlegl)

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

I miss the airplay of the radio stations, at least in Austria. It was great music played by Ray Charles, Luther Allison, Lightning Hopkins, RL Burnside etc. If the radio stations don't change their minds, this music will be forgotten and that would be a pity. Hope is given to me by bands like the North Mississippi Allstars, Derek Trucks, Markus King but also people like Eric Bibb and Keb Mo. They keep this kind of music alive and that's very gratifying. What scares me is the completely computerized music, because it is not alive for me. I am also afraid that our youth doesn't know this kind of music anymore because of the missing airplay of the radio stations. I have often experienced at concerts that they said: "This is great, I didn't know anything like this.

I also appreciate musicians like Joe Bonamassa because they bring a lot of young people to this kind of music. Eric Clapton had this role back then and it was very important to release albums like "From the Cradle" or "Pilgrim". The blues purists usually turn up their noses at it, but they never understood that such people were and still are very important for the development of this music. My wish for the future is that more people come to these events and that it really makes sense to enjoy handmade music. It is also important that young musicians have the courage to think "out of the box" in traditional blues and to bring their own creativity into the music and into life. For this, role models are needed, like the bands mentioned above, but also the necessary platforms in the public eye.

If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

I would grant the musicians what other working people deserve: If you go to your mechanic today, you pay about 70,-Euro per hour. It is often seen that we musicians play just for fun anyway by the public. What is overlooked, however, is that we also have to pay our bills for rent, car, instruments, equipment, insurance, etc. The second thing I would wish for is that the most beautiful music in the world like blues, rock, soul, jazz etc. is played more on the radio. Only in this way we musicians can be supported that enough people keep coming to the events. Radio stations and other media have a big moral responsibility towards us and can influence the public. Apparently many people are not aware of this, it would be nice if this would change.

"I miss the airplay of the radio stations, at least in Austria. It was great music played by Ray Charles, Luther Allison, Lightning Hopkins, RL Burnside etc. If the radio stations don't change their minds, this music will be forgotten and that would be a pity. Hope is given to me by bands like the North Mississippi Allstars, Derek Trucks, Markus King but also people like Eric Bibb and Keb Mo. They keep this kind of music alive and that's very gratifying." (Hermann Posch Blues Band / Photo by Gue)

Make an account of the case of the blues in Austria. Which is the most interesting period in local scene?

In Austria there is a very good blues scene. It is stylistically very mixed and there are very good bands on the road. E.g. through the annual “Vienna Blues Spring Festival” there are good opportunities to perform. Bands from all over the world play there but also the local scene finds its place thanks to the organizers like Dietmar Hoscher (Concerto Magazin) Wolfgang Windbacher (Liveclub Reigen) and Alfred Pulletz and local acts are steadily booked It's the longest Blues Festival in Europe and lasts from March 20th to April 30th, there are some other festivals like the “Jazzfest Wien”, the “Bluestage in Graz” (Oliver Mally) and the” Pinka Blues Festiva”l in Burgenland, where we are booked with Zach Prather this year. Also the club scene is slowly recovering, after a quite long lull, I am optimistic that things will continue to improve.

What is the impact of Blues and Rock music on the racial, political and socio-cultural implications?

Blues and rock music bring people together, regardless of their ethical background and origin. That is the great thing about this music. From a socio-cultural point of view it is very important and a way that really works in reality. It's a logical conclusion that comes out of it, because only the music is in the foreground. Also politically we can get to know each other through this music.

We recorded his composition "Jim Crow" with Zach Prather and there he sings about Jim Crow coming back, even though he thought (as many others did) that he was long dead. This song hits the nail on the head in America, especially since Donald Trump is in power there. In Europe, too, there is unfortunately a strong trend towards the right-wing conservative line. Regarding "Jim Crow" one has to know that this is a synonym for the unequal treatment of the African-American population by the so-called "Jim Crow Laws", which allowed further racial discrimination after the liberation of slaves.

"I would grant the musicians what other working people deserve: If you go to your mechanic today, you pay about 70,-Euro per hour. It is often seen that we musicians play just for fun anyway by the public." (Hermann Posch / Photo by Michael Holzinger)

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?

I wish I were in the Mississippi Delta where all this great music originated. There I would probably philosophize with Robert Johnson or Son House about their songs and their tricks on the guitar and would ask Johnson if he really made a pact with the devil... Or if he just practiced a lot to play those pickings. Son House would have to tell me why he came up with the idea that one can have only Blues when a woman has left her man or a man left his woman?

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