Life in Austria is ‘great songwriting material’

Tall William, also known as William Campbell, is a British singer-songwriter who's based in Vienna. By day he works as a press officer and graphic designer, but his experience as a musician inspired him to create a new tool for Vienna's alternative music community, to help locate gig venues and practise spaces.

Life in Austria is 'great songwriting material'
Photo: Hugo Van Doorn

What brought you to Vienna and how long have you lived here?

I moved to Vienna in May 2012. I came down here from Berlin to be closer to my girlfriend, find better job prospects and finally get serious about all the various projects I’d had floating around for a while. At that stage I didn’t know if I wanted to be in a band, solo, be an entrepreneur or what.

How's your German?

I’ve been told it is very good but I’m not so sure. I can muddle along in most social and bureaucratic situations, so I must be doing something right. I definitely don’t take enough chances to practice though.

You're a musician – are you able to make a living from your music?

I don’t think it’s out of the question to be able to make a living off of music, especially in Austria. Am I able to personally? No. Not yet. What Tall William earns goes right back into the project. It goes on the next CD, the next idea, better equipment, transport etc. I hardly see any of it.

How would you describe Vienna's alternative music scene?

It’s very convenient. There’s always something to see or hear at a moments notice. Geographically, Vienna is in a wonderful position for alternative music. It’s very accessible from Slovakia, Slovenia, Italy and Germany, and is influenced by UK and American music as well as what's happening right here in Austria. I think the variety of music reflects that. If you took a random sample of maybe five bars in a night a lot of these influences would be present.

Tell us about your new SoundOut app and why you designed it. 

SoundOut is a map designed to make the alternative music scene in Vienna visual for the first time. It was developed by the Tall William project as a resource every creative man, woman, bar owner or sound engineer in Vienna can contribute towards. By adding local knowledge about locations in the city you help other bands and musicians discover new places to play, rehearse and record.

I first began the idea as a way of tracking my own concert history, leaving myself notes on the venue, sound quality and that sort of thing. Now I hope it will be a valued collective resource for other Vienna-based musicians, musicians visiting Vienna on tour and music fans too.

What do you most enjoy about living in Austria?

I enjoy what living in Austria has done for me. Living here has taught me German, and given me the skills, patience and contacts to follow through on ideas. Even if it hasn’t made me a better songwriter, it’s definitely given me some of my best songwriting material. I may not be able to say the same had I not left the UK or Berlin.

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Poking fun at our foibles through stand-up

Patrick Lamb was born and grew up in Sheffield in the UK and now lives in Vienna where he works as a stand-up comedian. He spoke to The Local about life as an English language comic in the Austrian capital.

Poking fun at our foibles through stand-up
Patrick Lamb. Photo: Stefan Nützel

What brought you to Vienna?

I came to Vienna in 1999. My older brother had done a year of his language degree here, fallen in love with the place and returned after graduation. I had then just completed my studies as an illustrator in the USA and returned to Sheffield, uncertain of my next steps. When he called and suggested I come out to join him, I assented.

To begin with, Vienna seemed very much like paradise. It was June, everybody was outside, laughing – in Vienna's lighter, summer mode. I was very impressed by all the architecture, culture and by how jovial and relaxed everybody seemed. This turned to shock that October, when the population donned funereal black and switched into their determinedly miserable, winter mode. This is much less extreme now, but back then it was almost ubiquitous.

How well did you adapt to life in your new home?

To begin with I found the Austrian mentality very difficult to deal with, very exhausting. This was partly because I had spent the preceding three years just outside New York, where the people have a dynamism that is the polar opposite to Viennese 'Gemütlichkeit'. Everything is possible and the mentality is one of “Yes, you can do it!” rather than a grumpy “das wird eh nicht gehen…”

I was also, I admit, a very bad fit back then. I wanted everything and I wanted it yesterday. Now I am much happier living here. I have adapted to life here to some extent and have met people who have been kind enough to open doors for me or help me to see some for myself.


How would you describe the Viennese sense of humour?

The Viennese sense of humour shares certain similarities with the English sense of humour, though it seems to me several shades darker and less obviously self-deprecating. I am in the process of getting to know the local comedy and Kabarett scene better, though much of it is very culture-specific and therefore inaccessible to people who haven't grown up here, steeped in Austrian and Central European culture and history.

I grew up watching classics of British comedy like Blackadder, Fawlty Towers, the Python films, A Bit of Fry and Laurie etc., all of which influenced my own sense of humour and outlook on life. I don't really see any direct link between other comedians and what I do, really. For me they are very much on some separate, more rarefied level. I am happy telling my stories and laughing with people about our universal foibles.

What’s your idea of a good night out?

One of the things I love most of all is spending an evening with a group of friends in the pub, laughing and sharing good jokes with one another. Something magical happens. The outside world recedes for a few hours, left outside the door. The world's problems and one's own problems are forgotten for a short time. A group of people bond through shared laughter. It is an illusion, but one absolutely necessary for our survival, I think.

My decision to work as a comedian is an outgrowth of that. I love laughing with people, sharing that wonderful silliness, poking fun at our foibles and thus, I hope, making them more bearable.

There are successful comedians who are much harsher than I aspire to be, excoriating hecklers and crucifying 'the great and the good'. The best of them are necessary, because many of our public figures so deserve the crucifixion of public ridicule and these comedians execute their task with great skill and accuracy. I'm not sure I would be able to do that, even if I wanted to. I doubt I have the malice.

See Patrick's English language stand-up show WTF? on February 26th at Kabarett Vindobona, Wallensteinplatz 6, 1200 Vienna. It covers relationships, gender differences, dating, sex, the EU, languages and national stereotypes, the Vikings and furniture.

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