No matter how much you dig your
parents' Rush, Emerson, Lake and Palmer or Alan Parsons Project progressive rock albums, they're still a far (droning) cry from the face melting sounds of seminal '70s krautrockers Faust . I
talked with Faust’s founding bassist Jean-Herve Peron about their new album Something Dirty, inquired into the lore
of the on-again-off-again reclusive band, and asked about the group's future.
was the Hamburg scene like in '71 upon release of the first Faust album?
It is hard for me to answer that because we were extremely busy with ourselves,
and we were, in a way, “the scene.” I remember a lot of smoking;
smoking good stuff and taking good pills, none of the fucked up gene-manipulated monstrosities of these days. I remember a lot of creative jamming
while being high, lots of sex, uninhibited, free, fun. I remember lots of
political discussions, very complicated words which I could not understand.
There were always demonstrations in the streets, always. When going to the
park, you would go to a demonstration, taking kids and dogs and having a good
time. Lots of playing acoustic instruments and drinking cheap wines. Hamburg
was really a good place to be. It was fucking good in the very meaning of the word, a masterpiece.
is your take on the Münich scene of the late 60s early 70s?
I have no idea. We were secluded
in Wümme and I personally never cared about scenes or the like. I
guess it was all about Amon Düül and them screwing… what's her name? Münich
is very snobby somehow.
It seemed like there was a German
renaissance of the arts in the late 60s to early 70s happening all over the place.
Now…you were referring to Amon Düül screwing someone or other?
In Munich the scene was spinning
around Amon Düül, and Amon Düül got very famous because of Ushi [Obermaier] who was a high-class groupie. She lived for a while in
the commune of Amon Düül and at the time it was normal, everyone having sex
with everybody. She had sex with everyone and Amon Düül was having sex with Ushi
and everyone was talking about Uschie getting screwed by Amon Düül and no one
ever talked about the music of Amon Düül.
Seems like there was a really far out
liberal music arts scene in Hamburg. What other groups from Hamburg are you
Again sorry, I have no idea. Please,
remember we were absolutely secluded from the rest of the world and I am getting old and I don’t remember names and I don’t care much
about names. I remember feelings and faces and some sounds…
mentioned that you guys were the scene in Hamburg…
When I say we’re the scene, for us
we were the scene. I’m not saying there wasn’t any scene in Hamburg at the time. There was a scene, Faust was part of it but there were other groups but I have
no idea because we were totally secluded with ourselves. What I knew was the
wild film scene that we were sometimes asked to make music for them. The other
scene, which involved poetry and painters, was very active at the time in
Hamburg also. But when you are in the middle of a hurricane you don’t know what’s
happening around you.
did you develop your drone minimalism sound?
Out of laziness! No, of course not. It seemed to be a natural thing to do; repeat over and over the same thing and try to keep it as simple as possible. Ultimately one tone, one beat, 71 minutes. I believe that certain moods/themes are in the air…inherent to a period of time, to a social and political context, also influenced by the industry and
the media. Repetition, drones, all that fits well in our generation of
pot-heads, a generation of people who had their head so shaken by the upheavals
of a social revolution, of the subconscious tsunami from the after-war. Maybe. Remember, I am just guessing here. We needed that simplicity so we would have
the time to relax, get into ourselves and let the very inside of us come slowly
to the surface. And we met Tony Conrad.
What was the groundwork for Faust
It happened in a scene-bar called Toulouse Lautrec Institut in Hamburg. This story has been
told a million times: two crazy bands playing separately, then the
producer Uwe Nettelbeck comes, etc, etc, Polydor, Wümme, Virgin, disappearing,
reappearing , re-disappearing, splitting, reforming, splitting again, two
Fausts , etc, etc…
Faust's gestalt of musical function.
Faust Gestalt? Faust musical function? It is a horse digging a hole on a rooftop till everything goes white. It
is dog food and syphilis and flat-ass wringing wet towels. It is a gun and a
spade, a swallow and again dog food.
was it to be signed by Virgin back in 74?
Ooooh, I had no
idea who was who at that time. So Richard Branson and Simon Draper
were just two British crazies who had helped us after Polydor had kicked us
out! It was great; we went straight into The Manor, the recording studio of
Virgin, and worked by day while Mike Oldfields would work nights on Tubular Bells. He would crawl
under our breakfast table and bite us in the legs so we had to kick him. Funny
games they have, those Brits!
We would from time
to time go to the local restaurants. I remember The Boar and having
huge orgies, then sending the bill to Richard. What else? Aaaah, yes…Virgin had
lovely secretaries on Portobello Road and we had lots of fun with them. Virgin
kicked us out, too, at the end, but we had a good time. I did cocaine for the
first time on a canal boat with a bald lady. She was involved with Virgin but I
can’t remember how…
What was the falling out with Virgin about?
At the time, our
manager had managed somehow to get into the machinery of Polydor and they were
expecting to have the new Beatles, the German Beatles, and they didn’t know what
kind of band they had. So after the first Faust album, Polydor sort of warned
us, you know, 'What is this music going to?' We had this big disaster…well, maybe
it was not a disaster but it was our first concert in Hamburg, which was a grandiose fiasco. But in a way it was a huge happening as well, like something
that never happened before. It was tremendous. So then came the second album,
which was not adjustable for the mainstream and on top of that we had
already spent a lot of money invested in the studio and all and Polydor
decided, “Those guys don’t make enough money for what we have given them, so we
sacked them.” It’s as easy as that, you know? Just plain mathematics.
Tell me about Faust’s interplay between both the organic instrumentation and
the electric instrumentation.
Okay, well at the time there was
Tangerine Dream and Neu! and Kluster and a lot of people from Cologne and they
were using range modulators and tape loops, making a lot of electronic music. So
what was exceptional about Faust, I think, was like you mentioned, that we used
organic instruments and perfected them in our studio. Faust was a gathering of five individuals, each being extremely different from the other and each with a
strong personality. So there was a constant clash, in a good way, a very good
way, absolutely creative confrontations. And we pushed the sound further out
than the other groups, being that we were secluded like in a monastery for a
very long time.
you say that this kind of seclusion contributed to your epic jams?
Definitely. I think like with
Captain Beefheart’s Trout Mask Replica
record, I think he retreated with the band in this house, cut off from the
world, I don’t know how long. But we were secluded for one and a half years, which
is a long time. And when you are in a group, you start traveling inside
your mind and traveling inside your fellow’s mind. There is a strong
connection. I would almost call it a communion. When we went into improvisation,
we could play night, we could play day, we were all on our own, we had our own
sound engineer, and that had a big impact on our creativity.
this was between Faust and Faust So Far?
Yes, because the first album we were
in seclusion for about a year and Faust
So Far was about 6 months later and after that we got kicked out. So it was
about one and a half years.
was trying to figure out if your song “Krautrock” from Faust IV was
a parody take on that appointed sub-genre label given to Germans by the music press.
When we had the opportunity through
Virgin to go back to the studio, we were aware of how the German music scene
was looked at by the UK. They named it something very tongue-in cheek called “krautrock.”
And they were calling a lot of our colleague’s music krautrock so we were like,
okay, you want krautrock, this is what you call it, so we are going to make you
one big good one. So, also there is irony, a bit of humor in there but no, it
was really meant, krautrock: this is what we love to play.
a result, Faust became the definitive German rock group. For folks that
get past Kraftwerk, Faust is the go-to group with a reputation as the
mother of, if you will excuse me, krautrock bands.
Thank you for the kind words, it
flatters my ego, but I think we are the most radical krautrock. I don’t like the
word “krautrock” but let’s use it for the sake of using a name. So we are the
most krautrock band, no doubt about that. We were one of maybe fifteen groups
that became noticed and popular, but there were many groups with the same spirit. But we are the most radical, that is true.
With all the disappearing and reappearing, and now with new album Something Dirty¸ what
has shifted now? Is this dirty, gritty sound the new Faust?
Well, for this it's a new line up. There is Zappi [W. Diermaier] and there is myself and we are the earth of the Faust,
the ground, and we had the great privilege to encounter two great musicians in James
Johnston and Geraldine Swayne. Actually, this is the
second album with this lineup, but the first can’t be released due to…well, I
won’t go into that, but anyway.
So we decided to go into the studio
and have another go at that and out of an, I don’t know, a burst of energy, and
then Geraldine said, “Okay, let’s play something dirty.” This is what Geraldine
said in the studio after everyone was really tired and it sort of hit the spot, and
we like that, and we kept it, in a way, dirty; not looking for perfection but
looking rather at authenticity and spontaneity.
is a trademark and testament to your work – none of your songs can ever be a
passive experience. You never know when you hear the rumbling bass at the beginning
of a Faust song where that journey will take you.
Ha ha, I like that!
What other bands do you enjoy?
The purring of a kitty cat, the
sounds of snow flakes, my neighbor when he starts his bulldozer,
the sound in my head, and at the moment I like “dirty Faust.”
What are your thoughts on Faust's
legacy and future?
Legacy is behind, future is ahead.
It is good to look back and it is good to move on. We gave and gave and gave and
give and give and give. Seriously, now I am happy with what we have done. I hear
the comments of our friends, fans, but fan is an ugly word, and those comments
motivate us to go on. Apparently without noticing it, we have together with so
many bands and artists of our generation created a strong art movement. I see the joy and pride of my younger daughter when she hears
music…si ca lui plait autant, alors ca peut pas etre aussi mal que ca! [Ed: roughly translated: if she likes it, it can’t
be that bad!]
you for time, I know it’s late over there.
Thank you for your interest in our
music and art to you and all your readers.