"Fearless, Totally Ready to Look Ugly"
40-Plus Years On, Faust Are Still Keeping Krautrock Weird
"Why Don't You Eat Carrots?" German rock dadaists Faust asked on the first track of their 1971 debut LP, Faust (the clear-covered one silk-screened with an X-ray of a fist).
And that is how you launch a musical career. The song itself is much stranger than the question, which is quite odd, in the context of 1971 German rock, or any country's rock from any year.
Of all the first-wave krautrock bands worshipped by music journalists, record collectors, and Julian Cope (see his Krautrocksampler book for further enlightenment), Faust remain the most vital and unpredictable. Their music ranges from hypnotic drone symphonies to surrealist collages to punchy psych rock to tender, beautiful ballads to "stoopid" pop spoofs to... power-drill solos. Their albums jump-cut with random, seemingly nonsensical logic, as do their songs. True, any band can be random, but it takes geniuses like Faust to turn madcap spontaneity into something riveting and enduring. Perpetual outsiders and radicals, Faust would rather demolish the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame than be inducted into it.
The Stranger conducted an e-mail interview with original Faust bassist/vocalist Jean-Hervé Péron. He responded in a sleep-deprived delirium after flying into London at 2 a.m. It seems apt to sic his caps-locked answers and idiosyncratic punctuation, for they offer a glimpse into this art errorist's essence.
What motivates Faust to keep going more than 40 years after the band started, when most of your peers have quit or faded into obscurity? What is the key to your longevity?
NAIVETY, DILETTANTISM:::AND A VERY DEDICATED AUDIENCE.
What qualities do you look for in musicians you enlist to play in Faust these days?
THEY SHOULD BE FEARLESS, TOTALLY READY TO LOOK UGLY, AND 100% HONEST IN WHAT THEY DO AND SAY. THEY ALSO SHOULD PLAY AN INSTRUMENT OF SOME SORT.
Who is in the lineup now and who's playing what?
GERALDINE SWAYNE; IRISH LADY; SHE IS A PAINTER: VOICE GUITAR AND KEYBOARD, AMAURY CAMBUZAT: GUITAR; VOICE AND KEYBOARD; ZAPPI [aka original percussionist Werner Diermaier]: THE BIG MAN WITH THE BIG NOSE: DRUMS AND METALS; JHP/ART_ERRORIST: VOICE, BASS; TRUMPET AND CEMENT MIXER.
Is there any animosity between the two versions of Faust [keyboardist Hans Joachim Irmler leads the other one]?
NONE. WE RESPECT AND IGNORE EACH OTHER; THIS WAS A SPOKEN DEAL WE MADE 40 YEARS AGO:
What caused the split?
SORRY, THIS IS A PRIVATE ISSUE:
What are your live shows like these days?
VERY LIVELY AND STILL UNPREDICTABLE BECAUSE WE OURSELVES DO NOT KNOW WHAT WE ARE GOING TO PRESENT:::WE LEAVE THE FINAL DECISION TO THE VERY LAST MINUTE:
Do you revisit the old favorites from the '70s?
YES, OUT OF RESPECT FOR OUR AUDIENCE: THEY EXPECT TO HEAR A FEW "FAUST HITS" AND WE SHOULD RESPECT THAT!
Or do you reject nostalgia?
WE REJECT NOSTALGIA OUT OF RESPECT FOR OURSELVES: SO ANY OLD TUNES WE PLAY ARE MADE NEW EACH TIME WE PERFORM THEM: WE TRY TO FIND A GOOD COCKTAIL OF OLD NEW, NEWER, AND TOTALLY NEW STUFF:::
Or are you totally improvising at each gig?
WE ALSO ALWAYS INCLUDE IMPORTANT SLOTS IN OUR SET LIST FOR ABSOLTLY FREE IMPROVS:::IT IS GOOD HYGIENE FOR THE SOUL.
What is the biggest difference between Faust now and Faust in the early '70s?
42 YEARS OF TIME; EXPERIENCES; RELATIONSHIPS; CHILDREN; MOTIONS AND EMOTIONS; WE'VE PUT ON SOME WEIGHT AND LOST SOME HAIR::: BUT BASICALLY WE REMAIN THE SAME.
Do you think any musicians now or recently have captured the spirit of Faust?
I AM AFRAID YES :)) IS IT GOOD??
Would you recommend Faust's old "isolation" studio technique to contemporary bands that are trying to create original music?
ABSOLUTELY: IT WAS A GREAT EXPERIENCE WHICH LED TO AN INTENSE LIFE AND INTENSE MUSIC: ISOLATION = CONCENTRATION.
What was the motivation for the song "Krautrock"?
WE JUST WANTED TO RETURN THE JOKE: THE BRITISH PRESS WOULD USE THE TERM "KRAUTROCK" WITH A TONGUE IN CHEEK:::SO WE SAID, "YOU WANT KRAUTROCK? OKAY; WE ARE GOING TO KRAUTROCK YOU!!!"
"Krautrock" [off 1973's Faust IV] sounds at once like a parody of people's idea of what German rock music was and one of the greatest specimens of that subgenre.
DEAD ON MAN :) YOU GOT IT.
Tell us about the band's mind-set while you were recording "Miss Fortune" [from Faust], one of the greatest psychedelic songs ever.
WE HAD ABSORBED MIND EXPANDING SUBSTANCES AND WE WERE VERY FOCUSED ON THE RECORDING SITUATION:::WE WERE PRIVILEGED TO HAVE A SOUND ENGINEER (KURT GRAUPNER) WHO WOULD BE PATIENT AND BROADMINDED:::AND A GENIUS OF HIS TRADE: ALSO UWE NETTELBECK WAS A GREAT PRODUCER WHO KNEW HOW TO CHANNEL THE ENERGIES AND MAKE SURE TO CATCH THE RIGHT MOMENTS OF OUR DELIRIUMS.
Out of all the groups that were classified as "krautrock," Faust seem to be the most difficult to understand and the most unpredictable (although CAN could be very unpredictable, too). In your music, there always seems to be a tension between structure and chaos, between melody and noise, between beauty and abrasiveness. Do you approach each album and each live performance with specific goals/results in mind?
KEY WORD HERE IS "DILETTANTISM" IN ITS REAL SIGNIFICATION = THE JOY OF LETTING MUSIC PASSING THROUGH OUR BODIES: WE NEVER THINK::WE JUST PLAY: SORRY IF I DISAPPOINT YOU HERE :))
In certain sectors of America, Faust are worshipped like gods.
How are Faust treated and viewed in Germany?
SPLENDIDLY IGNORED AND STILL SOMEHOW HATED.
What's the worst reaction Faust have provoked during a live show?
PEOPLE GETTING SICK; FIRE BRIGADE MOVING IN; POLICE INTERRUPTING THE SHOW: CURTAIN BEING PULL DOWN ON US:::AND WOMEN CRYING OUT OF DELIGHT.