Krautrock pioneers Faust embark on 2010 UK tour
Faust’s brand of krautrock – mixing jazz, concrete mixers and chainsaws – makes Kraftwerk sound like a boy band. Stewart Smith chats to bassist Jean-Hervé Peron
The story of Faust begins in 1970, when six dropout musicians convened in an old schoolhouse in rural Wümme, near Hamburg, to embark on a freewheeling musical project. Along the way they had run-ins with the Baader-Meinhof terrorist gang, and brought experimental music into thousands of British homes when Virgin released 1973’s Faust Tapes at the pocket money-price of 49p. Their early albums combined underground rock with avant-jazz, pastoral psychedelia, musique concrete, home-made electronics, and industrial noise. It’s a dizzying combination; at times delightfully absurd, at others thrillingly abrasive.
When Faust returned in the 1990s, artists like Jim O’Rourke, experimental legend Keiji Haino, industrial hip hop act Dalek and sound collagists Nurse With Wound lined up to work with them. ‘We never, ever realised that we were influential,’ bassist Jean-Hervé Peron insists. ‘I will say one example, like Stereolab. One nice thing about it is that they’ve taken an inspiration, an impulse, and they’ve used it their own way. Or Nurse With Wound. They didn’t take any chords or plagiarise, they just took the energy and the attitude’.
As Peron puts it, there are now ‘two different currents within the Faust philosophy’. Original keyboardist Hans Joachim Irmler has his own Faust, while Peron and drummer Werner ‘Zappi’ Diermaier are the core of the other Faust. On tour, the pair are joined by various guests.
‘James Johnston (of Gallon Drunk and the Bad Seeds) plays guitar, keyboard and vacuum cleaner, while Geraldine Swayne plays the accordion, guitar, keyboard, and paints on stage. Zappi plays metals and percussion. I blow different horns, I try to play some acoustic guitar, some bass, and I love to have a talk with my concrete mixer, with a chainsaw, things like that. And I also like to paint on stage’. Faust’s concrete mixer improvisations were a highlight of BBC4’s recent Krautrock documentary, The Rebirth of Germany. Peron hopes to bring it on tour.
‘It didn’t fit in my van, but I will have another go! It’s a good instrument, we miss it when it’s not there. It creates a very droney atmosphere and it seems to move the hearts of ladies in some way’.
In the past Faust (German for fist) have been known to drill through the stage and set off fireworks. ‘Unfortunately we can’t do that anymore,’ laughs Peron. ‘In the 90s nobody knew what we were up to, so we’d start putting things on fire, letting off fireworks. And now the promoters are aware of this and they have us sign this thing saying, “no open fire, no bombs, no fireworks”. So we cannot be as carefree as we used to be’.
What can the audience expect of the live show? ‘We respect and love our audience so we realise there a few things to consider. First of all is what we are, that means improvisation, whatever comes up in our minds. But we also do a few old tunes, and a few more recent tunes, so everybody’s happy. We enjoy playing Scotland very much. You are fucking loud! We too are sometimes! But it comes from the heart, and this is what I really like’.
Whatever they do, the original spirit of Faust remains. ‘In the back of our heads is the feeling of being free. Everything is art in life, not only music. It’s like Wümme all the time’.
The Arches, Glasgow, Tue 11 May, as part of the Behaviour Festival.