FAUST continues to knit its legend with the help of the Cadavre exquisite

26. May 2017

Faust Krautrock

FAUST continues to knit its legend with the help of the Cadavre exquisite

eclipsed: The album title "Fresh Air" sounds relaxed and light at first. But then it did not become a loose and light album ...

Jean-Hervé Péron: No, it's not that. If you currently look at the world around you, what is happening in Turkey, in the USA and elsewhere, then it stinks enormously. I think a little fresh air would be in order.

Werner "Zappi" Diermaier: Concerning the piece "Fresh Air": We equipped it live with a prelude, with a drone in which the rhythm slowly develops. The intro was long, it was exciting, with different instruments. Then we got into this "Boom Boom Boom Boom Boom Boom." And then it gets better and better. You can play it almost endlessly. Such a piece lives by its length.

eclipsed: On the second part of this track you are more rhythmic than ever or at least not for a long time. And that means something.

Péron: This is a binary rhythm, 1 - 2 - 1 - 2. It conveys a primordial feeling, a primordial theme. That's the kind of thing we like. It's A Rainy Day was like that. It was even easier there. Such primordial themes can be found in almost all civilizations. Even when you didn't have any instruments yet, something like this was already played.

Diermaier: "Fresh Air" was created when we were in Tokyo. There are actually vending machines where you can breathe fresh air. However, there the fresh air has taste: raspberry, woodruff.

Péron: There you breathe in, and then it continues through the smog.

eclipsed: You have chosen a completely new approach with the new album. With the last album "Just Us" you both played alone and only created basics, with which other musicians should continue to play. Now you have worked with many different guest musicians.

Diermaier: I used to be a bit sceptical about guest musicians. There were some taken sometimes, but this time in America I was really thrilled. They were professionals and people who have been making music for a long time. If you let beginners play, it's always a bit critical, because they want to show what they can do. But this time it was professionals who listened, who were sensitive. Every one of them was really great. Jean-Hervé tracked them down first.

eclipsed: So they weren't long known friends of yours.

Péron: Yes, it is. They were both professionals and friends. We met Barbara Manning in 1994. Ulrich Krieger already played with us in the 2000s. There was immediate empathy between him and us. Braden Diotte is a long-term companion of our avant-garde festival, very considerate and sensitive. With Jürgen Engler from Die Krupps we already made "1900 soundso" recordings in his studio in Germany. Now he's in Austin, Texas. They're friends. It works on the human level, and that's extremely important to me.

eclipsed: Did you then set the pace or did you say that it should go in this or that direction?

Diermaier: There was no need to tell them what to do. We may have given ideas and short topics.

Péron: We gave the impulse once, and that's where they got in. Sometimes Ulrich started on his saxophone, which put us in a certain mood. Then we reacted, Barbara reacted.

eclipsed: Did you deliberately take the opposite approach to "Just Us"?

Péron: The new album is rather the extension of "Just Us". Back then, we just recorded a few tracks and said, "Do what you want with it." After Just Us, we were going to make some kind of Cadavre exquisite. This is a technique of surrealism in which different artists work one after the other on a work of art without knowing what the predecessor did. We sent our templates with many holes in them to other people who should continue working on them. But that didn't work. Maybe someday we'll revive this. Now we thought to ourselves: We'll make the Cadavre exquisite live. On our tour last year in the USA we had the opportunity.

Diermaier: Both methods were very beautiful. When we recorded "Just Us" alone, it was real, it was just us. We simply played on it and were satisfied with minimal sounds. It's my favorite CD. And then there's the other extreme, that people come along and expand the sounds, that's also very nice

Péron: "Fresh Air" is then rather the logical extension of "Just Us" and not the opposite. Kind of a sequel. An example: The piece "score". A little anecdote: The Americans misunderstood "score". They always thought "party tour." Another misunderstanding resulted from "Free Chaos". That's what some freak house people understood. My friend Zappi has always not liked it at all when others tell him what to do. Then I suggested to him: You write your score and we'll play it. Zappi then painted graphic symbols by hand, which we filmed. They were circles, curves, spirals. Zappi then conducted this, i.e. he gave instructions as to when a pause or crescendo should come. We then translated the visual into music and included the audience in the process. In the studio the other musicians and studio technicians also took part. The projection of the graphic was responded to. That worked very well live and in the studio. We've reduced that on the album very much because it could get boring if you don't see what's happening.

eclipsed: In the second part of the track "Fresh Air" and also in the middle part of "Fish" I have the feeling that you are playing intoxicated.

Diermaier: That's the way it is. When we play these things live, time goes by much faster for me than in reality. We'll actually be in a frenzy. There are outbreaks, it collapses again. A play that lasts 20 minutes on stage goes for me felt only 5 minutes. It's every man for himself, but of course you also react to the others. However, this may not even happen so consciously. This increases the emotion even more.

Péron: The nice thing about it is that at that moment you forget the person you are. It looks like it's all completely gone. You only feel like the bearer of the music. It's a nice feeling for me when you don't remember: Am I? You're part of a song. That's a rare feeling.

Diermaier: It often happens to me that I don't know who did what afterwards. Even I, who am the only percussionist, often can't tell if I did it.

eclipsed: In the past you often had a hard drum sound. Of course, that was also because you used industrial sheets. But now the drums sound soft as butter in "Birds Of Texas" or "Chlorophyl" for example.

Diermaier: Maybe this is just a phase. With the two songs it was a very spontaneous matter. That was in a very small studio in Texas. We didn't know what we were going to do when we started. That just happened. I didn't get the feeling I had to do anything really great now. I just did something really simple.

Péron: What you felt to be "hard" might be because Zappi always finds a groove that isn't straight. It flows with the impulses he gets from other musicians. And since I'm not a very talented bass player, I make mistakes. Zappi hears these mistakes and interprets them. That in turn gives me another idea. He's kind of consolidating my mistakes. Then I play it on purpose. That's the special gift Zappi has.

Diermaier: The trick is that I let myself be inspired by Jean-Hervé. I'll play along, but I'll move the one back halfway. So I added a whole new groove that doesn't even belong to it anymore. It belongs to it metrically, but by moving it back a bar or half a bar, a completely new groove is created, which is related to the music, but again not. Nodes" are formed. These are places that somehow don't fit. These "knots" come loose again, and then comes a redeeming moment. We like that a lot. But we don't do that on purpose. This is done by "lack of competence".

eclipsed: This time you also used a lot of string instruments. This reminds a little of what happened on your 1973 album "Outside The Dream Syndicate" with Tony Conrad.

Péron: Yes, there are references. It is also a clear wish of ours to interpret this feeling. Repetitive: da bum, da bum, da bum. And string instruments, too. This time it was not a violin as it was then, but a viola by Ysanne Spevack. She plays very well and has worked with the Smashing Pumpkins. And there was Maxime Manac'h, a very old friend of ours and our music. He accompanied us again and again, depending on the occasion. He plays hurdy-gurdy, Hurdy Gurdy. It's a primal instrument. The hurdy-gurdy is the origin of the Drones. The two together and the reverb and loops create the beautiful feeling of a carpet.

eclipsed: A few years ago I asked Karl Bartos from Kraftwerk what was more important to him, the melody or the rhythm. Then he started singing "Smoke On The Water" and Beethoven's Fifth. Then he said, "You don't know the rhythm anymore, but everybody knows the melodies." With you there is another important component: the sound. What is most important to you: melody, rhythm or sound?

Péron: Nothing is particularly important to us. We once invited Karl to our avant-garde festival in Schiphorst. We wanted to do an acousmatic session, so nobody sees anybody else or what the other is doing right now. Karl also came and his part in this session was that he peeled potatoes in the kitchen. That's Karl, a little complicated. Karl may very well be right about "Smoke On The Water" and Beethoven's Fifth. But it's different with us. When you ask people, "What do you remember about Faust?" They say: "Stupid stupid stupid stupid, ah, this is It's A Rainy Day, or dung dung digidung, this is Fresh Air." There's no melody in it. There's no exact answer to Faust's question.

eclipsed: Is the band Faust with their career, which will soon last half a century, a total work of art? What's Faust? Art? Anarchy? Humor?

Péron: Or is Faust beautiful? We don't ask ourselves these questions. But when I give an answer now, I say: Yes, Faust is a total work of art. What we produce now would not be possible without our older works. We started almost 50 years ago and are still growing, and new opportunities are welcome. Faust won't stop. We don't swear by a concept. It's evolving.

Diermaier: Reproductions were never particularly important to us. We don't want to do what we did in the beginning.

eclipsed: Live you live for the moment and just let things run their course.

Diermaier: Yes, absolutely.

Péron: In the beginning, we really didn't care what the audience thought of us. Now we are a bit older and know that you have to respect the audience. People buy a ticket and want to see Faust the way they want it to be and the way they know the band. We'll take that into account. A setlist consists of a part of pure improvisation, where we don't know what is happening, then a part with improvisations about certain themes and finally interpretations of older things. People are happy then

eclipsed: I saw you once here in Hamburg in the Hafenklang. You put hay and straw on the floor. Then you worked some sheets with a flex, and the sparks flew through the area. The fire department shouldn't have known that.

Péron: Yes, that was a good concert. We've had a lot of firefighters.

Diermaier: You should have been there on our first and second USA tour. The scenery looked like after the war every time. It was all destroyed. There was a fire. There was water everywhere

Péron: We smashed the TV with a sledgehammer. We had little flamethrowers. We currently have an offer from Los Angeles. We're supposed to play in a big showroom. They want us to do things like this again. But all they really want is a scandal. We can do that. We haven't forgotten that.

eclipsed: The line between genius and madness seems to be very thin with Faust.

Péron: Genius can be left out. Our genius, Rudolf Sosna [founding member, deceased 1996], left us a long time ago. Rudolf was a genius in my eyes. Zappi and I are dilettantes. We're the insane ones

eclipsed: How does a comparison between Faust today and Faust in the early 70s compare?

Péron: Apart from things like our joints, nothing has changed. To put it romantically: In our hearts it continues to pulsate. We got older. Certain things don't work the way they used to. I can't be hitting a 2000-liter oil tank with a sledgehammer for another 20 minutes. I'd like that. Zappi is just as crazy as ever. But he's limping a little.

Diermaier: At the beginning of the 70s we didn't even do such crazy things. We played more classical instruments there. It was a little later that we used machines.

eclipsed: And the attitude towards life? With almost 50 years of experience more?

Diermaier: Fortunately, you don't even notice the change. But from the outside, I'm sure you can see something.

Péron: I can tell from it: When I speak to a young lady today, she is no longer so enthusiastic ...

eclipsed: I've already been offered a seat on the subway.

Péron: And I demand a seat when I can no longer stand. Then I'll get myself a boy pound and ask him to offer me the spot.

eclipsed: If you'd put Faust into painting. What would the picture look like?

Péron: You take as many colours as you can and throw them against the wall.

Diermaier: We'd probably do "overdubs", too. In the form of straight lines.

* * * Interview: Bernd Sievers