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Kraut-rocking beats (a chat with art-errorist)

By • Nov 16th, 2017 • Category: Feature

If you think about it, the best of German music is old, and decidedly outwith the pop realm. Sash! aside, of course.

And there’s faUSt, who probably sum it up. Having formed well over 40 years ago they are still going strong, still making music that is vibrant, challenging, yet accessible – well, mostly.

There have been changes in personnel throughout the the past five decades but the current lineup – Zappi Diermaier, art-Errorist, and Amaury Cambuzat – have more years between them than would be polite to mention.

Yet still something drives them on to continue making music. We asked Jean-Herve Peron aka art-errorist what it is that keeps faUSt going…

“Possibly the fact that we, that is Zappi and myself, do not take music as seriously as perfectionists do… or better said, we take it ‘as seriously as children do when they play'” to quote Peter Blegvad (of Slapp Happy).

“It takes away all stress factors, all Leistungsdruck,” he says of the pressure to achieve, “so whenever we play the wrong note, it does not break our heart; moreso, it makes us laugh and inspires us for the next twelve bars.”

And, it seems, an understanding audience?

“We have a great friends community and a faithful audience who seem to enjoy what we do and has been following us with enthusiasm over the five past decades. That is very motivating…”

But you said it yourself, five decades – that must take a lot of motivation, and energy…

“Healthwise, we seem to be doing ok, so, hey, there are still many songs to be sung, many venues to be attended, many friends to be met.

The band – like most Germans acts – have been branded ‘Krautrock’ – the phrase most often attached to Kraftwerk, a pop band in comparison, although their early work was closer to that of their contemporaries Faust, alongside Tangerine Dream, Neu, and even Can.

“We are well used to it now,” smiles Jean-Herve. “We do not mind at all. Everything must have a name to be existent. We are actually quite ‘proud’ to be part of all the bands who created a new genre and managed to give a positive connotation to a word meant to be derogatory,” he says, citing the fact that the band recorded a piece, ‘Krautrock’ on 1973’s ‘Faust IV’.

But I’m concerned for the casual observer, brought up on ‘The Model’ and ‘Vitamin C’, and being met by an aural onslaught, as faUSt fire up their cement mixer or welding gear or whatever sonic experiment they are embarking on.

“The term ‘Krautrock’ is useful for lots of bands. It suggests a certain ambience, a certain sound, a certain approach to music. That is the mystique of the German language I suppose. See, if I name a piece ‘Herbststimmung’, it will automatically raise interest, maybe even fear… it is thrilling anyway.”

“By the way, ‘herbststimmung’ equals ‘Autumn Mood,’ he adds. “I’ll leave to your readers to analyse the different suggestive impacts both words have to them”.

“So, whenever one mentions ‘Krautrock’,” continues Jean-Herve, “some of the audience will have associations, pre-conceived ideas. I am not sure whether faUSt needs anymore the Krautrock epithet to reach the audience.

“Zappi, myself and our dedicated splendid friends artists have been touring for quite a time, sharing our message of joy, authenticity, und Mut zu neue Horizont… but YES, newcomers are always surprised…… surprises are invigorating…”

It may well be that a different ‘Krautrock’ leads this new audience to faUSt – apart from Julian Cope and his ‘Krautrocksampler’ book, acts as diverse as Sonic Youth and Howie B have worked with the German veterans.

“We had the pleasure to jam with Sonic Youth 1994 in the USA – or was it 2004?” he smiles – “and again with Thurston 2016 in London… great !! intense, inspired, subtle,” he enthuses.

Speaking of intense, faUSt live shows are quite the experience – I personally remember the photo pit going on fire once. Is it hard to capture this intensity on record (if not on film)?

“See, we are not 25 anymore,” he responds. “It used to be easy to destroy two dozen TV sets, bash a piano to pieces, light fires and abuse explosives and dangerous smoke… so we are not talking about keeping the intensity of a record, we are talking about keeping up with our bones!”

“Also, studio and live are for us two totally different situations,” he points out. “We do not try too much to ‘cover’ ourselves. Moreso, we aim at interpretations of our own pieces, more abstract at times, more theatrical at others… also more simple sometimes.”

There were – or are – two Fausts in existence – one touring, one studio-based… founder Hans Joachim Irmler is not part of the touring setup, but the two elements seem to co-exist happily.

“faUSt, Faust… like amoebae or worms, faUSt and Faust generate by splitting,” laughs Peron, adding “Had one, got two now!”

“Although they diverge completely, both personifications of Faust function on a similar pattern: doing recordings and performing live; continuing to explore both past and future.”

None the wiser, I move on to a hopefully more straightforward question – what can audiences expect at the two Scottish dates in Glasgow and Edinburgh at the end of November?

“I like the Scots audience: loud at the bar at the back, attentive and warm in front of us, both obviously enjoying the show.”

“Together with our guests, we will present what we like best: a fine mixture of bedingungslose Improvisationen, brand new compositions and ‘old stuff’.

“Lots of surprises, naturellement: a one-armed drummer, local artists, new pieces… and the Knitting Ladies will come North with us! Metal ? Flames ? cement mixer ? Hey, listen to the fish dancing to rund ist schoen, watch the Arlekin falls.”

Alles clar?

faUSt play Glasgow Oran Mor on November 28th and Edinburgh Summerhall on November 29th. Current album ‘Fresh Air’ is out now.

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