Mission Creek Presents: faUSt, with Mammifer and Bob Bucko, Jr
Gabe’s — Tue., Apr. 5 at 8 p.m.
Faust has always seemed mythical and legendary. Perhaps naming a band after a legendary work of literature will do that. But Faust is truly a rare and wonderful band. In a world where struggle, irrelevance and obsolescence are built into most band’s careers, they’ve existed in one form or another for 46 years, and in that time have managed to maintain relevance as musical envelope-pushers and avant-garde performers, developing an expanding, diverse international fan base, collaborating and touring with artists from different genres and generations. Currently existent as two wholly separate and independent entities (Faust and faUSt), the band has weathered literal decades of legendary and mythical status, riding the tides of almost half a century making cutting-edge music.
The latest incarnation of the group, faUSt, will appear in Iowa City’s Mission Creek festival, and I was fortunate to speak with original band member and co-pilot Jean-Hervé Péron, or, as he refers to himself, JHP art-errorist, on behalf of Little Village. The spare, poignant 2014 album jUSt makes abundantly clear that the duo of JHP and Zappi (aka Werner Diermaier, the band’s original drummer) can carry on what they started and draw from their network of far-out friends to keep a revolving, loose collection of musicians on the stages.
“After that [a blind, post-production collaboration with Steven Stapleton a.k.a. Nurse with Wound] I discovered that working with people is actually very enriching. You discover aspects of yourself and of your music that were not strong enough to come out. A third party triggers something in the music and since this, we’ve been inviting artists at our recording sessions and also mainly at our concerts. This is definitely our concept for the U.S.A. tour. It’s based on the concept we had for the last album which is called jUSt [pronounced Just Us],” says JHP.
“It was just Zappi and myself recording basic ground tracks which are good enough to be listened to on their own, but which also left enough room for any artist if they felt like it to jam on it. So, we will take this concept to the U.S.A. We’ve taken it to France and the Netherlands, and it works fine! We invite a few artists and they play with us, local artists. We have 18 gigs and on 14 gigs we have local guests. I am shooting from the hips!”
The U.S. tour roster includes touring member Maxime Manac’h and appearances from an assortment of players such as songwriter Barbara Manning, experimental percussionist Tim Barnes, composer Braden Diotte, Jürgen Engler of industrial band Die Krupps, composer Ulrich Krieger and violinist Ysanne Spevack (“I met her in LA, where I helped her taking care of her goat, which is a nice way to meet,” says JHP).
Shooting from the hips is nothing new for faUSt, as improvisation and loose ends have been an explicit part of their sound, concept and politics from the beginning. Along with bands such as Can, Neu!, Amon Duul, Popol Vuh and Kraftwerk, Faust were at the vanguard of the Krautrock phenomenon in 1970s Germany. Krautrock drew stylistically from early electronic and noise music, jazz and psychedelic rock, and philosophically engaged concepts borrowed from Dada, Situationist and Fluxus art movements. JHP traced these connections to the way faUSt continues to work today.
“I would say basically Faust never, ever works. We never practice, I don’t think we ever will. What we do is we get together, we jam together. When a theme is developing, we try to go a bit deeper in that but we leave a huge room for spontaneity. We are very much into Dada and Fluxus things. You can’t plan Dada. Dada happens. Fluxus is, it just is. Between happening and being, that does not give much opportunity for planning and rehearsing. That’s the way we work. Hopefully we don’t disappoint you. Don’t come with any expectation, come with an empty mind so we can fill it.”
“I observe very attentively to what’s happening around me,” JHP continues. “I listen carefully to what my ears are hearing and what my eyes are seeing. I look at it carefully and that creates ideas, combinations. Zappi lives near Berlin, I live near Hamburg. When we meet eventually, then every one of us proposes our own dreams, themes and ideas. Either we develop them or we ignore them. It is not very disciplined, I’m afraid.”
As for music he’s interested in today, JHP leaves the hip cred and encyclopedic geekery to his vinyl-crazed fans.
“For me, friendship is more the thing. See, I don’t listen much to music. I leave everything up to chance. I listen to whatever is in reach of my ears. If I am driving long distance, which I love, I turn the radio on and: Here comes music. Especially at night. Or, some friends send me their productions, or they send me productions of someone they like and they would like me to listen to. So I listen to it. When we were doing this Avantgarde Festival, which we did for 20 years, I was intensively listening to music, because I had to. Hundreds of people would apply to play here. But generally, no, I never listened to music.
“There was a time, a long time in my life, when there was always music in my head. And it was at some point I even started saying, ‘Where is the button to turn this off?’ I would just close my eyes and hear music. I could even interact with the music. Now this has stopped, fortunately, unfortunately. Instead of that now I just have tinnitus. It’s very Stockhausen. It’s cool, it changes, sometimes just a little bit of tinnitus, sometimes it’s damn heavy.”
Beyond the month-long U.S. tour, 2016 has an exciting twist for faUSt, who will perform in China for the first time.
“It’s very interesting … maybe it’s like closing a door, saying, ‘We’ve made it to China, that’s very nice, it’s time to stop.’ Or, on the other hand, opening the door, saying ‘OK, we’ve got China, let’s go!’ and start anew. It’s only four days, it’s a door cracking, actually. We hope with this to make an impact that will open other doors.”
JHP personally looks forward to accompanying his daughter, Jeanne-Marie Varain, also an artist, on her global projects, and assisting her with continuing the Avantgarde Festival.
But after 46 years of performing, when I asked what the best part of being part of this band was, he deftly answers: “The food. That’s what really matters with faUSt.”
Liv Carrow recieved a B.A. in German Studies after submitting a 200 page thesis on Krautrock. She’s still paying for it today. This article was originally published in Little Village issue 195.