Interview deep cut: Faust’s Jean-Hervé Péron on band harmony, compromise and cement mixers

Mission Creek Presents: faUSt, with Mammifer and Bob Bucko, Jr

Gabe’s — Tue., Apr. 5 at 8 p.m.

Faust's Jean-Hervé Péron. -- photo by Augusto Gomes
Faust’s Jean-Hervé Péron. — photo by Augusto Gomes

Learn more about the history and origins of the band Faust in this deep cut from Liv Carrow’s interview with founding member Jean-Hervé Péron, aka JHP art-errorist, in advance of faUSt’s performance at Mission Creek Festival.

Despite the implications of his title, and the truly weird and far out music he’s made a life of, JHP art-errorist is an animated, charming, articulate man who lives with his wife and daughter outside of Hamburg. He is 1/3 of the remaining original members of Faust and, along with his family, curates and organize the Avant-Garde Festival in Schiphorst, Germany. He and Zappi (aka Werner Diermaier, the band’s original drummer) constitute the backbone of faUSt, while another original member, Hans Joachim Irmler, heads up the entity working under the name Faust.

Faust was conceived in a Hamburg art scene bar, the Toulouse-Lautrec Institut in 1970. He had already collaborated with Zappi (they bonded over a mutual love of dogs) and some other musicians on the scene there, when film producer Uwe Nettlebeck approached JHP to assist in scoring some films. In the following excerpts from our interview, he discusses his musical foundations as well as the band’s origins and development.

“I started playing the trumpet, the guitar and then the bass. My interest went into chainsaw and at the moment I am into cement mixer. It’s an underestimated instrument. I make the experience. People first laugh when we play the stuff with cement mixer, and soon enough you’ve got a few in the front rows that start weeping. This is a common experience; it’s quite nice.”

“He [Nettlebeck] was more into the filmmaking business, a film critic. One day he came up to me and said ‘I hear you sometimes make music for all the young filmmakers and I am looking for something new for Deutsche Gramophon. Give me a demo tape,’ So we did that. We needed a drummer, and this is how Faust was born.”

“Then we got a contract with Gramophon which led us into the privileged situation of having our own studio in Wümme, a very small village between Hamburg and Bremen. That’s the Wümme Years. We had our own recording equipment, we had a genius of a sound engineer, Kurt Graupner. So we worked, the eight of us worked day and night, if we wanted to. Sometimes we did nothing for weeks, but if we wanted to we could work day and night. Which is a very privileged but very efficient situation for artists not to be under stress.”

“It was not always harmonious. One fact is that [Zappi] is the drummer, I’m the bass player. We are the basis of the band, so logically we stay together. As for the others, we started with eight people, six musicians and a producer and a sound engineer.”

“How do you manage to stay in harmonious terms over such a long period of time? It’s not easy and it has ups and downs. We were eight in the beginning, and soon after that we kicked one of us out. He was too conservative and it just didn’t work. And then we had trouble with Polydor, they kicked us out. The group split a little bit. We went to England, and lost the sound engineer. We recorded at Virgin, at the Manor. That was the time of Tubular Bells, what’s his name, Mike Oldfield.”

“Soon after we had trouble with Virgin because we didn’t want to make compromises. They wanted to send us on the road to do little gigs and we didn’t feel like doing it at the time. That created another rupture in the group. One went back home, another lost interest and after that one died, and another one died, so the three of us, we had a good time together and made a good album. And then we had troubled times. Now it’s just the two of us doing one entity of faUSt, and another one doing another entity of Faust. We are on absolute neutral terms. We don’t talk to each other, we splendidly ignore each other.”

“If you are really convinced about your art, and if you are ready to sacrifice anything for it, you do not need any advice. You will overwhelm all and any obstacle. if you are not convinced about your art, you do not need any advice either, because you will not last long.”

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