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A Splendid Chaos – an interview with Faust

A Splendid Chaos

28th October 1998



Faust have been a legendarily chaotic group since their origins as a kind of experiment in the creation of an anti-rock band in the early Seventies. Nearly thirty years on they remain as surprising and unpredictable as ever, live or on record, as they have throughout their erratic career, as Antron S. Meister witnessed at their London gig at The Garage on October 25th, and in the venue’s Mini-Bar bar on the rainy afternoon before, where the following interview took place. As with Faust’s music, conventional structures and transparent answers should not be expected.

Faust are:

Hans Joachim Irmler
Werner “Zappi” Diermaier

Other Faust members not present at the interview:

Steven W. Lobdell – Guitar
Michael Stoll – Bass, contra-bass and flute
Ché Clément – Spiritual adviser and noise
Lars Paukstat – Noise
Till von Hoffman – Tour manager and noise

FREQ: Faust started in the Seventies in a very specific time and culture and went away and came back. What was it that prompted you to come back?

Zappi Diermaier: We were not gone; we were avoiding publicity – and then six years ago we had a concert here in London at the Marquee. The people liked it much so we said, OK we will go on stage again.

FREQ: So it was very important the reaction you got?

Joachim Irmler: You have to know in ’88 we did the first concert in several years – we were always trying to make happenings in very special places. It was a concert in a big swimming pool, covered with rubber, pumped with air – sometimes you can play tennis inside over the swimming pool. It was very funny acoustics there; it was warm like a cave, subterranean, really hot and wet too. The acoustics had the effect that if you wished to talk to your neighbour they could not understand you, but to someone across the pool, a whisper was very loud. That was really the beginning of trying to figure out a little bit more in front of a bigger public, and we became really involved. Maybe it was not only that for that moment; it was something like we got a feeling about what’s the matter in music at that time. So this ’92 concert really made us sure that it should be a step forward in the same direction we had made before.

FREQ: Is it more important to make the music for yourself than for an audience, or does the audience affect you?

JI: This changed a little bit in the very yearly years. For myself it’s different because the Faust concept was that we were part of a group, a common concept so each individual brought something and we discussed it and if it did not always work you can discuss it also by playing around musically. In that time I was a little bit too shy to do it in public too often. For me, it’s changed now and I like to play in front of the public, not because I got the idea that it’s different to do it for yourself, but this makes me happy in a different way than if you offer something for other individuals and you get feedback from them – this is what I’m interested in…

FREQ: In a collective experience?

JI: Yes, I would like to involve more myself too, you know. I’m only a small part of this type of group, that’s what I really like.

FREQ: Is there a political dimension still?

JI: Yes! There’s nearly no way not to be political. If you live in this common world then you have to be political, you’re part of what happens. You have to decide which way you want to go, which not.

ZD: That’s very important with Faust.

JI: It’s important for everyone, it should be important. Nobody should think about himself that he’s not important. Maybe he’s only a very small part in this big world, even his small thinking and the way he moves is only small, but he could be important at a particular moment.

FREQ: Chaotic, like chaos theory?

JI: This is a very important theory for me. From the beginning, we followed something like that: the more you disturb, you mix and you become involved, the more you can create something. Now, for a lot of people it’s hard to understand – most people like to get easy solutions for their problems, and this dual system is now at a peak because they would like to have black or white or whatever and this is a pity because maybe then people are stumped.

FREQ: As consumers..?

JI: What means consumers? Nothing, nothing! The lesson is that our fantasy is the most important thing we have and this one is really, really lost. It is an adventure to really go into the what’s around you that an adventure could happen. You have to be really brave-hearted to stand things sometimes because you don’t know. If you do it like that you become free, because you are not following any rules over how the individual acts.

FREQ: How do you see Faust developing and changing – is it important that it develop to a plan, or as things happen?

JI: You mean how to go forward in a concert?

FREQ: In a concert or as Faust generally…

ZD: You mean a concept?

FREQ: Yes. Is there a concept that has been unchanged since the beginning?

ZD: There is a rough concept, but in life the concept can be stronger sometimes because the feeling cannot be…

JI: …not identical as planned.

ZD: …so it is sometimes unplanned.

JI: It means that if we plan something, if we go in front of whatever, we assume that it is not any worse than what could not be reached when we started in the beginning, so we have to change. So if it’s not compatible to the common aim then you try to do it, because lots of other bands do it.

FREQ: You get the word experimental used a lot about your music…

JI: It is hard to find a better handle than experimental. It means that you’ve got no fear to go into the things and watch it as well as you are able to, and then react and be yourself. This really draws out lots of energy from you, because you have to be there with all what you have available. You know, another artist could also explain this – there’s nothing you can hide, so you have to be you, naked. You have to be like you are and give what you can, and it’s something very hard and after the show, we’re really finished because too much has flowed out of us.

FREQ: Is it like a process of catharsis and expunging?

JI: In a way. There nothing settled down still, it’s in a big flow and the wish is very big to remove very old parts of you and let them grow and become whole – that’s fine, but it’s hard to stand.

FREQ: On the individual concert level, how much is pre-planned, how much do you know what you’re going to do in advance when you start out?

ZD: This is a good point – sometimes we plan nothing. Sometimes, like tomorrow, we play, we have a concept where we play pieces in the order 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.

JI: It means there is a structure. We plan a structure and then we think about if the structure will stand or not.

ZD: In our programme for tomorrow, between the titles is music too. It is feeling music; maybe when we are feeling “Now this title is not so good,” we change it.

JI: Or if we feel about this title, it’s better in a different key, we can change that too. The idea might be that it is working better in minor or something like that, to give you an idea – it’s not that easy to explain – the minor makes it completely different, because it went on to catch what is coming from the public because we would like to have them as part of our music. So what is created together is most important – we are only something like a medium.

FREQ: There’s someone who worked out a project where they’d have a band on stage and they were playing by fixating on a member of the audience and making the music in a structure based on what the person in the audience was doing so there the feedback which I think is definitely making the process similar to what naturally happens when a band plays live.

JI: Yes, it’s hard to find a really good way that is really individual how to do it. For us we prefer a special way, and this might be, find some friends and sometimes not friends, because its the way we used to do it, but it’s also very important to leave all the changes because it creates a typical Faust music; no question.

FREQ: Where do you find that the essence of Faust is – in the performance with an audience, or with a record or with your own development of the process or all of it?

JI: It’s for sure in the end all these things, but it was created because in the beginning there had been six very different, nearly opposite characters, so you can think about this is a selection of a big group that in the beginning we called Gruppe Faust and it’s still a very important part of us that the group’s character be the feeling of a group is the thing, not the personality of an individual who is going in front and showing things which only show him – it’s not what we would like to have. Because there a lot of different groups which celebrate this already.

ZD: This is very typical of Faust.

FREQ: Is that why Jean-Hérve Peron is no longer with you?

JI: It is really that we had real differences in the thinking about and making music. We diverged – in a way he was into things we as a group could not agree with, because if a single person decides individually how everyone does things, a group can carry on like this for a short time but not all the time, so that is one of the reasons in the situation as it was why he left. He decided to leave, so we agreed it’s best for the group that he did.

FREQ: To get to more specific things, for example the new soundtrack to F.W. Murnau‘s silent classic Nosferatu project – how did that come about?

JI: This was created by the idea – let me say that this is not unique what we are doing, all over the centuries there are people like us – that Murnau was for the movies a person we feel something like very related, because he did very strange things; he did it in a way I can’t say that Faust did too, but we hope that sometimes it would be like that. What Murnau did for the movies was that he created genres – this is a very typical way to express fear or whatever, cruelty or something like that – and it is used until today because this is easy for everybody to understand.

ZD: Because Murnau used in his movies shadows and we use a fog, a sound like a fog…

JI: It’s a mirror. Mostly we wouldn’t like to give an easy pointing in a definite direction, but one which might be a little bit diverged, blurred. That makes us hope the person who listens is led to use his fantasies. He is the person who goes into the material.

FREQ: On the technological advances in music which bring the capabilities of the production of music to the individual…

JI: I’m really a fan of technology forever from the beginning you know, but I also know that its a dangerous thing. It’s a toy and it could lead you to forget what you started for. You can write whatever, but that’s life, we become more complicated.

FREQ: There’s lots of people now making remixes, where you get someone taking the tape and putting on a dance beat. What do you feel about that? Would that ever be something you would say yes to with Faust’s music?

JI: There are two visions of that – it’s interesting. Why not? I’m not unique, I don’t touch this, so, maybe, I don’t know, I can imagine it, but I don’t how it could look like.

FREQ: You wouldn’t have any objection to it?

JI: I am myself doing a lot of mixing since the beginning of our own music. I am always trying to make it like this, or this change one into a more complete thing and know how the moment, the sight of the moment can completely change the fact of the thought, whether it is a picture or a track.

FREQ: Passing over to someone else gives a different perspective?

JI: There is no reason to say No!, not really, because I’m not able to say “Oh, it’s really important, it has to be!” It might happen, it might not.

FREQ: A lot of it is do with fashion…

JI: Everything if it happens to a group, it might be fashion or it might really be done by heart. That could be a problem, or not, because you as the person who is confronted with the track, you have to decide what’s up with this thing. That’s it, it’s always the same problem, you have to become a strong adult person, you have to decide for yourself, by God!

FREQ: How do you feel about the world of music that is other than Faust, the state of it at the moment? Do you have any outlook on Techno for example?

ZD: The special Techno music in the first time happening, but then I made a performance with Techno in Hamburg in a tunnel of extreme Techno and stroboscopes, and only stroboscopes…

JI: …But very heavy, you can really hypnotise.

ZD: …and I was in the dance floor for half hour and “Oh!”

FREQ: It’s a physical thing with Techno music; and there’s that with Faust as well, it’s a very physical presence.

JI: Yes, we would like to touch the person. We would like the person which joins us in a recording or in a concert should never be the same as he was before. That’s what we would like, my greatest wish. It’s funny you know, if you are able for to do this longer than one day, two days, if you know this person really is not the same as before, that’s something hard, but it for me is a win. For others, it could be our hope. I’m shy about this too, because I feel I’m not allowed to change the character of any person too. This is a very, very narrow path.

FREQ: Because it’s possible say for example “Faust have the only way to make music?”

JI: No, it’s not, really, but it’s only if I’m allowed to show that this is a way too, then is it OK with me.

FREQ: There’s a very large amount of new music coming from Germany, from Cologne especially, how do you feel about that?

JI: Ah, this is different, but it is great. This time I am especially really happy with this new type of music because I like to go down in the studio and create something with the help of Zappi or whoever, and it comes out really what’s called feeling, there’s nothing you can say this is this or that particular instrument, it’s only to express a moment. And maybe a waveform from this moment you feel leads to a different step, from A to B. And some days you have to use concrete instruments or concrete sounds to explain the same feeling, or similar.

ZD: The last mixing project from Joachim is fantastic! We heard it yesterday in the car on the ferry. In the beginning are clapping hands from a concert, and from there it come many sounds into the clapping and many other sounds – it’s fantastic.

FREQ: Is that a Faust project?

JI: It is for sure a Faust project. Even if I’m doing that by myself or together with the other members, there’s no question that I’m part of a whole vision. The thing is for me is just working hard on very concrete sounds and this is something like playing for myself, because I have to be concentrating very heavily on very concrete things so the mixing becomes balanced.

FREQ: On Germany again…?

JI: You did ask for the Cologne thing still.

FREQ: Not just the Cologne scene, but new German music in general.

JI: They are different types you know. I think the Cologne area creates something like a neighbourhood to our album Rien, and something happens where it becomes a concrete music which can create fun attractive effects through the audience. For me I could not decide this one is better, it would be silly. No, I like it you know, because, although you can find bullshit everywhere, so it becomes hard to find a line through a lot of things which are published, it’s very hard to follow, you know, so you have to find for yourself a solution, and to think “OK, this group I will follow over the years to look at what they are doing.” Maybe once they go down they lose a little bit their way or not, but to follow a line too, and I can bring closer other projects to compare, its the only way to find out something for yourself. Because you can’t understand what’s happening now, even me, a lot of music gets sent to me by fans, old friends, and I always listen to them, because I like it that they do me the favour and honour to show me what they do, but a lot of music I am not able to listen to, and I’m sure there is much more good music – why not? – but I can’t listen to it because I’m a musician, not a listener.

FREQ: How important is Klangbad, your label, in allowing Faust to have more control over your output of records?

JI: That was the sense why we did it, because in the beginning we had no control over Record No.1, No.2, etc., that’s why we thought it’s the best you can do it for yourself because we never tried to oversell our records, no question of that anyway, so it’s the best to have your own label, then you can control it. I would like to know what’s on the record, even on record 1,359. I would like to have an idea which way it’s done, so we are able to do it. So no ‘real’ record company would touch Nosferatu on vinyl, because it’s too expensive to bring it to the distributor, but for me it was worth it to do it like that, and Zappi agreed with this, and so we did it. Nosferatu is a limited project from the beginning, because we thought “OK, let’s do only one record on vinyl,” because it’s too much to do, but for me I’m really completely satisfied, because how it looks and how it sounds is from Alpha to Omega everything what I would like to have. That makes me happy – independent and happy.

FREQ: It took a long time to get going?

JI: Yes, that’s true. You have to be very patient with you yourself, the world, whatever, you know. This is one really important thing – it’s not easy to decide to do all this stuff, you know. You have to decide for yourself if you would like to become a musician or listener and feeler and perhaps it could cost each individual a lot of money to find this out, but you should come to the point where you say “OK, now I decide not to make any more music – I would like to go in the direction of listening,” and you could also spread your interests on a lot of very different projects. The world is wide enough for everything – in order to become the way you are, to express yourself by expressing music, you should do it.

JI: Point.



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