Errors vs Faust

In an artist-on-artist interview, Errors' Steev Livingstone grills Faust's own 'Art Errorist' Jean-Hervé Peron as the iconoclastic daddies of Krautrock prepare for a rare Scottish date at The Arches

Feature by Stephen ‘Steev’ Livingstone | 30 Apr 2010
  • Untitled by <a href="" target="_blank">David Lemm</a>

Can you explain the way you make music and how this might have changed over the years?
With Faust, there’s a group dynamic that seldom allows for individual aimless wandering, especially as an improvisational group. We have so many ways of starting; sometimes one of us has a theme and the others jump on it. Everyone follows their own feelings and eventually get together at some point, or not! This general attitude towards music and art has not changed over the years; our bodies do feel we've been 40 years in this business but our mind seems to remain as infantile and naive as it was when we thought we were changing the world.

Do songs evolve through playing them live?
Yes sir, they do! Like children you put out in the world with what you think is a good education and they become lawyers at the end. One fantastic example is J'ai Mal Aux Dents, created in 1971, which became Schempal Buddha in 1994 and whose lyrics have been translated in French, Italian, Welsh English and Tibetan. That makes me happy, brother! We’ve also done I don’t know how many versions of The Sad Skinhead in all manner of imaginable forms.

How do you rehearse for shows?
We meet at Faust headquarters in Schiphorst near Hamburg in northern Germany and we have some good food (my wife Carina is a fantastic cook), some good wine and we eventually meet in the rehearsal room. Everything is rudimentarily recorded so we can save "ideas" and "themes" and discuss them. We do that two or three times a year; but you know, we are all busy with solo projects as well so we are more or less constantly in the "creative" mood, meaning we have no specific aims or are under no specific stress.

I detect a sense of humour in a lot of Faust’s music and this is often right next to passages or concepts that people would consider as being quite serious. Is the idea of the serious mixed with the comical important to you in music?
Right – very right – because there is nothing serious about music or art. Even when we have some "serious" themes or patterns, it always ends in huge laughter because – do not forget – Faust are dilettantes!

I hear your influence in many modern bands, ranging through Deerhunter to Fuck Buttons - do you appreciate how these bands have taken influences like Faust and made their own sound from it?
Absolutely, I was worried that I couldn’t give anything to my children as a heritage. Now that we have apparently created something that seems to please a few people, I am satisfied. I have heard that some bands have been inspired by the music created by our generation and have taken it much further according to their own motivations, that makes me happy too.

Do you embrace the rapid changes in technology, in both the way we listen to music and how it is made?
After a long period of refusing the digital world (God, why did I do that?), I'm glad I've learned to accept and use some of the enormous potential in that technology. But don't get me wrong, I'm still quite useless on computers. I'm also very glad I wasn’t born directly into this numerical art; I feel privileged I could enjoy both and I'm not going to go into that endless conflict of "vinyl or cd?", "analog or digital" – gimme a bit of both please, that’s fine.

What is your relationship with the other bands who fall under the "Krautrock" banner, such as NEU! and Can? Many would assume that you were all friends with each other and shared ideas, is this true?
No. I never met them, I know it's hard to believe but that is so. Faust was outlawed in Germany in the past and still is now, to some extent. I have met Chris Karrer [Amon Duul, Carnival of Babylon] and Manni Neumaier [Guru Guru] and had loads of Krautrock artists at the Avantgarde festival, which I organise every year, but that's more recent.

In the recent BBC documentary about Krautrock, Brian Eno was heavily criticised for his involvement in the movement as he was seen by many as someone who came to Germany, stole a bunch of ideas, then left and made lots of money as a result...
"Steal" is a hard word; he was obviously inspired by the attitude and by the ideas of Moebius and Rodelius [both of Cluster and Harmonia]. He would have made money anyway – that's not the point, he possibly should have paid more respect and recognition to the people who showed him a way (note I am not saying "the" way!).

As a band, Faust has been in existence since 1971. What motivates you to keep making music and playing shows after all these years?
I have very briefly tried to be a respected millionaire and failed; all I can do is pluck my guitar and blow my horn, so I’ll stick to that until they throw me out. I have heard rumours of a powerful movement called "SFN" being very active now – the "Stop Faust Now" demonstrations are getting numerous and better organised at every gig – see if we can still sneak on stage at the Arches in Glasgow without being stoned!

When I went to see Kraftwerk a few years ago I was slightly disappointed to hear that they had updated a lot of their classic tunes to fit in with the modern audience. Do you feel like you have to update your sound for the live setting, to fit in with what is happening just now in music?
Everyone is free to express themselves as they feel adequate; some are very successful, if you consider the fee they get and the price of the tickets. As far as Faust is concerned, we’ll just keep on being what we are, like it or not.

Faust play The Arches, Glasgow as part of the Behaviour Festival (running 11-29 May) on 11 May.