Zappi constructs, deconstructs their story
Interview by John Wisniewski
Around Germany in the late '60's, crazed bands sprang up all over the place, mixing rock, psychedelic music and classical with various shades of art school leanings just as surely as it was happening over in England then. For the UK press, it was easier to lump all these disparate bands together under the name that they took a jokey song by one of the bands- "Krautrock" from Faust's titanic 1973 album IV.
Faust itself sprang up as a collision/union of two bands in the Wümme region of Northern Germany, which is West of Hamburg and far from the cultural meccas of Berlin and Cologne. They found a home on Polydor Records, which began their UK connection and produced two wonderfully bizarre albums for them before switching to the then-scrappy indie label Virgin where they released the heavily-discounted Faust Tapes (1973) album which managed to make the charts and rack up sales because of the stunt.
After IV, the band disappeared for a while until a series of '90's reunions with varied groups of members. One constant was founding member and drummer Werner "Zappi" Diermaier who has been the only one in the band to appear on all of the original albums and all of the later reunions.
We managed to interrogate Zappi by email to explain the band's early history, classic albums, confusing reunions and strange projects that are distinctly 'Faust.'
PSF: What was the first band that you were in?
Werner Diermaier: Campylognatus Zitelli in Hamburg
PSF: How did Faust start up?
WD: I founded Faust with Jean-Hervé Péron 1969. It was a fusion of two bands: Campylognatus Zitelli (Zappi, Jochen Irmler, Arnulf Meifert) and Nukleus (Jean-Hervé Péron, Gunther Wüsthoff, Rudolf Sosna). We met in Hamburg, in our flat. My flat-mate invited Jean-Hervé to stay overnight. He joined our rehearsal and then we decided to found a new band: that is how Faust was born.
PSF: Who were some of the early musical influences on the band?
WD: Each of us had a differnt taste of what kind of music one prefers: Rudolf Zossner: Frank Zappa fan.
Jochen Irmler: Beach Boys fan.
Jean Herve Péron: Bob Dylan fan.
I was Rolling Stones fan.
Gunther Wüsthoff was not a fan.
PSF: What were the sessions like for the recording of the first Faust album?
WD: We were a bit late to finish the first album in Wümme. So we meet us at midnight in the studio, made a improv session for some hours and cut the best part for the second LP side for a beginning and a end.
PSF: Did you think that Faust had any kind of kinship or connection with the other internationally known German bands of the early 1970s like Can, Tangerine Dream, Amon Duul II?
WD: At that time, in the early '70's, we just knew the names of the bands, but neither the members nor their music. We lived quite isolated in Wümme.
PSF: What was it like collaborating with the band Slapp Happy?
WD: In 1971, Uwe Netelbeck brought the band Slapp Happy (Peter Blegvad, Anthony Moore and Dagmar Krause) to Wümme. They asked Jean-Hervé and me to do the rhythm section. For us, it a new experience. It was a bit pop music. We recorded 2 LP's with them (Sort Of, Acnalbasac Noom). Almost 50 years later (November 2016), we did the first live concert with Slapp Happy in Köln Stadthalle. It was sold out.
PSF: What was it like recording with Tony Conrad?
WD: In the beginning of seventies, (manager) Uwe Nettlbeck came with Tony to Wümme to our studio. He wanted play some violins as overdubs and ask Jean-Hervé and me to make the rhythm part to it. We did it very simple, only two notes. In 5 minutes, we felt in a trance. Sometimes Tony made mistakes, so we had to repeat it again and again, for about 10 days. In the night, I was dreaming the beat.
PSF: The album Faust IV is referred to as a "krautrock classic" in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. Did you expect the album to become a future classic?
WD: All Faust music will be heard as classic in the future.
PSF: The band used the term 'krautrock' as a title on the IV album. Did you mean to make that term a joke or did you see it as a badge or pride or something else?
WD: It was joke that. During the war, the Germans were called "the krauts" as they used to eat "Sauerkraut." That is why we called a title of ours "Krautrock." Later, the British music industry established a new genre for german music, called "Krautrock."
PSF: What kind of effect did Uwe Nettelbeck have on Faust in terms of its music and its outlook?
WD: Uwe Nettelbeck did not have any effect on our music. He was a great producer who convinced Polydor that we were the new Beatles. The managers at Polydor had made the mistake to refuse to sign the Beatles. These managers were kicked out. Polydor did not want to repeat this mistake and took us under a special contract.
PSF: Why did Faust break up in the mid-70's?
WD: We broke up the Faust projekt because of different meanings with Richard Branson.
PSF: What were you doing after that and before the Faust reunions?
WD: After the break-up, I did experiments with different machines: big print tmachines, street work machines, helicopter, etc.. I edited it in the studio and played together with it on drums. Sometimes, I drove a taxi in Hamburg.
PSF: For the band reunions in the 1990's, you were with working with Hans Joachim Irmler and Jean-Hervé Péron together and separately. How would you describe the difference between working with each of them?
WD: In 1994, I initiated a reunion of Faust to give a concert at the Marquee Club in London. Jochen Irmler, Jean-Hervé Péron and I played together and had Axel Dill as guest musician. That is how we started to play again.
In 1997, we had trouble with Jean Herve and he left the band for seven years.
In 2004, I had trouble with Jochen Irmler. Jean-Hervé and me got together again.
The difference between the two is for me that with Jochen Irmler, we improvise better and with Jean-Hervé, we play more conceptual.
PSF: Could you tell us about recording the 1994 album Rien?
WD: Rien (which means 'nothing') happened with our first US tour. It was only Jean-Hervé and me, with some others brought to Death Valley California in the desert. Our project was "long distance calling" where each of us stood on a hill with a long distance between each other. As guest musicians, we had Keiji Heino and a didgeridoo player. The audience were 80 people from all over the world. This recording was a part of Rien.
PSF: Ccould you tell us about recording of the Nosferatu soundtrack?
WD: Kalle, our tour manager about 2000, asked us about interest to set to music the film of (director F.W.) Murnau. I learned the text of the subtitles. We looked at the video and held the atmosphere in our mind. In the first concert in berlin, we played spontaneously to the film, and we looked just sometimes at the screen. I spoke different lines of the text in the microphone and then this became the recording (Faust Wakes Nosferatu).
PSF: Do you have any favorite albums?
WD: My favorite Faust album is Just Us. if you mean other albums, I like some classical music, especially Johann Sebastian Bach.
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