The group formed in 1971 in the rural setting of Wümme. They secured a lucrative record deal with Polydor and soon began recording their debut, Faust, which sold poorly but received critical acclaim for its innovative approach and established a devoted fanbase. Faust became one of the premier bands in the international appreciation of the genre that would eventually be known as krautrock.
Faust became one of the first acts to sign to Richard Branson's Virgin Records, who embarked on a marketing campaign somewhat daring for its time, aimed at introducing Faust to UK record-buyers in as big a way as possible. The Faust Tapes was a cut-and-paste album which spliced together a large number of bits and pieces from their extensive collection of private recordings, not originally intended for release, but widely regarded today as their finest work. Virgin issued it at the then price of a single, 48 UK pence (they did the same the following year with Gong's Camembert Electrique album except that by then the price of a single had gone up to 59 pence). The Faust Tapes reportedly sold over 100,000 copies but its low price tag rendered it ineligible for a chart placing.
Faust broke up in 1975 after Virgin had rejected their fifth album (some of the recordings later appeared on the "Munich and Elsewhere" album), but reissues of their recordings and various additional material through Chris Cutler's Recommended Records maintained a level of interest.
Faust experimented with the presentation of some of their records. Their first album was originally on clear vinyl in a clear sleeve with an X-ray of a human fist silkscreened on the outer sleeve ("faust" is German for "fist"). The second album, So Far made extensive use of black, though inside the sleeve were sheets with one illustration for each song. The Faust Tapes had a visually disturbing op art cover design by Bridget Riley, while that for Faust IV consisted of a series of blank music staves. The impact of these designs is largely lost in CD reissues.
After Faust's breakup, the group's whereabouts were unknown; the Recommended Records catalogues talked about the group's "disappearance". The official website lists three concerts during the 1980's, and the "Patchwork" album, a compilation of outtakes, feature three snippets that were recorded in the 80's, but apart from that, the group's activities between 1975 and 1990 remain shrouded in mystery.
In 1990, members Irmler, Diermaier and Péron reunited for performances. In 1994, Péron and Diermaier toured the United States for the first time, assisted by Steven Wray Lobdell. They have continued to perform in various combinations and with various additional musicians ever since.
In the booklet for The Wumme Years box set, Péron announced that Sosna had died on November the 10th 1996. Gunter Wüsthoff has not taken part in any of the reunions. Diermaier has always been behind the drum kit. Irmler was present, but contributed little to the reunited groups' first concerts, and did not participate in the 1994 US tour, but took a more active role after that, producing the groups' records and releasing them on his Klangbad label. He also compiled and edited the "Patchwork" album.
In 1996, Diermaier and Péron meet Olivier Manchion and Amaury Cambuzat (Ulan Bator). They performed for the first time together as "Collectif Met(z)" in November 1996 (this quartet is the basis of an actual Faust line-up and this concert is part of a 2005 release). A few days after, Faust performed at the Garage in London and at the Transmusicales de Rennes, featuring Chris Cutler.
Péron left the group in June 1997. From mid-1997 to 2004, Faust tours as Zappi W. Diermaier, Hans Joachim Irmler, Steven Wray Lobdell, Lars Paukstat, Michael Stoll.
Diermaier and "art-errorist" Péron rejoined in 2004 by immediately recording Trial and Error, a DVD released in 2007 by Fuenfundvierzig Label. Zappi proposed to Péron to start a "new" Faust together with Olivier Manchion and Amaury Cambuzat from Ulan Bator. Diermaier/Péron's new Faust made their debut at the Art-Errorist Avant Garde festival in Schiphorst, Germany, where they also presented a new release entitled Collectif Met(z), a collection of live, new and unreleased songs. This incarnation of the group has been extremely active, releasing several CD-Rs and DVD-Rs and touring extensively, including a very successful autumn 2005 UK tour, released in 2007 as ... In Autumn by Dirter. This release also features ex Henry Cow saxophonist/flautist Geoff Leigh, vocalist Lucianne Lassalle, poet Zoë Skoulding and the members of the Welsh group Ectogram. In April 2007 the trio of Diermaier, Péron and Cambuzat performed at a Rock in Opposition festival in France in April 2007. The trio also recorded a new album entitled disconnected which was mixed by Steven Stapleton and Colin Potter of Nurse With Wound. It was released to tie in with the 2007 Schiphorst Avant Garde festival in July 2007.
Faust now exists in two completely different incarnations, both active and each reflecting different aspects of the original group.
During the Wümme years, Diermaier and Péron played on Slapp Happy's first two albums, Sort Of (1972) and Acnalbasac Noom (1973) which were also produced by Uwe Nettelbeck. Slapp Happy's Peter Blegvad had played with Faust in Wümme and subsequently toured with them in the UK. That tour also featured Uli Trepte, who had performed with Guru Guru and Neu!.
In extreme contrast with Slapp Happy's song-based music, in 1972 Péron, Sosna and Diermaier also collaborated with the violinist Tony Conrad on an album entitled Outside the Dream Syndicate; the record was released at a low price in the UK and was at the time one of the few available examples of drone-based minimalism. A live recording from 1995 of a later concert, entitled "Outside The Dream Syndicate Alive" featuring Tony Conrad, Zappi & Jean-Hervé of Faust and Jim O'Rourke was released in Autumn 2005. This recording is considered by many to be more successful than the 1972 studio version with Jean-Hervé playing so hard he snaps a bass string and shreds his fingers.
Faust also collaborated with New Jersey avant-garde hip-hop crew Dälek for the album "Derbe Respect, Alder" with surprising success in 2004.
As previously mentioned, Faust also collaborated with Nurse with Wound on the disconnected album.
(© Michael S. Eisenberg)
(© Michael S. Eisenberg)
(© Michael S. Eisenberg)