Faust produced four albums of head-spinning brilliance between 1971 and 1974. It might have been five if half the band hadn’t been carted off to jail. With a new boxset on the way, we unravel the story of the German legends’ momentous reign of sonic terror. Forget krautrock, this is freaktronica with bells on
In 1974, five of the original six members of Faust assembled at Giorgio Moroder’s Musicland Studios in Munich to work on their fifth album, which had the working title ‘Faust 5½’. It would prove to be their final hurrah. Having lost a bandmate after their debut release and traversed a tempestuous half a decade together, these 10 days would mark the end of Faust in their first remarkable iteration.
With their long-serving engineer taking care of the technicalities, Musicland would witness the seminal freaktronic outfit breaking new ground, concocting a heady brew of white noise, experimental rock, quixotic jazz, and thunderous backbeats. It was a bold and intoxicating cacophony that sounded like nothing else on earth at that point. Their closest relatives might have been Can and Neu!, but Faust had been on their own path for a good while now and they were largely free of whatever outside influences they’d once had.
‘Faust 5½’ was way ahead of its time. And as fate would have it, it wouldn’t be released in its time either.
Faust had ridden their luck since forming in Hamburg at the tail end of the 1960s, jumping from one major record label to another, with two albums for Polydor in Germany and two for Richard Branson’s recently launched Virgin imprint in the UK. But the making of ‘Faust IV’ had seen them dissolve in acrimony as they somehow managed to fall out with both Virgin and each other. Organist Hans-Joachim Irmler left the UK in a fit of pique and returned home to Germany, with guitarist Rudolf Sosna doing the same soon after. The band’s manager, Uwe Nettelbeck, decided to depart around this time too.
Led by Jean-Hervé Péron, the group’s bassist and de facto frontman, the remaining members picked up a couple of replacement musicians and went gallivanting across Europe on a madcap tour. Once those shows were over, however, Faust were wrung out and rudderless. They were as good as over.
A short time later, Jean-Hervé Péron found himself in the south of Germany, subsisting on dog food and schnapps. Despite his frustration with the recording of ‘Faust IV’, he still hoped to be able to return to the studio some day. Hans-Joachim Irmler, who wasn’t far away from his erstwhile bandmate geographically, had similar yearnings. It was Hans-Joachim who finally decided to put his feelings of antipathy aside and get the group back together for one more record.
“I just thought, ‘OK, they’re all arseholes, but…’,” he says, laughing heartily down the line from his studio in Scheer, a small town not far from the German-Swiss border. “So I called them up.”
The band managed to secure some time at Musicland, the studio Giorgio Moroder had opened in Munich a couple of years earlier, on the understanding that they would record at night. They had to make way for Moroder’s latest protege, an Amercian singer called Donna Summer, in the daytime.
“We started off by renting a farmyard here in the south,” continues Hans-Joachim. “We stayed there and tried to figure out some parts. And then we were off to Munich.”
Faust’s time in the Bavarian capital has passed into legend. Musicland was housed in the basement of the newly built Arabella-Hochhaus hotel, so the band thought it made sense to book themselves some rooms. No matter that it was one of the city’s most expensive places. No matter that they had no money. They were still signed to Virgin, so the UK label would be picking up the bill. Or so they thought.
By day, they streaked around the corridors and made full use of the hotel’s facilities, including ordering fillet steaks for their dogs on room service. By night, they headed down to Musicland in the basement, using up miles and miles of magnetic tape as they worked until dawn with their engineer Kurt Graupner at the controls. They continued in this vein for more than a week.
“I suppose we did quite a chaotic thing,” admits Jean-Hervé Péron, speaking from his farm near Hamburg. “We abused the hotel and the studio. And we were broke. We had no money at all. Kurt was there the whole time, so we recorded every night. It was 10 days of recording, with lots and lots of tapes. At some point, the hotel eventually said to us, ‘There is a huge bill for this, who is going to pay?’. They were getting nervous. But we just said, ‘It’s OK, Virgin Records will pay’.”
But when the hotel got in touch with the label, they were told something different.
“I was thinking Richard Branson owed us a third record on Virgin,” says Hans-Joachim. “But Branson refused to pay up. He said it was out of the question.”
“We could hear the hotel on the phone to Virgin” adds Jean-Hervé. “While they were talking, we put all of our gear into my BRS truck. Kurt Graupner had already left by now, so we asked our roadie, a young guy called Rudy, who was only about 17 or 18 at the time, to take the tapes. So Rudy got into the truck and drove away. He smashed through the barrier of the hotel and disappeared.”
Extracts of the record that should have been ‘Faust 5½’ have appeared on various Faust compilations over the decades, including ‘Munic & Elsewhere’ and ‘71 Minutes Of…’, with a few pieces also surfacing via the internet. But now, for the very first time, the tapes have been restored and the album is about to be released in its entirety, approved by the band and close to how Hans-Joachim Irmler mixed it in Munich, with both his hands and his feet on the faders of the desk.
“The tapes were lying in cardboard boxes in some damp shed or garage in Lower Saxony or Schleswig-Holstein,” says synth and sax man Gunther Wüsthoff.
The band have changed the title of the album from ‘Faust 5½’ to ‘Punkt’, and it’s being released as part of ‘Faust 1971-1974’, a mammoth boxset from Bureau B Records. As well as ‘Punkt’, the collection includes Faust’s first four albums and two further long-players, ‘Momentaufnahme I’ and ‘Momentaufnahme II’ (‘Snapshot I’ and Snapshot II’), which are full of electrifying songs and elongated sketches, many of them previously unheard. The vinyl version also includes two seven-inch singles, ‘Lieber Herr Deutschland’ and ‘So Far’.
After almost half a century, ‘Faust 1971-1974’ is as close to a complete picture of those early years as we’re ever likely to get. So why did it take so long?
“Because Uwe Nettelbeck was no longer there,” says Gunther. “Who else should have initiated this?”
“But then at some point, Bureau B said to us, ‘Come on, let’s digitise all this material and make something out of it’,” says Jean-Hervé. “I had to sit in a studio in Hamburg and work out what was on those tapes. I think it was four or five days, listening to them 10 hours a day. It was highly emotional for me.”
Talking of high emotions, what happened at the Arabella-Hochhaus hotel after Rudy the roadie broke through the barrier in the truck?
“Hans-Joachim and Rudolf and myself were still there,” grins Jean-Hervé. “We said, ‘OK, take us to jail, put us up against a wall, we are guilty’.”
Faust released their self-titled debut album 50 years ago this month. Amazingly, it still sounds like the future. It looked different to everything else in the record shops at the time too. It was pressed on clear vinyl – long before that was even a thing – and it came in a transparent sleeve with an X-ray of a fist raised in defiance printed on the front.
The formation of Faust – like most things about the band – is shrouded in myth. The story goes that they were actually put together, Monkees-style, by film critic and silver-tongued man-about-town Uwe Nettelbeck after he’d cased the local scene in Hamburg. They were said to have been intended as a replacement for The Beatles.
“Polydor had screwed up their contract with The Beatles and wanted to try something more daring now,” says Gunther Wüsthoff. “But the story that we were a manufactured band is largely a falsehood and the ‘Hamburg Beatles’ idea is an oversimplification.”
The opening track of ‘Faust’, ‘Why Don’t You Eat Carrots?’, is a montage of musique concrète and musical digression. It’s not exactly ‘Love Me Do’, although there is a tiny snippet of ‘All You Need Is Love’ near the beginning, included as if to signal a break from the past and from hegemonic pop stimuli.
“Uwe told everyone that he sought us out,” says Hans-Joachim Irmler. “It’s total bullshit. It wasn’t at all like that. We sought him out. We needed someone who was able to make contact with a label.”
What was Nettelbeck like?
“A long-haired and full-bodied man with round nickel glasses, broken jeans and a colourful hippy T-shirt,” says Gunther descriptively. “I had heard about him when he’d written film reviews for Die Zeit, the German newspaper.”
Nettelbeck reportedly hand-picked the original members of Faust from two groups –three from Nukleus and three from Campylognatus Citelli – but the six musicians had already started cross-pollinating before he showed up and neither of the outfits was particularly developed.
“I can’t tell you anything about Campylognatus Citelli,” says percussionist Arnulf Meifert, who was sacked from Faust soon after their first album. “I don’t remember any band names. Jochen Irmler invited me to join, but I wasn’t interested in the names of the bands.”
“Campylognatus Citelli didn’t have songs,” notes drummer Werner “Zappi” Diermaier. “We just improvised when we came together.”
The trio used to meet in a cold and wet bunker that was such an oddly proportioned space that they had to practice one in front of the other in a line. But they had more going for them than Nukleus, who may or may not have even been called that.
“Gunther, Rudolf and I were the central point of a music collective, but we weren’t really a band,” says Jean-Hervé Péron.
Whatever they were and whatever they were called, they rehearsed at Gunther’s flat until the situation became untenable. By this point, Jean-Hervé had fortuitously found himself somewhere to live at the Toulouse Lautrec Institut, an arts centre where the earliest version of Faust began creating music for filmmakers.
“That place was important in Faust’s history,” declares Jean-Hervé. “There was a bar attached to it and it was run by Andy Hertel, a man who was also important in Faust’s history. Hertel played a big role in the artwork of our first album. It’s his fist on the X-ray.”
Frenchman Jean-Hervé was actually a relative newcomer to Hamburg. It’s often said that he was driven by the events of May 1968 in Paris, but he was in Upstate New York on a year-long language exchange programme when the student uprising erupted in the Latin Quarter of the French capital. By the time he returned to his home in Normandy, his anarchic ways were deemed old hat by his milieu, who were all now Maoists and Trotskyists. He ended up taking to the road with his girlfriend and enjoying a period of what he calls “vagabondage” before ending up in Hamburg.
“Please note that the six musicians in Faust were ever so different from one another,” says Jean-Hervé. “There was a north and south divide in the band. There were cultural differences and language differences. It was a strange and powerful cocktail. Uwe Nettelbeck was the person who bundled these energies together and Kurt Graupner was the perfect man to technically make it all possible.”
The group that came together was certainly a diverse one, something that made Faust interesting but probably ultimately contributed to tearing them apart. Jean-Hervé was French, Zappi had been born in Austria, Hans-Joachim and Arnulf came from southern Germany, and Gunther hailed from the remote northern region of Friesland – “a peculiar place where the people could never be tamed or subdued,” according to Jean-Hervé, who has frequently also talked about Gunther’s keen interest in guns.
“I carried a gun after I had completed my military service as a naval radio operator,” confirms Gunther. “That was mainly a Heckler & Koch G3 and a Walther P38. Or sometimes an MG 42 [a machine gun]. But I think everyone has been taken in by Jean-Hervé. He says I carry a gun all the time. This is untrue. The same goes for his claim that I am the heir of the Flensburg steel manufacturing company. That guy’s name is Wüsthof with one ‘F’.”
The member of Faust we’ve only really mentioned in passing so far is guitarist Rudolf Sosna. He was half-Russian and a Frank Zappa fanatic. Rudolf, who Jean-Hervé has often called “the conscience of Faust,” drank himself to death in 1996.
“He had a brilliant mind,” says Jean-Hervé. “He played the piano like a young god, he could paint, he could recite poems, and he wrote songs that were far-out and puzzling and really inspiring. For me, he was a genius. There is no question about it. He died very sadly because of delirium tremens, though I think this is a common trait of all geniuses. They have so much flowing into them that it’s too much for the brain. It goes in one way or another – insanity… delirium… and that’s how it ended with Rudolf.”
Polydor Records signed Faust on the strength of a demo of ‘Lieber Herr Deutschland’, an unruly mash-up of squalling guitars, feedback, chanting and double-tracked talking in German, its seemingly disparate sections spliced together with postmodern elan. It’s often said that Polydor didn’t know what they were doing, but there are enough hints in its Dadaist five minutes to suggest they couldn’t have been totally surprised when they heard the group’s first album – a fastidiously constructed patchwork on side one and an acid-fuelled jam on side two. The latter was recorded in a hurry in a single night when the label, tired of waiting for the record to be finished, threatened to call in their investment.
The ‘Lieber Herr Deutschland’ demo is certainly one of the highlights of the ‘Faust 1971-1974’ boxset. It’s not the most commercial sounding of songs, though. Can you even call it a song?
“No, not really,” says Hans-Joachim with a laugh. “At first, the label refused to use it. It was in German and they wanted something in English. But that changed soon after this, when Udo Lindenberg made a success of singing in German.”
Theatrical prog rock bands like Checkpoint Charlie and Floh De Cologne had also been singing in German for the last two or three years, partly to make a political statement about reclaiming their language and partly to disassociate themselves from mainstream pop artists.
“Uwe Nettelbeck’s basic idea was to give some experimental, non-conventional musicians the same possibilities to express themselves as the established artists in the
Top 10,” explains Jean-Hervé. “He was a very clever man and he convinced Polydor by saying, ‘Listen, here is this demo of ‘Lieber Herr Deutschland’, it’s totally new, it’s great, and we must help this band to make more songs’.”
It wasn’t just a ruse, however. The dominant music in the German charts at the time was Schlager – throwaway and conservative pop that projected the confidence of the Wirtschaftswunder (the “economic miracle”). It was rooted in Volksmusik, which was at best uncool and at worst unable to shake off its associations with the Nazis.
By referencing the chaos of the Cabaret Voltaire, the absurdist spectacle of existentialist theatre, and the electronic serialism of Stockhausen, Faust were channelling a post-war alienation that acted as a kind of severance from their forebears while also rejecting Anglo-American influences. This newness and edginess must have seemed worthy of a punt for a label looking for something completely different. It was German but without being that German. Faust, for the record, would go on to also sing in English and sometimes French (or indeed both on ‘J’ai Mal Aux Dents’).
“We had no format or framework and we didn’t play a style in the sense of blues or progressive rock or modal jazz, so we always stumbled into whatever our six temperaments gave us at that hour,” says Arnulf.
Jean-Hervé mentions AMM, an improvisational jazz outfit from London who predated Faust by several years and were thinking along similar lines, although the German band knew nothing of these British musical frontiersmen. He also talks about the international creative community Fluxus, with whom they enjoyed many levels of synchronicity, but both
of these groups were also unaware of the other.
“In retrospect, we were a kind of social sculpture as propagated by Joseph Beuys,” adds Arnulf. “We were altogether a strange creature in the music scene of that time – a raised fist against the commerce of the record industry, unpredictable, not malleable, not fitting into any pigeonhole.”
There were the other krautrock bands of the day too, of course, but again Faust were largely oblivious of them. One of the main reasons for this was their geographical isolation.
“Uwe managed to get a deal for us that meant we had a studio for a whole year and we had a sound engineer at our disposal as much as possible,” says Jean-Hervé. “This was his plan. And it worked. And so we went to Wümme.”
Faust settled themselves into a converted schoolhouse in the woods in Wümme, Lower Saxony, and hired engineer Kurt Graupner to install a mixing desk. At the commune they established there, the musicians smoked weed, walked their dogs in the raw, recorded solos from their beds (with extremely long cables snaking into the control room), got drunk with the local farmers at the nearby village bar, and caused lots of general mischief.
“The time in Wümme was existential for the band,” says Zappi. “Being away from any external influences made us concentrate on ourselves, which was important.”
“We lived a very modest, rather monastic life in Wümme,” adds Arnulf. “The refrigerator was empty most of the time. Apart from breakfast, there was very often nothing. Uwe occasionally drove up in a Volvo, bringing us a bag of rolls and a DM 50 bill. I should really have guarded that each time. If we didn’t use it right away, the guys would take it into the village and turn it into beer and dog food.”
Gunther’s memory of a regular day at Wümme is perhaps somewhat prosaic, but it’s also weirdly revealing.
“Morning toilet, fetching milk and eggs, breakfast, setting up the studio, making music, recording music, cooking and eating lunch, walking, shopping, house cleaning, making music, recording music, taking care of instruments, meditating and doing the things that people do.”
The release of ‘Faust’ in 1971 was met with little fanfare. At Polydor’s insistence, the band played a one-off show at the Musikhalle in Hamburg, but it was a ramshackle affair to say the least. Faust treated the stage like they were still in their front room back in Wümme.
“The stage manager looked at his wristwatch and said, ‘No concert has ever lasted this long here!’,” recalls Gunther. “He was glad that he could finally get home to his family at one in the morning. Those who were there at the time still have fond memories of that unforgettable evening.”
Their record label were significantly less impressed, but Faust weren’t overly bothered about that. Most of them had other things on their minds, not least the fact that they had decided to get Arnulf Meifer out of the group.
“Arnulf was not quite on our wavelength,” explains Jean-Hervé. “He was very academic, very theoretical, a bit older and a bit straight. The rest of us were not. I think maybe the person in the band I felt the closest to was Zappi. We both liked dogs and we both liked to do crazy things.”
Arnulf believes his sacking from Faust was instigated by Uwe Nettelbeck. He says Nettelbeck threatened the other members with pulling the plug if he wasn’t expelled from the group. In the aftermath of the Musikhalle gig, he was abused by a drunken Rudolf Sosna, who intimated to him that he would soon be on his way out. There was no mistaking the bad atmosphere in the schoolhouse at Wümme.
“I was somehow not surprised when I found out that Uwe wanted me to leave,” says Arnulf. “This was about two days later. I said I wouldn’t go, at least not until each of my comrades said the words, ‘I want you to quit’. So they all did, they all said it, and that same day I was gone.”
The five remaining members continued their work at Wümme and Faust’s second album, ‘So Far’, came out in 1972, by which point Polydor’s patience was really wearing thin. While maintaining the band’s proclivity for musical detour, the record is packed with great tunes and has a strong sense of sonic cohesion. The opening track, ‘It’s A Rainy Day, Sunshine Girl’, has stealthily become one of Faust’s better known songs. It’s catchy, yet deceptively oddball, with a steady repetitive beat from Zappi throughout the entire piece. The droning, proto-industrial ‘Mamie Is Blue’ meanwhile appears to be a dark manifestation of what krautrock superfan Julian Cope describes as “a whole youth nation working out their blues” in his 1995 book ‘Krautrocksampler’.
“I think there’s a phenomenon happening here, where the artist isn’t really consciously aware of what he’s saying,” notes Jean-Hervé. “Maybe I’m being ridiculous, but my belief is that artists are people who have the privilege of being able to receive cosmic waves from above. So yes, ‘Mamie Is Blue’, when you make me think about it, sounds like some kind of denial. Why repeat ‘Mamie is blue’ and ‘Daddy is blue’? But at the time, I can assure you we were not aware of what we were expressing.”
The title track is another highlight of ‘So Far’. Built on a funky loop that Hans-Joachim compares to what Miles Davis was doing at the time, it features some Pierre Schaeffer-style ingenuity from Kurt Graupner. It was certainly useful having someone with a penchant for building outlandish sonic devices as their engineer.
“We used one line fed through an unbelievable looping set-up for the track ’So Far’,” says Hans-Joachim. “Looping machines didn’t exist at the time, so we had to create a loop that ran out of the control room and beyond the studio before coming back again.”
“Kurt was instrumental in creating the musique concrète collage on side one of the first album,” says Zappi. “He was a classical sound engineer, which we appreciated. He was also the architect of the famous Faust black boxes.”
The black boxes were conceived by Kurt and Hans-Joachim and were taken out on tour with the band in 1973. They were innovative, metre-long effects units that enabled Faust
to create sounds that weren’t available on the market at the time and allowed the members to mix each other in real time.
“Nowadays, you can get much better units that are about a 10th of the size,” notes Jean-Hervé. “But there was none of that at this time.”
There were five boxes in all. Jean-Hervé still has one and Hans-Joachim has another. Kurt apparently owns two.
“Basically, it’s an effects box with three different channels,” explains Jean-Hervé. “Just by pressing buttons and turning knobs, we could add effects and send what we were doing to one of our friends. I would play bass and send my sound to Rudolf, then he would start working on it. So there were always extremely intense interactions between us.”
“In a way, we were a socialist band, because one of the knobs allowed us to balance each other,” chuckles Hans-Joachim. “So if Jean-Hervé was doing something that was bullshit, I could fade him out. And he could do the same to me.”
“The black boxes were great,” says Arnulf. “But if you want to define one sound that was specific to Faust, one sound that was spectacular, then it has to be Jochen’s organ. He constructed this electronic instrument himself and this big wooden thing… it was a real wonderbox.”
As well as his musical talent, Hans-Joachim brought a technological aspect to Faust. He was the band’s youngest member and he had a way of manipulating sound to ensure it was incredibly loud, describing it as “music you could touch”. He’d always wanted a Hammond organ, but since they cost in the region of DM 30,000 he’d decided to take matters into his own hands.
“So I started to build an organ,” he says. “I had no idea how to solder at the time and I thought I’d get killed in the first 10 minutes. I still have that organ, actually.”
The money ran out in Wümme and the goodwill ran out with Polydor, but Uwe Nettelbeck managed to wangle a new deal for Faust with Virgin Records in the UK. Richard Branson’s label had recently picked up fellow sonic travellers Tangerine Dream, Gong and Henry Cow, and was fast becoming a trusted independent voice in the music industry. It wasn’t quite on the cusp of propelling Branson into the big time, but that moment wasn’t far off.
Faust landed in the UK to begin the next part of their adventure in early 1973. They were met at Southampton and driven to The Manor, a swishy residential recording studio in Oxfordshire. The plan was for them to record during the day, while Mike Oldfield used the studio downtime to put the finishing touches to ‘Tubular Bells’.
“There was another guy there, Simon Draper, who was Branson’s cousin I think,” says Jean-Hervé. “He was definitely into art rather than business and the combination of the two of them was ideal. It was Simon who signed us. He came to Hamburg and asked us to play something. About 10 minutes later, he said, ‘Cool, we’ll buy that’. He was turned on by our music, but he soon discovered that we weren’t very pleasant people.”
In what way?
“Ah, you know… the German way of speaking, the German way of being,” replies Jean-Hervé. “In Europe, we say ‘Yes’ when we mean ‘Yes’. When we mean ‘No’, we say ‘No’. In England, you never say ‘Yes’ or ‘No’, you say, ‘Maybe’, or ‘That might be OK’, or ‘Oh, well, I’m not sure’. So that was a bit of a clash.”
How did The Manor compare to the old schoolhouse?
“There was lots of nature around, like in Wümme,” says Gunther. “A fast road, like in Wümme. Food like in England.”
“In Wümme, it was more personal,” says Zappi. “We felt at home. At The Manor, we were guests.”
Faust didn’t arrive in the UK empty-handed. They brought lots of tracks they had been working on in Wümme with them and it was from this material that their first album for Virgin, ’The Faust Tapes’, was compiled. The front cover of the record was made up of columns of dense text about the band taken from the music press, while the back featured Bridget Riley’s iconic 1964 painting ‘Crest’. The album was sold at the gimmicky price of 49p, resulting in it shifting a lot more units than Faust might otherwise have expected.
Among the standouts of ‘The Faust Tapes’ are ’J’ai Mal Aux Dents’, starring Gunther’s sax in mad mode, and ‘Flashback Caruso’, a four-minute psychedelic masterpiece by Rudolf. All around the longer tracks are snippets from the band’s archive, often culled from jams that may well have gone on for hours. ‘Don’t’, for example, is a 20-second breakbeat that is crying out to be looped into a hip hop groove.
“Yeah, of course, if we had gone deeper we could have turned that into hip hop and made a political statement out of it,” agrees Jean-Hervé. “But we didn’t. When we were living in Wümme, we produced so many sketches. We threw so many ideas out. Ideas, ideas, ideas…”
Interestingly, there are other tracks among the ‘Faust 1971-1974’ boxset extras that have a jazzy hip hop flavour, albeit often with added white noise. ‘Vorsatz’ and ‘Rückwärts Durch Die Drehtür’, both on ‘Momentaufnahme I’, are fine examples. Zappi’s drumming on these tracks is great and it’s a surprise to learn that he didn’t grow up in a jazz household.
“No, my background is actually in marching music,” he reveals. “My father was a marching musician.”
If the collage aspect of ‘The Faust Tapes’ echoes ‘Faust’, then their second album for Virgin, ‘Faust IV’, aligns itself with ‘So Far’ as a more cohesive listen. ‘Krautrock’, the epic opener of ‘Faust IV’, was another track they’d brought over from Wümme, but it was given a radical overhaul, the larger mixing desk at The Manor giving them more multitracking options. Other songs were more spontaneous, including ‘The Sad Skinhead’, spiky and full of pathos, and ‘Jennifer’, which Rudolf wrote about a teenage girl he observed lurking around the studio.
The recording of ‘Faust IV’ was not without trouble, however, much of it of the band’s own making. Faust were neither punctilious nor polite. Alternating sessions with Mike Oldfield meant that the studio had to be rearranged when they showed up, something Richard Branson had assured them would not be a problem. They took their revenge on Branson by eating at expensive French restaurants and charging it back to the record label. But despite the difficulties, Zappi thought well of the Virgin boss.
“He was courageous,” says the drummer. “I was impressed by his attitude.”
That feeling isn’t necessarily shared by everyone in the group, though.
“There was a culture clash, let’s put it that way,” says Jean-Hervé. “OK, Richard was definitely a great man. He was nice and he was clever and he was generous – he offered us hospitality and he bought me a guitar – but he definitely wasn’t into art. He was more like, ‘How can art create money?’.”
Hans-Joachim is more scathing.
“Branson was a businessman and he was always more interested in flying into space or buying islands,” he says. “I became so angry about him and also about Nettelbeck. I was close to beating them up. But I decided to leave England instead. Rudolf left too.”
What was Hans-Joachim’s problem with Nettelbeck?
“In the beginning, Uwe helped us, but in the end it cost us a lot of money. He was really…” – he pauses for a moment – “…not the person we thought he was. And he always wanted to be a producer, although he wasn’t that at all. We let him put that he was on the records, but he wasn’t. He had no idea about music.”
According to Faust folklore, Nettelbeck pulled together the tracks from the ‘Faust IV’ sessions and handed them over to Branson without the band’s permission. The consequences of this action were both a triumph and a catastrophe.
“Uwe had to canonise our efforts and our energies,” says Jean-Hervé. “That’s why Hans-Joachim and Rudolf – two extreme people – decided to leave the band. But if Uwe hadn’t been there, there wouldn’t have been a ‘Krautrock’, or a ‘Jennifer’, or a ‘Sad Skinhead’. There wouldn’t have been a ‘Faust IV’ at all.”
Hans-Joachim vehemently disagrees.
“That arsehole did nothing!” he splutters. “He only collected money.”
It’s sad that Rudolf Sosna is the only one of the original six who isn’t here to witness the release of ‘Faust 5 ½’, or ‘Punkt’ as the album is now known. Pronounced “poonked”, it means “full stop” in German, although it works as a bilingual pun too. All of the surviving members of Faust are delighted that this long-lost freaktronic gem can finally be heard pretty much as they intended it to be.
“For sure!” says Hans-Joachim. “I’ve been listening to these recordings for years. I was happy with how crazy I thought they sounded at the time.”
“I’m so pleased this record is coming out,” adds Jean-Hervé.
Which leaves one final question. What happened after Jean-Hervé, Hans-Joachim and Rudolf were arrested by the police at the Arabella-Hochhaus in Munich?
“The mother of Hans-Joachim and the mother of Rudolf bailed us out and got us free,” laughs Jean-Hervé. “I could try to make it sound very adventurous and splendid, but we were saved by our mamas.”
If the youth really were working out their blues, as Julian Cope suggests, then perhaps Faust at least have some kind of closure.
“I’m afraid the mother of Hans-Joachim isn’t alive anymore and I’m pretty sure that the mother of Rudolf has passed too now, but I wish I could present the boxset to them. Thank you mamas, you saved this music.”
‘Faust 1971-1974’ is released by Bureau B