I first found their debut album in a second hand shop in Plymouth when I was 17ish. Fabulous. I now have most of their vinyl before RIEN. My copy of FAUST TAPES [Virgin 1973] has a Bridget Riley picture ("Crest") on the cover.
I first saw them perform live at
QEH with Tony Conrad on
1995-02-17, when AMM supported. Awesome. Then I saw them play at The Garage
in October 1998 on their
'Faust invasion of the British Isles'
tour; they'd also played an identical set there in 1996 with
Jean-Herve Peron. Recordings of these (and many other) concerts are now
available from Jean-Herve Peron's
Here's my review of the 1998 gig that was published in
November 1999 (my debut in print!):
F a u s t
Invasion of the British Isles
Concert report by Malcolm Smith
The Garage, Highbury & Islington, London - 1998-10-25
After witnessing what they did in the Queen Elizabeth Hall at London's hallowed South Bank Centre a few years ago, I couldn't miss this chance to catch the masters of Krautrock again at work.
Apparently they'd been busy in the manufacturing side of things. The small stage was crammed with two seriously equipped drum kits, arranged back-to-back, a whole host of analogue devices and amplifiers, some hidden keyboards and a double bass. The fenced-off area at the front of the stage houses a large metal bench surrounded by heavy machinery.
The set kicked-off late. Starting with "Subterranean" and Zappi Diermaier's pounding rhythms in 5/8 then 11/8 (similar to Magic Brew on the 1997 TRAFICS 10") setting the pace with distorted skin-tingling bass, singing and guitar feedback. A short interlude "Silver Silence" for double bass followed, before big-man Zappi walked to the front of the stage, lifted a television above his head strolling about a bit threateningly and threw it to the ground. The resultant explosion marked the start of "Noise Blocks", with Zappi finding his sticks again amidst the dense smoke obscuring everything for a moment. As the power built up, so the tools came out, a pneumatic drill blasting along with the bass and drum groove, then a continuous grinding roll on the metal bench. Sparks flew and people cheered. After this onslaught we were treated to an ethereal flute solo "Walking In The Forest" from the bassist, a la WAKES NOSFERATU, before "Earth Hammer" with heavy industry metal blocks [Obviously Malc didn't see this bit, as at one point Zappi bounded off the stage with a sledgehammer, and furiously pounded a suspended metal sheet whilst screaming the words graffiti'd on it - Alan] followed by "Expanding" and a fuzzed-out lion-roaring guitar solo "The Echoplex" as the other members retired off the stage.
Returning with "Broken Reality" and "D-Machine", Zappi displayed his tender side gently playing metal bars back and forth along his beloved bench, mesmerising and swaying the audience into caressed submission, launching into the fireworks-lit finale "e-o2" - undoubtedly their piece de resistance - an epic march for drums, bass, guitar, fire alarms and oxyacetylene torch, culminating in a speech 'auf Deutsch' by Zappi holding aloft a red flare canister. No prisoners.
After a riotous applause came a rather dangerous little encore "A Smash" (could be a hit?), a kind of mutated version of the Munic-Yesterday funky drum loop, played thrice through to get the message home. Then an explosion ended the evening with billowing clouds of unbreathable fumes. The packed house soon evacuated via the fire exits to find oxygen, where we met the band members outside, coughing and spluttering in hysterics. The security guards prevented anyone going back in as they tried to ascertain what had happened and ensure everyone's safety. But three of the band members managed to slip back in and continue playing for a while before the smoke got too much and the fire brigade arrived.
"In all the chaos that ensued no-one was harmed but rather changed..."
On finding no damage nor casualties the confusion was dispelled, and I took this opportunity to ask Zappi what had happened (as he autographed my copy of TRAFICS). Apparently the smoke they had this time was different smoke and it was "too much!", he told me and "the last song was about war". I pursued the matter no further, but shall proudly tell my grandchildren that "I was there when the Germans took London". Someone warn Dublin and Glasgow - run for the hills!
[Audion Editor's note - The titles of performed works are noted "in quotes", as these titles that Malcolm uses are based on the listing given on the flyer handed out to the audience at the gig. This intimated that these were the tracks as performed and to appear on their next album. However, many of these pieces were actually reworks of themes from WAKES NOSFERATU, or are now known from RAVVIVANDO, but with different titles.]
© copyright Malcolm Smith 2002-12-06 - last updated 2006-06-25 - links verified 2006-06-25