Ask any group of artists, “Which is most important: fame, money or being appreciated?” and you’re guaranteed to get differing answers. Jean-Hervé Peron, bassist for legendary krautrock group Faust, would likely choose the third option.
Faust never attained commercial success (“Though we’ll keep on trying!” Peron quips, via email). But Peron feels most proud when he sees fans — who were not even alive in Faust’s early-’70s heyday — now entranced by the band’s forward-thinking grooves. “It makes me very happy to see the stars in the eyes of our young audience in the first 10 rows,” he writes. “It is very motivating, and maybe a sign that our dilettantism, spontaneity and dadaism is the right path.”
Peron’s humility is refreshing in a world of egomaniacal rock stars, few of whom would embrace the “dilettante” label, though maybe something is lost in translation. (Peron’s first language is French.) Approaching 67 and as sharp and witty as ever, the Frenchman says that the best music he’s heard recently was a 10-year-old girl, the daughter of Chicago musicians Bobby Conn and Monica Boubou, practicing violin. Peron describes it as “harsh, but educational.” The fact that Peron still realizes he has something to learn from the youngest of musicians shows his wisdom and his taste for the raw and unconventional.
Faust has long been considered among the most experimental of the early-’70s krautrock bands, and through the subsequent decades, has continued to make challenging, adventurous and often beautiful music.
When asked which album is his favorite, Peron writes, “This is a cruel question, like asking which of your children you prefer.” Nevertheless, he singles out the 1971 self-titled debut, which “kicked off our saga and pointed out the direction”; 1973’s Faust Tapes, “for introducing the cut-and-paste approach to popular music”; 1994’s Rien, “for its brutal nakedness”; and the latest, 2014’s jUSt, “because it seems to be the start of something new.”
The existence of the band has been a bit contentious in its post-reunion life; two distinct groups have emerged, both called Faust, and featuring different lineups. (In the incarnation fans will see this week, Peron is joined by fellow founding member Werner “Zappi” Diermaier on drums.) In other interviews, Peron’s response to this schism has been to point out that two is better than one — evidence that there are no hard feelings. I asked him how he remains so positive in the face of such a division; he suggested that artists remember that differences are usually only creative, and not personal, and offered this cryptic piece of advice: “Don’t be afraid to be ugly.”
However, when asked about Diermaier, his longtime musical collaborator, Peron had only a brief and cheeky response: “I hate him.” It was, however, punctuated with a smiling emoticon. I think if you were to take any artist aside and ask about a longtime creative partner, he or she would say something similar.