Arts

For krautrock icons Faust, the revolution goes on

“In the history of Faust, there are two things that have been very important — food and dogs,” says frontman Jean-Herve Peron (left). Percussionist Werner Diermaier is shown at right.
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“In the history of Faust, there are two things that have been very important — food and dogs,” says frontman Jean-Herve Peron (left). Percussionist Werner Diermaier is shown at right.

For decades, says Jean-Herve Peron, the idea of pleasing an audience was totally out of the question for his long-running band, the experimental German group Faust.

“I would say in the past we did not consider at all the impact on the people — are they going to like it or not? This was totally irrelevant,” Peron says cheerfully. “We were young and ruthless. Now, we’re a little more respectful. This is new, yes.”

Faust, which plays in its current incarnation — stylized faUSt — at the Brighton Music Hall on Wednesday, had a brief, notable run in the early 1970s as one of the originators of the avant-garde rock music known (at first derisively, later with reverence) as “krautrock.” In fact, Faust opened one of its studio albums with a droning 11-minute instrumental track called “Krautrock.”

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Alongside Can, Kraftwerk, and Neu!, Faust created a chemistry lab of music, sometimes jarring, often trance-inducing, either passively disregarding or actively sabotaging all existing convention. To Peron — a French national who spent much of 1968 as a foreign exchange student in Schenectady, N.Y., before relocating to Hamburg — German youth at the time were desperate to remake their own culture.

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“Revolution was in the air,” he says, speaking on the phone from the farmhouse he shares in northern Germany with several women, including his partner and his daughter. “They were trying to find a new identity to fill up the vacuum left after World War II. There was a tendency in Europe, very strong in Germany, to find new art, a new social order, new music.”

In Hamburg, Faust — “fist” in German — was created when producer and journalist Uwe Nettelbeck brought together the members of two arty local bands. The new bandmates — Peron, guitarist Rudolf Sosna, keyboardist Hans Joachim Irmler, multi-instrumentalist Gunther Wusthoff, and percussionists Arnulf Meifert and Werner Diermaier (known as “Zappi” for his love of Frank Zappa’s music) — became the first “krautrock” band signed to a major label.

Inspired by surrealism and the found sounds of musique concrete, the new band announced its iconoclasm straight away, opening its 1971 debut album by roughing up snippets of the Beatles’ “All You Need Is Love” and the Rolling Stones’ “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.”

“We created our own text,” says Peron. “Our own Dada, political text.”

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The band members sequestered themselves in a series of rural commune-style homes, including an old schoolhouse that became part of the murky Faust legend.

“It was very much like a monastery,” Peron recalls. “There was nobody around. We lived most of the time naked.”

Yes, he readily agrees, they did their share of drugs, “but maybe not as much as the legend is saying.” They spent just as many days practicing other methods of mind-alteration, he claims, such as Kundalini meditation (“shake, shake, shake — it calls up the chakras”) and “hyperventilating at the moon — shout, shout, shout, until it’s all white in your head.” All of which did “help, I must say, to see life in a different way.”

Over the phone line, a dog barks in the background.

“Meet Panou,” Peron says. “He’s what you call a bastard, a mongrel. He’s a fantastic dog — dark as night, and sweet as a lamb. In the history of Faust, there are two things that have been very important — food and dogs.”

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Among its early albums, the band released a hypnotic collaboration with Tony Conrad, an avant-garde composer and filmmaker from Concord, N.H. (The late Conrad, who died in 2016, was briefly involved in the mid-1960s with the band that would become the Velvet Underground.) But by 1975, unsurprisingly disappointing to their record companies on a commercial level, the members of Faust quietly disappeared from the music world.

‘In the history of Faust, there are two things that have been very important — food and dogs.’

For almost two decades, the band’s whereabouts was largely a mystery. Peron allows only that he worked for a time in the film industry, then had “a big depression.”

After several original members reunited, the band toured the United States for the first time in 1994, with Sonic Youth as an opening act. The Chicago minimalist Jim O’Rourke produced a reunion album, “Rien,” that year. Since then, Faust has released a steady stream of recordings — at least one of which, 2010’s “Faust Is Last,” is credited to Irmler’s alternate version of the band.

The latest, 2017’s “Fresh Air,” features Peron and Diermaier, who are for all intents and purposes the remaining standard-bearers of the original band. (Meifert left the fold early on; Sosna died in 1996; Wusthoff has not been involved with any of the reunions.) On tour, Peron is the frontman, playing various instruments and objects, reciting spoken lyrics, and busting out the occasional chanson. Auxiliary members include Amaury Cambuzat, who plays guitar, and Tim Barnes on drums.

Irmler never liked to tour, Peron says, and they’re no longer in contact with each other. Yet they’ve managed to peacefully coexist, even while recording as two different iterations of Faust.

“Although we do not communicate, we splendidly ignore one another,” Peron says, adding that “there are no lawyers involved . . . Zappi and myself, we love the audience. We’re hooked on being onstage.”

He remembers well the recording that inspired the first piece of music his band made together nearly 50 years ago. To this day, it represents Faust’s arch intentions.

“It was someone reading an ad for a washing machine,” Peron explains: “ ‘This machine is so sophisticated, you do not have to think anymore.’ ”

FAUST

At Brighton Music Hall, Allston, July 18 at 8 p.m. Tickets $20, www.crossroadspresents.com

James Sullivan can be reached at jamesgsullivan@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @sullivanjames.