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The Dream Syndicate
Tony Conrad and Jean-Hervé Péron
Faust Mailing List, Sep 2004
Tony Conrad: I basically said, "Keep an even beat going throughout the whole thing", which is almost impossible. When I worked with Faust, I told the bass player this, but they didn't believe me.
They don't even remember working with me. When it all came back recently, they had no recollection at all of working with me. I think they knew the record existed, somehow Uwe Nettelbeck had sucked it out of them. There were probably many reasons for that, including the fact that somebody must have been burning a pot field around where they were working, because there was so, so much pot smoke in the air. It was incredible. And who could remember anything under those conditions. I told them that they should just keep the beat steady, but when you play like that for a half-hour, it's really unbelievably difficult and painful. Like when we played at Queen Elizabeth Hall in London, Jean was playing with great fervour. I said, "Let's play for 50 minutes." The set broke down and we stopped early, and he came back and he was very excited, and he showed how his fingers were bleeding. He was ready to play more - the flesh was actually stripped off his fingers, (laughs) it was a nightmare, I couldn't believe it was happening.
Why and how did the collaboration with Faust come about? Why did you choose them? Were you aware of their music?
I was approached by a filmmaker in New York, who was aware of my music, who was from Hamburg, and he told me that he knew a producer who would be interested in me, and that maybe we could make a record. So we set up a date, and as a matter of fact, at the time I had been working as an electronics technician for a small company that was planning to send me to Paris. That was because I was good at sales, and we were going to have an expo in Paris. But then the kid who owned the company got his college roommate to learn the electronics instead of me boning up on my French, and his roommate went and I stayed at home. So I quit, and decided to go to Europe anyway. La Monte had been commissioned to do a room for [large annual German art show] Documenta in '72 and he hired me to be his engineer. So I did that, and when I was finished, I showed my films around, and went to Berlin, because I had, something more than a decade earlier, spent half a year bumming around in East Berlin, and I had all of these friends from this very strange scene, which is now part of some history that is so weird and gone that no one will ever understand how strange it was. But it was the most extraordinary situation I was ever in in my life, and I wanted to go back and hang out with my friends in East Berlin.
And after I did that, I flew to Hamburg, and was met by Uwe Nettelbeck, who took me to this farmhouse, and there were these people hanging around out there, I didn't know who they were. [laughs] It was these people Faust. And they had been, to some substantial degree, incarcerated in this farmhouse for months, and they had their partners and sexual liaisons and different social complexities enacted on a long-term basis within this farmhouse. It was a microcosm, where everything seemed to have been evolving in some strange way over the course of months and months. It was no wonder that they really didn't really have a lot of involvement with me, and I thought of them as musicians that I could use in my record. But Uwe said that they wanted to do stuff too, so we did one that was my style, and one that was more like a rock 'n' roll style. That's how there's two sides.
Jean-Hervé Péron: Ooooooooooooh Tony! The Queen Elizabeth Hall gig was quite something! i thought it lasted longer than 50 minutes though... time is relative said einstein and can be bent. Zappi and I (and Tony?) agreed that i would stop the piece (someone HAD TO STOP IT you know or else we'd just all dehydrate on stage as no one would dare stop it it first :) and the SIGN was me hitting a cobble stone with a sledge hammer ( just to make sure noone could incidentally overhear it :) and that was my main concern during the whole show even when i lost my plectrum in the first five minutes and realize i did not think of of a spare one... even when i broke the E-string on my bass....even when i saw blood dripping at my feet...the idea of this small square hard granit stone and this small hard steel head and me me beeing as the vector of a perfect trajectoire ending with a clean impact and hundreds of people watching this..... ooooooooh Tony, what if i miss?? WHAT IF I MISS ??
This obsessive idea helped me through the whole show. The violins and the celli were burning their highpitch ferociously equalized tones in my brain, Zappi was sweating his wild dog-sweat and the stone just laid there, waiting patiently for its fortune that's why i was so excited, at the end,,,
because it stopped
because I did not miss :))
In fact I do remember the recordings at Wümme as something very special which, in the meantime, is more familiar to me: it was the feeling of drifting off your body. I feel similar through dynamic meditation. i do remember the face of both Tony and Zappi and the smell of them ...quite clearly indeed. Nevertheless Tony is right on the fact that we smoked more than average.
Alan (faust List): I was at the QEH gig (in 1994?) and it really was an extraordinary experience. I'm sure it was more than 50 minutes as well.
A strange thing began to happen after about 15 minutes where the way your ears work seemed to change - it's hard to explain exactly but several people I spoke to felt the same.
A few years later I spoke to Zappi about the gig and all he said was "I think it was very loud"... as indeed it was :)
Jean-Hervé Péron: The fact that people had the feeling that "something changed" is probably purely morphological:: the great lord designed our ear system with a "limiter" so whatever comes to our ears and exceed whatever the Maker thought intolerable will be cut off. Our ears close! yeah, hallelujah, that's hi-tech, that is love, that is a wonder, and it is good. I remember Jim O'Rourke and Tony fiddling at the mixing desk with a look in their eyes which was a mixture of anger (the sound man did not meet their wishes obviously), amusement , mischief and insanity. We, on stage, were privileged cos the sound was not that loud but Zappi is always very surprising by his comments....Tony Conrad and Jean-Hervé Péron, "", Faust Mailing List 2004