Flux Festival of New Music

Ed Baxter

Resonance, 21 Aug 1997

Ed was the tour manager for Faust's appearance at the Edinburgh Flux Festival

Jaffa Cake Club, Edinburgh, August 21 1997

I have just sat down for my only meal of the day, little realising that I am the condemned man. Had I known, I would perhaps not have had lasagne and baked apple. On the other tables in the Live in EdinburghJaffa Cake's makeshift refectory are assorted hippies, record company executives, bouncers and the beautiful people. The opening line from Sacher-Masoch's Venus in Furs comes to mind: "I find myself in excellent company."

I'm in Edinburgh to help out some of the hippies. This means twenty hours waiting in a black-painted room while Zappi Diermaier and Jochen Irmler set up the combination of rock group and scrap metal exhibition that is Faust's current incarnation. I introduce them to the ever-beaming David Sefton, the hyperactive co-organiser of Flux, whose mobile phone is never silent. Jochen plays keyboards and smiles a lot. Zappi plays drums and lights fires. As the day goes on, the surly sound-engineer warms to the band. I go buy them a bottle of whisky. Everyone seems pleased to be there. Why is it that I've a knot in my stomach? I bite into another piece of apple.

Jochen walks in, turns to me and smiles.
"Can you come upstairs and see what you think? We want to set off a kind of, a kind of firework really."
"A firework? What, an indoor sort of thing?"
"A Catherine wheel I suppose you'd call it - it shoots up flames into the air."
"It sounds a little dangerous. Do you mean a flare?"
"It's magnesium. He's done it many times before. We thought we ought to see if it hits the ceiling or not."
"Oh, fuck. They've just had the club redecorated. I know it's just black paint but I don't think the owner'd be too pleased if you set the place on fire."
"No, no, it's all going to be fine, we just want to set off our little bomb."
"A bomb? Oh for Chrisake, don't do this to me. What is it with you people? Okay, I suppose it's pointless me saying, 'You can't set off a bomb.'"
"Well, yes - I mean Zappi will do it whether we tell him no or yes, so maybe you should just come and see."

Upstairs. The stage is littered with the contents of a junkyard. Lars, Faust's pyromaniac roadie, is holding a timing device. He presses a button and two enormous flares shoot a steady torrent of Zappipink-tinged magnesium flame towards the ceiling. It looks to me like the polystyrene is melting, but it could be that I'm imagining it. The room fills with thick pink smoke. I visualise the hall packed with people, the panic as they rush for the exits, and recall being knocked down last time the band played with fire.
"This is what always fucking well gets me about you lot, why do you have to fill the place with smoke? It's just a pain in the arse. I've only got the one set of clothes."
"You see, it's all under control." The flare continues to burn wildly.
"Please don't do this. Think of my ulcer. Look, don't you think that the music will be strong enough without having to set off these fireworks? How many are there?" I groan. "I guess it'd be okay as long as you do it at the end of the gig, right?"
"Oh, four, five..."
"Wouldn't one be enough? What if someone gets killed? This is only a fucking rock concert."
"Well, we won't point them at the audience."
"Oh, great. Okay, do what you like, I wash my hands of it. Just don't tell anyone." Rule number one.

Later - show time. The room is full, hot and thick with cigarette smoke. More or less immediately, Zappi lights a flare which has the bouncers cowering against the walls. The owner of the club has somehow got trapped in the area between the stage and the safety barrier, perhaps assuming it's safe. Suddenly five piles of some powder which I hadn't noticed before are detonated by Lars and Big Rab, the owner, disappears behind a wall of fire, about six foot tall, which rises up between band and audience. I look around, can't decide whether to dial 999, dive out the dressing room window, or take photographs of the victims as they are crushed underfoot, burned to a crisp, or suffocate in the fumes. Nobody moves - most of the audience can't see how big the flames are and those at the front are pinned against the barrier. Maybe they are too stoned to be worried. Worse still, they probably think it's a carefully controlled stunt. Like that woman who was kidnapped - "I kept expecting Jeremy Beadle to appear at any minute". Years of watching tv have addled their brains and they're unable to spot reality when they see it. The ceiling will go up any minute, I can nearly smell the singed eyebrows and see tomorrow's headlines. Perhaps I can blame Sefton, whose charred remains will be found alongside the Big Rab's. By the time I've reached the extinguisher, the flames have abruptly died down and the concert continues as if nothing has happened. Everyone has a great time. Everyone except me. I am - I was going to say paid to worry, but I remember that I am not being paid. This is all for the hell of it. My holiday.

"You worry too much," Jochen tells me later. He hands me a whisky and we toast another close call. I have just got to get a proper job.

Next morning they're leaving. Habit means they're worried that the hotel bill hasn't been fully met. I walk up to Jochen, who's about to get in the van, and tell him earnestly that he has to go back to the hotel, something's up, the band had better stay put. A shadow crosses his face, for the first time he looks doubtful, even alarmed.

"They say you can't leave, one of you broke the soap in your room. You'd better have a good explanation, I can tell you."

It doesn't pay anything, but for the second or two it takes him to figure this out I have my minutely brief but exquisite moment of revenge.

Ed Baxter, "Flux Festival of New Music", Resonance 1997, © Ed Baxter