1. Everything comes together
We sat down in the basement of Jazzgalerie bar/restaurant with Hans Falb, the mastermind of Konfrontationen festival, and Philipp Schmickl, editor of The Oral magazine. Down in the chilly room, enjoying a cold spritzer and surrounded by hundreds of amazing records, we discussed a little bit of the history of the festival from Nickelsdorf, which is happening for almost four decades.
Hans, what are some of the albums that you were listening to in the ‘70s that made you think about wanting to do a festival? What were you trippin’ out on, back then?
Hans Falb: I was tripping out on Led Zeppelin, Rolling Stones and all this shit. After that I discovered the quality of funk and soul; electric jazz, fusion. And I didn’t know I would create a festival like this. It just developed by itself. I wasn’t like ‘I want to do this festival’. I was socialized in the ’68 generation; interested in politics, literature, black music, Afro-American culture; I was reading and reading and reading, listening and listening. The music of Archie Shepp and John Coltrane radicalized me.
I started the restaurant in ’76. Two years before, from ’74, when I finished the high school, to ’76, I was traveling, hitchhiking around the whole Europe, from Turkey, from Syria and the Lebanese border until up to North Sweden and West of Spain, the Atlantic coast….I was restless and I wanted to learn. I think I learned more on the roads than I learned in 8 years of high-school. I discovered all kinds of different cultures: gypsy culture, traveling people, hippie culture. I was always on the side of poor people, proletarian people; and I wanted to make money with something, you know?
So, the first festival.
Hans: Ok. The first festival…It was in 1979 and it was not called Kontrontationen, but ‘Four days of new music’. It happened down here on two weekends. I remember I had David Murray playing solo in front of five people, including myself. Two people bought a ticket for the David Murray solo. So he was walking from this door, and he started playing ‘Flowers for Albert’. And he was walking alone in the room; nobody was here. (laughs).
And there were also Dadaistic performances, surrealistic performances, from Minus Delta T. Minus Delta T acted in the public area, trying to disrupt the usual perspectives on things and stood in the best actionist tradition. They did a project in the early ‘80s, travelling in a big truck; they took a stone from Great Britain, 5 tons and half, left the careers of South Wales in England (origin of the site of Stonehenge) as far as Asia. And while they travelled with the stone, everything was recorded and broadcasted on Austrian Radio. So they would play music on the borders and meet local musicians, gypsy musicians, or musicians from Yugoslavia, Greece, Bulgaria, Turkey. And it was all broadcasted for two or three months on the Austrian Radio. They did this performance here and one of the guys was heavily wounded, because he jumped through the glass door. Yes, there was a glass door, before. And then they put him in hospital, and the next day police came to my place, because he escaped from the hospital, he didn’t want to stay there. They found his bloody shirts and maybe they were thinking that somebody got murdered. And I was like ‘no, he jumped through this door…but it was part of the performance.’ That was odd. And the police was like ‘what? What are you talking about?’
So yeah, everything is coming together. From the free jazz revolution, from Black Panthers, African culture, from crazy European surrealistic movements, Dadaistic situations.
Also, another story, that nobody believes. There was one Czech guy, called Karel Dudesek, also from the Minus Delta T movement. I think it was in the early ‘80s. They faked some American uniforms, generals, went from West Berlin to East Berlin, crossed the border and went to Poland, saying they’re inspecting the military camps. ‘The revolution is coming soon, we have to inspect the bureau of health, we want to bring the American army to Russia.’ It was still when the Russian pact was intact. And they travelled through Poland for - like - a couple of weeks, in all different cities and the military camp, and then back to Eastern Germany, and finally they went to checkpoint back to west, and they went to the most expensive shop in Berlin. So they went in the American uniforms and bought some champaign or whatever, from that shop. The detective of the house looked at the uniforms and said ‘these are fake uniforms, you’re not from the American army’. (Laughs) Nobody in Poland or in East Germany discovered they were wearing fake uniforms.
“I was restless and I wanted to learn. I think I learned more on the roads than I learned in 8 years of high-school. I discovered all kinds of different cultures: gypsy culture, travelling people, hippie culture. I was always on the side of poor people, proletarian people;”