Interview: Franz Treichler of The Young Gods

Ahead of the Swiss group's November 18th and 19th Akropolis shows, frontman Franz Treichler discusses 20 years of futuristic electronic rock innovation

Twenty years ago, The Young Gods leaned into the live use of samplers with the passion of punk, the finesse of 19th- and 20th-century composition and the rocking dynamics of industrial music.

The Young Gods' use of live drumming, live vocals and live real-time stage electronics stands out as a stark contrast to electronica's frequent addiction to autopilot. Their intuitive and proactive approach to performance is reflected in their latest double-CD retrospective release. On XX Years 1985-2005, rather than simply sequencing tracks into chronological order, the pieces skip back and forth across the decades with a continuous thread of animated futurism.

Although recent projects have included works with an orchestra, museum installations, and collaborations with the anthropologist/narrator Jeremy Narby (known as the Ambient Amazonian Project), their current tour promises to be a blend of edgy, lively ambience and the Young Gods' hard-rocking approach to electronica.

The Young Gods XXY [20 years] tour includes stops in Portugal, Croatia, France, the Netherlands, the UK, Belgium, Germany and their home country of Switzerland. The Young Gods appeared in Prague prior to the 1989 Velvet Revolution and Prague continues to be one of their favorite destinations.

Darrell Jónsson: Reflecting on your past 20 years of work, what continuing thread do you perceive in the Young Gods work?

Franz Treichler: A curiosity in sound. And then the positive impact of sound, beats, words, [and] voice on people, emotionally and physically.

DJ: How do you get heart and soul into music made by machines?

FT: The music is not made by machines, it is made by men and then part of it is executed by machines. In a live situation we work without a safety net, we have a live drummer and all the sounds are triggered by a keyboard manually. It makes it more flexible and at times fragile but has a direct impact.

I think there is an ongoing secret agreement between the Young Gods and their machines. we both want to show that we can cohabitate, the organic and the mechanic. There is a future.

DJ: Are you at all disappointed with the impact of samplers on popular music?

FT: No, I’m amazed by the way it has changed the whole music landscape: sampling is everywhere - hip-hop, R 'n' B, electronic music, rock. There are music styles that were born because of the existence of sampling, Drum 'n' bass for example.

DJ: Occasionally in the past it has been mentioned that the Young Gods vocal work owes something to Jim Morrison. Is there anything to this?

FT: There this one song where it is pretty obvious - Summer Eyes on our record called TV SKY. This song was some kind of a tribute to the Doors, especially in the beginning of the song.

DJ: What special impact did Morrison have on the Francophile world in your opinion?

FT: Maybe a dimension of grandeur coming from his [Morrison's] lyrics, a dimension that he actually got from the French poets like Rimbaud and Baudelaire. A round trip.

DJ: Is there anything about your music that you would regard as "Central European"?

FT: A mix of influences from the neighboring countries. We write music using a kind of collage technique. [working with] blues/industrial/cabaret/rock/electronic music. People here in Switzerland have considerable access to [world] culture and many [Swiss] artists use collage technique: Jean Tinguely (sculptures), Yello (music) and Pippilotti Rist (video art), for example.

DJ: Your recent work includes work in museums and work with orchestras. Do you see a new role for rock music in the Western civilization of the 21st century?

FT: No, the role is still the same to me; transmit anti-conservatism, anti-rationality, question marks, fun, energy and, at times, euphoria.

DJ: Does your music owe anything to the European classical tradition?

FT: I was classically trained (classical guitar) and I have not been able to get rid of all this teaching, mainly because I actually learned a lot of interesting things - for example, that "music is the organization of time." I think the best of this teaching is staying somewhere subconsciously.

DJ: What is it about Kurt Weill's music and lyrics that you find interesting?

FT: Kurt Weill and Berthold Brecht are the godfathers of Pop music (musique populaire). Take The Three Penny Opera: it was adventurous music (at times dissonant), sung with anti bello-canto singers, songs you can remember, sing along and the heroes are street people (priests, hookers, gangsters, anybody). Brecht's lyrics are clever and full of metaphors regarding the political context (the sinister atmosphere of emerging fascism). Avant-garde, popular and politically suggestive, [their music] is a good guideline.

DJ: Why is it relevant today?

FT: We’re living in strange times, much more dispersed than the 1930s. It is more difficult to spot the enemy! Weill and Brecht felt the Nazi wave coming. They wanted to react with music as a reaction toward the degradation of the political situation and the acceptation of this degradation. They became public enemy number one.

DJ: Is there anything else you would like to say to your audience in Prague?

FT: I have always had a great feeling with our Prague audience; it is warm, respectful and at times wild. I think it his due to the fact that we came to play in Prague for the first time before the revolution and there is maybe a kind of faithfulness in the air.

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"As a musician myself the sampler brought to my musical world a new range of sounds. Thanks to The Young Gods and their work."
Filipe Vidal

"As a fan of The Young Gods since 1993 I can only tell that their music has always been orignal. If I hear the song for the first time, after a few beats I can tell if it's TYG. Intelligent, innovative, emotional... amazing! That's what they are. I like very much Franz's point of view he expressed in this inteview. It's just a proof that I was right to think of him like of someone I know, even though we never met."
Novi Sad, Serbia
April 27th, 2006

"Seeing The Young Gods two days ago in Den Bosch was a religious experience for me. They struck me as a very warm and friendly lads. I was on the verge of tears twice during the concert. Thank you TYG!"
September 4th, 2006

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