Meet The Young Gods. Pt. 1

ATN Toronto correspondent John Walker spent some time with the Young Gods

last week. Here is his report: Sitting down for a couple rounds of drinks

with Franz Treichler, lead

singer, composer and lyricist of Switzerland's The Young Gods, as I

did this past Wednesday (Aug. 2) before the band's incendiary Toronto

concert, is certainly one of the most pleasurable experiences a rock

journalist can have in the line of duty. Articulate, thoughtful, and

downright funny, Treichler offered a plethora of insights into his

band's music, especially as found on their stunning new album Only

Heaven.

ON BECOMING A YOUNG GOD

Treichler frowned initially as I showed a him a section on The Young

Gods from The Sex Revolts: Gender, Rebellion and Rock N' Roll, the

Paglia-esque new book by Simon Reynolds and Joy Press. "I don't care

for the Nietzschean interpretation," he said bemusedly, "although

Reynolds is into that kind of thing." For Treichler, the concept of a

Young God was initially "synonymous with a human being--how we aspire

to something and never get there, we fall on our asses--we're destined to

always die young gods, never-gods." Not the ubermensch, but the

untermensch.

(One line from the Sex Revolts did elicit approval, however:

"The Cyber-Stooges, that's good, I'll take that," laughed Iggy fan #1

Treichler, who would speak during the interview in reverential tones

of the Stooges' Funhouse as "brilliant, magic.")

Lest anyone think that Treichler is all philosophy and no fun,

however, he also quickly offered up another source of the band's

name and provided a bit of rock 'n' roll gossip. True to form for a

man whose power trio has replaced the guitar and bass with a sampler,

Treichler revealed that he also "sampled" the name Young Gods, much to

the chagrin of one Michael R. Gira, brilliant but cantankerous leader

of the Swans.

"'Young God' was a song of the Swans," he says. "I was working in a

club in Switzerland and I booked the Swans, back in 1983 or '84. After

they played, I was cleaning up the stage and I noticed a song called

"Young God" was on the set list, and I went 'ahhhhh!' Later, Gira

claimed he owned the name and called his new record label Young God

Records. But he shot himself in the foot, because now everybody says,

'Oh, you got the name from that (Swiss) band?' (uproarious laughter).

He's really going to be pissed at me now!"

OPENING THE DOOR(S)

Only Heaven answers the musical

question: "What would a mutation of Kraftwerk and the Doors--with a

heavy side order of Metallic K.O. Stooge-metal--sound like?" Much of

the album melds the highway vibe of the first two bands, who produced

the two of the great driving songs: "Autobahn" and "L.A.

Woman." One characteristic track from the album which was simply

stunning in concert was the blistering "Speed of Night," which is

"L.A. Woman" on E, a pulsating journey through a psychic nether world,

with a shamanistic Treichler intoning "Yes, you can enter my heart /

But leave the door open" between fits of orgasmic undulation. So what

of this Doors-like vibe?

Unsurprisingly perhaps, given the sound of his band and the fact that

their critically lauded 1992 album TV Sky included an epic 20 minute

track called "Summer Eyes" that was half Doors homage (the other half

giving equal time to Pink Floyd), the Lizard King and his cohorts were

the basis of the initial rock experience for the young Franz, who,

living in a French-speaking area of multi-lingual Switzerland, was

initially impressed by the visual quality of the former U.C.L.A. film

student's music.

"My first record was L.A. Woman, he says fondly. "It was my

birthday; there was one record player in the house and my older

brother wanted the album, so he bought it and gave it to me (laughter).

He said, 'This isn't music to dance to, but to LISTEN to!' So I'd come

home from school and SIT AND LISTEN (adopts a frozen posture). It

was great; I couldn't understand the lyrics, but I still got it. The

combination of sounds and words can make your soul understand

something that you can't understand logically."

LOST IN THE STARS

I asked Treichler how interested he was in the extra-musical side of

the Doors legacy: is the Morrisonian rebel posture passe in this

ultra-corporate consumer age?

"No, I don't think so," he said. "It's partly a question of age . . . I'm a

Scorpio and we're very self-destructive, but I went through that trip

and decided that life was short and getting shorter (laughs), so . . .

I'm still here and hope to be for a while longer."

The band did a whole album of Kurt Weill covers (1991's The

Young Gods Play Kurt Weill, and their Toronto show included the YG's

thunderous version of Weill's "Speak Low." So I asked Treichler if he didn't

think that Weill and Brecht had proved

that singing could be a political act in and of itself?

"Yes, definitely, I really believe that. In my lyrics, I like to play

with contradiction. A song like "Kissing The Sun" (from Only

Heaven) can be about many things on many levels: apocalypse, or the

drive towards orgasm. As far as Weill goes, I am a huge fan.

'September Song' (also on Play Kurt Weill) is one of my very

favorites--I learned a lot from covering that about how to be intense

without always having to have a big drum bashing in the background

(laughs)."

In Part 2, Walker will ask the Young God about his nature

obsessions, about the end of post-modern irony in rock, and about the

split between European and American rock audiences, especially

focusing on post-grunge America.