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
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
(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
"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
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.