The Young Gods have returned with a new cd, “Super Ready/Fragmente” and on May 4, 2007 did a special acoustic show at the Swiss Institute in New York. Since sampling and sound manipulation have been such a big part of the Young Gods style, the idea of them performing on acoustic instruments may seem surprising. But it really does come across well. Prior to the performance, I spoke to frontman Franz Treichler about performing acoustically, the evolution of the band, and more.
Chaos Control : I was initially surprised to hear about Young Gods doing acoustic shows. What made you decide to perform in this format?
Franz Treichler:”Basically, we only do a few. We started doing these last November, for very special occasions. Like when a book came out about the Young Gods, for the release of that we did an acoustic show for the very first time. It turned out really well, so we thought we’d keep on doing a few of those shows. We did only Switzerland, not that many shows, maybe 20 or so. Once in a while, people ask us to do something a bit different than the in-your-face wall of electric guitars and samples. It’s something that we discovered we appreciate while doing it, so that’s also why we’re going to carry on doing it when possible. We’re probably going to do a recording of this, either live or in the studio. It made us aware that some of the Young Gods music can be interpreted very differently, and it works. ‘If You Stay Tonight,’ as you probably noticed, it’s the same music, just a different approach, a different angle, and perspective. It’s great. And as a singer, it’s great because it leaves me more room.”
Chaos Control : Was it difficult figuring out which songs were most appropriate for acoustic performance?
Franz Treichler:”Well it was very fast. Some songs obviously didn’t work, and we didn’t try too long. For this project we have a fourth member, Vincent Haenni, so we have three guitars and percussion. I don’t have to play too much myself while singing.”
Chaos Control : Do you think the experience will have an effect on future Young Gods material and recordings?
Franz Treichler:”Yes. I used to be a guitar player before starting the Young Gods and using samples. So was Al. We had to kind of go back to the instrument and work a bit, because we lost a lot during those 20 years of sampling madness. And it was a good thing, because we really enjoyed it and are probably going to include it on the next record. We’re going to probably use guitars again. I don’t know exactly how we’re going to do it, but it definitely gives inspiration.”
Chaos Control : Young Gods have been pioneering in their use of sampling. What was it like working with the limited technology when you started? How has the evolution of it affected the way you work?
Franz Treichler:”Well of course the technology has evolved very much in the last 20 years. It’s just more flexible and more organic. But the restriction of the technology when we started was also a source of inspiration. You had to be more minimal, which was also a good thing. We adapt as much as the technology evolves, because we are very interested by what it becomes and what it is about to become. I think when we did ‘Second Nature’ in the year 2000, we approached it with more electronic synthesizers, plug-ins and computers because we wanted to do more than just using samples like we always did before. For this record that just came out, it’s a mixture of what we learned with the electronics, with laptops and things, and the samples. I’m amazed when we look at the past. I still think that our first record is one of the best, you know. There was this energy .. it was a revolution, I think, when affordable samplers came onto the market. It was really, really different. You could compose purely with sound, and didn’t have to worry about tonalities or tuning guitars. It was really something.
“Most of the time anyway, the idea was not to quote the band you were sampling. It was more like the quality of the sound was such that it was triggering another idea, was triggering a beat or something. I would say that some of the material has grown a bit old, but some not at all. There’s so much stuff that is done with samplers nowadays, you don’t do it in the same manner. I still believe that what is interesting about sampling is getting close to the sound and manipulating it.”
Chaos Control : Did you ever think that the band would still be around over 20 years later?
Franz Treichler:”I’m kind of glad and surprised that we still have this energy!”
Chaos Control : At what point did you realize that this was a long-term project?
Franz Treichler:”When we started to put together the 20-year compilation in 2005. I was kind of afraid at first to do a compilation. I was thinking why try to dig in the past and put that stuff together? I was more interested in doing new things. But then a close friend convinced us, and I think it was a really good idea. When we started working on it, everybody made their list of their top 20. I was somehow proud that we kept on going, through whatever label we were on, trouble with the industry, or changes in the band. I’m really glad we kept on going.”
Chaos Control : Do you have any plans for more performances in America after this one-off acoustic show?
Franz Treichler:”We’re talking about doing a tour with the Melvins in September or October. That would be interesting, definitely.”
Chaos Control : How did you come to sign with Ipecac?
Franz Treichler:”Mike Patton approached us in the very first days of Ipecac. It wasn’t that easy because we were already on a world contract. But as soon as we could, he released ‘Second Nature.’ That was in 2000.”
Chaos Control : What was the experience like being on a major US label (Interscope) for the “Only Heaven” album?
Franz Treichler:”They were really fair, and I have nothing else to say but ‘thank you.’ After ‘TV Sky’ we had like five propositions from the States, all the major companies basically. Geffen, Sony, Mercury, BMG, and Interscope. They were the most down to earth kind of people. What happened was that when we delivered the tapes, they were telling us that it was too European, and we didn’t really know what that meant at the time. For us, it was a logical follow-up to ‘TV Sky.’ But they said fine, and that they’d work it. And we toured for quite a lot time, we did 2 American tours. When you get a company like this behind you, if you want to make it big in the States I think you need to stay here and tour, tour, tour. It’s the only way to make people know you exist. We didn’t want to do that. We still wanted to divide our time between the States and Europe. When we stopped that tour, our former drummer wanted to stop music. For us, it was some kind of a sign. We’d been doing this pace of things for 11 or 12 years non-stop, we wanted to take it easy for about 6,7 or 8 months. So we took the equipment back to Switzerland.
“But Interscope was still interested. We delivered the ambient record, ‘Heaven Deconstruction,’ in ’97. They were really fair. They said ‘we don’t know how to work this kind of music, why don’t you do this one-off on an indie label, and come back when you have more rock-oriented material?’ And we said fine. Shortly after that, they got bought and I think top management decided to get rid of all the bands who were not selling more than 300,000 or something. And that was it. So, it was a very nice adventure. After that, and with problems with our former European label Play It Again Sam, we started to freak out over major labels. We wanted to go with small labels. Of course, you lose a lot of attention, a lot of people think you don’t exist anymore. But what we’ve given up, creatively it catches up. We like the new record very much; we’ve done lots of projects. We’ve diversified with a lot of crazy projects that we’re going to present in the next couple of years.”