Just recently I had an email drop into my inbox highlighting a new single from the Young Gods and sending me into memory free fall all the way back to 1993 and a Young Gods performance on the Phoenix Festival main stage supporting a Mike Patten led Faith no More at the time they definitely piqued my interest but as is the want with festivals you see so many bands in such a short space of time things blur and the band slipped out of my consciousness,
The next time I came across the band was within an Interview of David Bowie in 1995, when he was asked whether NIN had influenced the creation of the Outside LP “His reply was that he was actually listening to a Swiss band at the time called The Young Gods, things came together and I re-tracked the band and was blown away by the first three LP’s The Young Gods, L’eau Rouge and T.V. Sky (which remains a fave up to today)
Franz, what can you tell us about the early days of The Young Gods? How did the band start out? What influenced the music?
We were born in the 60s and grew up during the 70s. Our first musical loves come from that period. Early psychedelism and later on punk, influenced us a lot.
We started the band in 1985 and at that time our main influences were Einstürzende Neubauten, Kraftwerk and postpunk. (Killing Joke, Wire, Gang of Four…) I think The Young Gods is a bit of all that: psychedelism with a punk energy. But the real thing that influenced us the most was the new technology of the time: the sampler. When affordable sampling devices came on the market, that totally changed my approach on writing music. No more chords, harmonies, E or A strings, just pure sound. A collage of sounds, that’s how you can call our music in the early days.
For someone hearing the Young Gods for the first time, how would you describe the music, and the way it’s developed from the early days to now?
To make it simple, I like to describe the band as “electronic rock music”. I think we used and abused the sampling technology until the mid-nineties and then felt the need to extend our sound with the help of other devices like synthesizers or computers plug-ins. I now play the guitar as well on stage, which is new. The music might be a bit less radical in its form but has kept the intensity of the early days.
Delving into your background Franz I’ve found you were a classically trained guitarist, but dropped the instrument in favour of a more experimental approach to music, utilizing technology, loops and beats, repetition et al did you find having such a structured? introduction to music help or hinder what you were trying to do with the Young Gods? How did it influence you?
Learning classical guitar made me consider music as ONE thing that evolves with time and technology. Every generation needs to find its own way and sound, but I was frustrated that my fellow punk friends were not interested in classical music and that the other musicians in my classical guitar class could not play a simple blues. Everything is so compartmented. If you follow classical music by the rule or punk music by the rule, you trap yourself into conservatism. Music is not about conservatism, it is about freedom and openmindedness. Music is here to unite us.
Tell us about the Young Gods Play Kurt Weill LP, what inspired your choices for the LP? “September Song” in particular really stood out for me, do you have a personal fave? What were you as a band getting across to a generation that potentially hadn’t heard Kurt Weill?
Again it is a will to make people aware of good music that had been written in the 30s /40s. For me the association of Kurt Weill and Bertold Brecht is fantastic.
Take the “Three Penny Opera” for example. It is total counterculture: it is called an opera but there is no “bel canto”, people sing slightly out of tune, the music is dissonant, the story happens in a dark Soho where the heroes are gangsters, prostitutes, priests… It is political, subversive. No wonder these two where considered public enemies N°1 by the nazis. Weill and Brecht are the pioneers of “pop music”.
“September Song” comes from Weill’s period of exile. He flew to NYC to escape the Nazis. He then wrote for the Broadway theatres. Very intense songs, classics. September Song made me realize that one can be intense without having to scream…
Moving forward as a listener the sound you were creating seemed to become more sparse, allowing more space within the music, taking the listener on an internal journey, what was changing within the Young Gods?
I guess it is still a try to dive into sound and take the listener on a trip. With time we became less frontal. Age gives us a different energy. But it might be temporary as well !!! there is a lot to be angry about nowadays.
‘Everybody Knows‘ was our first try to write music together (4 people at the time) improvising. We wanted to challenge ourselves, wanted to go out of the computer grid. With distance, it was a transitional album. It is very free and full of explorations.
Coming up to date you have a new LP out called Data Mirage Tangram, what can a new listener to the Young Gods expect? How would you describe it?
We are back as a trio but with a serious change of people. Al Comet and Vincent Hänni left the band in 2011 and Cesare Pizzi (who started the band with me) is back after being away for more than 20 years. It is more “downtempo” than usual, deeply psychedelic ( in its greek definition: revealing the psyche). You can listen to it like as a soundtrack to your dreams. It takes you to Amazonia, it has tribal elements, it sounds at times very urban, psychoacoustic, it warns you about the blind trust we put into algorithms and it is danceable!
Live we’ve got some dates coming up in the UK, what can the fans expect?
We mainly play the new album but include in the set a few “classics”.
Last thing Franz, what influences you at this moment in time? Are there any new and upcoming bands you could point us towards or any classics we need to re-explore?
Coming from your land: I like Farai and Perera Elsewhere. From France: the Psychotic Monks. And TM404, the Island people, The Oh Sees, the Viagra Boys, Clap Clap, Insalar. To be rediscovered: acoustic John Lee Hooker, Sun Ra (Nuclear War, Space is the place)
Thanks for taking the time out to chat with us
Thank you for your interest Nev
Franz it’s been an absolute pleasure to talk to someone I’ve followed for so long
Author: Nev Brooks