PSYCHEDELIC!: “With the music and the words, just make your imagination go wild — open territory, you know?”
The trick with Switzerland’s Young Gods has always been to see past the mechanized or “industrial” elements of their sound — the stabs of sampled guitar, the looped drum patterns — and recognize them for what they are: one of the last great psychedelic bands. The ritual invocation of powers in Franz Treichler’s lyrics, all his moon hymns and sundering mountains, and the music’s relentless drive toward expansion put them closer to the reeling carnival of the Doors than to Ministry or Nine Inch Nails. Then there is their arty European side, their musique concrète–ness — orchestral snarls from Mahler or the Stooges, or guttural chunks of metal, reborn on the keyboard as syllables of pure noise. Nineteen-eighty-nine’s epic Longue Route was built around a snatch of Voivod’s “Technocratic Manipulators”: “D’accord!” roars Treichler as the song ends, through a spasm of processed kickdrum, “D’accord! D’accord!”, on his knees in cosmic assent. Live drums, live vocals, sampler: you could shout about the postmodern primitivism of it or you could just let it take the top of your head off.
“The Doors are a big influence, for sure,” says Treichler by phone from Paris, where Young Gods are 15 minutes away from a show in support of their new Super Ready/Fragmenté (Ipecac). “They had some sort of a visionary sound. As soon as they start playing you find yourself in this landscape, and you can’t escape having your imagination engaged. And when you put those words on top of that, it just multiplies these feelings. That’s the alchemy of the Doors, and we try do to something similar. With the music and the words, just make your imagination go wild — open territory, you know?”
Treichler’s voice is deep and easy, with a strong French accent. The courteous attention he gives to my long-distance queries is gratifying, of course, but no surprise: their humility was always another thing that set Young Gods apart, a sense that they were properly awed by the scale of their sound, and by its effects. On stage, Treichler says he feels “a mixture of concentration and losing yourself in the moment. What’s in my head . . . I think it changes every millisecond! The energy is there, you’re trying to keep the energy focused, and to move with it, and I have this feeling of imminent potential chaos around me, and I’m surfing it, diving in and out of the chaos.”
But no bloated Dionysianism here: having wound up a set of thunderous potency, the three Young Gods will move to the front of the stage, join hands, and take a relieved and bright-eyed little bow — as if they had just pulled off an against-the-odds, modestly successful performance of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Treichler chuckles when I tell him that this group bow is one of the least rock-and-roll things I have ever seen from a rock band. “Yeah, but it’s good to do non-rock-and-roll things to rock and roll. . . . Rock and roll needs them!’