Inside Encounters #2- Franz Treichler plays Dada (and he’s been doing a hell of a job)

Franz Treichler is the lead singer and only permanent member of The Young Gods, a mythic band that revolutionised the use of sampling in rock music.

Initially a classically trained guitar player, Treichler got rapidly bored with conventional rock music and started using samplers in an innovative, experimental way. The result was a previously unheard sonic revolution, inspired by all the restrictions that early technological developments would impose.

In a 2007 interview, Franz affirms his belief that their first album was one of their best; the energy they put into it and the guts they required to try out new forms of sound charged their music with a revolutionary breath and gave them extraordinary exposure overseas. Mike Patton, Devin Townsend and yes, David Bowie quoted them as an inspiration, and it was mostly through the word of mouth built on this reputation that they started touring in the US.

After working with different labels, they signed with one of America’s most well known – Interscope, and toured like crazy for almost 11 years. At first criticized for sounding too ‘European’, The Young Gods voyaged through a multitude of styles, from progressive rock to trip-hop, psychedelic, brutal punk and samples of classical music (the most famous is the Shoshtakovich
insert in La Fille de la Mort). They collaborated with electro hip-hop pioneer Dalek, Barbouze Chez Fior string quartet, Koch-Shuetz-Studer and used samples from a wide range of musicians, from classical music to Jimmy Hendrix.

After the end of their contract with Interscope, and upon their return to Switzerland, Treichler manifested his wish to sign exclusively with small labels  that would bring less visibility, but would ensure much more creative freedom. His pathway since has been not of a simple rock star, but of a creator in the larger sense of the term. He came up with the concept of Lucidogen, a hypothetical drug that renders you hyperconscious, lucid in relation to the world around you. This concept worked as an ars poetica, as his goal was to help people refine their perception of the world around them and then to reshape it.

Treichler got involved in many collaborations throughout his career. Along with Stanford anthropologist Jeremy Narby, Treichler created a sonic conference called Amazonia Ambient Project, collaborated 7 years with Gilles Jobin’s contemporary dance company, recorded with indigenous people in Arizona, performed with visual artists and sound tracked live 20’s experimental movies.

Franz travelled to the Amazon to study shamanic music, and recorded sounds of nature and of religious happenings. His research was used to create a show that mixed hypnotic visuals with Narby’s narration of anthropological texts, approaching the Amazonian forest from a number of perspectives: ecological, anthropological and spiritual.

So it’s not at all surprising that Dadaism inspires Treichler’s sensibility. Growing up in the country that gave birth to Dadaism might have offered him more exposure to the movement and they both share a common motivation: the spirit of revolution, the refusal to comply with preexisting rules, the energy of youth, of changing the world. . We might even say that there is a similarity in their modus operandi – Dadaism worked with assemblage, collage, photomontage and ready made objects, which we could analogically identify with Treichler’s visual montages, use and mix of samples. And, amidst this intellectual mix of images, sounds, references and manipulations of sound, there’s also a side yearning to return to nature, to primitivism.

Treichler affirmed that, although he is first of all a musician, he is very attached to words, and he couldn’t continue with his music if text and/or image were not an intrinsic part of it.

Franz Treichler will be toying with Dada at Encounters Film Festival, with live music performances and montages from Man Ray, Stan Brakhage, Hans Richter, Martin Arnold, Jean Painleve and artists affiliated with the Flux Movement (James Riddle, John Cavanaugh). Concert, performance, art manifesto – call it what you will, but in any case it’s bound to cheer up your evening and add a dynamic beat to your festival.

“Dada; knowledge of all the means rejected up until now by the shamefaced sex of comfortable compromise and good manners: Dada; abolition of logic, which is the dance of those impotent to create: (…) Freedom: Dada Dada Dada, a roaring of tense colours, and interlacing of opposites and of all contradictions, grotesques, inconsistencies: LIFE” (Tristan Tzara, Dadaist Manifesto).

By Noemi Gunea