Name: Franz Treichler
Occupation: Singer, songwriter, composer, producer
Current release: The self-titled debut album by /A\ is available via Hummus.
Recommendations: One book - Hermann Hesse: Siddharta; One film - Christian Marclay: The Clock
If you enjoyed this interview with Franz Treichler, visit the official website of The Young Gods for more information.
You can also read more about the thoughts of his collaborators in /A\ in our Emilie Zoé interview and our Nicolas Pittet interview.
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
I was born in the early 60’s, my early passions where all the bands that were doing music that matched the one I was hearing in my dreams, especially early Pink Floyd. When I was hearing music, I had the feeling that I was not alone.
For most artists, originality is preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you: How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice?
I’m never quite sure about that, I still get influences. Most of the time I find my own voice by spending some time on the composition and getting away from the first idea.
How do you feel your sense of identity influences your creativity?
That happens all the time. As one’s identity keeps evolving, so does the music. Most of the best music happens when you go beyond your sense of identity.
I like John Cage’s approach to music: trying to get rid of the self and let the music exist without your own ego in it.
What were your main creative challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
Singing in French was my challenge. It can still be one.
As creative goals and technical abilities change, so does the need for different tools of expression, be it instruments, software tools or recording equipment. Can you describe this path for you, starting from your first studio/first instrument? What motivated some of the choices you made in terms of instruments/tools/equipment over the years?
I started with the guitar (acoustic and electric). I got tired of it when I found myself trapped into formulas in my playing. I left the guitar for many years when the first affordable samplers came on the market. This defined the Young Gods sound for a decade.
It completely changed my way of writing music: I did not use chords progressions or harmonies, I just dived into sound. Nowadays, I use everything I find.
Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives through, for example, file sharing, jamming or just talking about ideas?
You always learn a lot when collaborating. Jamming is the most direct way and my favorite.
Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please. Do you have a fixed schedule? How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?
I don’t really have a routine, I wish I had one.
I approach the day by awarding more importance to the urgent priorities and they are unfortunately not always musical. I once read a quote, I think it was Blondie, who said that being in a band is 80% administration and 20% music. This is so true.
Can you talk about a breakthrough work, event or performance in your career? Why does it feel special to you? When, why and how did you start working on it, what were some of the motivations and ideas behind it?
I look at my «career» as one breakthrough work. I’m glad to be able to do what I do with total freedom.
There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?
For me it is work that brings creativity. The more time I spend searching new sounds or riffs, the more ideas I get. The problem is to find these periods of time to concentrate exclusively on the music.
Music and sounds can heal, but they can also hurt. Do you personally have experiences with either or both of these? Where do you personally see the biggest need and potential for music as a tool for healing?
As far as I remember I never experienced music that hurts, I mean on an emotional level, not physically.
I agree with you that music is a tool for healing. There is always a need for this, on different levels off course; music can soothe, bring you solace, give you energy, teach empathy, kick your ass ... There is always a need for this.
There is a fine line between cultural exchange and appropriation. What are your thoughts on the limits of copying, using cultural signs and symbols and the cultural/social/gender specificity of art?
Yes the line is fine. With the Young gods we have been appropriating lots of sounds by sampling other artists, but it was purely a question of sound manipulation, not cultural appropriation.
Tracing the origin of music is hard. R’n’Roll comes from the blues, the blues comes from Africa and classical cadenzas, but who invented the pentatonic scale? Indigenous cultures? Is it a gift from nature via the law of harmonics? Nature/Culture? Why do we make a difference? The indigenous cultures around the globe never made such a difference.
I think it is totally justified to debate about cultural appropriation but I think it all depends on how far you go in terms of identifying with a culture that is not yours and what you do make out of it.
We musicians all learn from each others.
Our sense of hearing shares intriguing connections to other senses. From your experience, what are some of the most inspiring overlaps between different senses - and what do they tell us about the way our senses work?
From time to time I have obvious associations of sounds with colors, or sounds and forms. A kind of synaesthesia. As this is not permanent it tells me that I have no real clue about the way my senses work …
Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?
I’m not at ease with the term “artist”. I’d rather describe myself as a musician.
I approach art as something that you can find anywhere. It depends on your state of receptivity. I adopt the view of indigenous people: In their communities everybody is an artist. They don’t make distinctions.
In French we say “l’art de vivre”, can you say that in English? “the art of living” I guess. I like to think that I always include something political in my music and my lyrics, but I don’t like to do it up front. To me music works on a higher level than the one we live in on a day to day basis. Music is deeply political in itself as it is a way to communicate to the soul.
What can music express about life and death which words alone may not?
To answer you, I should sing you a song.