If ever you wanted to get good insight into what true brotherhood and multi-genre musical collaboration was like from the inside, then read on for my conversation with 13 & God’s Doseone. One member of a 7 piece collective, Adam and I talked about how a group that’s, not only so large in membership, but also an amalgam of two already established bands, managed to get all of its contributor’s respective ideas into the mix while recording a sophomore LP entitled Own Your Ghosts.
Oakland’s Themselves is not only populated by Adam “Doseone” Drucker but also by Jeffrey “Jel” Logan, Dax Pierson, and Jordan Dalrymple, while Germany’s The Notwist, who’s iconic vocals, courtesy of Markus Acher, are backed by Acher’s brother and friend Martin Gretschmann, and as I discovered none of the 13 & God contributors are too far afield from each other in personality or from the goal of creating music that is as uniquely delicate as it is oddly familiar.
URB: I wanna ask you about your creative dynamic with the group, there are 7 people all together, 4 Americans, 3 Germans and the separate nationalities each have separate musical groups that they’re within. How does that work? Do you guys begin writing and expressing ideas from the two different sides that you’re on? Are you even ON different sides?
DOSEONE: It’s all Rosetta Stone!
DOSEONE: No…it’s…let’s see, where to begin? Speaking for my brothers, The Notwist members, the two Acher brothers and Martin. Marcus said to me once, he was like, “When we went to make music, however many millions of years ago,” when they were a metal band, and they were like,” we wanted to make pop music, and pop music has English lyrics,” is basically why they began to pursue words, look at lyrics.
It’s why Marcus got into (pop music), and he got in through lyrics and he got through good lyrics.
So, he has always pursued English to mean the right thing, which is kind of cool. Some people pursue English so they can use the bathroom when they go visit San Francisco, or to mean “business”. So, when we get in a room, because of them, we can speak a common language, because our German is “scheisse”.
DOSEONE: We know how to say “chicken”, “yes chicken, please”, and what kind of beers we like, and they taught me how to say, “Get out of my way, I have diahrea,” which is useful on tour, but, not with the ladies. There’s no hittin’ on girls in Germany with my tongue…
URB: I don’t know, I’d kind of fall for that one!
DOSEONE: “Hey girl, get out of my way. I gotta do a…!”
So, basically we get in a room and we have a common language. And then our other, more important common language, which is the reason we met, is we’re like this weird thing, that I’ve met a few times in my life, where we’re the same motherfucker, different planet, different country, what have you. But, we’ve spent all of our time in headphones, addicted to music, then that changed into making-music, then we’ve spent all of our time in studios, or home studios, and we started touring, and we sort of made this life around our music and it’s personal, you know? We were never on major labels, we had different trajectories, same arc. And, so, when we heard each other’s music, this was kind of our feeling, and then we met at a bar in Munich, cause Marcus was a fan of Themselves, and that whole first Themselves tour we were listening to “Neon Golden” (Notwist’s landmark LP), and that was pretty much it. Then we met and that was it and then we were homeboys.
When we record, sometimes there’s footage that I put online, where Marcus and Micha will say something in German and then I’ll walk in the room and say the exact same thing in English, and they’ve just said it. We’re almost always on the same plane, except when a song is confusing everyone, and we’re all like, “I don’t…I don’t know! Tuba!”
URB: What do you do with that song if it’s confusing everybody?
DOSEONE: Uhhh…they get weird.
URB: They become a “different group” when the song’s confusing?
DOSEONE: Yeah, there’s always one…there’s one or two per record. We had a great…I don’t know what do you’d call that…”bounce-back”…”time” when we did get confused with songs and parts, you know?
Generally, what happens is, you’re doing something, and you’re working on a song, and everyone’s like, “Let’s do a ‘minimal rap song beat’!”
Seven people have a distinctly different, but, slightly similar, idea of what that would be. So, we all kind of do what we would here, based on what the person before you put down.
So, if someone just put down bass, you’re like, “OK! I’m not doing bass. But, what would I put on this?”
Sometimes we get in this space where one of two things happens, it sound just like shit, or like something that just isn’t going the right way. Or, it kind of sounds too much like what we were going for, or a rap/rock band.
That’s the other thing is that we’ve had to scrap a couple of songs because it’s like if we put too much drums and we go with too much of that this Limp Bizkit thing starts to happen.
DOSEONE: But, it’s only in the head of the respective listener! It doesn’t actually sound like that in the room. But, we all just look at each other and we’re like, “Rap/rock! Gotta go!”
So, the only thing we really avoid is that. Like, if for some reason if it’s sounding like pan flute music, we don’t turn back.
URB: As far as the actual sound of the project, I have a couple of different questions for that. One is, how do you think the group “13 & God” gets to the place where you have this rather mellow, glitchy, occasionally hella-funky texture about you, when Themselves is so, I don’t wanna say, aggressive, but, at least playing at aggression and dissonance in a way, while The Notwist is a band known for sensitive vocals and rather poppy songs? Do your projects intersect anywhere? Or is the sound you’re trying to create somewhat separate from the two groups you’re in?
DOSEONE: Well, you know, we do very different things. But, when you’re in the fish tank with us, if you win a contest on Nickelodeon and you “get to spend a day in the studio with ’13 & God’”, and you get to sit there with all of us, the way that we construct and deconstruct, and work and finish a song, is basically layering the two ways that you described our different bands. So, when something is too melodious and too beautiful and too tight, Jeff and I get in there, and whack it up, and go off-cuff.
Now, it’s not to say though that…Jeff and I are not strictly autistic kids and they are not old German men with “real instruments”. We, actually, are very much more like each other than maybe our musics give off, or the casual fan cares to realize.
So, like, they are always adding electronics, tweaking shit, making, like, dirty, giant drums on a song that only has banjo otherwise. We also…I sing like a teenage girl over gigantic rap portions of songs for thirty seconds. So, we have all these spaces where we overlap, and so we actually just bring the best out of each other, and the way we always work is on the song in front of us. Like, the great thing about our band, and our two bands respectively, is, there’s no egos in the room. It’s not about who’s playing the part, it’s about the part.
And that is something that The Notwist are, like, masters of. They don’t walk around bragging about it, they’re not like, “We are masters of this”. But, I watch them and they just exude this, sort of, confidence and clarity about what are parts really doing for a song, and if its really doing its job or doing two jobs at once. And they have this clarity about that Jeff and I and Dax and Jordan always try and “osmose” and get better at doing ourselves.
And then, Jeff and all of us, kind of add this, “just slap this with that!” kind of energy when we’re stuck. So, you have this very, like, controlled…but, it’s careful, our music. However, it’s also like…doesn’t give a fuck. It’s maybe not, “Fuck you”. But, there’s portions that are definitely dictated by where we want the song to go. So, each song, as it comes up, we work on that song and each part. And we decide which line to let out of the cage, the controlled, melodious line, or, you know, the get-loose-with-it, make-it-more-recorded,the imperfect line, is basically what Jeff and I do.
URB: I guess what you’re saying is, cause you have similar personalities, you don’t mind trading those differences back and forth, or something…
URB: It sounds a little utopian…but…
DOSEONE: It is though! It’s really cool. ‘Cause sometimes it’ll be Martin and Micha playing Rodes through an effects pedal and then it’ll be Jeff playing drums and Martin is playing with the effects pedal and then its Jordan playing with something while Marcus is playing it. There is like a mutual understanding between us.
The only time we over-communicate is when we’re deciding what to get for fucking dinner. Then we’re like a bunch of old ladies.
But, like, everything about the music is like, “Yes, this is going great!”
URB: And so the second part of the last question is, do you realize you sound like, and I say this in the biggest of fan-girl kind of ways, SoCal bodies likes dublab and the Low End Theory Crew, and especially like Dntel? And do you relate to that sound at all because you’re also from California, or am I not hearing the particularly German input on this current record your putting out there?
DOSEONE: Well, we’re just another part of that.
The Notwist, bar none, they were like one of the first bands to have electronic jibber jabber on a song, period. It’s like them, Hood, Radiohead, those guys definitely were some of the first hybrid music, and we were the same. We put the sounds of other genres on our rap, to the chagrin and jubilation of other people.
I think though that the thing with 13 & God, sometimes, that we do, and I do with all the music that I make now, almost exclusively, is like, if I can’t play that shit live I’m not gonna fucking make it.
And that doesn’t mean “don’t sample a choir of children”. That is not what that means. I don’t care what’s on the song, there’s buttons that can make shit happen all day. It’s more like, the pace, the tempo, what you’re delivering. And by “live” I also mean “for our audience”. We have, like, excited people.
I go see some bands I love very much, and their audience is so respectful and silent for them and they’re just like whispering over an acoustic guitar. And I get out there and get drunk, (the audience is) screaming fast rap. They’ll kind of let me do anything I want, but, like, that is my bed and I’m happy with that shit.
We think about things that way. So, some of the 13 & God stuff isn’t too minimal, isn’t too chill. It goes to other places, cause we think about how much we would like to take it with us on the road.
And some songs kind of gotta stay on the record if they don’t take the moment by the ear, really change color. Those are the kind of things that really work live.
Sometimes it’s just the tempo!
URB: OK, and so my last question is, that, the one thing that hit me about “Own Your Ghost” after a couple of hard listens is the fact that the LP is pretty cinematic, in that it hints at a movie score. I realize, a lot of records that have a big scope and string arrangements tend to point people towards that direction of thinking, as in, they get all these visuals, and romantic flashbacks, and feelings of melancholy and memories they wish they could let go of, etc., but, by chance, did you think at all in terms of cinema while you were making this record?
DOSEONE: No, that’s just our style. I think that we merge the two. They put that feeling…I’m not gonna say I can describe it perfectly, but, whatever those Notwist records make you feel like, like you’re on a warf alone, but, not lonely. I don’t know what that shit is.
You’re very right, it brings you to this, like, memory/emotional space and we do that in this sort of urban way. Like, it’s not a warf. But, it’s a sunset. It’s something with grey in it.
And then the two, we just kinda lean in and that shit tends to happen.
And the reason that we stop there and don’t turn around and make a dance song or change the color is because, sometimes, when you arrive at that sound you’re like, “Ah! Something’s right! I’m feeling this.” And, I guess the hazard with that is going fishing for those riffs, and trying to make a whiney, emo record for breaking up with people for the next calendar year. But, I think that we never really do that, but, when we happen to stumble onto a riff that is like gloomy, but, bright, you’re like, “Oooo, I’m liking that! Let’s put drums over that.” And that’s kind of our process. It’s actually very simple.
You know, we put these films online, cause I just sit there with my flip, in the interims between finishing and starting a song, and most of the moments I captured are like literally someone being like, “Hey let’s try this!” And the next thing you know, we’re, like, “trying it”. And it becomes what the song is. But, you know, that’s pretty much our process. It’s pretty simple.
“Own Your Ghost” is out via Anticon on May 17th.