The unusual combination of German experimental rock outfit the Notwist and Bay Area bred hip-hop group Themselves make up the experimental hip-hop/electronic collaborative 13 And God. After dropping its successful self-titled debut six years ago, the odd couple is back together and making music again; its sophomore effort Own Your Ghost will be hitting shelves May 17 from Themselves’ personal home, Anticon. After speaking with Adam Drucker, aka Doesone, from Themselves and Marcus Acher from the Notwist, I learned that the collaboration really isn’t an odd couple at all. The two discussed the absence of cultural differences between them, their affinity for working with Theselves’ unofficial member and keyboardist Dax, and the group’s upcoming tour that will, according to Adam, hit Europe in May, the US in September and the Moon eventually.
The group’s newest promotional video for the song “Unyoung,” made up entirely of footage of the band recording in the studio, is above.
Fact or folklore? You all met on the side of the road outside of a broken down tour bus.
Drucker: [laughs] Folklore meets fact. We toured together as Themselves and the Notwist. The tour bus engine froze so many times it caught fire; however that may happen. We also—true story—drained the battery power by leaving the driver’s cabin light on. Martin found a stuffed fox and we dressed it like the bus driver and took photos of it. The next day all engine problems got worse as our relationships blossomed.
Acher: We were stuck somewhere in the snow in Canada. We went for Mongolian barbecue, learned that Limp Bizkit needed one big bus for each single musician and formed a new band.
Own Your Ghost is your second album and comes six years after your debut. Why the wait?
Drucker: Mostly due to being a transatlantic band. This is/was never something we wanted to slap together. After the first album, there was no doubt in our mind; we would do it again, but with even more physical closeness throughout the recording process.
Acher: And there is a life besides music, too.
Have cultural differences led to any difficulties in the songwriting process?
Drucker: No difficulties at all actually. David Attenborough should do a special on us; it can really be a beautiful thing. Two languages, seven people and we simply speak in music, clearly and loudly to one another.
Acher: We reached the same place from different directions [hip-hop and hardcore and indie rock], but for me, I couldn’t find any differences. We have a very similar way of working on songs and details.
You have recorded in both Oakland and Germany. As a group, do prefer one over the other?
Drucker: I must say I like going to Germany and drinking the best beer on Earth. Oakland has Dax and due to him being quadriplegic he can no longer travel. I would always prefer to be a whole band so Oakland takes the cake. Plus if memory serves correctly, the three M’s [members of Notwist] all got chicken and waffles in downtown Oakland. Can’t get that in Bavaria… yet.
Acher: We liked recording in Oakland a lot because it was so new to us. We liked the studio, the breakfasts every morning and the food in the night, the driving around with music in Jeff’s car and the visits to Dax’s place. That totally became part of the record.
Markus, being a band that has explored a lot in the metal, post rock and jazz world, what was it that made you want to work with a hip-hop artist, specifically, Themselves?
Acher: It all came through being a fan of their music. And although I discovered them and the other Anticon-artists in the hip-hop section of a record store, I soon forgot that and thought of them as their own unique musical genre. Uncategorizable. And that’s why I was so happy to hear they would be interested in working with us. We could work with some of our favorite musicians!
In your sessions videos that you guys use a lot of household objects for percussion (books closing, chopstick tapping, thigh patting, piano string hitting etc.). What kind of experimenting do you do in the studio to land these kinds of sounds?
Drucker: These sorts of “Yo, hit the book with sock!” additions seem to come from three places: 1. a bad idea slowly gets good, 2. one of us had tried something similar before, and can kind of “hear it already” in the song, 3. somebody is just bored and banging on something while someone else is recording then someone says, “Hey that sounds great.”
What’s the story behind the album name?
Drucker: Since the record and content are all about appreciation of life through acceptance of deaths, the title so could not have death in it. However, you can’t go name it “orange airplane” or something so “ghost” was one of the words in the running for title-dom. I came up with the title while listening to my little sister, who is 16. She said, “she owned…” this or that while on the phone with someone five times in two minutes. In my head I thought “own your ghost.” I hear it more like “know thy self” rather than “buy a poltergeist.”