From Illegal Techno Parties to Worldwide Tours
Moderat Release Sophomore Full-Length Album “II”
When different musicians come together and collaborate, the results can transcend the sum of their parts. What would the world of music be like today if The Beatles and The Rolling Stones had collaborated on a super-album, perhaps even adorning the name The Rolling Beatles? The history of music would be altered forever.
Perhaps an equally epic fusion is that of Berlin’s Modeselektor and Apparat—you may have bumped and/or grinded in the club to Modeselektor’s bangin’ techno beats, and you may recognize Apparat’s slithering minimalist melodies from Breaking Bad or Skins. The two heavyweight electronic acts come together to form Moderat.
But while Modeselektor, composed of DJ duo Gernot Bronsert and Sebastian Szary, and Apparat, better known as Sacha Ring, may differ in their solo styles of music, their roots are very much the same.
“One thing all three of us share is the way we grew up,” says Ring. “We all come from East Germany, and in the early ‘90s the same thing happened to all of us.”
Specifically, that would be lots and lots of partying.
“After the [Berlin] Wall came down, suddenly techno came over, and there were lots of illegal techno parties in all these abandoned buildings we suddenly had, like military and industrial buildings,” Ring explains.
“That’s what I did in my teenage years, and that’s what they did as well. We were just throwing techno parties in the weirdest spaces.”
After meeting in Berlin at a festival for emerging electronic acts some years later, it’s no wonder the three quickly became friends.
“I programmed software back in the day, and they were really into that because they played their whole set with hardware, so I gave them the software and we connected through that,” Ring said.
“Just because it was possible to sync three computers with my software and play together, we were like, ‘Yeah, fuck, let’s play together!’”
And that’s exactly what they did, surprising fans and show coordinators alike by playing together as Moderat when only one group was booked to play. The trio would eventually put out an EP in 2002, but Ring says it’s one which “doesn’t really count, because it was more for fun.”
When A Recreational Project Takes Off
After that first EP, the two groups separated for a few years to focus on their own musical endeavors.
“Apparat and Modeselektor was our work basically,” Ring said. “We of course had to survive and do something in a serious way and we did that—we were selling records and playing shows and doing our solo acts very intensely for six or seven years.
“At that point, we were like, ‘Let’s do something else to have a bit of contrast,’” he continued. “That was the first Moderat album—it was our little vacation from both our projects.”
Their debut full-length Moderat was released in 2009, igniting a massive response, which surprised the trio.
“We only planned to play a few shows in the beginning, and in the end we played 150 shows, which took one and a half years,” Ring recalled.
Despite the group being voted “No. 1 Live Act of the Year” by online electronic music magazine Resident Advisor, Ring nonetheless insists Moderat’s success came from nothing more than playing together for their own amusement.
“We didn’t really do it for the people and to make a crazy live show,” he says. “We were just like, ‘Hey, let’s do something really fuckin’ cool together.’”
Moderat II: Ambient Electro Returns
Moderat’s second album was released worldwide on Aug. 6, and is aptly named II.
“We couldn’t really agree on anything else,” Ring admitted.
He says the first Moderat album was done mostly through recycling, remixing and file transferring of old music by the three members, never truly writing new music together. But the trio united to write II.
“This time we went to the studio for six months and worked like crazy on a record, but all together, all in the same room,” Ring said.
The tracks on II are more reminiscent of Apparat than Modeselektor—the beats chug along like a train in the night, and many songs make you feel as if you’re swimming to the surface from bottomless depths, or perusing an abandoned museum of memories. While the melodies don’t exactly evoke despair, they do ring of loneliness.
“It’s big city night-time music, and those are mostly the moments when you have ideas,” Ring said.
“Back in the day, I only worked at night; I couldn’t even work during the daylight. When I first have a song idea, it happens in moments like that—when I’m alone on the metro, or waiting for someone in a bar or something, I write down some ideas. That’s the spirit that goes into it, the spark that goes into the song you will write the next day.”
Ring also credits the spirit of his hometown as inspiration for his work.
“Especially Berlin, it’s still kind of a rough city, and we wrote that album during winter. You live in Montreal, you know how fucked the winter is,” Ring laughed.
“So basically it was fucking gray and cold and the city was empty. It looked like Russia after the war. That’s probably a feeling that ends up in the music.”
Embarking on a global tour for the new album, Ring says he is excited to play in Montreal once again, having performed at the MUTEK Festival as Apparat for a number of years.
Nicer weather this time of year is a plus, as well.
“It’s the same thing in Berlin: once the first sunbeams come out, people get crazy and they’re half-naked,” he laughed.
“The thing is, I like the States, but it’s funny: when you cross the border and go to Canada, it’s like suddenly life is so easy. That’s the feeling I connect with Montreal; it’s always a bit of a release.”
Moderat // 1280 rue Saint-Denis, Theatre Telus // Sept. 1 // 10:00 p.m. // Tickets $28.75