When Berlin-based duo Modeselektor released their first EP In Loving Memory in 2002 they unmistakably established their love for deep, dark bass sounds. A lot has happened since then. Gernot Bronsert and Sebastian Szary, the two Berliners who are Modeselektor, have produced countless singles and remixes. And they have toured the world together with acts like Radiohead. What they have never done is making concession to one genre alone. Instead they juggled around with Hip Hop, Techno, IDM, UK Bass and Indie in a playful and often absolutely unexpected fashion. Still, whatever styles they are mashing up and whichever genre’s boundaries they are exceeding, everything pivots around their – more or less harmonious, but always powerful and overwhelming – basses.
So, it does not come as a total surprise that the bass is also the driving force on their new album Monkeytown. On their latest release Modeselektor meandering back and forth between Hip Hop, Techno, Dubstep and even Indie Elektronik. Old Modeselektor acquaintances like Sascha Ring aka Apparat, Miss Platnum, Anti Pop Consortium, Busdriver, Otto von Schirach, and Thom Yorke have added their vocals to the music. And they have done so with an audible gusto that immediately conveys the fact that none of them is merely a hired hand. How does Modeselektor mange to create this weird and hard to pigeonhole music without ever running even coming vaguely near the risk of sounding cerebral or over-intellectual? How is it possible that a British rock star like Thom Yorke contributes to the album of a band from Berlin (and that already for the second time, mind you)? Gernot Bronsert and Sebastian Szary have tried to enlighten us on some of these questions.
(picture: Jakob Hoff)
You two look very relaxed and refreshed. Was producing an album for your own label Monkeytown Records for the first time not exhausting?
Modeselektor: No, it went really well. We have this little army of assistants that takes care of us so that we don’t go mad. The really difficult bit rather was to stick to the deadlines we had given ourselves. In order to do that we had to absolutely push our boundaries: The whole record was recorded in eleven crazy weeks!
Including recording many guest vocalists. Did you plan this or were all of them friends of yours who spontaneously contributed to the project?
Modeselektor: The vocal features are all happenstance more or less, as all of the contributing artists are friends of us. But that’s also true for the whole record which was produced out of something like a genuine feeling. There was no concert prior to this. We were simply happy that we had suddenly come up with so many new songs. The final track listing was a complete gut decision too. We really only omitted those tracks that we felt were too cerebral.
(picture: Kevin Lake)
How did you get in touch with Thom Yorke and Radiohead?
Modeselektor: We’ve known him since 2003 when we played with Radiohead for the first time. But he’s not just a friend, he’s also a fan. We send him our sketches at some point and asked him to sing to them. He then sent us back a new bass drum for one of the tracks. That was when we knew, we just had to meet him. Then he came to Berlin, took off his shoes in our studio and played his guitar in bare feet. The songs in which he participated are actually not just Modeselektor songs, but a collaboration between the three of us.
You are especially popular in the UK. Why is that? Do you thing it has something to do with your understanding of the bass?
Modeselektor: Well, in our opinion, the UK are the most innovative stronghold in terms of new music. We are one of the few German acts hip in the UK basecamps. But great number of artists from our label also work out very well over there. Some of them even come from the UK. And yes – our success in Britain is probably rooted in our bass. When we start working on a new track we always put plenty of bass in first and test the limits of what’s possible. To us, the bass is what horsepower is to car. The bass is our engine. But not in a way that would only work out in a club. We want our music to sound great in cars. That’s why we always try out our new tracks whilst driving through Berlin. When all we can do is keep our eyes on the street, we know that it works out fine.
(picture: Kevin Lake)
Usually, your tracks are inspired by and develop from a live situation. Was it the same with Monkeytown?
Modeselektor: No, not a single track developed from a performance. We used to collect loops at gigs and turn them into tracks later on. But this time around, everything happened in the studio.
And how does that work?
Modeselektor: We’re not the kind of musicians that have a preconceived idea in their heads. We appreciate randomness. Oftentimes this leads us into directions where we didn’t want to go when we started. We like that. It keeps everything relaxed. You can also tell that from listening to our new album. This record is not artificially groomed for success. It has only one real Techno track. There could have been more, but we felt that would have been too much. We wanted to sound fierce but without being tiring. There are also three Hip Hop tracks and three Indie tracks on the record. So, you see we can have our fingers in every pie. Personally, we would like it very much if there was a special Modeselektor shelf in every record shop. Every artist should have their individual handwriting.
Carhartt presents Modeselektor live dates:
10/21/2011 - Paradiso - Amsterdam - NL
10/22/2011 - Rocher Palmer - Bordeaux - FR
10/23/2011 - Le musée des abattoirs - Toulouse - FR
10/25/2011 - Pressure Festival - Neumark - AT
10/26/2011 - Kassablanca - Jena - DE
10/27/2011 - Batschkapp - Frankfurt - DE
10/28/2011 - Paard von Troje - The Hague - NL
10/29/2011 - Bozar - Brussels - BE
10/30/2011 - Gloria - Cologne - DE
10/31/2011 - Backstage - Munich - DE
11/01/2011 - Flex - Vienna - AT
11/04/2011 - L'Usine - Geneva - CH
11/05/2011 - Club to Club Festival - Torino - IT
11/10/2011 - Train - Århus - DK
11/11/2011 - KPH Volumne - Copenhagen - DK
11/18/2011 - Macumba/Red Bull Music Academy - Madrid - ES
11/19/2011 - Razzmatazz - Barcelona - ES
12/01/2011 - Conne Island - Leipzig - DE
12/02/2011 - Übel & Gefährlich - Hamburg - DE
12/03/2011 - SEMF - Stuttgart - DE
12/09/2011 - Warehouse - Manchester - GB
12/10/2011 - Secret Gig - London - GB
12/15/2011 - Circolo degli Artisti - Rome - IT
12/16/2011 - Secret Gig - Milan - IT
12/17/2011 - Link - Bologna - IT
Image #75917(picture: Kevin Lake)