Saturation & Superstitions: Moderat Talk
Moderat, the Berlin based love child of bass mongers Modeselektor and the emotive, thoughtful Apparat are about to drop their new album ‘III’. This will be their third studio album, after their eponymous 2009 debut followed by 2013’s ‘II’.
The new album comes 3 years after “II’ and part of that is due to Sascha suffering a nasty motorcycle accident, but as he explains, there is so much more to the story:
“We sort of had this flow going from the second album, but we had to finish the album really quickly because we had to hit our deadlines. Then we were meant to head out on tour but I had a motorcycle accident and tour got cancelled, so there was some unfinished business really. So with this album we tried to get that flow going again.”
Apparat’s releases have always been evocative and filled with emotion. You get a feeling that there is something more profound, something more considered and composed at work. When asked about the emotional nature of some of his recording and the impact it has on listeners, Sascha has a very different sentiment:
“When you’re recording the album, for me at least, you start seeing everything from a technical point of view. It’s hard to tell if there’s going to be an emotional reaction anymore.”
Gernot shares his view on the subject of emotional expectations and reactions:
“I don’t have any kind of expectation of how people will perceive the album. Everyone will have their own emotional reaction, their own ‘moment’ if you like. I’m most excited about the fact that I can share the album now. I’m proud of every song on the record, so I have no problems at the moment. You know sometimes you can have reservations with the music, thinking it’s not quite right, but with this one I’m really excited.”
Listening through the album, there is something that smacks of completion, as though ‘III’ is, in a sense, the finished article. However Gernot has some reassuring words:
“I don’t think it (the Moderat project) will ever be complete, but this album is as close as we have come to expressing exactly what Moderat is.”
“I read somewhere that you never actually complete an album – you just give up on it. And like Gernot said, this time it felt like we were really close to properly finishing something. Last time we only had 6 months to produce the album so when the deadlines hit we thought fuck that and just finished it. For this album we had more than double the time and we almost over-produced it, most of the time we were actually stripping it back.”
A lot of artists say that not having studio deadlines can become a production nightmare, as you either drive yourself or your band mates insane with cabin fever proximity. Having had so much time in the studio producing ‘III’, it’s interesting to hear Sascha’s thoughts on ‘over-production’:
“I’m always afraid of destroying a song because there’s comes a point when the song doesn’t get better anymore and it starts getting worse. The great thing about there being three of us is that sometimes someone comes into the room and says ‘ok, that sounds great, let’s keep it like that’ and it’s really important to get different perspectives on the music”.
The UK’s musical heritage is second to none, with British artists having influenced thousands of others and spawning various genres along the way. One of the only exceptions one might make is for techno, most obviously German techno. While Berlin and to a lesser extent Hamburg is arguably the birthplace of techno (and it’s numerous offshoots) we hear today, Sascha is still enthusiastic about Londoner’s musical understanding and appreciation:
“London is a great place to play. People here are really educated, and interested in the music – it’s a great combination to have. I’ve played all kinds of shows here, last time I played the Barbican then I had a DJ set afterwards”.
It’s true that London does offer a home to all comers, and likes to support a range of upcoming artists, however much the Tory government attempts to eschew cultural opportunities in favour of financial ones.
Every one knows about the increasing problems London nightlife institutions are having as councils crack down on late licenses. Plastic People closed its doors a while ago, and while Fabric won its case against Islington council proposing ID scans and sniffer dogs, this is certainly not the end. The truth is many of London’s famed institutions are fighting a constant battle against councils eager to sell the space to property developers. Sadly it seems the same thing is happening in Berlin as Sascha testifies:
“The same is happening in Berlin, where all the nightlife is getting pushed out of the centre. As people move in on the areas where the clubs are, they then start calling the police, causing trouble etc. It’s so stupid. But it’s also important as movement it keeps the scene alive. Of course it’s very sad when a venue closes, for example I recently played a club in Vienna called Pratersauna, which was forced to close a while ago. It was open for 8 years and had a great history, so it’s kinda sad. But what is cool is that when one club closes, it makes space for something new and different”.
Szary also shared his view on the problem:
“I think that’s the way the club scene is going now – you have really big clubs, with very rich owners, and then you have this really important sub-culture where people are using empty house as temporary clubs, maybe just for one year, then they move again to a new place.”
At least there are some positives to come out of this constantly moving landscape ,in geographical terms, as Sascha goes on to explain:
“So Pratersauna was a sauna, and actually it was still partly working so you had lots of people running around in, how do you say, bathrobes? It was kind of funny, having a club with a nude area attached to it. Great vibes.”
Playing in former bathhouses is pretty much unheard of in London. The most unusual places we go to are underground railway arches, which, being honest, is no longer unusual. Having said that, for a brief period we did have a tiny club underneath some public toilets in Shoreditch. Unsurprisingly, the council shut that down too.
'Rituals and superstitions"
A lot of bands have pre-show rituals or superstitions and occasionally hospitality riders that are biblical in length. However, for a certain amount of deejays, their ‘rider’ is limited to excessive quantities of substances to get them through mammoth sets into the early hours of a Saturday or Sunday morning. Without suggesting that this is the case for Moderat, Sascha explains those days are long gone:
“Now that we are touring for like 40 nights in a row sometimes it’s not so much fun, the rider has to be more serious. Now the top line of the rider is always ‘please consider this is going to be the only proper source of food for the band…’ If you eat shit for like 2 weeks straight it’s pretty bad for your body and you’re not going to put on a good performance…”
Regarding rituals, Gernot says the band actually has quite a few:
“Just before a show the tour manager kicks absolutely out, only the band is allowed to stay. It’s almost like the quiet before the storm. And Sascha needs his space…”
Sascha expands upon this.
“I need to warm up my voice before and they all take the piss out of me because I make loads of weird noises.”
Gernot retorts: “He always sings this special song, but I’m not allowed to tell because it’s Sascha’s little secret…”
Finally the secret comes out.
“It’s ‘Winds of Change’ by The Scorpions! And our manager always lays out white tape on the stage so we can see where we’re going, and not get lost in the dark. But he can really fuck us up Spinal Tap style leading us all over the place if he wanted to”.
‘III’ has been over three years in the making for various reasons, and the guys themselves admit they lost a certain “flow” towards the end of second album. However, upon listening to this release, the flow in question is back up and running.
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