The term ‘supergroup’ has been used quite often in the history of pop music. And, well, way too often it was used quite unjustifiable in terms of the ‘super’-aspect. MODERAT might not call themselves ‘supergroup.’ More superbuddies who want to combine their common musical senses and differences into something on its own. And they surely don’t care about the hype surrounding their sophomore studio album II which has been released earlier this month. Four years after their debut Gernot Bronsert and Sebastian Szary aka MODESELEKTOR and their good friend Sascha Ring aka APPARAT return to form with a longplayer full of surprises.
Right before the trio starts epic new tour NOTHING BUT HOPE AND PASSION took the chance to ask Szary a few questions on the new record, how the three of them handle their egos and what names they would give their own festival.
I think the name MODERAT is fitting quite well for your project, not just because of the pun. Is there more behind it than the play on words?
Well, you can almost say that the name’s the game. But of course it’s mainly a pormanteau for our two musical acts. But when you work together as different artists you quite often have to face situations where you gotta deal with a middle way. And we had quite a few discussions about bassdrums, hihats, taste and whether we wanna have a window seat or not.
Is a certain labelling important for you? And how exact are you with it?
Yes, I can totally confirm the two questions. We think about the whole labelling aspect quite often but we agree on it quite quick. We’re speaking the same language which we tend to call “neuhochmoderatisch” in German.
When does a feature from a different artist become a proper band project?
I think we recognized it quite early that we work together quite well. Not only in terms of the musical aspects but also interpersonal. It’s always interesting when a third person joins the game. It helps rearranging a few things with a fresh idea.
Where other options thinkable as well? Like with your long term fan and former collaborator THOM YORKE?
Well, of course, we thought about it for a short time. But we condemned the idea quite quickly because that man is just too busy. Just like ourselves, only a bit different. (laughs)
What a shame. You could have come up with a band name like “Yorkeselektor.“
Although that wouldn’t be the correct formulation. We should call it THOMSELEKTOR or MODEYORKE. Well, but both somehow sound stupid.
How’s the division of work in the studio? Is there someone who usually starts or is it all free?
It’s just like at Kindergarten. You know, there used to be an hour of “free play.” It’s always a bit like that. Someone starts and gets the ball rolling, no matter if its a beat loop or a certain harmony. Quite often there are magical moments during a session. You take the whole mush of sound, record it and somehow find the ‘magic loop’ with its eight bars. We had quite a few of these sessions while recording the new record.
And then there’s the fine tuning. Gernot quite often works as some sort of operator at the computer with his mouse. Sasrah might have spontaneous new vocal ideas which he records in our studio 2. And me, I’m sitting there with headphones on and work on additional sounds for the track. That’s like a typical scenario.
“We see MODERAT as some sort of vacation from our own projects”
Is there even a commercial approach with MODERAT? I mean, your ‘normal’ bands are doing quite well on their own.
The term of ‘commercial’ is a bit conflicting. Of course it would be nice if you get paid for your work. Via record sales, radio pays (it’s always nice listening to your song while your sitting at your breakfast) and of course with sold out concert venues. To keep it short – we never aimed for commerce but we all like pop music. What you gonna do about that? We just kept going. We’ve overcome our inhibitions which is quite okay. But at the end the listener decides. And in some way we see MODERAT as some sort of vacation from our own projects.
The debut received good critics. In the end was there more pressure than you expected in the first place?
We just wanted to continue right there where we stopped with the first album. But on the other hand we also didn’t want to repeat ourselves in terms of style and sound. Originally we wanted to create a pure instrumental longplayer. But that idea only stayed for two weeks before Sascha started testing his first ‘pilot vocal’-tracks on our song sketches.
Are the lyrics of your latest single “Bad Kingdom” are referring to this aspect (“this is not what you wanted. not what you had in mind”)?
The only thing I can say … there might be some truth in your assumption.
Where there certain constants within the work of the new album. Things you absolutely wanted to do or certain No Go’s?
The main idea was to make an album as a three piece. A record which we can reproduce 1:1 on the stage without any extra vocal features from other artists. We created a certain sound with the first record. I sometimes tend to call it ‘cinematic sound.’ And we wanted to continue that sound. We like depth and breadth within the sound. But on the other side we didn’t want to repeat ourselves in terms of stlye.
How much is a recording process like this also a clash of the artist’s egos. I saw your recent documentary “We Are Modeselektor” and to me it looks like you and Gernot are the most relaxed people in the world.
But we also have to fight with our egos within MODESELEKTOR. We both tend to go our own ways. And at the end we often decide by flipping a coin. Pitch-and-toss – it’s that simple. And we’re not as relaxed as the documentary shows – it’s just a little excerpt from our lives. In general think it would be too boring if everything was just harmonic. To quote Gabi Delgado from D.A.F.: “There’s no harmony. Harmony is shit. Harmony only exists while you’re sleeping.”
You also curated your own stage at this year’s MELT! FESTIVAL. What was the idea behind it and how did you chose the acts to play?
The idea started a few years back. We thought it was time to include acts we get to know over the years into the line-up. It’s cool ’cause you always know who plays before and after you on a festival. This helps creating a certain flow which is always important to us. Quite often festivals are creating line-ups which split the audience since a few acts don’t go quite well together. We wanted to keep the people in front of the stage so they can enjoy the evening as a whole.
But it was your decision as MODESELEKTOR this time?
Right. Sascha hat no impact on the Melt!Selektor stage, Otherwise we could have also named it “Appaselektion” or “Melt!Rat.” (laughs) But in terms of the support for our tour it’s a different thing since the three of us decide the line-up together.
Any personal headliners or highlights for you this year on the festival?
It’s kind of hard to say. We, personally, are quite proud of our protégé SIRIUSMO. He’s often quite nervous standing in the spotlight but he did very well this year. We had quite a few moments to talk to other artists and mainly friends you meet there. It’s a melting pot of friends.
So, it’s not just business for you and you can still enjoy the festival as fans?
Normally you’re really busy on a festival day. Promotion, DJ-Set, interviews, drinking coffee. Once the technical set-up for the performance has been build up we have the time to walk a bit more relaxed over the festival area. Although we often use secret paths. This year, on the second day, we found time to talk with a lot of friends in the artist area. Just like we were at a dinner party. It doesn’t happen often these days, we’re always ‘on air.’
Any final words on our credo “Nothing But Hope And Passion?”
Hope dies last, passion is about to stay.