Spoiler alert! When we recently caught up with monkey obssessed Berlin electro/techno duo Modeselektor – aka Gernot and Szary - it was before their only UK date of the year. With the evening hosting the UK debut of their new documentary, 'We Are Modeselektor' (out now), much of what we asked them, it turns out, is answered in the film – so we'll leave it to you to watch and find out for yourselves.
They still had plenty to say though on pillow fights, the true spirit of techno and the hippyish ideals behind their growing empire. If you missed the gig, fear not. The second Moderat album, 'Moderat II', the fruits of their studio collaboration with Apparat, is out on their own Monkeytown label on the 2nd of August with a tour to follow...
Rooting through your old footage, what is it you miss most about the '90s? There's a real nostalgia for that era at the moment.
Gernot: “I think we miss nothing. We are always the kind of people who look forward. We live in Berlin, we saw the big collapse of '90s culture. People are always complaining how great it was in the '90s but it's important to push things forward. It was an interesting and important time for us. It formed us. I like Berlin still, even if it's not the place I grew up with.”
In what ways has it changed?
Gernot: “The city has changed a lot. After the reunification there was a long period of time where it was kind of anarchy. There was a lot of confusion and you were able to discover things you could never discover before. It was the same for all the people, the East and West side. And there was this techno thing popping up. Maybe it's comparable to the early rave scene from Manchester. It was something really new and mysterious. This Berlin we grew up with doesn't exist anymore. Then, the clubs changed location every three or four months, you just had a few which existed for a long time like Tresor. But even Tresor has changed location now so it's not the same anymore. Today you have a lot of tourists and international visitors, especially nightlife visitors. This is the only industry Berlin has. It's not rich. The government is pumping so much money into the city and Berlin is more and more becoming this international city which it used to be before the war. It's still wounded.”
Traditionally, Berlin was the centre of techno. With people like Bambounou, who is French, and Dark Sky, Benjamin Damage and Doc Daneeka, who are British, on your labels, is that still the case?
Gernot: “When we make music with Apparat as Moderat, it's not just that Apparat and Modeselekor go to the studio. That's maybe how it looks from the outside, but it's three friends going to the studio. We make totally different music, but we speak the same language and share the same spirit, techno wise. Bambounou, he's young, he's 22 years old. When I discovered his music two or three years ago, he just had two or three little digital releases but I heard that he makes music like an experienced techno guy, someone who grew up with it, so this guy had to be very talented. I got in touch with him and I was right. He has it in his blood, you know, like us. But with us, it's a little bit different because we grew up with it. I touched an 808 for the first time when I wasn't even 20 years old. And I look for people like this, people who don't follow any Facebook hype or the typical American way of pumping up a new thing. This is mainly the policy of our labels, that we look for a personal relationship with the people. So we have really fresh guys like Bambounou on 50 Weapons, but we also have old school guys like Mouse on Mars on Monkeytown and people who are important for the electronic music scene. It sounds pretty hippyish but it's about the spirit. I grew up with the true spirit of Tresor club, a basement, strobe, fog, techno...”
Szary: "Wet air, you know...”
On the theme of personal relationships, why did you trust Romi Agel and Holger Wick to film the documentary which lays out your story?
Gernot: “We met Holger ten years ago and he's in charge of Slices, the DVD magazine. He filmed us for our first record. They moved offices a year ago and scanned all their old material and realised they had a lot of Modeselektor material. We also have the same spirit. In the '90s, Holger was running an important and well known techno label [Labworks Germany] and also producing music. He's from Frankfurt. He had the idea to do the documentary. He wanted to tell the story behind the champagne action on stage and the big festival raves.”
Szary: “And the pillow fights...”
Gernot: “Last summer we started doing pillow fights. Sometimes we had 500 pillows and we'd throw them in the crowd.”
Have you gone through as many monkey masks as you have bottles of champagne?
Genrnot: “We get a lot of monkey masks as presents. In fact, we get a lot of funny presents.”
Szary: “We get little sculptures, pizzas, cakes...”
Gernrot: “They make monkey cakes. Or do big graffiti pieces and take pictures. For some reason, they love the monkey. I got a marble monkey which is 25kg heavy. It's a sculpture. That was someone from Berlin.”
Watching the film back, did you learn anything about your own relationship?Gernot: “I think the only thing we learnt is that we're not really friends. It's more like having a brother. But we've known each other for so long, there's nothing that we don't know...”
How do you decide when it's time to do another Moderat album?Gernot: “We follow the flow. Last time we planned to do six months of touring and we ended up with two and a half years on the road. It was just about time to make a new one. The good thing is, as bands Apparat and Modeselektor have the same rhythmn, so we finish releasing records at the same time. Then we're touring at the same time. And now we're fishing in different waters, Apparat is in his universe and we're in our universe, so we're not clashing, even if we have reviews in the same magazine. So it was easy to schedule the new recordings.”
What else is coming up release wise across your labels?
Gernot: “There's a new Addison Groove collaboration together with Sam Binga. He used to call himself Baobinga. They have an amazing new project which will be coming soon on 50 Weapons. Then Phon.o just released a new record. Very...”
Gernot: “Shed gave us new tracks to release too and Siriusmo has an album in June. This year is a good year, we have a lot of good music coming out.”