THE GERMAN SUPERGROUP ON becoming a real band and the beat that hasn't been created yet
Words by Laura Studarus
Last year, during a stretch of “near-apocalyptic” winter, Sascha Ring, Gernot Bronsert, and Sebastian Szary (AKA German supergroup Moderat) reconvened to work on the follow-up to their 2009 self-titled debut. While their initial foray into making music together proved to be difficult, round two—where the group resolved to write with all three members in the studio—proved to be even more arduous. On their website they say the process aged them ten years, but speaking with all three members, it becomes clear that their sophomore album II was a labor of love. And that sometimes, love hurts.
“It’s definitely too many people having opinions on the same thing,” says Sascha Ring, (who also writes and performs as Apparat), trying to explain the band’s work dynamic. “I thought this time it might be a little easier. But actually it wasn’t.”
While the first album featured an assemblage of guest musicians, this time out, all three members decided to strive for a more unified sound. This meant that Ring—the only vocalist among them—was often pressed into service at the mic. The result is a song cycle of moody, downtempo electro tunes, their cinematic overtones tied together by Ring’s emotive rasp. But at first the decision was met with some resistance.
“In the beginning, Sasha didn’t like to sing on the record,” says MODESELEKTOR’s Sebastian Szary, speaking from his home in Berlin as his daughter plays at his feet. “Can you imagine? We forced him to sing, and we forced him to sing loud.”
“It’s something I cannot control so well,” confesses Ring. “It can really destroy my mood for the rest of the day if I fail doing something. I’m not a professional singer. It helps to leave the room. Sometimes I will drop the files on the table and say, ‘Put it in the song and play around with it.’ I go back to the other room and play guitar.”
Gernot Bronsert, who also makes music as MODESELEKTOR counts Ring settling into his role as frontman as a major turning point for the project.
“It took him a while and he started enjoying it,” he notes. “Now we are a band. Before we were just a project between Modselector and Apparat. This studio session we turned into a band. We made the album as Sasha, Szary, and Gernot, three friends making music in the studio together.”
Despite the playful jabs band members may throw at one another, they are committed to a deep friendship. Although Bronsert and Szary grew up together in East Germany, and didn’t meet Ring (also an East German) until they were adults, the trio is bonded by a phenomena that Bronsert calls “Children of the Revolution”—as their taste in music was dramatically influenced by the reunification of Germany in 1990.
“This is something you cannot get when you weren’t part of it,” he says. “Now you have a lot of books about this time. But back in the day it was different. Everybody was confused. Really, everybody. The cab drivers, policemen, parents, neighbors.”
All three musicians filled that void at an early age by throwing themselves into the techno rave scene, soaking up newfound sounds from the US and the UK, which included Acid House, hip-hop, and Detroit electro. When they exhausted their crate digging skills, they turned to trying their hands to making music themselves.
“We met the first time and realized that we have one big thing in common, that we are in the search for a beat that is not existing yet,” says Bronsert. “Since then, we recorded two records and it’s still like walking around, but we are still sleeping and dreaming.”
“When I go to bed, there’s smashing bass drums and high hats in one ear and going out in the right,” interjects Szary. “Sometimes when you go into the studio you can even make it happen.”