From experiencing the wonders of the early Tresor parties to teaming up with Ellen Allien’s Bpitch Control, playing shows all around the world and setting up their own labels Monkeytown and 50Weapons, the brotherly duo of Gernot Bronsert and Sebastian Szary have done it all with Modeselektor. Constantly busy with their efforts performing and producing under their own name, as well as shaping the A+R direction of Monkeytown, Modeselektor took at least one responsibility off their plate in late 2015 with the (previously planned) closure of 50Weapons. They’ve managed to fill the gap in their schedule since through continued collaboration with Sascha Ring AKA Apparat as Moderat, putting together live sets that have earned acclaim from electronic music fans worldwide. No matter what they’re doing, though, the techno brothers of Modeselektor do it all with passion and humor, placing family values at the forefront.
How did it go from throwing parties in Berlin to recording your first album?
Our first release was in 2002 on BPitch Control, in February 2002.
Back in the day, BPitch Control was some big label in Berlin. It was the label. It was the spot. Ellen Allien was the ambassador for the Berlin night culture and she was ruling the shit… She noticed our parties and she was this smart business lady. Still is. She grabbed us and she was like, “Okay guys, I’ll help you out to make really good things or more out of what you’re doing, because the world has to see it.”
She took us on tour. Even if we hadn’t signed a contract with her. It was also cool for her because she was bringing the hip stars from the Berlin nightlife with her on tour It was a super-cool, win-win situation. She always asked us for music, but we were always too busy with running the parties and making different stuff. We had so many things going on and DJ sets everywhere. I think we played three or four times a month in Berlin, or more often.
Or every weekend.
After one year asking, she also offered us a free space in her office. BPitch Control rented an office in the city center of Berlin, and it was obviously too big for the label and was super-expensive, and there was a very small room they didn’t need. We rented this room and built our first studio there, and the Pfadfinderei guys had their office just above. It was the BPitch Control office, Modeselektor studio and Pfadfinderei office in one building. Later on, guys like Sascha Apparat set up their studio there, and many other artists. It was like a creative hotspot in the center of Berlin. Now it’s the eye of the storm for tourism. That’s the meeting point where all the groups meet up to start their sightseeing tours.
That’s basically the beginning of our relationship with BPitch, and after a year we released this record In Loving Memory. It was for a friend who died. He was doing our door. He was our bouncer and he got sick and died within ten months, and that was basically the reason why we wanted to finish up something. We were really punk at this time and never finished stuff in the studio.
As Gernot said, Ellen was always a big supporter for us. She came to our parties, she listened to our demos and then she gave us advice. That was the thing we didn’t have before, real feedback and to work on the thing, like, “Okay, let’s make a record. You have to work on the record.” Took a year. Very important time for us.
After the record, in 2002 or 2001, we met Sascha [Apparat] for the first time at a little festival in Berlin, in the same club we did the Lapland party. It was a Berlin label party, so we played in the early evening. We were very impressed by his equipment, because he played with a laptop and a controller and self-made software. It was Max/MSP, but it was an 8-track looper. There was not really a possibility to have laptops, live software. It was not developed.
We came together talking about technologies, and he also had the same background with East German rave and we shared a lot of similarities. Then, we recognized that we lived very close together, just one block away. I think that’s a key moment for Moderat.
One important thing was, at this time in Berlin, in the night culture, there was nothing really existing other than house and techno. There was a drum & bass thing, but that was for everybody. Guys also liked hip-hop. We were known to each other, but it was not really a big part and an important part.
Then, this night we played with Sascha, they brought all Berlin labels together to show their music. We played there for BPitch Control as the only act, and we didn’t even get signed to her, so we didn’t even have the release at this time. It was before we released In Loving Memory. Sascha played after us, and we were the only two acts who didn’t play techno in the whole night. We talked to each other and I was really impressed by the music he was playing, because he was playing the most beautiful electronic music I ever heard. I never heard music like this before in my life. It was really good. He was impressed by our music because we played a hardcore dancehall, bass monster music, and analog. We were the loudest.
Everybody came up because they were like, “Whoa, whoa, what’s going on here?” They were woken up, because it was kind of early. Sascha played after us and played totally opposite. It was like eating honey and mustard at the same time and separately. It’s delicious, but could that work together? It was something we wanted to find out, and we quickly started to work on shit together after the first meeting. It was a lucky moment. We are still very different, but we share the same spirit.
You made two albums on BPitch Control and then you left to start Monkeytown.
We released two records on BPitch Control, and after seven years relationship with the label we decided to go our own direction and found Monkeytown Records. It was about time to do our own thing. We were always so busy and active and creative… We did so many things at the same time and BPitch Control couldn’t give us the freedom to do what we really wanted to do.
It wasn’t even their fault, but it was just about time to go ahead. We still have a good relationship with Ellen. It was not a big fight or anything. It was just time to go, you know? We left and started Monkeytown Records and reanimated 50Weapons Records. We already founded [it] in 2005 in Manchester. Then, more and more people started working with us in our office, and I think now it’s a big office with a lot of people sitting there and working for things I have no clue about. Half of them I don’t know and the other half, I don’t want to know.
50Weapons is a little bit more than a record label. It’s a gang. That’s what we always wanted to have – the coolest gang, basically.
How did you differentiate between what comes out on Monkeytown and what comes out on 50Weapons? How do you see both of them as different entities?
Modeselektor has two faces: the performing face, the situation we have with the crowd, and then our influential and educational side. We got educated by several music camps from Berlin, which has the core at Hardwax and all the music that comes out there. We saw that Modeselektor [doesn’t] really match well with this. [Monkeytown] used to have a very strong Modeselektor-based identity, which is, for example, not good for an unknown artist who has to find his own identity. We needed something that is not too close to Modeselektor.
Even if we sometimes released music [under] different names, or if we released music for or played on 50Weapons parties, this is important that [50Weapons] has its own identity. It’s not so eclectic music-wise like Monkeytown is. It’s supposed to not be colorful, in a good way. It’s an advanced, technical music record label, and Monkeytown is pretty much based on the artists, not so much on the style. That’s basically the separation, artistically.
You guys didn’t make a plan for 50Weapons, but you did make a plan to stop 50Weapons?
We always had the idea that 50Weapons is supposed to be 50 records, you know? At some point we realized, “Okay, it’s becoming closer now.” We started releasing all these extra catalog numbers like Remix 1, Remix 2, 50Weapons Extra 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, just to have more time to release music. But at some time, you cannot extend too long. I think we thought that’s a good time now, to close it down. We shared a part of our life and career with these artists. At some point, we know from our own experience that it’s time to go look for new challenges, to see it from an anthropomorphic view. With an anthropomorphic view, it’s like every seven years, you have to change. I think after the second start of 50Weapons and Monkeytown, it’s exactly seven years to when we closed it down.
It’s also good for us, because it’s really hard to be in charge. All the artists, they also are our friends. I mean, of course they have maybe a different point of view and respect us differently than we respect them, because they think they owe us something. It’s not like this, because we owe them the same. It’s like, they gave us their music to release and 50Weapons is a little bit more than a record label. It’s a gang. That’s what we always wanted to have – the coolest gang, basically.
I think that’s an important part of our life, that we always believed in something. That is not religion and gods or some old story someone told you. We believe in the energy that you can create with music because we experience that, and it’s about what you can do in a club. Our church is the club. We grew up with techno and I had so many key moments in my life without doing drugs and [that I was] only able to do in the club, or in a festival or at a concert. Music is an international language and this has nothing to do with reading notes or being able to play instruments. It’s…
It’s a way of life. It’s a lifestyle.