Amid a year of Covid uncertainty that affected the techno scene, not only in Berlin but also around the world, the German electronic duo Modeselektor takes the stage – a virtual one for now – to launch their latest mixtape, Extended. A twenty-seven-track album consisting of nothing but their own, all-new material; sixty-four minutes that take you on a frenetic journey, back to when we used to take normality, and dancehalls, for granted.
We had the chance to talk with the minds behind some of the best twister electronica rave vibes, Gernot Bronsert and Sebastian Szary. A fascinating interview where they explain how "Extended is the DNA of a lot more to come," while telling us more about their creative process, the unforeseen circumstances that made them end up with much more time in the studio than originally planned, and the current situation of the techno scene in Berlin.
How have you both been doing during these unpredictable times? Has the Berlin techno scene changed a lot since last year?
First of all, we wanted to say that METAL Magazine's a beautiful name. We are doing okay, considering that the current situation is very dramatic on so many different levels and areas. The unforeseeable is the new normal, there is a new perspective that mainly goes forward, although we all know that a view in the rearview-mirror is very important as well. It’s not really easy to speak about the Berlin techno scene these days, since it is very scattered right now and probably it is about to rearrange itself. The clubs are closed, some of them have been turned into tests and vaccination stations, where some former club employees are now working in these days. Also a lot of other people who used to work in the event industry were forced to find work in other sectors.
I understand that after releasing the Who Else album in 2019 you started working on Extended, your latest twenty-seven-track mixtape with all-new material created while digging through your archives and revisiting old song ideas. Is Extended sort of a retrospective of Modeselektor’s production? How is this mixtape different from the rest of your albums?
With Extended we have fulfilled ourselves the dream of exclusively using our own tracks in a mix. We started by going through our archives, where we found some really interesting old ideas. The majority of the tracks were written between January and February 2020, when we originally went into the studio to work on the album. But due to the unforeseen circumstances, we ended up with much more time in the studio than originally planned. To have more time was some sort of gift for us in this situation and also a new experience. We were able to work on a lot of details, which added to the drama of the mix.
The work flow towards Who Else was exactly the opposite and we felt like this story wasn’t finished yet. Therefore, Extended is a mix between retrospective, current inventory and a glimpse into the future at the same time.
Dancehalls and festivals are empty or cancelled for now, and social distancing won’t allow this to change for at least a bit longer. How has the pandemic impacted your work and, more specifically, on the creative and productive process of Extended?
The current situation made us think about a lot of different thing, it’s a very thought-provoking situation… It helped us free ourselves from constraints and dogmas. In the end, the situation gave us much more time than we had expected, which obviously had an impact on the final result. Right now, it feels like an abstract thought to think about the old normality. But there is such a big desire to go back to the old normal.
This 'mandatory break' has allowed you to fully work on your music and Extended. Would you say that if it wasn’t for the lockdown, you may have not ended up producing the mixtape? Would it have been different?
That’s a good question. What if? Maybe it would have been shorter, faster or exactly the same. We can’t really say. It’s exactly what it is because of the circumstances.
“People want the excess, the intoxication, the lack of sleep, the encounter, bass and hurting ears. It’s necessary from time to time. We haven’t lived such a healthy life for a very long time. We do have a crystal ball in our studio and it tells us when the party will go on.”
With titles such as Minibus, Dentist, Rainy, The Germs, and even Lockdown, it seems that the whole album is trying to tell a story. What do you hope your listeners will take away from the mixtape? What is the guiding thread among its twenty-seven tracks?
The title names represent a certain situation or are the first figurative associations that came to our mind when we did the tracks. Obviously, it was a really grey rainy day when we recorded Rainy. Minibus refers to an experience in Cape Town, when we drove in a minivan through the city with an extremely loud sound system full on. The Germs refers to germs on a keyboard and the doorknob. And Lockdown is the brake that makes everything stop. A new interpretation of the well-known Tristan Chord came to help, which we tuned, stretched and delayed.
You have mentioned on your Twitter account that "Extended is the DNA of a lot more to come." Can you tell us about this new extended version of the mixtape you are planning to release? I'm curious, is there even more to come?
Steve Jobs always ended those infamous Apple-keynotes with the words "but there is one more thing." So yes, Extended is a DNA full of information and ideas. It is our finger print of the current time, the present. All of the tracks existed as full tracks at the beginning and the album is the mix of them.
For us, it’s also important to always be open for inspiration in both directions. If someone gets inspired by the music to create something, this person is invited to do so. So we sent the mixtape to a few friends and colleagues and they got inspired to work on them, be it through the contribution of vocals or by remixing specific songs. So there will be a few EPs coming out in the next few months, each of them will be dedicated to a different track from Extended, presenting those collaborations and some alternative versions.
We all know that Berlin and techno go hand in hand, you even named one of your tracks after one of the city subway lines, U8. However, the current pandemic situation has put the brakes on the city’s energy and joviality. How is it to make dance music without having people dancing to it? How long until you go back on stage?
Those components are really missing. People want the excess, the intoxication, the lack of sleep, the encounter, bass and hurting ears. It’s necessary from time to time. We haven’t lived such a healthy life for a very long time. We do have a crystal ball in our studio and it tells us when the party will go on. It very carefully spoke to us that the party will go on probably soon. But it sounded rather uncertain.
After this big release and a new post-covid normality around the corner, what are your plans for Modeselektor? What’s next on the band's bucket list?
Healthy diet, travel to mars, Iron Man 2022, clean up the seas, eliminate racism, aging in dignity and making lots of music.
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