When the Berlin electronic band Moderat invites you to a press conference in their label office in Mitte, it’s like visiting a flat share. The three seem to have just been waiting for the opportunity to joke in front of one guest at the expense of the others. In between times, Berghain DJ Marcel Dettmann, who has his studio here, slips by, and a fish soup for everyone is already simmering on the stove.
You don’t necessarily get the impression of sitting across from three real world stars here. They are exactly that, although not necessarily in U2 dimensions. It hardly goes much higher than moderate for an electronic band. Their last two albums landed in the international charts and even reached the top ten in Germany. And 17,000 people made the pilgrimage to their last concert so far, which they gave in 2017 before a break of almost five years in the sold-out Wuhlheide.
Moderat actually started a good 20 years ago as a side project by Gernot Bronsert and Sebastian Szary, who had already made a name for themselves as fashion selectors, and by Sascha Ring, alias Apparat.
But a minor matter soon developed into a real monster that was almost impossible to control. Modeselektor and Apparat also became better known over the years, but the big winners were the Moderat, who are particularly popular for their concerts with gigantic light shows.
But they didn’t just want to perform as a trio either. Sascha Ring says that when they decided five years ago to go their separate ways, being moderate seemed increasingly monotonous and dull. “It wasn’t really critical between us yet, but we felt that it could slowly become critical. At some point it was too much of one thing. We started the band as a change, but after so many years it wasn’t a change any more.”
So everyone remembered their own things. Modeselektor recorded three more albums, Apparat mainly wrote soundtracks. In the first two years of separation, they had almost nothing to do with each other, says Sascha Ring. But then a slow rapprochement began.
“First we looked at what was going on with us, where we were. What kind of music are we listening to and what kind of music do we like at the moment?” The next step, Ring continued, was to develop bold concepts for how the next joint record should sound. But in the end you just went to the studio and let it run.
And now “More D4ta” is the fourth album by the three, which sounds moderate again, says Ring, but that’s a good thing. “The thing that develops between the three of us just has a certain ring to it. If you pushed too hard to make it sound different, it would sound too artificial, no longer authentic.”
So on “More D4ta” you get to hear more of what defines the typical Moderat sound: powerful, almost trance-like sound sculptures build up, and you never quite know whether they are more of a feeling of euphoria or melancholy produce. And between the instrumental tracks, Sascha Ring raises his voice in some of the pieces, so that at some point you can no longer tell where techno ends and pop music begins.
Moderates value being more than just some intersection. Gernot Bronsert explains: “This band is not a project between mode selector and apparatus. It consists more of three independent guys who let their egos out in a common process.
It’s about weaving three artistic and personal universes together while hanging out together in the studio.” So the calculation isn’t two plus one, but three times one. Thankfully, Bronsert himself gives a rough characterization of all three, who want to merge with each other: “Sascha is the one who actually has finished with electronic music, but then is a total electronics nerd. Szary is the art type who also listens to records that you really can’t listen to. And I’m into rap.” He adds that he has a 14-year-old son who’s going through a Wu Tang Clan phase, so he’s getting exposed to a lot of rap at home, which he wouldn’t necessarily listen to otherwise.
The three say the lockdown period helped them work on the album. Bronsert explains that the plan to record something was thwarted again and again: “We used to play a gig somewhere, DJ somewhere, and then Sascha still had to record a soundtrack.
Or everything had to stop because Björk really wanted a remix from us. Now there was a brake. And we could really focus on the music.”
The three are now in their mid-forties, have children and careers of their own. They share similarities, but there are also differences. Ring, for example, calls Talk Talk’s art-pop classic “Spirit Of Eden” his favorite record, which Bronsert says doesn’t pick him up at all.
Ring, in turn, slanders Bronsert’s current darling, British rapper Slowthai. And both, in turn, make it clear that they can only do something with the hyperpop act A.G. Cook, which Sebastian Szary is very fond of. But this diversification of tastes and preferences of the three individuals can never shake the foundation of Moderate, according to Bronsert. “What we have in common will always be our socialization with techno, Berlin, the fall of the Wall – and that all three of us are from the East.”
You are now facing the next chapter with Moderate. And they continue exactly where they stopped almost five years ago. In the next few days they will go on tour, followed by performances at festivals in the summer. In September, Moderat will be guests again in Wuhlheide, after which they will travel to the USA.
“Everything is already planned for by the end of the year,” says Bronsert. Incidentally, nothing will be heard from the apparatus and mode selector during this time, that is the law. “We’re very strict about it. The idea behind it is to stay exclusively in the mindset of moderate,” emphasizes Ring.
They’ll probably stay there until all three need a change.