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Modeselektor's Monkeytown

The inimitable German duo chat about album number three, changes in their sound and repping Berlin

Monkeytown is the third and most recent album brought to you by Berlin-based electronic move-makers, Modeselektor. The record, which was made under huge time constraints, has a list of collaborators that reads like a musical who’s who – from Thom Yorke, to Siriusmo and Sascha Ring (Apparat) – it’s more than enough to get us excited. And while the record is the third in a long history – the pair formed a good while earlier – it’s the first where they’ve collaborated 100% throughout. We spoke to one half of the duo Gernot Bronsert to discuss the new album, the record label and why the album reminds his father of a David Lynch movie.

Dazed Digital: How would you say that this album is different to the others?
Gernot Bronsert: This record was really a pain in the ass to make. Purely because of the massive block we had. We made the first record in 2005, the second in 2007 and the collaboration with Apparat in 2009 and now we’ve got our third album. Every two years we’ve released a record but we also tour extensively – along with all of the other projects we have going on these days – we were really burned out. I wasn’t having fun with music anymore and worked really hard to find the excitement that we had before.

DD: When did you start the record?
Gernot Bronsert: We started the album about a year ago but had a real problem with procrastination. We set up a new studio in the spring, and ended up having to move walls and have a lot of construction, with workers and all that. All we wanted to do was change the speakers, but we ended up having to move a wall! After all of that we were just ten weeks away from the deadline.

DD: What was your process?
Gernot Bronsert: The magic of the record is that we made it from nothing: no plan, no concept – no clue. We needed to decide everything very quickly and each track was made in a quick time with a lot of nerves, sweat and blood. Because of our deadline, we also stretched every person who worked on this record to the limit. It’s also interesting to note that every artist we worked with on Monkeytown was over the internet, except for Thom Yorke. He came over to our studio and we had a really good week. We’ve known him for a long time and have learnt a lot from him about things like having being a family when you’re on tour, how a crew can work and that friendship and business can work together if you trust each other.

DD: So you had nothing done beforehand?
Gernot Bronsert: We had sketches. I had like 100 ideas for songs on my computer but I wasn’t happy with them at all and Szary (Sebastian Szary) the same. This is the first record that we’ve done together 100% - before we’ve split the tracks between us both. When we made Happy Birthday (2007) Szary’s father died during production and he had a really bad time so I ended up making half the album on my own. This time we made every track together. I’m very proud of it – there’s no fucking marketing plan behind it.

I hate all of that: asking a DJ to do a mix just because he has the most popular Facebook page. The music came from us and I’m happy with every track. It’s the best feeling: to know that we can still do it – we didn’t look to anywhere apart from to each other. It was us, working 18-20 hour days, locked in our studio.

DD: It must be a positive feeling to have relied solely upon yourselves, and for the record to be such a success?
Gernot Bronsert: We always try to be different – we aren’t like the DJs who make music to be in the charts. A year ago we founded the label ‘Monkeytown records’ and the white label 50 Weapons. It just got bigger, then we started our own publishing, and production company – we have our own offices now! It’s full of friends who we’ve known forever. Everybody counted on us for this record – and they’re probably more proud of us than anybody because they witnessed all of the drama! I think it’s important that music comes on its own and not from the concept of having big record sales or being a hipster or whatever.

DD: So how would you describe what you do?

Gernot Bronsert: We make art. I think that’s the easiest way to describe it – the record creates a world. It can work on its own, track by track, but the whole thing works together. My father, who is not into electronic music, said that this record reminded him of a David Lynch movie. You have all of these weird situations that fit together. The music on this record is all very different but at the same time connected because we did it in such a short space of time.

DD: So would you say that your sound has developed?
Gernot Bronsert: I hope so. Our lives have a very different rhythm now compared to before: we have children, we tour a lot, we have a record label and sign artists. We have so many projects that time is a massive problem so making music in the way that we do – waiting for inspiration to come and not having the time for it - can be very difficult.

But it’s an exciting time here and it’s not about making money. It’s about representing Berlin. There’s a perception about this city – the partying for 72-hours and techno but that’s the Berlin for the tourists. I think we are a part of Berlin and are showing that there’s something more to offer.

Modeselektor will be playing some UK dates in October 2011 and 'Monkeytown' is out now. Listen to ‘Pretentious Friends’ here