Modeselektor return this week their third album. It might surprise you to realize that it’s Modeselektor’s first long-player in almost four years, simply because the Berlin-based duo has remained so active during that time. In addition to non-stop touring—both on their own and with Moderat, their trio with Apparat—Gernot and Sebastian have been tireless A&Rs, with their Monkeytown and 50 Weapons imprints churning out a steady stream of records from the likes of Siriusmo, Cosmin TRG, FaltyDL, Phon.o and other leading lights of the left-field bass scene.
Also called Monkeytown, the new album features a slew of distinguished guests—the rapper Busdriver, IDM madman Otto Von Schirach, Warp artists PVT, Anti-Pop Consortium, even Radiohead’s Thom Yorke—and a setlist that’s just as diverse, from the Dabrye-like glitch-hop of “Grillwalker” to the underwater organ concert of “War Cry.” There’s “Shipwreck,” with its acoustic drum samples and an overall vibe reminiscent of Four Tet; “Pretentious Friends” is a nasty hip-hop jam; and “German Clap” is on a kind of UK funky tip, but with a definite German techno feel to it. In top form after years on the road, they know how to bring the party, but Monkeytown devotes just as much attention to chilling in the forest canopy as it does swinging from vines.
We checked in with the duo to find out more; read on for the interview, and pick up the album on Beatport here.
You guys have a ton of guests on the new album—Busdriver, Antipop Consortium, Otto von Schirach, PVT, Siriusmo, your Moderat colleague Apparat, some guy named Thom Yorke… Do you find yourselves more inspired when working with other people?
It’s always inspiring to work with other artists. The more influences, the better. All the collaborations came naturally. We didn’t sit down and think, “Okay, what name sounds cool? Who would be dope to be appearing on our album?” We made a track, and some of the tracks were just crying out for some vocals. And as we are lucky bastards and got to know a lot of great artists being on tour, we just made a few phone calls and had our collaborations. Luckily, everyone was interested in working with us and had time.
Were you generally working side-by-side with them in the studio, or were you just sending files back and forth?
We were sending files back and forth with everyone, except Thom Yorke. He actually came to Berlin just to go into the studio with us. It was great – we are really like-minded musically and didn’t have to talk a whole lot about music. We just clicked right away, and the two tracks with him were done quickly.
It was great to see Anti Pop Consortium on there… Have you been fans of them for a long time?
Yeah, we’ve been fans and followers for a while. We first saw them when they were here for one of their first Berlin shows. Great guys. It was one of the first shows of an actual hip-hop act that stood behind tables full of electronic equipment. This was totally new to us back then.
Who is on your wish-list of potential collaborators?
Modeselektor tours as hard as anyone in the business. How has your live show evolved over the past couple of years, and what will you be doing on this tour?
Yeah, we are pretty much constantly on tour. We get better with every show, less nervous, get more routine – in a good way! Our new show will only include new material – mostly from the new album, but also still unreleased stuff. And we’ll have a new visual show. All really exciting for us!
A few years ago, you talked about some crazy show you had played in small American town, like Missoula, Montana. What are some of the most surprising places you’ve visited in recent tours?
We actually visited Monkeytown, a town in the middle of nowhere in the U.S.! It was kind of touching… We didn’t play there but just passed by on our tour with Identity festival. There are so many places we’ve seen. No matter if we’ve been there before or if it’s the first time – you always discover something new and bring back inspiration.
Let’s talk about Berlin for a moment. You must be one of the unlikeliest acts ever to come out of Berlin—when you came up, minimal techno pretty much ruled the city. How did you carve out a niche for yourselves, and what kind of creative connection do you feel to the city?
Well, we just did what we wanted to do and never followed any hype or trend. We just go Modeselektor style!
Berlin is our hometown, that’s our connection. This is where we come from, this is where we live, this is where our kids were born…
I’d imagine that you must have gotten plenty of offers from bigger record labels at this point, yet you’re sticking with your own Monkeytown imprint. Why?
Well, we actually started Monkeytown Records to give our buddy Siriusmo a real home. We then quickly realized that this is the best thing to do for us as artists as well – have a home where we have total artistic freedom and people who support us for real. It’s hard work and lots of responsibility to have your own kind of empire, but on the other hand you get so much out of it, most of all freedom.
Finally, can you tell us a little more about Monkeytown and 50 Weapons? What is the main difference between the two labels? And what can we expect to hear from them in the coming months?
50 Weapons started as a white label / bootleg label. Now we even have album releases. We didn’t think that it would take that direction, but it all came naturally and we just went with the flow… We first only wanted to release 12”, but as we started to work closer with some artists we realized we have to also give them the chance to release an album there, so … While 50 Weapons is more club focused, Monkeytown is the more (even though we hate the word) “eclectic” label if you like. More pop, more melodies, more home listening. The difference between both labels is best described with colors: 50 Weapons is rather dark – grey or even black. Monkeytown is the colorful brother….
Listen to Modeselektor’s Monkeytown in the player below, and get the album on the new Beatport here.