After the fall of the Wall, Modeselektor found its footing in techno.
By Joshua P. Ferguson
Originally Published in Time Out Chicago Magazine | 11.06.09
Children running amok, police officers standing idly by while huge parties are thrown in the streets, kids experiencing unprecedented freedom because their parents are preoccupied with life after the fall of the Berlin Wall: You expect to hear these tales while watching the History Channel. Not while interviewing techno producers.
Yet for Gernot Bronsert, 30, and Sebastian Szary, 34, such scenes are integral to the story of how they came to form Modeselektor. When we phoned Bronsert in his Berlin studio in advance of Modeselektor’s performance at the Congress Theater Friday 6, we thought we’d hear stories about being obsessed with records as a kid—and we did—but we also heard about growing up in East Berlin after the dissolution of the Iron Curtain.
“There was a kind of Wild West feeling,” Bronsert says. “It was a very confusing situation. For the children, though, everything was fine because all the teachers, parents, everybody, were very busy with themselves. For us, we had all the freedom we could want. We just had parties.”
After East Germany’s liberation, Szary and friends were the ones throwing the parties, and Bronsert was always in attendance. “After I went to my first techno party, it just took a few months and I was one of the DJs,” Bronsert says. It took another few years before Bronsert and Szary started working together.
In the meantime, Bronsert studied to be a “street worker”—a loss in translation that leads to a few laughs before we realize he’s talking about social work. To make ends meet, he also worked for renowned record store Hard Wax. “It was like being at techno university,” he recalls. “That was the thing that pushed me in this direction with no way back.” At the same time, Szary worked as a sound engineer for a studio and youth center. Bronsert joined him as part of his dissertation, which focused on constructive outlets for inner-city youth. “By day we produced music for little rappers, and by night we started creating Modeselektor productions,” he says.
The Modeselektor sound may have grown out of a techno mold, but along the way it broke it. Bronsert attributes that to the duo’s expansive tastes. “We grew up on Underground Resistance, Chicago house, acid,” he says. “We’ve always closely followed electronic music. Every two years you can be sure there’s a new genre.” A case in point, Modeselektor’s Body Language mix for Get Physical—the duo’s first mix-CD, released in September—spans house, old-school techno and dubstep. The track list sees Missy Elliott next to Detroit’s Osborne and classic Robert Hood beside Major Lazer. There’s even a cut from Animal Collective. “It’s like a sport, to cover music and buy records,” Bronsert says. “If politicians would stop all music by law, worldwide, I think I would do things with weapons that I would never otherwise do.”