Garnot and Szary are bringing the monkey back. The duo otherwise as Modeselektor have been laying their simian antics on worldwide dancefloors for a decade strong, but with time they seem to wax grander and more fantastic rather than wane with age. Known for their ill party jams—as well as ability to really just rock a crazy, happy good time—the Berliners’ third album, Monkeytown, is out this month on their Monkeytown Records. Switching out collaborations with German puppets (you may remember the sublimely nasty “Dark Side of the Sun,” featuring Puppetmastaz), the variegated musical journey this time includes guest appearances as varied as Busdriver, Thom Yorke, Anti-Pop Consortium and long-time musical friend Sascha Ring (Apparat). No less insane, not to mention packed with an insane amount of talent and trickery than the albums before it, Monkeytown is simply a trip. Or as Gernot put it: “just pure music.” Magnetic had a chance to catch up with Gernot via Skype in his Berlin home. In between attempts at putting his wiley four-year-old to bed, we got to the bottom of the finer points of DJ perks, how much he hates post punk and what it’s like to be buddies with one of the most influential musicians of our time. Oh yeah, and we laughed a whole hell of a lot too.
We could have an easy life and make some dance music, have DJ gigs and have some fun and meet nice people while buying nice shoes and wearing tight pants… But it’s more than that, really.
You have quite the diverse roster of collaborators. How do you choose them?
You know, we are not big fans of strategy, or commercial plans. We just do things by coincidence. We started this record a year ago, but we didn’t really start making the music itself until ten weeks before the deadline. We always wanted to work with Anti-Pop [Consortium] from New York, and we were working with Thom Yorke anyways. Most of the rest were just sort of… there. I randomly got an email from Otto von Schirach about some other music, so that story was basically like, “Oh, hi. Nice to hear from you. Are you interested in singing on a track of ours?” There was really no plan behind any of it.
What were you already doing with Thom Yorke?
We were hanging, chilling with him, touring with him and making some remixes. We did a tune with him on our last record, Happy Birthday!, and also did remixes for him and for Radiohead. It’s really not a big deal. He’s also makes his tea with water like anyone else. He’s a cool guy—very normal—despite the fact that he’s probably one of the important people in music this century. We have a really nice, respectful relationship with him. If we didn’t have that, he wouldn’t be working with two little wankers from Berlin, like us.
Despite your modesty and the fact that you guys always seem to be having a party, your music is wild with skill and talent. It can’t all be fun and games. Where are you coming from, musically?
I listen to so much music and that’s maybe my problem. We both listen to every kind of music. Szary is really into indie rock and post punk—I hate that shit. To me, post punk is terrible music, but he loves it. I’m the bass music guy. I really like UK bass, dubstep and techno of course. He likes techno too, but the main difference between us is that he’s more the guy who’s going to some new indie band, and I love hip-hop. Actually, funnily enough my son is in the same kindergarten group with the daughter of one of the MC’s from [the German hip-hop group] Die Fantastischen Vier. In any event, I grew up with techno—not hip-hop—but don’t make fun of German hip-hop. American hip-hop is nothing to be too proud of. When all the kids liked Nirvana, I hated that shit. When The Wall came down, electronic music was the main thing. I’m more inspired by Detroit Techno more than anything else.
I don’t want to lose my face. The Japanese always say that they don’t want to lose their faces. I would lose my face to do something to please the market. So that’s why I do my thing.
This album is sort of all over the place. How would you describe its central core?
I think it’s pure music. We DJ a lot and have two record labels and we are totally in this electronic music world. It’s the world we’re living in, and it makes it even harder for us to make music. This record just came from a place that wasn’t planned. We weren’t trying to corner the American, or Icelandic market or whatever. We both totally don’t care. We’re just happy that we make music, and we could make it happen again. This time around, it was really hard. We’ve been doing it for ten years, and we’re still not sick of it.
I hope we’re still innovative. We could have an easy life and make some dance music, have DJ gigs and have some fun and meet nice people while buying nice shoes and wearing tight pants, or whatever. But it’s more than that, really. We just want to have a good time, and I want to look in the mirror every morning and see something cool: Me! You know, I don’t want to lose my face. The Japanese always say that they don’t want to lose their faces. I would lose my face to do something to please the market. So that’s why I do my thing.