XLR8R: How did you meet each other and what did you think of each other when you first met?
Gernot Bronsert: I guess the first time we met was 1993. I met him at school. We went to the same school, but he is four years older than me. I was just a little boy. He was a little boy as well. I remember exactly where. It was in a chemistry room, he had some graffiti paintings on his books and it was the first time that I saw things like this and I was like, “Wow.” But I guess he didn’t recognize me at this time. I was too small. I was 11 or something like that.
Sebastian Szary: I had an exam, so I had no time to see what the little boys were doing.
Gernot: Later, we started DJing together in a club. We had a little weekly club night on a Wednesday in Berlin. [We played] everything, but no techno. We tried to make something different. We both grew up with techno, we are techno kids, we went every week to the Tresor club. We were socialized with techno and later on we tried to find something different.
Sebastian: I remember we played jungle with high-pitched vocals.
How would you describe your sound?
Sebastian: At the end of the day, we still can’t say how we sound. It depends. We’re telling stories to music. We are musicians and we are sitting every day in a studio and we are creating music. We are always searching for the best sounding bass drum.
Gernot: All genres and styles are old-fashioned.
How did you originally meet the graphic designers from Pfadfinderei, with whom you often collaborate on your visuals?
Sebastian: We have been friends for 10 or 12 years. We started a weekly party together in 1998. This party was called Labstyle, and later Labland. [It was] 50% visuals and 50% music. The idea was to watch with the ears and to hear with the eyes. The first two years it was in a small Kurvenstarr hip-hop place we did that every Thursday because they had a video beamer. Then, as it became bigger, we moved to the WMF and then we called it Labland and we did that there for a bunch. Gernot, tell the Labland story.
Gernot: “The Labland story.” It was the first party in the new location. It was 2002, exactly the night when the Deutschmark changed to the Euro. Jamie Lidell was playing. I don’t know how high his fee was. The Euro was 100, the Deutschmark was 50 Euro. I was paying his fee in Euro but with the value of Euro, I gave him the double fee. Then after I was like “Shit, where’s the fucking money gone?” It was like a hit in my face. Shit, I gave him double. We were too shy to ask him [for the money back] two days after. He did a great show. He did the greatest show he ever did
Then we had a DJ set at WMF. We did a conga line throughout the whole club and the party was very excessive. Jimi Tenor was standing in the corner and he was pissed that the party was so good. He was living in New York at the time. He was there with Khan, and Khan said, “Yeah I want to stay here” but it was too much for Jimi and he had to leave. It was really hard clubbing. They couldn’t sell any cocktails because everyone had destroyed all the glasses by smashing them.
Are you still partying so hard?
Gernot: We try to keep our body and mind clear. We try to be not so wasted because we play two or three times per weekend. We don’t use [drugs]. We drink alcohol and smoke pot. I like the feeling of being awake for two days without chemicals helping your body. I see it in a sporty way, like it’s a show of skills. Just have good food, good drinks, and then you can stay awake for seven days! Watch Charlie [Sebastian] and me, we are looking fantastic!
What is one band or artist that you both really like?
Gernot: Shellac, Steve Albini. He was born in Missoula, Montana. We wanted to go to Chicago and visit him but there was not enough time. Also we used to be big Aphex Twin fans. And we like rap, especially the stuff from New York, and the Bay Area, like E-40 and Keak the Sneak.
Tell me some crazy stories from your U.S. tours.
Gernot: New York is my favorite town in the U.S., but last time for me it was depressing to be there. Maybe I was too stoned, but the mood and the mentality of the people wasn’t the same as the West Coast. I remember right after 9/11, we spent a couple of days there with freaky New York artists and they are very critical and enemies of the system. We arrived by night in New York and we went to Ground Zero with Cowboy Mark (a New York DJ). Mark was wearing a hat with an American flag; red, white and blue with silver stars, and a Vietnam veteran’s jacket. He was falling down in front of Ground Zero praying on his knees, screaming, “Why? Why?” and putting his fists into heaven like he was asking God why. It was a performance. He’s kind of crazy. The cops were watching–soldiers, actually–and standing there with guns but they couldn’t say anything.
In New York, you can’t drink alcohol on the street and you can’t smoke inside. What can you do? It’s not the club culture that I was expecting.
That trip was also the first time I heard hyphy and really paid attention to the lyrics. They’re singing such stupid things, like “I wear my white tee.” That’s so weird. My favorite song of the hyphy movement is this R&B track with a very glitchy melody. In the song the guyssings that he is wearing a white tee and every day he buys a new one for one buck. That’s genius. I like it.
What do you do when you’re lacking inspiration?
We eat. Sometimes we get really fat. We are inspired by ourselves, and smoking cigarettes and drinking beers and coffee. We have a studio, but it is more a place for hanging with friends and drinking beer and thinking about God and the world and New York and Oakland hip-hop.
This transcript was taken from Vivian Host's 2006 interview with Modeselektor, via telephone from Berlin. To read the Modeselektor feature from XLR8R 112, download a pdf of that issue.