It's been two years since Apparat's last release, Krieg Und Frieden (Music For Theatre), an adapted work commissioned by German theatre director Sebastian Hartmann for his production of Tolstoy's War and Peace. Recently the man stepped off a European tour, uniquely having no supporting record. Instead a collection of more music made for film and theatre enhanced by an audio-visual collaboration with tech company Transforma. THUMP got the opportunity to chat to Ring on during his break between touring and recording.
THUMP: What sparked your interest in creating music for film and theatre?
Apparat: More and more often people tell me that my music is very cinematic – and it made sense. Suddenly more and more people were licensing my music for films and TV and it worked pretty well. I thought it would be a very good thing for me to do as a contrast. Usually it's me in the studio or me in the studio collaborating with someone else. But making music for films is completely different. It's someone else's idea and you have to become part of it somehow. And that was a challenge for me. I'm always looking for new challenges as it makes being a musician exciting.
Is the challenge trying to tell a story through your music?
Well in a way you're not even telling a story because someone else is telling it for you. It's not so much story telling – it's more about having a sensibility to produce something that goes along with a story and to make it even stronger.
There's been little in the way of Apparat releases this year, what have you been working on?
We almost finished a new Moderat record. I spent a lot of time in the studio doing this. It will be out in spring and we also haven't been to Australia with this one, it's crazy. So yeah, we will be coming over to do some shows. Right now I have to say, I like the variety of things. I think that's the great thing. If I was just a DJ, I would get so depressed. The opportunity to play a film soundtrack, the next week to play a DJ set and then go back to the studio to make some more pop music with Moderat keeps it interesting for me.
What kind of set are you planning for your Australian dates?
Well, a DJ set, is a bit like going to a party for me except I'm the one who's playing. I barely go to clubs these days so if I want to have fun, I DJ. It's a bit of a hobby. I play a lot of old music. Some edits of my own stuff as well. Just what I'd like to dance to in a club. It's tricky as people are sometimes expecting more Apparat. It doesn't matter so much in territories where I play live as well. In Australia, I come and play live shows, I guess these things are so different.
Will you be playing any new Apparat or Moderat stuff?
It's always tricky to play because Apparat and even Moderat stuff often has weird tempo. It's not so easy to work into a dance set from 116-126bpm but yes, there are a few new things that will work. I'm trying to play my own stuff of course. But I'm also trying to have a good time myself.
What's the direction of the new Moderat release?
I think we tried to make some kind of modern pop record. It has quite a few vocal songs on it. It's something that just happens to us in the studio. There's this song idea playing and suddenly I have a vocal idea, there's nothing I can do about it. Even if we're still trying to keep the balance and make a few club tracks here and there it's becoming more and more song-based music. I guess that's the process and we just follow the flow. It also feels much more like a "band" being in the studio these days, rather than just three producers. Everyone has his job in the band.
So can we expect a lot instruments on this record then?
It's a pretty electronic record, very few guitars in the background and we recorded some horns since we all love that sound but basically, for me, since I can't venture out with Apparat so much and make whatever music I want, including all the instruments I want, I think I enjoy making quite electronic music with Moderat much more. It's getting hard to find interesting electronic sounds these days though. It's very "easy" to make electronic music so most of the sounds have been "over-used". Plus, electronic music now is mainstream and you hear it on the radio all the time. Every pop track has an electronic instrumental and often these are even interesting productions.
How do you guys strategise avoiding sounding like everything else?
Well, I think it's in the details. Of course everyone still loves 808 bass drums and that's fine. You can use a whole 808 drum pattern and still spice it up with something interesting. We used a lot of voice sounds, generated melodies, themes and atmospheres out of it. So if you put things in contrast there's still much space for cool ideas, but if you use your 808, a saw tooth bass line and the most obvious synth arpeggio on top it's going to sound like a song from a demo library. As someone who was involved in a label and still somehow is with Modeselektor's "Monkeytown" I get asked what "young-producers" should do to have a chance to get heard and i always said they should start with developing and own sound. Because that's what electronic music is about. It's not about songwriting and very rarely about arrangements. The sound makes it interesting.
So you're saying electronic music is more likely to sound the same? Rather than say rock?
Well rock has a different approach. The song, the lyrics, there's a different emphasis. So it's not so much of a problem if the music itself sounds the same since 50 years. But yes, electronic music tends to sound the same. At least dance music because a lot of producers play safe and just "deliver" and there are some things that always work so a lot of people just do them. But then again you have the ones that are recognisable – that's why they stand out.
"It's exciting, even though I will have to search through piles of shit. But that's part of being a DJ, I guess."
What are some current electronic producers that you feel are true innovators and have their own their own authentic sound?
Hmm, since I spent most of the last year in a studio I'm not so up to date. You're not really listening to music when you make music. I like to play Kink, Pional, or harder weirder stuff from Answer Code Request. If I'd play with a mask and no one would expect melodic music from me I'd play pretty hard sets I guess.
If you're not listening to new music, how do you source the stuff to play in your DJ sets?
I just rediscovered hard wax Berlin. Their online store. If you need to learn a lesson in techno. That's the place. Their "sound" hasn't changed much in the last 20 years. I love that store. That's great. Lakker is cool harder stuff as well. Headless Horsemen, I love hard weird stuff. I used to DJ hard techno as a teenager. It's still inside me!
It's an interesting contrast when you say you're into harder stuff as Apparat stuff isn't that. Will you be playing some weird hard stuff for us when you're over here?
I always try to sneak some of these tracks into my sets. I learned that too much of it can be disappointing for a fan that expects Apparat. So it's all about mixing up genres again! Since I'm more or less done in the studio I'll start checking on the music that happened in the last months. It's exciting, even though I will have to search through piles of shit. But that's part of being a DJ, I guess.
Apparat will perform DJ sets in Australia this month: