As far as interviews go, this one couldn’t get any better. Sascha Ring, better known as Apparat, Gaurav Raina and Tapan Raj of the Midival Punditz, and one little tape recorder over dinner at Olive, right before show time at Blue Frog, Delhi. It was also a momentous occasion as this was Apparat’s 100th show. No pressure, of course. Raina and Raj asked the questions and the conversation wound around everything from Ring’s last album, The Devil’s Walk, to his journey from a small town guy to the big stage. Clearly, there was a lot to discuss.
Walk us through the experience of making your last album [The Devil’s Walk.]
Early versions on the songs were made in Mexico actually, because I wanted to get out of Berlin because everything there distracts you from working – parties, phones, whatever! So I rented a house in Mexico and went there with some friends and we worked on music and that’s where the basic idea happened. ‘Ash/Black Veil’ happened even before that. It was me alone in the studio, and then I went and took it to Mexico and basically destroyed it. And then I went back to Berlin and Nackt [from Warren Suicide, who ended up becoming his co-producer and a member of his live band] came on board because I got stuck with the album. He just took it back to the original version, which was a really good thing!
I wanted to ask what Apparat was about, up till last year. What has been your progression moving into the organic space? Has your thought process as musician changed in the bargain?
Well, first of all, it’s been a very long and slow process and it happened from album to album. I’d say there were already traces of the change in Walls, with lots of instruments, which were used in a more electronic and loopy way. With this album, I finally went one step further and we recorded performances from beginning to the end to make it even more human. It wasn’t just about the sound of instruments now, but also about the shakiness and the human factor of instruments as you play them. I think with every record I made it shifted a little more in this direction. If you listen to the back catalogue you’ll be able to see where I was at all these moments. Maybe The Devil’s Walk turned out to be a little more extreme, because I made this really electronic album with Modeselektor [Moderat] before it. I tend to move in completely opposite directions at some points. It’s like – electronic music, done, boring. Now I want something different. So I looked for something completely new.
In conversation with Sascha Ring. Over a few beers and stuff.
And did you do it without a metronome?
Some of the songs, yes. You can’t really say that in general. Also because some of the songs were based on these old ideas I made in Mexico and then we made some new ones in the studio. There wasn’t even a concept or a master plan. Every song had a completely different approach and we basically rebuilt the studio for everything. It was also really playful. I was so tired of this computer work and I really wanted to do stuff with my hands again! It started in Mexico because it was just us in this big room with some instruments so we had to improvise a lot because we didn’t have much equipment. It was really basic. For example, putting a drum kit in the open air, and using a really simple microphone and not a complex setup. So the playfulness and improvisation was very important because it became fun to make a record again!
Did that rejuvenate you? Was that what you needed at the time?
Totally. Sometimes I have these moments where I’m like … making music is not fun anymore. It’s not supposed to feel like a job. And sometimes I feel like – and my manager gets really pissed off at those times – I think I’m going to change jobs. I’m tired! I can’t think of something that inspires me at those times. And out of this sort of moment, I went to Mexico and found what I needed. Something out of the studio and a new way of working that gave me energy for even a few more records! It was completely different especially compared to the autistic environment of sitting in a studio completely alone.
You’ve often talk about this certain sense of freedom you had growing up and discovering music and cutting wires to sneak into warehouses to set up parties. Is that freedom something you feel nostalgic about?
Doesn’t everyone feel like that when they think about their teenage past years? But, yeah, artistically, now I have the feeling, more than ever, that I can do whatever I want to and don’t have to follow any rules or be somebody or something. I’ve actually gained more freedom. With every album I made, I always thought – that’s going to be too acoustic for people. Even with Duplex, back in 2003, I used two guitars and thought, oh my God, singing and guitars on an electronic album! People are not going to like that! So I thought like that for every album, except for this last one where I went, fuck it. I didn’t care at all and did exactly what I wanted to do. Of course now, I have to deal with some sort of aftermath because I definitely scared away some people. But that’s how it works. You have to keep evolving, and you may lose some people but then you find new ones.
But there’s another side to your question. You know, when I moved to Berlin, I found it to be the city where everything is possible. The freedom, empty spaces … what happened in my hometown, also happened in Berlin but on a much bigger scale! Sometimes I do get sentimental about the old days because now, there are so many rules and laws. So, it’s still open-minded but when you compare it to what it used to be … it used to be a playground. So I do miss it sometimes, but then I usually just get a weekend off and rediscover Berlin all over again. There’s always something new and different to see.
Click here for part II
Photography by Abhijay Gupta, Anushka Nadia Menon and Ambika Muttoo