Apparat: A journey from East Berlin and Bryan Ferry to electronic romantism

Dan Cook | Thursday 22 September, 2011 10:19

The ability to interview someone virtually amazes me. The only thing between myself and Sascha Ring (aka Apparat) as we chewed the fat on topics ranging from his over-use of percentages to the link between creativity and smoking was the thick layer of dust on my 17’ PC monitor, a broadband connection and boat loads of binary. Skype really has changed everything. That said, a trip to the hedonistic hometown (Berlin) of Apparat would have been most welcome. Next time, maybe, Snipe?

If you’ve taken an interest in electronic music over the past 10 years chances are that you’ve come across Apparat. His journey from the heart of Berlin’s electronic scene to fronting his own 4-piece band has seen a profound shift in his approach to both production and performance. In that time he’s released three acclaimed Apparat albums—the fourth, The Devil’s Walk, arrives in the autumn with its cool, contemplative dream-pop stylings and bruise-tender Sigur Rós textures. Here we find out why he’s sick of dance music, get to grips with romanticism and melancholia, and come to the agreement that our parents were a lot cooler than we ever gave them credit for.

Like many great musicians of his generation Apparat was nurtured on early 90’s rave music; the seeds of electronica spilling out from his East German hometown of Quedlinburg. He explains “I got totally into rave music…we used to have all these raves in Russian bunkers­—East Germany was full of warehouses and abandoned shit everywhere, lots of places to have parties and get crazy.” This continued when he moved to Berlin which was “way bigger but basically the same, the freedom, the abandoned buildings, post-GDR space that was free suddenly. I went to warehouse parties and it was really inspiring.” It was around this time that Sascha began his fascination with sounds, a self-proclaimed nerd who would spend days on end programming patches and generating sounds, culminating in his steady rise to leading Techno producer and DJ; synonymous with the German electronic scene.

While not turning his back on his past, there came a time when Apparat started craving new avenues for sound creation…“it was always about sound and that was really interesting, and then at some point it felt like it all happened…you know the whole plug-in market, computers got really powerful, you could do anything with just one little piece of software…it felt like there isn’t really much sound left to discover. It became too easy also, so I started getting interested in different things, so the whole architecture of a musical piece. Not only about how something sounds, but the meaning and the basic structure and I became more and more interested in acoustic old-school sounds”.

This shift in direction and derivation led Apparat to the coastal Mexican town Sayulita, selected for its warm weather, friends, nostalgic ties and stunning recording location. Here, together with his band, Sascha started work on his new ideas which worked really well “because everybody was there it was like a band camp” and it was easy to record any sounds whenever they were inspired, bringing the “fun and the playfulness” back into his music production. Despite this and the beautiful surroundings, Apparat struggled to move totally away from his heavily produced disposition…

“Unfortunately I wasn’t ready for it, I always ended up sitting in the corner with my laptop tweaking the recordings and I made it all totally electronic again which I didn’t really want in the beginning. My plan was to make an album that was pretty simple and not totally effected, to make the music very close to the original idea. I only partially succeeded doing that in Mexico, I buried a lot of ideas under a lot of effect tracks and stuff so when I came back to Berlin I had to dig deep and I had to find the ideas again”.

These original sounds emerged back in Berlin and with the help of co-producer Patrick “Nackt” Christensen, the wonderful new album, The Devil’s Walk emerged. Inspired by the romantic period; the melancholic dark Berlin portrayed by Caspar David Freidrich; and the Mexican artist Jose Guadalupe Posada whose artwork motivated the album with its cover of a salesman as the devil’s puppet. Sascha explains this fusion of ideas “Posada’s work and the Shelley piece are basically about the same thing – people with power that get along with the devil very well. Even these days it feels like nothing has really changed”

Performing his new approach has been a revelation for Sascha and has removed many of the pressures associated with DJing…“facing the audience when you DJ you are always very conscious of how the crowd are responding so I’d end up making my songs more dancey, making remixes and stuff but it’s not totally rewarding in the end because it’s not the song that you originally made. Now it’s completely different, I go on stage with the band and I play the music how it is.” He’s clearly enjoying this change in focus as when “you play a concert about 90% of people come because they like your music. If you play a club you can be happy if it’s half of the club, there’s always another 40% that are there because it’s ‘in’ to go there, or because the drinks are cheap or the girls are pretty.”
I was intrigued to know what he’s listening to at the moment. On this point we had much in common, not so much in the actual bands, but in the realisation that the music that was so prevalent in our childhoods was so much better than we ever realised…“ I remember sitting in front of the radio with my father and he was taping radio shows from West
Germany to get all the cool new stuff. I definitely remember that he kept playing Roxy Music and at this time I thought it must suck because my father liked it haha”. So while Sascha brushes up on his Brian Ferry I had to admit to much worse: my oft heard childhood rants that the Rolling Stones are rubbish. How wrong we were.

The Devil’s Walk is out on Mute Records on 26 September

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