Sascha Ring is hardly a novice on the music scene – music has been a constant presence in his life for the last fifteen years. Arriving at the dawn of the new millennium with his album Multifunktionsebene that was released on Shitkatapul – a stable he co-owns with T.Raumschmiere – Apparat’s ouvre subsequently appeared on well-known Berlin imprints such as BPitch Control (as Moderat or in collaboration with Ellen Allien) as well !K7. Coinciding with an era in music that could be dubbed post-digital, Sascha is now preparing an album that features live instruments to be released by the iconic label Mute.
Currently in the midst of rehearsing for a tour that will see him perform at the Electronic Beats Festival in Prague on 10th of June, we caught up with the elusive producer to talk about his new record, the new chapter in his music career and his strive for a “normal life”.
So now you’re in Berlin rehearsing for the tour?
Yes, we start playing at the end of May and right now we’re putting a completely new show together. We’re going to play the new album with a few old songs as well even though the album won’t be out until late August but we’ll play it live just to test it.
How will this tour be different to your previous ones?
We don’t have any loops and backing tracks; it’s going to be all played live.
How have you arrived at this point that the show is going to feature only live instrumentation?
It’s mostly due to the fact that the album sounds pretty acoustic. Although it’s still done in an electronic way most of the sounds that we used are made by acoustic instruments. The idea of going on stage with a laptop and just playing loops of guitars and pianos just doesn’t sound very tempting to me. We really wanted to play in the most human and organic way but still make it sound electronic. I also really wanted to play this material with other people because in the last two or three years it was a very nice experience to play the Moderat show.
How do you perceive the changes in the electronic music scene over the years – the current trend towards the analogue, lo-fi and live as opposed to clean and digital. Because you’ve seen both…
A long time ago, when computers became powerful enough to make music, everybody just made digital music on computers. It’s a fashion based on technology. Then everybody got tired of making music with computer technology and plug-ins. People went back to old-fashioned recording techniques to make the records sound more human, which is a good thing because that’s how records sounded for fifty years until someone figured: “oh yeah, we can make records for 200 bucks, we only need a laptop.” And that’s how records sounded and that’s how radio music sounds still – like shit. It’s produced very quickly and cheaply. People don’t even bother to record drums anymore. They just program the drums because they have no time or budget. That’s what people listen to, even if you don’t want to. It’s coming out of every speaker and radio everywhere. Lots of people got annoyed by that and decided to make their own music sound less plastic. And that’s what I did as well because the same thing happened to me.
How do you feel in the Berlin electronic scene?
I’ve never really felt part of the big electronic scene. I’m at home in Berlin, the whole BPitch Control and Shitkatapult crew, Modeselektor are here… It’s our posse, we hang out together. But I don’t feel like I’m representing the Berlin electronic music because for most of the people Berlin electronic music is still minimal techno. And also I don’t want to be considered electronic anyway because it’s always attached to clubs. I’m not doing the club music thing anyway. I did it for so long. I don’t see too much development there. Maybe I’m just getting too old. But I think it’s also because there’s not so much innovation right now. We’ve had dubstep. Ok, that was a very new thing and by looking at how the whole media jumped on it it’s obvious that there hadn’t been something really interesting for a long time.
But on the other hand you have all these young bands from America who come from an indie rock background but utilize electronics and sound electronic too.
In America electronic music has been around for a long time. Their approach is coming from the other side, which is kind of cool and that’s what I’ve also done with this record. We wrote the songs and then we used electronic instruments as part of the whole song just as an extra instrument basically. Even without the electronic part you could still play the song on a piano and it would sound the same, which means that it has some kind of a musical base. It’s not just a drum computer and technology. For a long time electronic dance music was just about this. It was about having a new plugin to make a weird sound and if this sound was gone, the whole track was gone.
I was totally part of that. It was exciting to search for new sounds and get a little bit nerdy programming weird sound patches and stuff. I really enjoyed that but maybe I did it for a little too long and now I’m trying to focus on music.
Could you tell us something about your new album – what ideas and concepts does it have?
I’ve been on a tour with Moderat and that was quite electronic – the live show and the way we made the record. Of course, we were pretty open-minded and tried out a lot of stuff but in the end the record was electronic, dance [music]. I think I just needed something else after Moderat. Just for the contrast. I started working on this record – basically songs with vocals and a story. I didn’t have any intentions to make something innovative. I just wanted to make nice music and an album that you could listen to from start to finish because that’s been disappearing as well. People only listen to the hits. I like trying to make people listen to the whole record.
Does the album have a name yet?
I’d rather not tell you because there’s a whole story behind it.
What about the moods and feelings of the new album that you tried to convey?
It’s mostly about problems between people. But it wasn’t intentional, it just happened. The mood of the album is melancholic and dark.
Does it reflect something global or personal?
It just reflects me because I’m not a happy person. But I think that’s also what’s pushing me forward because I always have to prove myself again. Also the whole process of making the record was hard. Very often I just went home after twelve hours of being in the studio and had the feeling that I didn’t do anything and that everything I did was crap. And if that happens every other day you’re questioning why you’re making music because it was supposed to be fun and then it became a really tough and serious struggle. At some point I was like I’m really going to finish this. It took a lot of energy, that’s why I’ve just rented out my studio for a year. I won’t have a studio for the whole year just because I don’t want to make any music for a while. After the album was done I went to Thailand for two months then I came back and started doing business stuff and now I’m rehearsing for the record in the studio. I don’t even touch a computer to make music anymore.
But you’re still going to make music, right?
Yeah but maybe in a year. It’s going to take some time. I’ve been making music almost every day for fifteen years. I’ve never really done anything else and now I have to try to have a life and do something else, learn what normal people do. I’ve been playing as a DJ every weekend for five years. This month I don’t play any gigs. I had my first weekend in Berlin last week and it was really strange. I really have to learn again what to do on a Saturday or a Friday. The DJ life makes it really hard to stay in touch with people because you fly into Berlin, you’re there for three days and on Thursday you fly out again. It’s always back and forth. I might prefer to tour as a band when you’re on the road for two or three months.
Touring with a band is also more communal than as a DJ.
Now I think I would really prefer this because the other life makes me very nervous and I’m already a nervous character. I really want to settle a little bit and chill out from time to time which is really hard if you’re living this kind of life.
Did signing to Mute mark a new chapter in your music life?
Definitely. First of all it really fits the record. We have great labels here. BPitch did a very nice job with Moderat for example, but it’s still very much situated in the electronic world. Mute is also an electronic label but it’s considered to be an independent label for all kinds of music. That’s the first reason. The other is that for the new plan, the new live show, it seems to be a good idea.
Your music is pretty diverse and hard to categorize. What does it mean to you to have music both as your hobby and a career?
That’s hard to answer because it has changed during the years. I started making music when I was a child – I was playing drums. Then I moved to Berlin and first music became a hobby and then it became my job and that’s been a long process. When I decided to make only music I didn’t have any money but I was still fighting for it. And these days I kind of miss those old days when music was a hobby because now everything depends on it. If I’m not happy with the music I make – as I’ve mentioned before when I come back from the studio depressed because the whole day was shit – my whole life seems to be shit. Because music is my life. There’s nothing else to balance it. That’s why I have to try and have a life outside of music because it’s unhealthy if your whole feelings and freedom and moods depend on one thing only. Of course there’s also a nice side to it. It pays back if you’re serious about something.
What can we expect from you at your upcoming show at the Electronic Beats Festival in Prague?
It will be one of the first gigs of the tour so it will definitely be something new. It will have some sort of look on stage. We’ll have special lamps, etc. It’s not going to be a show like with Moderat. It should have this organic and human feeling to it to reflect the music. I don’t want to have a fancy digital video show. It’s more about music. It should be pretty dark and cinematic. People should be on a little journey, hopefully.
Apparat will play the Electronic Beats Festival in Prague on June 10th 2011 alongside Bonaparte, FM Belfast and When Saints go Machine