Sebastian Szary

The 2 Minute Interview

Sebastian Szary is one third Moderat and one half Modeselektor. That is not a mathematical impossibility but the unadulterated, pure and unreasonable truth. Made, born and raised in Rüdersdorf and East Berlin, Szary, as friends (and anyone else, really) call him affectionately, initially painted the capital red with his companion Gernot in the 90s before heading onto the stages of the republic, wait no, the whole wide world with their project Modeselektor later on.  When Sascha Ring aka Apparat joined them in 2002, they formed Moderat – Modeselektor plus Apparat equals Moderat, get it? Get it? Which kind of leads us back to arithmetic. On Friday, their third studio album is finally coming out and goes by the shapely name of „III“. We had a chat with Szary, aka the man in blue, about childhood, magic, blackouts, Synesthesia, his new book and music, of course, and didn’t want to leave. Also appearing in further roles were Gernot Bronsert, aka “the voice from offstage”, and Sascha Ring, aka “The Selfie-Bomber”.


Name: Szary
Age: 40
Home: Schildow
Job: Livin’ the dream
Shoe size: 43,5
Favourite sound: The milk frother

 Why do people call you by your last name?
Well…. I think that’s an easy one. Most last names that end with an „i“ or a „y“ immediately sound like nicknames. It used to get on my nerves but then eventually I got used to it. Actually, it’s quite a cool name. Americans, by the way, can’t pronounce it. Charly, Scary… forget it.


Describe III with three words:
Very intense album.


How has Moderat changed in the past 14 years?
Has it been 14 years already? Our demands are higher, we’ve developed further. There are a lot of things we still do the same way as we used to but we have become better at what we do and above all, we know exactly what we don’t want.


A concert you’ll never forget:
That was a really dramatic concert two years ago. In electronic music, there is always this primal fear of a technical glitch. Power failure, cables and so on. We were playing at the Montreux Jazz Festival, high-tech as far as the eye could see, 5 cameras. We’re performing Bad Kingdom, the intro sequence is playing and everyone is waiting for the scream. And then the scream came – and after that: nothing. And then you’re standing there, looking into all of these expectant faces and wide open eyes. And there’s nothing you can do. A combination of embarrassment and helplessness. I smoked a cigarette back stage and thought, I guess they’ll come and get me. It took half an hour. And then it turned out really great.


Is your music better when you’re sad or happy?
I think I have to be in a good mood. But I can also make sad music when I’m happy, that’s not a problem.


Your track for eternity?
One song I absolutely like even though I didn’t grow up with it is ‚Till I Die‘ by The Beach Boys, but in the alternate version.


Share a magical place!
A couple of years back, we bought a barn for a small, and I mean very small, amount of money in the district Prignitz and did it up like a hippie community. That is truly my place of craving. Prignitz is the Bretagne of Brandenburg. If you imagine Brandenburg as France, the northern tip is Prignitz. Nothing happens there, there’s no internet, the only way to tell what day of the week it is, is whether the bus comes or not.


If you had to choose: deaf or dumb?
Dumb. Do you mind if I smoke?


Which moment changed everything?
1989. I had the perfect age. I was 14 and totally interested in music – I just didn’t know how to get my hands on it. Then the wall fell and everything was available. Berlin, the sub-culture that formed after the turnaround. The wild east! And then Scooter happened.

Must-read, must-see, must-hear:
Book: House advertising. I’ve published a book; it’s called Backstage Tristesse. It’s a photo book, I photographed backstage rooms. There are these sad moments when you open the door to have a look and think: hm, I can really see the effort here. ;)
Film: Fassbinder’s Fear Eats the Soul
Record: So many records, so much music, I’m just going through my record collection in my head, my iTunes-list (I’m a synesthete)… The third Moderat album, there!


The most important invention of mankind?
Electricity, I guess. I actually did try going without it, out at the ranch, but I failed. Electricity connects. I saw a picture from a refugee camp yesterday, lots of tangled mobile charger cables. That’s not about killing time, it’s about connectivity, about staying connected to the people you love.


Who would you erect a monument for?
My mother. A very small one that not everyone has access to. Actually I already have. There’s a small dedication on the new album.


What celebrity (dead or alive) would you like to have a drink with? As I am a passionate smoker, it would have to be Helmut Schmidt.


If we visited you at home, what would you cook for us? A Persian dish, Fesenjan. That’s slow-cooked chicken in pomegranate stock with a side of rice and barberries.


What are you afraid of?
Nuffink! (answers Gernot from offstage)


When was the last time you tried something new and what was it?
New club decoration (from offstage, again!)! All three of us went parachuting. You fly up there and the doors open and then you drop into this free fall. When we got to the ground we were still completely high but my wife told me that I spent the following night twitching hectically in my sleep, reliving the whole thing. I’m not doing that again.


What would you change if you could?
Keep yesterday’s people with yesterday’s ideas away from positions of power.


What should no one know about you?
Well, you know my age already… Hm, why I’ve had an anchor tattooed on my hand. Sometimes I draw a stereo anchor next to it with a biro, by the way.


Which question should we have asked?
How much coffee do you drink per day?


Last words:
Hardcore will never die!

P.S. Can I take a picture of your notes? Awesome, that looks like the inside of my head!


Photo: Flavien Prioreau