When melodic house and techno faves Julian Wassermann and Raphael Mader got together… it was MODEM
Munich native Julian Wassermann will need no introduction to lovers of melodic house and techno, his work having appeared over the past 10 years on labels including Renaissance, Last Night On Earth, Kompakt, Watergate, Stil Vor Talent, Terminal M and Watergate Recordings.
The same cohort of DJs, record buyers and club-goers should be familiar, too, with the name Raphael Mader, a fellow Münchner who made his production debut in 2014 and has since featured on respected imprints such as Steyoyoke, Renaissance, Dear Deer, Flemcy Music
Well, after recently collaborating (under their own names) on an EP for Fur Coat's Barcelona-based Oddity label, the pair have now joined forces properly as MODEM. And last week saw the release of their first EP in this new guise, Marginal, an EP which finds them teaming up with French duo Betical, and that's brought to you by the aforesaid Renaissance – appropriately enough, given that both have history with the label.
Neither of them have any history with iDJ, though – so now seemed like the perfect time to find out more. You can insert your own “dialing them up” joke here…
As you haven't featured in iDJ before, can you start by telling us a bit about your respective backgrounds, and how you got into making/playing electronic music in the first place?
Raphael: “My parents were both musicians in a band, so I got in touch with making music really early. At age 16 I started my first tries in producing music in a DAW. My first release was in 2014 – but a quite different style of electronic music I’d say. My productions changed a lot by then.”
Julian: “I've been producing and DJing since about 2008. It all started with my first college parties. With the first gigs, I really wanted to learn how to produce my own tracks. That took a little while, because I had to teach myself most of it. Finally, in 2011, I had my first release. Since then, things have changed, both in terms of style and technique. But my influences are still in house and techno.”
As you both have established careers already, how did the two of you come to be working together as MODEM?
Julian: “We both followed each other closely for a long time. Since we both had releases on Renaissance and both live in close proximity, I invited Raphael to my studio and we produced our first EP for Oddity. Then we had the idea to start a new project together.”
Raphael: “In one studio session, one track’s sketch dragged us into a completely different genre – even if this was not fitting for the EP, we wanted to give it a try and continued until we had the final track. We were both very excited about it and talked about our musical influences.
“We had several matches – Moderat and Bicep just to name two – so we began thinking about exploring the idea of producing electronica and breaks together. A few studio sessions later, Julian came around with the final idea of founding the new music project MODEM.”
What do you get out of working together as MODEM that you can't get from working individually?
Raphael: “It’s just so much fun. Julian and I became really close friends, we get each other’s vibe very fast in the studio and always find ways to combine different ideas.”
Julian: “In any case, much more creativity! It's amazing how quickly we both get into the workflow and then a simple idea becomes a finished song. We are both open to new styles, of course we also have different influences and so together we come up with completely new results, which is very exciting.”
Who does what in the studio – is one of you the ideas man and the other the engineer, for instance, or do you both tend to do everything?
Julian: “In the creative process, we both deliver ideas independently, which we then finish producing together as producers. I am then responsible for the mixing and mastering at the end.”
Raphael: “Before most of our studio days, we'll both record ideas separately. It may just be a simple vocal, a drum pattern, a nice melody or even almost finished tracks.
In the end we try to make it fit for the two of us as we have a clear vision for MODEM.”
When working as MODEM, do you tend to actually be physically in the same studio at the same time, or are you more often working remotely?
Raphael: “We work on the final production process for every track in Julian’s studio together. Up to this point we often have calls during the week to discuss new ideas, changes etc.”
Julian: “It sometimes happens that one of us comes up with the initial idea for a song and then shows it to the other. If we both like it, it becomes a joint MODEM production. But of course some songs are also created directly in the studio together. It's a good mixture in any case.”
We're talking today because of the EP Marginal with Betical. How did the two of you come to hook up with the two of them? And again – was this a physical collaboration, or all done via the internet?
Julian: “I took Raphael to an event where I played Icon by Betical. The song was then permanently in our heads for both of us.”
Raphael: “I was already in touch with the guys of Betical. When Julian and I had already a collection of around 10 produced track ideas, I sent them to Betical and asked if they would like to join for a collaboration. The guys picked Marginal and added some more great elements.
“We didn’t have the chance to work on the track together in the studio, so we always sent the updated versions back and forth.”
The single comes on Renaissance, a label you've both worked with individually in the past. What is it you like about working with them, in particular?
Raphael: “Renaissance is a label that every artist would love to call home for his tracks. On the one hand, it is working super-professional and offers a large audience to the artist; on the other hand, it’s super nice guys and absolute fun to work with! Marginal is already my seventh release with them – it obviously became like a family to me.”
Julian: “Renaissance is without question one of the most iconic labels of all time. It is an honour for us to work with such partners and also to write a new part of Renaissance's history with our music.”
Finally, apart from the EP, what else is going on/coming up for you right now that iDJ readers need to know about?
Julian: “We are currently working on our live set-up, as we would like to perform our productions live together in the future. This already takes some time!“
Raphael: “With MODEM we have a lot in the pipeline… a lot of finished (and unfinished) tracks, collaborations and a remix which will see the light very soon, too! We definitely have big plans with our concept and we can’t wait to share our music with you.”
Words: Russell Deeks
MODEM, Betical's Marginal is out now on Renaissance – buy it here.