Interview: Moe Nagasi
Photo: Elena Savlokhova
Tell us about your journey with Teste.
Teste began in 1991 as maladjusted teenagers – primal youthful rebellion. Outcasts – intense conflict with each other and everyone. The original incarnation’s demise was swift and cataclysmic, decades it languished in silence until recently… Over the last 5 years I’ve attempted to varying degrees to reactivate it, most recently with Martin on Phase Fatale‘s Bite Imprint, which has been the most stable lineup in history. Although he and Hayden might think otherwise haha!
These days it seems like people are interested in the idea of this type of music.
I don’t adhere to the notion that what I do is techno (at least not straight ahead techno), but I’m not going to proclaim, “Don’t call it techno!”. What is techno anyways? It has mutated so much over the decades. I was chatting with Jeremy from The Brvtalist and he had an interesting observation on how techno of late has absorbed every micro genre: goth, punk, industrial, experimental, to regular dance music… Which speaks to the relevance of it when you ponder it. When I first started going to techno raves and parties in the late 80s – early 90s there was no formula, it was outcasts – a mixture of art people, weirdos, low lifes. It was underground in that sense. I think I was there more by the end of the second wave, when I frequented Detroit during its heyday and I also lived in New York in the mid-90’s, which is another story. From my perspective, I strive to operate autonomously from these scenes. If I see something getting too played out or predictable then I re-evaluate. I’m from the standpoint that if too many people are into it – it must be shit! All my projects now are in a transition phase – Huren, Teste, O/H. O/H just released on L.I.E.S so that’s garnering attention and it has caused me to revise and rethink upcoming approaches.
Do you make a living solely on music?
Well come to think of it, I guess you can call me professional now! And this is a new thing as well. Maybe 8 years ago things started to pick up and it built up to where it is now, although where it is now is confusing. I mean, once you try to put everything into a category or try to predict the future then it’s certain disappointment. My observation from being involved in music in different capacities for about 30 years now is that it’s cyclical; usually every 5 years or so there is a new group of young people fresh and ambitious, who are driven to establish themselves in the scene. Present Day Berlin is now in EBM backlash, for example. The tastemakers I guess are on to the next thing whatever that is… If any are reading this it’s gonna be $CUMTRONIC$™ 2019 naturally!
Do you work with modular these days?
I was very involved with modular in the 90’s, and was one of the first people in North America with a Doepfer system pre-dating the eurorack standard. I also collected vintage systems as well – all sold ages ago. Nowadays I’m very transient with equipment and I tend to work in studios that have in-house setups or just stay completely computer based. Some of my biggest influences Chris Marker, Werner Herzog did their best work on borrowed or stolen gear! Gear is just tools and is far too fetishized. Commonly its used as a substitute for original ideas and status symbol etc.
Do you club a lot these days?
Well I draw on nocturnal energy but lately it’s reduced to where I play. Although that’s mainly due to summer in Berlin – a club is the last place I want to be as there’s no fucking AC in this city!
What are some of your favorite places?
I’m more akin to low key, arty sorts of places. I go to Sameheads in Neukoln. It’s my main go-to space in Berlin. Club-wise it’s really wherever I get guestlists haha. I go to all the usual obviously.
What was the very first club you went to in Berlin?
Tresor was the first for me when i played it in the 90’s – definitely a pivotal moment. Back during the height of the “Love Parade” era. I can say there wasn’t much love for or from Huren circa’ 98 haha!
You witnessed when it was all just burning up.
For me, I always kind of saw the scenes when they were dying, so I wouldn’t claim that. I think I was a part of the second or third wave in Detroit techno with Teste. That was a really special time because in those days people drove hours to go to raves, especially in North America. People from Milwaukee would drive to Detroit, or from New York, or Chicago: pivotal roadtrips, vision quests, and life journeys. There’s also a special bond between a lot of people that I knew back then. Of course, it’s the same old story – life changes people. A lot of them have families now and routine, and I’ve sort of avoided all that haha. But it was my choice and the longer that I’m in this city, the more I feel like it was the right one. I knew that in Canada I was disillusioned because I always felt as if I was missing out, and I know now in a sense that I was. I used to feel like I’d missed the boat because I had the opportunity to live here in the early 00’s. Over the years I’ve always felt regretful but being here now and talking to other people, especially with people like Adam X, this city was not like this. This is a new thing with the industrial, experimental, the heavy dark techno and EBM Nation. Whereas in those days it was more traditional, like Detroit techno, minimal, dub techno, Chicago House etc. The heavier, weirder, freakier shit wasn’t as prevalent. Even though the label that I was involved with Zhark (and still am) would get shows in Tresor, it would still be like, “Nothing is really happening tonight, so you can play” type of thing. I recall playing at the original club and there would be 10 people there. Now things have definitely changed for the better. Everything led me to here and now I think is actually the perfect moment.
So your time is yet to come?
I would be confident enough in saying that the time is now, as that’s all we have.
Why the need to cut out social media instead of integrating it?
Social Media is an addiction. Its destructive and for the most part damages credibility – especially those operating in the underground “Avant Garde”. I feel it’s just an extension of junk food culture – as cheap and cultivated as a Big Mac meal combo. Like that trash it leaves you feeling unfulfilled and wanting more. All lining the pockets of the sponsors whom themselves don’t indulge in the control mechanism. It’s insidious and exploits and magnifies all the worst aspects of people: ego, materialism, status and vain attention seeking etc., which the sponsors know keeps one glued to their browser. Generally, the more people participate in it, the less they have going on in their life. I maintain as minimal profile as possible, a sort of self-imposed exile as even the scant interaction I have with it is triggering enough.
You make music that is not for the ‘typical’ listener, so don’t you think that from another perspective you could use it as a tool to explain your artistic point of view to people who are interested in your art?
I give the more committed listener some credit as they do their homework. If I’m out there posting every ten minutes then it makes the work less poignant.
Who impressed you the most in your collaborations?
I’m really inspired working with Rich from ORPHX. We grew up together so it runs deep. Although O/H has been a more recent collaboration for us. I don’t want to beat it to death but I’m really proud of the “Market Values” release. For me, it represents the culmination of the last decade or more I’ve been operating in Scumtronics depravity. Proper psychic expulsion.
Would you say that you are a part of a clique in Berlin? Is there a clear segmentation between certain groups of people in the scene?
It’s important to have your individuality but there are definitely groups that I associate myself with: the aufnahme + wiedergabe cult, Liber Null, Herrensauna, Brvtalist, Total Black, Numerology. I’m forgetting many. They definitely have a crowd of black clad severe fans and are also very stylish! I’m more akin to that than the hippie techno Drum Circle folks or the jock bro-techno douchebags I sadly see more of here. Probably the start-up people.
Who was your biggest teacher in terms of music?
DIY OR DIE. Yes, I’ve been self-taught but there have been guide posts along the way. Timing, it’s true, is so important. A pivotal moment for me is when I lived in New York in 1995-1996, which was the beginning of the Zhark label, even though it was a German label, it started in New York through Patrick aka Kareem when he lived there.
It feels like your entire life has been an interesting time.
Yeah, I can’t say that it was easy but it was interesting. The New York stories are many. There was a store there called ‘Liquid Sky’. Do you know the movie with the same name? It’s a very important 80s new wave transgressive movie. So anyway, there was a store there with no connection to the movie, Chloe Sevigny worked there at the time of the “Kids” movie, and there was a good record store in the basement Temple Records run by Khan (Can Oral), who is in Berlin again now. In those days all the German experimental weird electronic music had to be sought out and he was the person who brought in those releases. Another important meeting for me was Collin Strange, whom I’ve kept in touch with over the years. He ran a store there called Strange, and what was notable about that in retrospect is that his store was primarily a punk and experimental focus, yet he carried a lot of techno. He always mixed it up and was interested in more acid techno, and he was also in very notable power electronics project Intrinsic Action, who are some of the earliest in the North-American noise underground scene. But I rarely really spoke to him, I was so fucked up haha. We always had very scattered interactions. So we’ve reconnected recently to do some stuff together. There is also Dave Sumner, Function, and he was one of the first people in North America to book Surgeon and Regis. I remember we used to party in his studio and then he’d be, ‘I’ve got these guys from Britain coming tomorrow’. That was the birth of Sandwell District as well. There was also the Sonic Groove record shop in East Village, with Adam and his brother Frankie Bones. I used to window shop in there haha! Then there’s the Limelight Club which up till that time was the most intense club experience I’d had and can’t discuss details here haha! I was always obsessed with music. In order to do something you really have to devote yourself to it. A friend of mine that was staying with me recently, who was actually in Teste at one point, told me: “Man, you actually have to learn something besides music, you only talk about music.” It all worked out and it’s given me a life. I can’t fault it. Of course, there were dry periods, but that’s when determination is key. And you simply can’t do anything else outside of your passion.
Tell us about the bond that you seem to have built with the ARMA crew.
They’ve been a big support, and I won’t deny that I found it a bit surprising at first, but it’s just great. I think their line-ups are very interesting and diverse, it’s not just the same safe stuff that everybody does, and I praise them for that. I’ve always liked what I’ve seen: it’s always open-ended, not so rigid, chaotic, and that’s what I like about it. I played with several of my biggest influences, Clock DVA, Cabaret Voltaire, Esplendor Geometrico. So it was definitely gratifying as a career highlight. Oh, and the Rural Festival that Rich and I played in Japan, it was an amazing show. It’s outside of Tokyo in the mountains.
How was the public in Japan?
We weren’t there long enough to see, but the one thing that was interesting about that festival was more of what you would call ‘hippies’ or ‘burners’ – industrial fringe electronic hippies. It was something that one would consider a hippie festival. It was quite an unexpected thing. That’s where I met Mika Vainio before he passed away, which was a special, and in retrospect, very tragic time.
Any recommendations for young artists who are just starting out their journey?
EVERYTHING IS FALSE ALL IS PERMITTED AND THAT SHALL BE THE WHOLE OF THE LAW.
Next up: Teste - 3rd November - Berghain Klubnacht - 23rd November - Artheather, Cologne