Born in 1998, Pfadfinderei is a studio based in Berlin that deals with projects ranging from brand and band identities to video direction, videomapping and installations: all of that is made with an originality and a very distinct style. It’s not surprising then that when you watch a live or a video of Moderat or hold their record in your hands, you notice a continuous, innovative and unique line that distinguishes all the musical components of the Berlin group: and it’s all thanks to Pfadfinderei’s work.
2000’s Berlin has not given birth only to the electronics that now makes half the world dance but also to a group of artists like you: you have collaborated with Moderat since their first album and until today but how did everything start? Would you define your work with them a collaboration or a project that goes hand in hand? Are yours the eyes and theirs the ears?
Actually, Moderat is a project between two individual artists: Modeselektor and Apparat. They are friends of ours. We have known the guys for a very long time, some of us grew up together. Thus, our collaboration flourished in a natural way. The audio-visual fusion was prematurely influenced by a series of self-organized events like Lab.style or Lab.land in the early noughties. From this closeness and mutual trust grew a complementary responsibility for our art and work, which culminated with the task of composing the first Moderat album. This developed quite naturally.
By watching a Moderat’s live show or simply holding their record in your hands, you can see a huge work made by precision and small details: their style is easily distinguishable in the European music scene. How did you choose this minimal and a bit ironic tone? How was the cover and graphic design of III, Moderat’s last work, born?
The exchange of information and ideas has always been a part of our collective way of working. During the cover-finding of the first album, Moderat supplied a content related example. This was an illustration by Robert Crumb for a short story by Charles Bukowski. The motive idea was undoubtedly strong and, without knowing that an aesthetically series will follow, we developed in collaboration with Siriusmo (a close friend) an interpretation whose style orientates itself on the graphic novels by Charles Burns. We immediately felt the cover potential of this work. The visual features of this artwork had, in the representative sector of music in the index of publications, absolutely no competition at all. In addition, we designed the Moderat logo, which should become a significant element of the band’s visual identity. Through the staggered concentration of the letters inside a tunnel arose a memorable form that till this day finds recognition as a strong trademark of the band.
For Moderat III many aspects added up to finding the motif. It struck our attention when analysing the two previous characters that after self-harming behavior and the following removal or appliance of a mask, an innocent being or child would be a logical consequence to determine this series. In addition, Gernot from Moderat/Modeselektor brought up the phenomenon of a GHOSTMOTHER (hidden mother photography) as inspiration.
The features of clothing and facial expression really fascinated us. When developing the motif, we noticed a certain androgyny. A certitude whether girl or boy did not exist. We decided to see this as a chance and significantly enhanced the doubt bringing characteristics. It is always a pleasure to experience how different the perception of the viewer is regarding the gender.
And speaking of your work on the visuals components of the show: how do you build it and especially where do you start when you have to give an image to the music?
For us, the music itself is the greatest inspiration. We start by asking ourselves “what does the music look like? What does it look like, when you close your ears and still listen to it, merely with your eyes?”. Once we are fully aware of how it feels, we decide on the theme and develop it from there to the stage.
Between you and Moderat there is a rich collaboration that includes also the direction of their music videos, from the series for the songs of Moderat I to the latest animations for III. Do you usually work on videos alone or together with the musicians? And how do you find yourself working on the “short plot” of a music video?
The music videos are based on a specific idea, shaped by the artist(s) and us. It can very much vary between a close collaboration or a solo run. Throughout our entire history of working with Moderat we had both scenarios. In the end we are so closely intertwined in our minds and work as if it were the most natural thing in the world that on one side emerges the music and the visuals on the other.
Let’s focus on Eating Hooks, a work that has received several nominations for international awards: how did you build the plot around this tribal purification dance?
The answer here is quite similar to the one of your previous question: by transforming music into imagery. In the case of Eating Hooks the text itself had a major impact onto the visual outcome. The lyrics of the song deal with barbed hooks under the character’s skin which detain him from things. We picked up on that and integrated it into choreography, a form of language new to us at the time.
Let’s finish with our ritual closing question: what’s the best album cover ever?
This question is rather difficult to answer because we do not believe that there is the „one and only THE best album cover“ out there. However let’s not neglect your ritual question. These are the album covers each one of us is considering as truly excellent:
Frank Ocean, Blonde
Pink Floyd, The Dark Side of the Moon
Radiohead, A Moon Shaped Pool
The Mars Volta, Frances the Mute