Christensen, who also performs in Apparat Band, was an integral part of the process. "He didn't have that much respect [for the material we had already recorded]. He didn't know the drums took me six hours to record. [When that happens, it's] really hard [for me]," explains Ring. "It's like 'Oh no, they're so great, they have to be in there.' Basically it was all useless stuff, and he knew it. [He kept the] sound the same, the sound was still strong and the idea was there and the idea even got stronger."
"At first I asked him to leave me alone for a week to get into the stuff and try to discover the bone of the song, the essential of each track," recalls Christensen. "And then I kind of started all over again and show this to Sascha and say, 'I think to me this is the basic idea. How do you feel about it?' We agreed almost every time, so it was easy to then get together and build it back up again. It was the same song and same emotions, just with a different surface."
The surface that Christensen speaks about is more acoustic than ever before. After years of building songs layer-by-layer, Ring's goal with The Devil's Walk was something organic, and something simple. After returning from his trip to Mexico with sketches and ideas, he found himself falling into the same routines that made him want to go there in the first place. "Nerding around" is the phrase he uses to describe it. "For quite a while, I really felt that I can only make music if it's crafted very well or something, because I really know how to program, how to use Reaktor, but at some point after doing it for ten years, it was not really enough for me anymore. I wanted to be a good musician as well." In despair over his inability to put together the material that he had compiled in Mexico quickly and easily, Ring couldn't say yes fast enough when he was offered the chance to do a DJ-Kicks mix for K7. "[At that point] I didn't want to think about the album so much."
His break completed, Ring met Christensen through a friend, and things progressed quickly after the new producer broke down Ring's compositions to their basics. And so began another round of experiments. "Sascha was on a loop with this record," admits Christensen. The album needed a self-imposed deadline. So Ring made one by booking a vacation, but even then he wasn't quite done. "I booked the flight and I left," remembers Ring, "but the record wasn't mixed so I took very good headphones with me, and our mixing engineer sent me mixes all the time. He was suffering, he had to do ten versions of stuff." Christensen laughs, "Imagine: Green, no greener, no a little bit more green. All via email." "It kind of fucked up my vacation," says Ring. "But I'm happy with this record. I can actually listen to this record. I couldn't do this with other records after they were done. It always took me a couple of months to go back."
So here we are now, with the most melancholic man in electronic music, talking about taking his new record on tour. With a band. A guitar slung around his shoulders. A guitar that he doesn't actually know how to play properly. "I still don't know the chords and what to do to generate a song. [Patrick] showed me some basics, he has this matrix and I can really relate to that because I started as a designer a long time ago. I'm very visual—maybe that's why I make electronic music."
"Sascha bought this guitar three months ago," Christensen marvels. "And now he's playing to stadiums to thousands of people and really pulling it off. He has this naivete of a child, but he has all the strength of an artist who always has to push it, so it's absolutely no Jimi Hendrix tradition, it's a true Apparat tradition." The live version of the band, when I spoke to the duo, had only completed a single gig in London, but both seem excited by the prospect of more shows in concert venues in the UK, festivals in Slovakia and Hungary and an intimate theater show at Club to Club in Italy.
The balance between live and Moderat and solo and everything else has also made him more optimistic than ever about techno. "I started as a DJ years and years ago when I was a kid, and suddenly I just played live sets because I always play my own music…. And in some interviews, I've said 'techno is boring' but I think most of the time I try to explain myself and the journalist just shortens everything and then the headline is 'Apparat hates techno.' I don't think that; I just think that in the club context it works. You have to be in a club to understand it. I have a gig coming up in Ibiza, and I was looking around for music this week and I just realized that I am actually looking forward to being in a club, and at a DJ gig again. It's all about contrast, you know, it's really cool to have the band thing, to play band shows and I think that's also gonna give me the magic of the club things back at some point."
Apparat's DJ-Kicks isn't the type of floor-ready compilation most are used to. Like his albums, it's moody as hell with higher highs and lower lows. But to Ring, it's the same thing with the creative process. "I'm really hard on myself, sure, and it kind of sucks. It keeps me away from being happy a lot of times. But, on the other hand, it's an important push to continue to try and improve." In other words: Fellow depressives, we've got a long way to go. He's already miles ahead.