Interview: mOck

mOck - Photo courtesy of mOck“It’s kind of a big family connection.”

That’s how Frederik Knop, singer and bassist of Berlin band mOck, described the group.

It all started back in West Berlin, when Knop and guitarist Felix Zimmermann met due to the former’s father and the latter’s parents living on the same street in Wilmersdorf.

They also went to the same concerts—mostly in Kreuzberg—at venues like the former Trash on Oranienplatz.

“We took the same bus home [the M29], and then walked home like the 10 meters between us,” Zimmermann shared, explaining how their mutual interests grew their friendship.

At one point, Knop brought up his band, lin., which Zimmermann had seen play at a Jugendklub. He mentioned they were looking for a second guitar player to add to their lineup, and Zimmermann fit the bill, so he joined.

The band, which formed in 1994/5, lasted until 2001, at which point the members went their separate ways. Zimmermann and Knop remained friends, but neither had major aspirations for being in another band, at least on a serious level.

However, Conrad Rodenberg had other ideas.

Rodenberg—whose older brother was a classmate of Knop’s, and who was in a band with Zimmermann at one point—also happened to be the biggest fan of lin., and he kept pushing them to start a new project, this time involving him.

“Conrad went to some of [our] shows…and he would be the only one, except for his brother, who would know all the lyrics and scream the lyrics and come onstage,” Knop shared. “I had already kind of given up on the idea of being in a band…and Felix had different musical projects, and then Conrad kind of brought the old crew together.”

Eventually his persistence paid off, and after meeting at the former Tante Horst and discussing it, the three decided to give things a shot. This time around, Knop said he wanted to do more than just sing, so he settled on playing the bass. Zimmermann already knew he wanted to play guitar, so that left Rodenberg on drums by default—an instrument he’d never played in a band before.

As Rodenberg tells it, the irony is that lin. split up due in part to having to kick out their drummer and not having a replacement, and if only he’d played drums at the time, he could have joined.

But Rodenberg is also known as the dreamer of the band, and as Knop said: “It wouldn’t have saved the band, but it’s a nice idea.”

And thus, in 2007, mOck was born.

The meaning of the name is complex and versatile, depending on which member you ask, but ultimately it has no one true meaning.

“We picked it as an inside joke that cannot be explained because it’s not funny,” Rodenberg said.

But it grew on them, and more than the meaning, they like it for the sound and its percussive quality.

To date, the band has appeared on a couple of compilations, released a handful of splits, and put out a demo, a full-length, and an EP. A second full-length is currently in the works, but there’s no projected release date yet.

“We’re probably 30 minutes into a new record and God knows when we’ll finish the last 15 minutes,” Knop detailed, sharing that they are slow at writing songs, but once they’re done, they’re generally happy with them. “Probably by the end of the year maybe, but we’ll see.”

The slow pace is partially how mOck operates, but it also has something to do with the other things in the members’ lives, like the focus on their respective careers.

The way Knop described it, all three of them didn’t really start working “real” jobs until they were in their 30s, though they’ve all managed to make music a part of what they do professionally. Knop, who has a PhD in musicology, owns a mastering studio, LSTNRS, and is the Co-Founder and Vice President of HEDD. Zimmermann is a video editor and photographer. And Rodenberg “teaches future teachers” in aesthetic education and didactics at UdK, along with making music and sound for theater productions.

Additionally, they all have solo projects of varying degrees, and when work and music aren’t taking their time and attention, their families are. More specifically, they have five children between the three of them.

They agreed that having kids doesn’t hinder their music-making process; if anything, it has changed the way they tour, in that they’re no longer able to regularly leave for extended stretches of shows like they used to. But as for writing songs and practicing, it still happens on a weekly basis.

“Actually, what’s really nice is that we’re all from Berlin, meaning that the family network is also in Berlin, and that makes it easier,” Knop explained. “We also didn’t really practice more than once a week, maybe sometimes twice a week [before kids], and we still maintain this rhythm. And our partners all know very well who we are and that it’s very important for us to have this point in the week where we really kind of hide in the basement and write songs.”

The fact that all three of them are fathers also makes them more understanding of one another’s time and availability.

“It really depends on your attitude and prioritizing. I mean, of course somehow the kids are the most important part of it, but if you really want to, you know, maintain something or accomplish something in other fields, like the band…you always find a way somehow,” Knop said. “I actually feel that our output is not significantly lower than it used to be…we still have ideas, we still practice, we have plans.”

Lately, the trio hasn’t played much, largely in part to focusing on writing new material. But an appearance at Fête de la Musique last month was a chance to try out the new songs on an audience, in addition to functioning as a warmup for their summer tour with AG Form, which kicked off this week.

And playing live is also a good practice for recording, since that’s how the band tends to approach things in the studio.

“I think recording live is the only way to do it, just by looking at each other,” Knop shared, specifying that playing on a click would never work because of all the time changes in their music, but also because of Rodenberg’s style. “I’m not saying anything crazy here, but Conrad is such a free-floating drummer.”

On that note, they launched into a discussion of which roles they all fill in the band.

“I think when you try to think of this through the lens of songwriting, I would say that Felix is the…foundation,” Rodenberg said.

“He’s the safe harbor,” Knop chimed in.

“[That’s because] I have to play [a part] like 2,000 times until Conrad gets it,” Zimmermann added.

Rodenberg laughed, expanding on his somewhat scattered approach to playing.

“When we’re trying to come up with a new part for a song, or like a new beginning of a song, I always…just go into it by like stumbling through it all the time,” he said. “There’s a lot of movement, a lot of shapes that always [appear and then] vanish again very quick.”

Meanwhile, Knop is somewhere in between the two of them. But this analogy extends beyond songwriting to their actual personalities.

“To me, Felix is, like he’s the guy who, he’s probably the most realistic guy, so when we get all dreamy, talking about plans and this and that…Felix kind of holds up the mirror. And he’s probably the most structured person from us I’d say,” Knop said. “And Conrad changed. I mean, when he started working and became a dad, I think he became a little more, like, not as crazy all over the place as he used to be, like very free and very unlimited in his many things he did.”

“And you’re somewhere in the middle,” Rodenberg said to Knop.

Zimmermann agreed, noting that his realism can be boring, but is also an essential component.

“Freddy says that I’m the structured one. That’s what I feel sometimes,” he said, likening himself to the parent of the group. “But it would be really boring if everybody would be like me.”

Yet even though each member is so different, it’s a huge part of why they all get along so well, both musically and personally.

“The fact that we’ve known each other for a very long time and also played music together for a very long time…when we got into the rehearsal room for mOck it was, I don’t know, it just was working right away, because the whole language that we speak, it was already there,” Rodenberg said.

And as an outsider, it’s clear to see the camaraderie between the three of them. Much like successful romantic relationships of people who have figured one another out and treat one another with respect and trust, Knop, Zimmermann, and Rodenberg know how to communicate on the same level, whether that means joking around with one another or giving each other the necessary space.

“I have the feeling that many bands that we used to hang out with just don’t exist anymore and everybody’s kind of breaking up,” Knop said. “But I just have this idea of us never breaking up. Like one of us will die and that will be the end of it.”

mOck is currently on tour with AG Form. The dates are listed below.

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