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A Sit Down With DJ Booka Shade

15:44 Jan/22/2018

The German collective Booka Shade consists of two musicians: Walter Merziger and Arno Kammermeier, started under the guidance of the founder of the iconic label Hearthouse in the 90s and the owner of the iconic Cocoon club, Sven Fat. But since then, Walter Merziger and Arno Kammermeier have gone far ahead. Writing such masterpieces as Body Language, they suddenly turned into the leading melodists of the techno scene. Some DJs even equate Get Physical products to a separate direction: so the sound created by its artists differs from everything else. Booka Shade construct techno for intellectuals: during their performances, the rhythm structure changes right before the eyes of listeners, and the convolutedness of their symphonies fascinates. It is not surprising that after the end of their concert, that they visited a full-fledged journey through the world of modern musical technologies. The music of Booka Shade has absorbed the influence of a variety of styles: from reggae to gloomy trip hop, Tricky and garage music, both on the Mandarine Girl track and ambient in the Lost High track, triumphantly finishing their album Movements.


"We had absolutely no basis, the infrastructure just wasn’t there. We were a handful of music lovers, and we just did it."


How did Booka get started? What brought you two together?

There`s a long story before Booka Shade...Arno and I`m met in school, we both played in a school band. We realized pretty soon that the both of us had the same passion for music and wanted to achieve something, try to actually make a living from music. Most of our friends who played with us in bands weren`t so "crazy" and preferred a "decent job". We booked a recording studio and produced two independent singles, we didn`t even have a distribution company for the record. We sold them to friends and sent demos to all major record companies in Germany. Both Armo and I went to university but quit at the time when we got our first recording deal with EMI. That was in 1991.

You’re more credible than the commercial house guys.

Well, in a way, I find David Guetta, for example, very credible. We met him so many times, and he’s such a great character. You can never be so successful if you don’t like what you do. There are also some producers where I don’t like the music but I have to accept the fact that they must like this very much. Motörhead go on stage and say, "We are Motörhead, and we play rock ‘n’ roll every night." It’s the same for us: "Hey, we’re Booka Shade and we have a sound."

You’ve won a lot of awards over the years, are there any in particular you’d like to get under your belt?

We’re not particularly keen on awards, but we like all kinds of audience awards because they show the appreciation of the fans. We’re very thankful for that.

Can you describe the Galvany Street listening experience?

We first wanted a short album. We're not fans of those long albums, with 20 songs or something. If it's quality, always less is more. We also had the vinyl in mind, the fifth song will be a slow song and then it starts again, on the b-side, with something uptempo. I think it's Babylon. We also had that in mind.

Speaking of summer, what have been some of your highlights? These could be personal or professional…

One highlight certainly was the premiere of our MOVEMENTS 10 show at Sonar, Barcelona. It was nerve wrecking because the show features fully synchronised light and video, and 10 minutes before the show was supposed to start, a stage hand, who wasn´t supposed to touch any of our equipment, rolled a heavy subwoofer over THE most important USB cable and destroyed it. Thank god we have a fantastic tech crew and they solved the issue within minutes…apart from that, the show was great.

With your extremely busy schedule when do you have the time to write new material? Do you write a lot on tour?

The last two albums and the DJ Kicks compilation we did last year were all produced on the road. There’s just no other way, and nowadays there’s so much you can do with the laptop. When we returned to our studio in Berlin we did recordings such as vocals, analog synths or the classical orchestra you hear on two songs.
For a track like "In White Rooms", where did you get your inspirations from?

Actually the main theme of the music, the melody, came randomly, we had it after, well, like, 15 minutes, but it took us 6 weeks to make it sound like we wanted, and to get it ready for production.

Which do you prefer the production side or performing live?

We love both, really. They became integral parts of our life, and we couldn’t live without it. Working quietly in our isolated studio is wonderful, and absorbing the energy of the raving audience is overwhelming. We have such wonderful and enthusiastic fans!

With the success of Booka Shade growing, are you able to be as involved with Get Physical?

It gets more and more difficult. In the beginning, I did a lot of the label management, and I`m happy that we have a label manager now plus assistants and bookkeepers etc. This takes away some of the work,but didn`t get any better. You can believe me, it`s hard to play 3 gigs on the weekend and still be back in the office at 10 AM Monday morning. It hurts. For Walter it`s the same, because he also produces and writes all the releases and remixes of M.A.N.D.Y., and some other acts on get physical. We switch from one production to the next at least 4 times during the day.

What do you think about music at the moment?

We take inspiration from lots of modern music. Diplo has some good stuff, its very commercial but still good. Flume too. There are a few really talented people out there at the moment, which is the opposite to the tech-house world, where everything sounds the same.


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