The Road To Somewhere: Booka Shade Talk
Booka Shade, a name synonymous with early 00's tech house and techno.
Think of the German production pairing and, more likely than not, the first thing that will spring to mind are hits such as 'In White Rooms' and 'Body Language'- records that soundtracked the dancefloors of many clubs and bedroom parties alike. However, what you may not be aware of is that Booka Shade, aka Walter Merziger and Arno Kammermeier, started out making music over a decade before introducing the world to the Booka Shade we now know.
The duo met at school in Germany and first began to play music together back in the early 80s, when bands such as The Cure, Depeche Mode, Soft Cell and the ominpresent Kraftwerk were starting to emerge, carving out a new and enticing, electronic genre laden with synthesisers and new romanticism.
Not long after finishing school, Walter and Arno were offered their first record deal under the moniker Planet Claire, and signed a deal with EMI Germany in 1991. Only a few years after this did they "get the techno virus".
Walter explains: "We had a long time where we focussed on club tracks in the early 90s and mid-90s. Then of course we did Get Physical in the early 2000s."
Booka Shade are just about to embark on a promotional tour, presenting their latest album, 'Galvany Street', to the world. Their latest creation has taken the duo full circle and marks a return to their pop roots. "When techno was born we were already musicians," Walter elabrorates. "So there is nothing that inspires us at the moment and in the pop world there is a lot of really interesting [music being made]."
They've moved away from the majestic and ethereal riffs of 'In White Rooms' and the thudding bass lines of 'Body Language', instead devoting time to writing songs and opening the door to working with singers. Namely, Craig Walker of 80s new wave, electronica band- Archive. The collaboration came about due to a chance meeting between Arno and Craig in Kreuzberg's Riverside Studios where they both rented studio space.
"When you work with people nowadays, you're often not in the same country or place and it's hard to sound very organic," Arno explains. "We spent a lot of time together with Craig, playing him music that wasn't intended to be for him. There was a lot of communication. I think this reflects in the music as well. It blends together more. It bonds more."
The album itself was over three years in the making, a process that Walter says was "very refreshing." He expands:
"It didn't feel as painful as it did with the 'Eve' album, which was a pain in the ass!"
There's a somewhat eclectic mix of sounds on the record – hints of drum and bass, slight elements of trap, disco and, of course, electronica. However, despite it being so eclectic, Walter tells us that it's their most coherent album to date. "You can hear certain elements of the stuff that has inspired us over the past 35 years, but we hit one vibe, not going back and forth between styles."
Aside from working with Craig Walker, they've also enlisted the singers Urdur (aka GusGus), Australian Yates, and Daniel Spencer. Mark Plati, the man repsonsible for producing and mixing some of Bowie, Prince, The Cure and Kraftwerk's Fritz Hilpert were both recruited for mixing duties.
The name for the album is a play on words, with 'Galvany' making reference to the galvanic process when chemical energy is converted into electrical energy: the chemical being what happpened when the pair got together with Craig and the electrical being the musical output that developed from the process. The 'Street' part of the album title Arno says refers to "the constant process. You're always on the road in life, on your way to somewhere".
On the road has become life for Booka Shade, both figuratively and literally. Over the course of their career, which has spanned decades, they can count playing on isolated beaches surrounded by lush forests, Red Rock in Colarado and even an obscure Russian brothel. Then there was the Mexican festival whose organisers hadn't bothered installing the toilets and just left them in the middle of the dancefloor. But for the guys they think the presentation of the album at London's newest venue, Printworks, will be one of the strangest.
They tell us that they have a busy summer ahead planned. The album presentation is first up, with a mini tour of Europe- taking in London, Scandanavia and Spain. Then there's Exit festival in Serbia, closely followed by an appearance here in the UK at Farr Festival. "Sometimes the way to the stage is tough," Arno informs us. "But it's still the best job you can imagine."
For now, Booka Shade plan to keep producing and keep evolving musically. They've produced a number of chart hits for others over the past 15 years in Germany, as well as scoring music for adverts and films.
Arno concludes: "It keeps us busy. That's always good. We're bored very easily."
Galvany Street is due for release on the duo's own Blaufield Music imprint on 6th April. Pre-order HERE.
For Farr Festival tickets head HERE.