Arno Kammermeier and Walter Merziger grew up together in Saarbruecken, and have been making music together for almost 25 years. But all that history feeds into ‘More!’, their forth studio album released earlier this year. Their familial love of jazz and classical music; their first synth-pop band, Planet Claire; their techno epiphany on Frankfurt’s legendary club scene; their long discography of underground dance tracks, their first big crossover hit – ‘Una Musica Senza Ritmo’ as Degeneration; it’s all here. Even their dark period working as Xenomania-style hit-makers, churning out lucrative, soul-destroying chart fodder for Germany’s major labels has, likewise, shaped who they are today, whether for good or ill. Booka Shade loved rave culture, but grew to loathe the formulaic nature of 90’s dance music. Later, disillusioned and directionless, Booka Shade took the major label dollar and hated themselves for it. When, in 2002, they, M.A.N.D.Y, Peter Hayo, and then Groove Magazine editor, Thomas ‘DJ T’ Koch, decamped to Berlin, to form their label / production house, Get Physical, it was a creative rebirth for all concerned. “Before that,” says Arno, of their time in the pay of the majors, “we didn’t give a shit. Now, every note counts.” Ironically, in Booka Shade’s case that complete artistic freedom has led to them lately, outgrowing Get Physical. The Prenzlauer Berg label’s HQ and studio is still their base, workspace and their spiritual home, they still help run the label, but ‘More!’ actually came out on Co-Op. It’s simple economics. The bill for the initial run of album CDs could “break the neck” of a small indie like Get Physical. And no-one wants to take that risk. Such hard business decisions are a reflection of the anticipation which surrounds ‘More!’. Thanks to massive underground hits like ‘Mandarine Girl’ and ‘Body Language’ (with M.A.N.D.Y.), Booka Shade already have a serious cult following in clubland, where, uniquely, you’ll find their tunes being spun by DJs as diverse as Tiesto and Richie Hawtin, everywhere from Manchester’s Warehouse Project to Berlin’s Watergate. But, increasingly, they’re crossing over, too. In the last two years, their live show – Walter on a bank of synthesisers and machines; Arno drumming for his life – has seen them infiltrate festivals, like Coachella and Glastonbury, where most dance acts would fear to tread. Booka Shade are now among that select band – Prodigy, Chemical Brothers, Underworld, Daft Punk – who can take on rock at its own game: playing live. “Rock Am Ring is a classic example,” says Arno. “It’s this real rock festival: a lot of distorted guitars everywhere, and when we turned up backstage, with our synthesisers and electronic drum kit, all the guys were joking with us, but, to our surprise, it worked really well. Even these kids in Metallica t-shirts were headbanging to ‘Body Language’. I don’t know why. There is no stupid, banging bass drum, and, compared to the dance acts who normally play the big stages, it’s rather soft music, but we love the huge live stages, and we love it when people tell us, after, ‘I always hated club music, but I really enjoy Booka Shade’.” As time goes on, expect many ‘More!’ converts to the cause. Booka Shade: making exactly the music they want to, for you, since 2002.
Walter Merziger , Arno Kammermeier