Foundations: Booka Shade

Dance duo selects LPs by Depeche Mode and Arcade Fire…

Foundations is where we find a little something out about select artists’ personal favourite albums – those records that are so ingrained into their musical psyche that they can’t not qualify as influential, whatever their style.

Here, we’ve spoken to celebrated German house duo Booka Shade, aka Walter Merziger and Arno Kammermeier. The pair’s new LP ‘Eve’ is out now on Embassy One – look out for a review on these very pages very soon.

Their choices include some fairly recent releases – but when a record leaves an immediate impression, it’s sure to be a quality collection.

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Booka Shade, ‘Love Inc.’, from ‘Eve’

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Yello – ‘You Gotta Say Yes To Another Excess’ (1983)

Walter: Yello’s Dieter Meier and Boris Blank had great influence on the way we like to hear electronic music – the combination of very synthetic parts and then again live played instruments. They are masters in creating suspense between the sounds, which actually sold synthetic music more to us than the pure electronica of Kraftwerk – as great as these folks are, of course! When I heard ‘Great Mission’, visiting the jungles of Manaus once in my life became an idée fixe.

Yello explored the then-new concept of ‘extended maxi versions’ to a new extreme, which made collecting the 12”s great fun. In those days, coming from a rather wealthy family background (Swiss banker!) really helped, because they could afford the mother of all samplers, the CMI Fairlight: XXX synth pornography for tech nerds like us at that time.

We had the privilege to meet Meier and Blank in their studio in Zurich when we worked with them on ‘Divine’, a song from our 2010 album ‘More!’. It was an entertaining afternoon with Dieter telling anecdotes and Boris explaining synthesizers. We keep meeting every now and then ever since.

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Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – ‘Push The Sky Away’ (2013)

Arno: ‘Jubilee Street’ is probably the song that’s impressed me most in the last couple of years. I listened to it 30-40 times in a row each day, for weeks.

Why? I’m not even sure. The production is good but not out of this world. The change of BPM after the first part of the song is a nice trick. I guess it must be the way the band plays together and the way Nick Cave sings and recites his lyrics. It touches me very deeply.

Perhaps the song also struck me because it came out during the time we recorded our new album ‘Eve’. We rented a residential recording studio outside of Manchester, called Eve, equipped with the strangest and rarest instruments you can imagine. During those recordings Walter and I felt like a band again, a feeling which got lost for some time because we have separate music studios since Walter built a house outside of Berlin.

‘Jubilee Street’ will always be connected with the positive feeling of recording the ‘Eve’ album.

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Depeche Mode – ‘Violator’ (1990)

Arno: We’ve mentioned it many times before: we are Depeche Mode fans. Always have been, since 1982, and always will be. No other band has contributed to the soundtrack of our youth more than these folks.

In 1983, when I first saw them at a live show in a small town in southern Germany – 1,000 people, max – there was no indication that 30 years later they would fill Olympic stadiums. There was no indication they would even exist 30 years later.

I could pick any of their albums and highlight specific sounds or songs, but during the phase of ‘Violator’ they were simply out of this world. Everything – production, songwriting, the live show, the artwork – was at the absolute peak and still felt very natural.

François Kevorkian did an incredible job mixing the album – if the crisp sound of ‘World In My Eyes’ reminds you of Kraftwerk, yes, he mixed ‘Electric Café’, too. And this is producer Flood’s second breakthrough, after producing U2’s ‘The Joshua Tree’. In short, ‘Violator’ is a perfect album. We’ve already had the privilege twice to open for Depeche Mode, at concerts in Berlin and Tel Aviv.

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Arcade Fire – ‘Neon Bible’ (2007)

Walter: Everything’s already been said about this amazing band. For me, though, the outstanding song is ‘No Cars Go’, and it was a big inspiration for us. But the organ intro of ‘Intervention’ is also a genius piece of music. There are too many great moments on this album to mention them all.

Arcade Fire is the only band for us to come close to the feeling that Depeche Mode gave us in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. They have these huge anthems, but on the other side they’ve these very intense, fragile and intimate moments in their body of work. Every tone they play or sing comes from the heart; every word is pure poetry and gives you real emotional moments.

Their recent single ‘Reflektor’ is one of their best songs so far. David Bowie as a guest, production by James Murphy, the ground-breaking video made by Anton Corbijn, and an amazing song – what else can you ask for?

We’ve never seen them live, but that’s definitely on our list for 2014.

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Jon Hopkins – ‘Immunity’ (2013)

Walter: Jon Hopkins is not unknown in the electronic music world – he’s been involved in productions by Brian Eno, Coldplay and David Holmes, and produced a few outstanding solo albums to date. But his best work so far, and the album that made him known to a wider audience, is ‘Immunity’: a set of amazing soundscapes, grooves and atmospheres, where melodies are the centre of this masterpiece.

The album’s sound is somewhere between early James Holden, minimal techno, a bit of Burial, and ambient music. Hopkins’ great sense for tasteful electronic music meant that he was a constant inspiration for our new album, ‘Eve’. Our song ‘Kalimera’, in particular, is inspired by his great journeys into sound. ‘Immunity’ is already a classic.

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‘Eve’ is out now, and you’ll get plenty more information on its makers by visiting their official website, here

Find more Foundations articles, with contributions from White Lies, Jimmy Eat World and Glasvegas, here

Clash’s new Pop Issue is out now, at all good newsagents and directly from us – click here to find out what’s inside (all good stuff, promise). 

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