Booka Shade: Live again this Summa

With their famed shows featuring live instruments and spectacular visuals, German twosome Booka Shade have achieved the perfect fusion of live music and electronica. As a drummer and keys player respectively, Arno Kammermeier and Walter Merziger met in a school band where their love for electronic music and synths were first fashioned. “We found it very challenging and inspiring to work with synthesisers,” Arno confides. After being overlooked in the ‘90s simply as another synth-pop duo by the pop industry, they delved deeper into electronica; uncovering what would prove to be a deep and abiding love for techno. Their foray into the deeper side of dance would lead to establishing the Get Physical label in Berlin alongside friends DJ T and M.AN.D.Y.

“That was our playground to release music,” Arno points out. “And that’s when it really started for Booka Shade. We wondered how to really promote our own music. And the best way to do it was as musicians in live shows – that’s how we started playing live. The shows became bigger and bigger. Then we started as DJs after our 2008 tour because I was a little bored with always playing our own tracks all the time. There wasn’t enough diversity in the music in the show at that time.

“It started so well,” Arno recalls of the duo’s burgeoning DJ project. “And we got into it. The live show will always be the thing we love most, because we love the big shows and we love playing those instruments. We also found a way for DJing to be interesting for us. It’s not only mixing two songs; we have a lot of synthesisers and effects boxes as well.”

Booka Shade’s foray into the DJ booth crucially took them to an even wider audience at a time when dance music is centre stage. “Electronic music has become huge again – which is fantastic,” Arno comments. “I have nothing but respect for people like David Guetta and Skrillex who have done something really good for dance music in general. More people now know about dance music. Electronic dance music has exploded in The States. It’s just one part of the music – there are other shades of electronic music. But it is a great achievement that helps everybody.”

“It’s the commercial stuff that brings dance music to the people,” Arno says. “Once people know what is there, they might ask where does all this stuff come from? They might dig a little bit deeper – and they might find more interesting stuff that’s not aiming at the big charts; that takes a little more time to get into it, but is probably more rewarding in the end. You can listen to artists who really care about their albums and listen to them a little bit longer than the one hit you listen for two weeks and it’s over – and then comes the next one. We always think long term – that’s why it always take longer to produce the album. We live with those songs for two years and it didn’t bore us for two years, so hopefully there will be other people who enjoy it too.”

To prove that challenge is the spice of Booka Shade life, eyebrows were raised in the dance world when news was released in August of Booka Shade’s new EP Honeyslave released on Steve Aoki’s Dim Mak label. Arno agrees it was unexpected. “It’s quite a surprise for many people. But it works very well for us in terms of mixing up things. The whole thing came about when we met Steve Aoki last year on the five week Identity tour in The States. We met when he came to see many shows – and we talked about music.”

“He’s a very interesting character,” Arno comments on the champagne-swilling, crowd-surfing DJ. “The music he does is not quite what we do. But what I appreciate about him is that he invites everybody to the party. It’s not about only one certain aspect or one certain style – and we like that very much. We have realized that our music is quite diverse; but there are many kinds of dance tunes. We like to mix up styles. We find it strange when people are narrow minded and only see their little universe. We always like to expand our universe and show people what else is around.

“Steve Aoki wanted to release a single with us,” Arno continues. “We had released the compilation with Pete Tong for All Gone Ibiza. There were two new songs with Booka Shade on this compilation and we thought this could be an interesting way of working together with Steve. Steve thought it was a great idea, and it obviously works well: it’s number 2 on Beatport at the moment. It’s interesting to see how people react to this; it gives people something to talk about. It’s always good to do something differently.”

Arno is the first to admit that Booka Shade go about things the hard way – though it comes with its rewards. “The albums we do are there to be listened to in even a couple of years time,” he says. “What we achieved with Movements eight years ago: people still enjoy listening to the album. They still like Body Language and Night Falls. We enjoy more depth in our music, knowing that sometimes, some of our songs you may not immediately catch the first time; that sometimes it may take a little bit longer. But it lasts longer.”

With the bulletin that Booka Shade are coming to Australia for the 2013 Summadayze and Summafieldayze tour, is also the news that they will be bringing their live show down under for the first time since 2008. “We’re thrilled,” Arno confides. “We put so much effort into the live show. Someone who brings a laptop asks us why we bring so much gear. But we know our fans appreciate the work we put into it, and they do hear the difference in the quality.

“It’s going to be a completely new production: a new world tour for the new album in 2013,” Arno confirms. “We’re very excited. We’ll have loads of new songs that we haven’t played live – we’ve played many of them in the DJ sets – but most of them we haven’t played live. It’s going to be very interesting and we’re really looking forward to it. We’ve had a long break now from playing live, and it’s time for us to return with new songs.”

Summadayze 2013 dates and venues:

Adelaide – Monday 31st December @ Rymill Park

Melbourne – Tuesday 1st January @ Sidney Myer Music Bowl

Sydney – Tuesday 1st January, Field Day @ The Domain

Gold Coast (Summafieldayze) – Saturday 5th January @ Doug Jennings Park, The Spit 

Perth – Sunday 6th January @ Patersons Stadium, Subiaco