Exclusive: Booka Shade gives us the low down on Movements 10

Booka Shade is an emphatic name in electronic and instrumental music, and 10 years after Movements was released on Get Physical Arno Kammermeier explains why he and Walter Merziger are ready to close that climacteric chapter, with a re-release and remix of the iconic album, and a sensational live show at the Royal Festival Hall.

The LP, Movements 10, is out on October 14. It’s got remastered tracks and remixes, what can we expect from it?

We celebrate this album because we lived with these songs for the past 10 years. We still play many of them. We realised that people still enjoy listening to the songs, especially a song like Body Language, which became a true international underground hit. It never went to top 10 in any chart and it was never overplayed, and people still enjoy listening to those songs. We thought it would be a nice idea to re-release this album, with the different kinds of packaging — a big vinyl box with unreleased material, b-sides, the CD, and the downloads. You have the original and new interpretations. We are very happy. We have a good number of really hot club remixes, but also somebody like Nils Frahm brings in a different angle.

You’re going to be playing at the Royal Festival Hall in November. Are you as excited as we are?

Yes! This is very exciting. The Movements 10 show is a live show that we presented for the first time at Sónar in Barcelona in June. Now, we take it to a couple of selected festivals and places. We’re going to announce a US tour for November and we also go to Australia. In Europe the Royal Festival Hall will be the last time that we present this show. It’s a big one — I’ve seen pictures of the Royal Festival Hall, and so many fantastic and great artists played there before. It’s a real privilege to play there as a German instrumental electronic act. We’re bringing the biggest show we’ve done so far, and we have all these special visuals where we take elements of the artworks of the design world around Movements.

Just touching on performing live, you’ve obviously placed a lot of emphasis on visuals, lighting and setup. How important is creating that multi-sensory experience?

We love it. Ever since we started to play live with Booka Shade, which was in 2004, we played very small venues and we always had visuals with us, because we always felt for Booka Shade it shouldn’t only be a dance and disco experience. You can dive into a different world. Also, the artworks we did with Eike König of Hort, the design company we worked with, focused on the special artworks and how they felt. This means a lot to us. On the other hand, we played fantastic shows – I always remember Lollapalooza in America in Chicago, where we played during the day and there was no production whatsoever — no lights, LED wall or anything — it was just bare music. People had a lot of fun, and that was a very important show for us in America. At the end of the day the music has to do the major job, but if you have the right surrounding and if you can create the right atmosphere then you can dive further into the music.

We’ve just heard Jonas Rathsman’s remix of ‘In White Rooms’, what do you make of his interpretation? 

It’s very free. Not a lot of it reminds us of ‘In White Rooms’ I think. It’s more like an individual one. With remixes it’s always a bit difficult because we always have the feeling that many of the remixers find it difficult to work with the original parts, because most of the time our music sounds very easy and very accessible in a way. You hear the melodies, but then when you look closer there’s a lot of change in the music all the time. Many times it’s not just a four-bar loop, but it can extend over 32 bars. Sometimes I have the feeling that’s a bit difficult for remixers to work with, and to put into their club routine in a way. We heard good things about Jonas Rathsman, and some of the remixers. I quite like the Deetron remix — it takes the original riff [Mandarine Girl] and sees it from a different perspective.

What factors are you considering when working with or allowing others to remix some of your most iconic work?

Some of the people are people we know from playing festivals or meeting over the years. There are people like Dennis Ferrer whose work I always admired. People like Deetron it’s the same — we played a lot of shows with him, and I always feel he does great work when it comes to remixing. Then there are the people like Nils Frahm, who has a very artistic approach, which doesn’t aim at clubs but he opens a different universe musically. It’s quite interesting. It’s clear that people like M.A.N.D.Y — very close friends of ours, who have been with us ever since we started the Get Physical label in 2002 would do a remix.

Booka Shade is an established name in electronic music. It’s often the case with musicians that they try to sound relevant later on in their career. Has that ever been the case?

Up to now what we do with Movements is close the chapter a little bit. Also, in the years after we worked on a certain sound, which is very recognisable we believe. In instrumental music it’s quite difficult to find a sound of our your own when you don’t have a singer who keeps it together. If you have a charismatic singer, with a certain voice you can change the music around a bit, but you will always recognise the voice. With electronic and instrumental music it’s quite different, so you have to find a certain musical language to bring your art across. I believe the way we always used to work with synthesiser riffs, melodies and bass lines there’s a certain Booka Shade sound. With Movements 10 we kind of close this chapter, and that was that. We’re very happy that we’ve almost finished work on a new album, which will come out next year. This will be a departure. There will be a new sound. It feels very good for us at the moment, because we feel that the songs of Booka Shade are still around. People like to hear them. What that means in terms of being relevant? I don’t know. You just do it and art is what you do. Then you see if somebody likes it.

How much of a turning point was that period of 2004-2006 when you released Movements and Momento?

It definitely was a turning point, because with all the stuff that we’ve done before — we have a long history as musicians and producers and songwriters, even before we started the Get Physical label and Booka Shade. We focused on the label and Booka Shade introducing the other colleagues like M.A.N.D.Y. When I look back on that time we worked really hard because it was a very exciting time — we felt something was cooking, and people enjoyed what we did. We heard from DJs even before we started to play live. We heard that the reaction was so good, and this was one of the reasons we started a live act.  We said, we’re not DJs what can we do? So, we did our own live act. We started to travel as well. All this work was going into this career, and there was a certain time that everything was just right. In 2005 we played the first Sónar, which was a game changer. It went very well, and then came Body Language and Mandarine Girl, then the album came. Everything just started to roll. It was in the zone — sometimes there are these times where you feel there’s nothing you have to do because everything is just rolling. That was a very exciting time. At that time we didn’t have this huge background with a record company that would push us and push millions into the promotions. It was only the Get Physical label and the whole promotion budget we had was five thousand euros. Everything happened because people enjoyed the music. It was very independent — we made the most out of what we could do with our surroundings. All of sudden we found ourselves at Glastonbury with our little car — it wasn’t a big thing — we drove like everybody else. Then you go on stage. Do your thing and go away. It was very humble.

What’s the creative dynamic like between you and Walter when it comes to creating new material?

In the old days it was more like Walter would sit in the studio all day and work on the music, while I worked for the Get Physical label a lot. Then we met in the afternoons and continued. Nowadays, Walter has a studio at his place and I have mine in Kreuzberg in Berlin. We meet at least twice a week — once at his studio and once at mine. We spend a lot of time together in the studio, which is a lot better than how we did it in the past, where we sent MP3s of versions back and forth. Everyone was in their individual place at home, then we sent the emails and MP3s. Now, there’s much more chemistry in the room, which we feel is a lot more productive and better for the music. We found a good way to work together again. Sometimes, when you travel so much as band every weekend you’re not particularly keen on spending the whole week together as well. At the moment it feels very good and we spend a lot of time together in the studio. It pushes things forward — you can hear this in the music that we’re working on.

So much fantastic talent has emerged from Berlin. How would you describe the uniqueness of Berlin’s techno and electronic scene compared to other global capitals?

Berlin is a very liberal place for sure as everybody knows. You can party or go out every night and you will find a place where you will hear music. It’s relatively cheap, because living costs are rather low. This is what attracts a lot of people. We don’t quite have the problems you have in London – I was sad to hear that Fabric is closing down, it meant a lot for us. The first UK show we played was at Fabric very early in our career. It was probably our 4th or 5th show ever. They supported us a lot in the beginning, and also the club scene in London I hear is not like it used to be. It’s a bit more difficult. These problems don’t exist on such a scale in Berlin. It’s a bit easier to open up a smaller club, and do your thing without having the fear that the building will be sold.

Who were your musical influences growing up?

One of the major influences was New Wave music – New Order, Depeche Mode, these kinds of bands. Walter’s family, especially his father is a great fan of Wagner. In his childhood Walter would wake up on a Sunday morning because his father would have his stereo blown up completely and he would listen to Wagner. In my family, my father listened to a lot of jazz. There was always music around, all kinds of music. This is why we are interested in our kind of music. The Booka Shade sound is not just one particular sound, it’s quite diverse. On Movements we had jazzy moments and Nightfalls has a very classical feel. Also, we’ve always been fans of soundtrack music.

Where are you most at home, recording or playing live?

Historically we had this long period where we wouldn’t travel at all. We would always work at the studio as producers and songwriters, then in the last 10 years of Booka Shade it just happened to be that we became a live band that would travel most of the time. There were years when we would play hundreds of shows. It was just crazy. You can only do this for a couple of years, otherwise you kill yourself! Nowadays, we keep it a bit down — we try not to do more than two weeks of tours in the US or Australia. We have a bit more of a selection of shows, that’s why we’re so happy we can play something like the Royal Festival Hall. At the moment we enjoy being in the studio as well, especially because the chemistry is so good. If we find this balance of doing live shows in more of a touring period next year, and spend time in the studio this is going to be a good balance.

Are there any current musicians you’re inspired by?

Yes. I realise now I won’t be the only one, because the album became quite successful, but I really like the Tame Impala album — Currents. I hear that many people think so! It’s quite a hit. Just for pure pleasure, I like The Last Shadow Puppets. I went to see their show — Alex Turner and Miles Kane — they are really cool on stage. They have good songwriting, with proper old school good songs.

Check out the excellent video to Booka Shade & Nils Frahm – Night Falls (Nils Frahm Rework) here:


Movements 10 is out on October 14. Pre-order link here

Booka Shade will be playing at the Royal Festival Hall on November 22.

To buy tickets click here

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