Walter Merziger and Arno Kammermeier came together at a young age and connected over their love for music. Although they tried their hand at a synth-pop band in their early years, we've come to know the German duo as Booka Shade, the electronic/techno producers that have steadily risen to fame since their first record deal as Booka Shade in 1992.
The guys have an incredibly impressive catalog from over 20 years of quality productions. Most recently, they've added to their list of projects with their latest release of their Line of Fire EP that is packed with three hot tracks that they've been showing off across the globe on their recent touring schedule. Their implementation of live instruments and organic sounds have added a nice touch to their productions and have really stepped everything up for their shows where they do live sets.
While Booka Shade plans to wrap up 2014 with a show in Dubai, we were able to catch up in between all of their recent shows. The guys spilled on everything from how they had to quit chasing the money and start making music that really reflected who they were creatively and about their views on the American EDM scene. Check out what else the guys had to say below.
EARMILK: Why don't you guys share the cliff notes version of how you got this whole thing started? For those not in the know.
Walter: We met in a school band at the age of 15 and realized quickly that both of us shared the same dream of achieving more with music, and probably even making some sort of living with it. We were just boys, living the dream, because at that time, building up a music career out of Germany was barely possible.
We started to write and record demos, using two cassette tape recorders. We overdubbed from one tape recorder to the other. In the end, you heard a lot of tape hiss! We worked our way up with our first band, Planet Claire, then later worked as producers for many bands, and we finally started the label, Get Physical in 2002. This was also the time we started to focus on our band, Booka Shade.
EM: Was there a definitive moment that you experienced where you realized that music was your future?
Arno: I was 12 years old when my parents gave me a drum kit for Christmas.
EM: Is this how you imagined your lives/careers would turn out?
W: Realistically, it's beyond any dream! We're rather skeptical people, we are Germans after all. But we have to call ourselves extremely privileged to be able to present our music to audiences all over the world and to play the biggest music festivals. We have a great team of people around us, and on top of it all, we can still find time for our families.
EM: Other than the transition into dance music, how has your sound progressed over the years?
A: Being kids growing up in the 80's, we always loved synthesizers. Our influences were Kraftwerk, Depeche Mode, Tears For Fears, and New Order. So, electronic sounds were our always our thing. Our first band in the early 90's sounded like Tears For Fears, but then the techno virus caught up to us in 1993.
We can honestly say that over the years, we tried out everything. We even produced with symphonic orchestras and punk bands. But the sound which comes very natural from within us is the sound you actually hear in Booka Shade; a lot of layers in the sound to explore, and an overall feeling we call "positive melancholy". We enjoy a little sadness, but in a good way. And talking about the production side, over the years, it has become more difficult to be satisfied with a production. I think any musician can confirm this.
In early years, we would finish for example a remix in one, three days max. Nowadays, it's very unusual if we need less than three weeks. Having said this, the remix we have just finished for Gorgon City is a great example for a quick and good result. We did the mix on tour. We started in a hotel room in Dublin, continued a few days later into Chicago, played it out in DJ sets three times, and it was finished in only a couple of days.
EM: You guys grew up with your music, what would the teenage versions of yourselves think of the Line of Fire EP?
W: What a tricky question! For many years, we worked as "guns for hire", producers for the major record labels. We produced a good 100 records. We were very successful and had number 1's and all, but we would play hardly any of those productions to our own children.
We weren't proud of much of the stuff we'd done. That's why we stopped chasing the money and started to be true to ourselves. Booka Shade is 100 percent who we are musically. And I think that our younger selves would actually like it. After all, we have stood on the same stage as Depeche Mode. My younger self would go fucking mental if he knew that!
EM: For fun, if you had to compare your music to any food items, what would they be?
W: Maybe sushi. It's simple and fresh, reduced to the max, yet with multiple layers...
EM: You guys have been in the music game for a while, what can you comment on how dance music has changed over the past several years?
A: When we first started out with techno and house music in the 90's, little did we know that it would become such a massive worldwide phenomenon. The US currently has their 'Summer of Love' now, like we had in 1988/1989, when acid house hit Europe. And although the American EDM sounds awkard to us at times, there's no doubt that it opens a lot of doors for us in the states.
Our fan base grows slow but steady, because we don't have daytime radio play, for example. But we headlined a stage at Coachella last year! We can play EDM festivals like EDC and the more music driven jam band festivals like Electric Forest too. We can't complain.
EM: Which do you prefer, being on stage or being in the studio? And why?
W: Thank heaven we don't really have to decide. Essentially, we're songwriters and producers. We'd love to spend more time in the studio than we actually do, but touring has become such an integral part of our career, it's hard to imagine we wouldn't do it anymore. Despite the exhausting parts of traveling, it is still wonderful to go to exotic places and to meet interesting people.
EM: How do you guys balance your intense musical career with your personal lives?
A: What's that saying? "Behind every strong man, there's a strong woman." We're both family men, it means a lot to us and we gladly make sacrifices in order to have a good family life. But we'd be nothing without the support and understanding of our wives. They ground us when we come home from a high flying 'woo! I'm a techno star' sorta weekend.
EM: What artists do you look to for inspiration? Or who do you have in your personal playlists right now?
W and A: SOHN's Tremors and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds.
EM: What do you guys have planned for the rest of the year?
W: We just finished our last US tour for the year, with HARD festival and shows in LA, NYC, as well as DJ shows in Chicago and El Paso. Next up we're promoting the new Line of Fire EP. A DJ show in Dubai will finish up the touring for the year in Mid December. But we already have plans to return to the US in 2015.
EM: Where do you see Booka Shade going in the next few years?
A: We hope to be still inspired to write good music and perhaps even play some great shows! Let's see!