YRB Interview: Booka Shade

By Stephanie Amy Collazo

Photo Credit: Keith Carlsen

Berlin-based house duo Booka Shade has come a long way since they stepped onto the music scene 25 years ago in Frankfurt, Germany. Though they have released four albums, <Momento>, <Movements>, <The Sun & Neon Light> and <More!>,  this has been their busiest year yet.  Since the debut of Booka Shade’s last album, the pair has been touring nonstop all over the United States and Europe with their latest tour venture being the iDentity Festival.  Even with an intense schedule, the German powerhouse duo took some time out to answer some questions about their beginnings and latest tour.


YRB: You have been making music together for 25 years, how has your music style changed over this time?

Arno: We´ve gone through A LOT of phases. From the school band where we first met as kids to synth pop to a first techno underground phase in the early ‘90s to No. 1 chart producers back to underground and to… Booka Shade. We finally feel that we now have the possibility to do exactly the music we want to do. We have our own independent setup and we control what happens with our music.


It’s not at all what you would call a straight, linear career, but we wouldn’t be who we are today without all these experiences. For example, the cinematic side of Booka Shade is possible because we worked with orchestras for film scores or advertising in the late ‘90s. What all the phases have in common is the interest in electronic music.


YRB: For a while you were making music for movie soundtracks and writing pop music for major labels in Germany, what made you go back to making your own music? You also had your own label/production company, Get Physical Music, with M.A.N.D.Y and Thomas “DJ T” Koch, what made you decide to take on that aspect of the business?

Arno: In the late ‘90s, we were very successful in what we did; we had several No. 1s and top 10s in Germany. But we had become kind of robots for the major record labels, no own will, no control – we did what they told us to do. And that wasn´t why we first started to do music. The love for music had gone. Consequently, we stopped this and started setting up an independent label for electronic club music – Get Physical. We accepted that, in the beginning, we wouldn´t sell more than, like, 100 records, but it didn’t matter because what we did was very important to us. We never regretted this decision. Luckily enough, we soon went from 100 to 20,000 vinyl. And then songs like “Body Language” or “Night Falls” came along and hit big time.


YRB: You are currently on the iDentity Festival tour, how does performing at an electronic festival like iDentity differ from other venues?

Arno: We like the idea of a traveling festival. After a couple of days it gets really relaxed, you know what to expect, the crews work well together, the production standard, especially on the main stage, is very high, the amphitheaters are basically the same everywhere. At a regular fest, you never have the time to check out other people’s show, but with this one you do.


YRB: When we interviewed the Nervo twins they said they were particularly excited to meet you, were you looking forward to being on tour with any artist(s) in particular?

Arno: We met the twins – they are cool! On the East Coast part, our fellow Germans, Modeselektor, joined the tour, and it was good to spend some time, as we rarely meet each other in Berlin. Rusko seems to be an artist we´d like to meet. And, of course, we already had good conversation with the real musicians: Disco Biscuits.


YRB: When can we expect to hear more about the new album? What are you working on currently?

Arno: We’re working on the new album during the U.S. tour. We have our portable studio always with us and can set it up in the tour bus. In opposite to previous albums though, which were solely produced in laptops during tours, we have a different approach this time. We record a lot in actual recording studios, playing many instruments ourselves. We found a place near Manchester in England, which is full of old synths, preamps, FX units, percussion, etc. We do a lot of “re-amping,” which means that we send e.g. synth sounds through big loudspeakers and re-record the sound. It gives the whole production a much warmer, analog sound. We have some off days on the West Coast, so we might book a studio in L.A. or Vancouver to use the free time effectively.

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