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In Conversation: Booka Shade

In Conversation: Booka Shade

Elliot Ryder | Features & Interviews

This year marks 10 years since the release of Movements by German electronic duo Booka Shade; an hour long atmospheric journey that climbs to the heady peaks of euphoria, fluctuating between the eerie depths of suspense. To celebrate the Berlin based pair’s seminal record, Movements will be rereleased alongside a number of commemorative of live shows set to take place throughout the summer, including an appearance at South West Four in August. To get an insight to all things Movements 10, we sat down with Arno Kammermeier, one half of Booka Shade, to find out more.

Hi Arno, how’re you doing?
Hello, I’m not doing badly. I am just in the studio in Berlin at the moment; I’ve just finished setting everything up to record so you’ve called at a good time!

What is it you are in the studio working on currently?
We are making really good progress with a new album. By the time this new one comes out it will have been around three years since our last one was released. Hopefully it will all be ready by the end of August. From there we will start mixing it with the aim of it being released in early 2017. It always takes a long time when working on an album, and this being our 6th one, the process is not getting any easier; you want to challenge yourself and try out new things. The album is going to be a new style for us as the Movements celebration that we are having this year is going to mark the end of an era for that sound, so it’s time for something new.

Having been releasing singles over the past few years, what is it that inspired the you to start work on another full length album?
Maybe because we are old school! We like the opportunity to tell a bigger story with an album and it also gives you the possibility to show a variety of sounds. If you look at our early albums there is always a diversity in the sound. Most people see us as a club or dance act, but our albums have always had much more of a dept. We have always enjoyed the fact you can go anywhere on the journey with an album. With people listening to our full albums on Spotify, it shows us that we are able to keep telling these stories and not always have to focus on three-minute pop songs or singles.

What has the process been like for your current studio sessions?
I’d say the biggest differences is we have done much more together than we have done on previous albums. Times before we sent each other MP3s and worked on it together when we could but we have realised how important it is to be together in the same room and take pleasure in the creative process. We have known each other for nearly 30 years and there are always ups and downs in a relationship, but we feel that things are coming together at the moment. For a long time, we were unsure of where to go with the music but right now there is a clear vision of what we want to do, so it is just a matter of getting the songs finished and picking the right ones out of the 50 or 60 we wrote. 

Are the tracks on your albums recorded as a collection designed to take the audience on a particular journey or are they a compilation of tracks you have been working for a specific set of time?
For albums, from the songs we have recorded, we choose the strong ones that could maybe be a single along with a selection of atmospheric ones and the more epic sounding tracks. We then sit down a go over our track listing and try to get a feel of the flow of the album and see where we can maybe insert a more upbeat song or maybe a little bit of an irritation. It’s always a lot of work!

Despite the heavy use of drum machines and synths, your recordings still maintain a live feel. Do you purpose fully produce your music in this way so transition from the studio to stage does not compromise the sound?
Yeah, it’s basically because we love the combination of acoustic and electronic sounds. With this new album we have the feeling that we are recording interesting new sounds, for example, I am just about to record a glockenspiel (plays notes). The grooves we create are always electronic but I will double it with an acoustic instrument. Even if the instrument is very sequenced and sounds like a drum machine the feel is always a little bit different.

In keeping with your live show, do you try and reimagine your recordings as accurately as possible or has progression over time lead to yourselves altering the way you perform them live?
If you have ever been to one of our shows you will see the versions of our songs can be quite different and vary over the years. In White Rooms for instance, the version we play now is quite similar to the one we played in 2006 and 2007 because of the celebration of Movements 10. With a new album we try to have it in a way so that it is immediately playable, but there can be versions that can be super sequenced and we break it up for the live show.

This summer you will be visiting a number of festivals. Generally sets at festivals are a lot shorter. Do you think this plays to your advantage as a live act as you wont be cut short when only just getting into the groove of a DJ set?
As a live act, it is okay to play for around 75 minutes. At one time we had a tour manager who was working with The Prodigy and he said that they never played longer than 75 minutes. We really love playing for around this time in a very arranged way so we can create the atmosphere we want. DJ’ing is a different thing, as a DJ you want to play for 3 hours at least to take the audience on a desired journey. Only having an hour set is terrible for a DJ as they have the audience where they want them by the time they have to stop. However, for a live band,  just over an hour is fine.

This year you will be celebrating 10 years since the release of Movements with a rerelease along with a number of live shows to commemorate the seminal release. How have you been finding theMovements 10 shows so far?
We have only had the premier so far at Sonar last weekend and it was amazing, especially at Sonar as our performance at the festival was a real career starter for us back In 2005. As always with a premier, we had a few issues on stage but this was behind the scenes. The audience seemed to enjoy it so it gives us a great feeling looking towards the upcoming shows.

How intense is the process of learning all of the tracks before you feel you are at a level to perform them live?
Of course you rehearse them, but with the Movements 10 shows in particular it was a case of going back to the original productions from 2005 to 2006. We wanted to recreate a lot of the sounds form those days and go back to the original backing track. There were a few songs that we have never played live before such as Lost High, a track which Dennis Ferrer remixed which we really love. So we got Dennis to send over his remix and we edited it again and that has become the live version we play now. With the live show at the moment, we take a lot the old sequences and sounds but we try and mix it up in new ways as much as possible and make them ‘2016’.

To what extent do you feel you have developed as producers and a live act since the initial release ofMovements?
Well the very first show we played as Booka Shade was right here in Berlin at Watergate, and at that stage we were not all that familiar with playing electronic music live. We tried to run all of the music and all of the visuals through the same laptop which was way too much information for this poor little thing back in 2005. As a result, we had about 4 breakdowns in this one show, but it was a quick learning curve for us, so we have a lot of back ups ready now if things go wrong. As producers, there is always constant development. Over the last year or so, we have worked with a lot of young producers in a studio in Berlin called Riverside which has helped us pick up on a few new tricks. It’s just all about learning. That’s the aim in life, otherwise what is it good for!

Finally, you will be over here in the UK at the end of August at South West Four alongside the likes of Paul Kalkbrenner, can you give us a little insight of what to expect from the Movements 10 performance?
We will present the Movements album pretty much in the same running order as on the CD except the tracks will be performed a little differently with a few mash ups and remixes other producers have done for us. We also have new concepts in place from our light designer so hopefully it will look visually stunning also.

Thanks Arno, good luck with the rest of the recording for the album.
Thank you, back to the glockenspiel! 

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In Conversation: Booka Shade

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