German Techno Stars Booka Shade Return To India
The duo will perform a DJ set at the first edition of VH1 Supersonic in Goa this month
“It’s super mysterious! So mysterious that I don’t even remember how it came up,” Arno Kammermeier, one half of Booka Shade laughs in response to the one question we’ve always wanted to ask them. That is: what are the mysterious origins of the name “Booka Shade?” It’s a name that’s been a highlight of the global underground electronica arena for over a decade. The opportunity to speak to Kammermeier, via Skype, arrived due to the pair’s return to India (they played club gigs in Delhi and Bengaluru last year) for VH1’s new festival, Supersonic, which is slated to be held in the last week of December in Goa.
The name was created in the mid-Nineties, “the high time of techno,” as Arno describes, where he and cohort Walter Merziger, “used to meet in the afternoon and started writing songs and recording them on this old cassette recorder with these little tapes!” This is after having met in high school, while playing in the band (Van Halen’s “Jump” was a favorite tune to perform, Arno laughingly reveals.) “I believe, in retrospect ”¦ there’s an organ player called Booker T. We just changed it to an “a” and added something mysterious to it,” he says. Five memorable albums, and countless singles, down the line, Booka Shade continue to pack in clubs. Who can forget that seminal 2006 album, Movements with sexy, cinematic classics like “Mandarine Girl” and “Body Language.”
Originally starting out as a pop band in Germany in the early Nineties, Merzinger and Kammermeier discovered techno that decade, which completely changed the course of their journey. “From pop, we went to the first wave of underground techno, in the mid-Nineties. Then there was another wave where we started as producers for big labels in Europe. We were very successful but that came to a point where we said: this is horrible,” he reminisces. There was also a period of time where they even worked in the advertising business for clients such as BMW and Coca Cola. “It made us a lot of money, but it was also very stressful and unsatisfying because you always worked for a client and never could do what you really wanted,” he says.
That attitude was also the central ethos behind Get Physical, the label they created with fellow artists DJ T and M.A.N.D.Y in 2002. “Looking back, it was the right moment because everyone wanted to change something in their lives then. There was DJ T, who had founded an important magazine for electronic music in Germany, called Groove Magazine. But he was tired of it, and wanted something new. Then there were these two crazy guys who wanted to do more deejaying because they had regular jobs ”“ M.A.N.D.Y. And then there were the two producers ”“ us,” he says. Get Physical grew to be one of the most exciting dance music labels of their time. Though Booka Shade and DJ T ended up leaving Get Physical, three years ago. They’re still good friends, and Kammermeier discusses the split, saying, “I’m happy they [M.A.N.D.Y] continued and that the name is still out there. I have many very good memories. I also have some very bad memories ”“ all the discussions we had then, all the reasons why we said it was not working anymore. There were too many creative people and no one was taking the lead on the professional side, or the business side, so to speak. But I’m very proud of what we created then.”
Fast-forward to 2013, and they’re back in the news with the release of their new album, Eve, which released just last month. “We’re bringing the DJ show to Goa, like we did last time to Bangalore and Delhi. We’re going to play a lot of new material from our new album,” says Kammermeier about their forthcoming Goa gig. “For a long time, before the album came out, we would try out the songs in our DJ sets to see how they would work. Now, the good thing is people have started to recognize those songs ”“ like “Love Inc”, which did very well in Europe. So, that’s one of the songs we’ll be playing but of course, for the DJ shows, we always have special versions, which we can mix with music and unreleased material,” he adds. So, if you haven’t heard “Eve” yet, this sounds like the best introduction possible.Â
Booka Shade perform at VH1 Supersonic in Candolim, Goa on 29th December. Day tickets cost Rs 2,000. Buy tickets here