Booka Shade interviewed ahead of first SA tour
Legendary German house duo, Booka Shade, will do a three-stop tour of South Africa for the first time in their illustrious career.
Even before Booka Shade was formed, Walter Merziger and Arno Kammermeier were making music under the name Planet Claire in the early 90s.
Founders of the iconic Get Physical imprint, together with M.A.N.D.Y., their breakthrough as Booka Shade came in 2004 with the release of Memento, on the label they had founded.
If Memento was their breakthrough, their follow up – Movements – raised the production bar and took them global.
Fast forward almost 20 years and we’ll finally get to see and hear these absolute icons of electronic music in Johannesburg and Cape Town this September.
I got to swing them a few questions ahead of their visit.
So many times at concerts people tell us their “Booka Shade story,” some are just funny, some are deep and emotionally touching. It´s a privilege.”
In today’s digital age setting up one’s own imprint to release music is quite common.
But back in 2002 when CDs were still the format for music distribution, there were fewer labels and they all had big catalogues. What was the main motivating factor behind founding your own label to release music as opposed to looking for an existing one to sign with?
Booka Shade: We´ve always been great fans of independent structure, and many of the bands we admired when we were teenagers were on indie labels, such as Depeche Mode on Mute or The Cure on Fiction or New order on Factory.
When we founded Get Physical in 2002 there was a big “Let´s Do This” energy and we believe this transcended into the world. Therefore, it was only logical when we set up Blaufield Music to go the same way.
Also, I have to say that we enjoy being ´hands on´, we like to know what´s going on with our music and we like being in control.
Movements was a seminal release. It certainly was the one that made everybody in South Africa go ‘who is Booka Shade?’
You guys have produced a lot of great music since, but do you still find that as artists you are measured by this iconic album?
Booka Shade: We´re extremely proud of what our music was able to achieve over the years, all the joy it brought to people.
So many times at concerts people tell us their “Booka Shade story,” some are just funny, some are deep and emotionally touching. It´s a privilege.
But at the same time we don´t look back too much, there´s so much music still to be written, we enjoy being in the studio at the moment and constantly releasing music.
There are new classics in the set like LOVE INC.
Over the 20 and more years we´ve been very privileged to have sucessful music and we feel it´s time to help other musicians to find their way in the music business.“
Your DJ-Kicks album in 2007 showed off your eclectic tastes (as this series often does for artists). It certainly showed off your synth-pop side leanings but for fans new to Booka Shade it may have come as a bit of a surprise, especially since many probably only knew Movements at the stage.
Do you think the compilation broadened your fan base or did it put you at odds with your underground following? (I know fans can sometimes have very singular expectations of an artist).
Booka Shade: The fascinating aspect of the dj kicks series was always that artists could leave their comfort zone and try out new things.
After the huge success of Movements it was the perfect platform for us to show a different side of Booka Shade and we think that it was the right decision because the compilation is still a favourite of our fans.
Owning a label has become more challenging every year and the music industry was really floundering at one stage. Reports from label owner friends tell us that streaming has literally saved the revenue stream, even though platforms like Spotify pay such small percentages.
For an eclectic, non-mainstream imprint such as BLAUFIELD have you seen an improvement in revenues for both the label and you as artists?
Booka Shade: It´s true, for a small label with a growing catalogue, streaming is really good.
Although it´s little money per play, it sums up. It´s important to control every aspect of your musical career and to know your costs.
Tells us a bit about Blaufield Music; how it differs from Get Physical and the motivation behind starting this imprint.
Booka Shade: Blaufield started as an imprint only for our own Booka Shade music.
The more success we had with the label,the more demos came in.
After a while we decided to sign other artists to the label and started to release music aside of Booka Shade.
Over the 20 and more years we´ve been very privileged to have sucessful music and we feel it´s time to help other musicians to find their way in the music business.
Twenty years, dozens of EP’s and six albums later, Booka Shade are a household name in electronic music circles.
Your latest release (on Blaufield Music) is the Torch / The Highs Are Higher E.P. We’re told it’s a firm return to the club and towards the dancefloor. You guys excited for this release?
Booka Shade: At the moment we are releasing a lot of club tracks which we‘ve played in our sets for a while.
It is still great to create a new tune in the studio and check it out in club or in a festival on the weekend.
We love this direct response that we get when we play out these new tunes.
We’ve played with Black Coffee a couple of times in the past, lovely man and a great producer.”
It’s remarkable that it has taken this long to come and perform on our sunny shores; What do you both know or have heard about our country and the electronic dance music scene here?
I am pretty sure you have heard of Black Coffee (who hasn’t?) but aside the artists on Get Physical, have you come across many other South African artists on your travels?
Booka Shade: We’ve played with Black Coffee a couple of times in the past, lovely man and a great producer.
We also played with Aero Manyelo and Ryan Murgatroyd at Get Physical parties, so we’re looking forward to meeting them again at It´s Personal Picnic !
The German label Innervisons and the crew around & Me and Rampa had a huge influence on the worldwide afro house trend which started a few years ago.
In september we have the release of our remix for Makossa & Megablast, the track is called Kunuaka and we used a lot of their African elements from the original.
You have three amazing tour dates in South Africa; Joburg: the Mixmag Lab showcase, a wonderful day party – It’s Personal Picnic and also a club gig in an unused bank venue in Cape Town.
I know club gig dancefloors often have more intensity than outdoors but how special is a good outdoor event too?
Booka Shade: We love outdoor events as much as we love clubs and it can be very intimate too.
Especially sunset or sunrise gigs at the sea can be magical. We can‘t wait to see what South Africa has to offer 🙂
Since this is your first time playing in South Africa can fans expect to hear a full anthology of your music (including cuts from Movements/Memento and onwards) or do keep this super current with your sets?
Booka Shade: We always have a good mix of new songs, some even unreleased, and the classics.
Rest assured ….:-)
SHORT AND SHARP…
Best way to occupy yourself in airports?
Working, there´s always something to do.
On long flights we prefer to…
Watch every movie there is ….
Hamburger or tofu?
Our favourite studio gear or plugin right now is…
Prophet 6 sequential / everything from Aturia and Xils-lab
Finals words to the South African fans ahead of your visit…
CAN`T WAIT TO FINALLY PLAY FOR YOU ! !
11th September: Mixmag Lab, Johannesburg
13th September: The Land Bank, Cape Town
14th September: It’s Personal Picnic, Sandton, Gauteng