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Love Incorporated: 5 Steps With Booka Shade



There are few bigger names in electronic music than Booka Shade with the duo winning plaudits around the world for both their abilities in the studio as well as on the stage with a host of accolades behind them and their list of festival appearances doubling up as a summary of the worlds biggest festivals over the past decade. It hasn’t always been this way though and the duo from Frankfurt have had to work hard every step of the way for their success. Since meeting as children Walter Merziger and Arno Kammermeier have enjoyed a rollercoaster of a journey that took then from a high school synth pop duo, to releasing forgotten records on now legendary imprints such as R&S, being the shadowy hand behind a series of German pop releases for major labels before moving to Berlin and taking things to the next level alongside some more night club inspired friends to take the electronic music scene by storm both as producers and former label bosses of the now highly regarded imprint Get Physical. Never ones to rest on the laurels, the pairing have now embarked on the latest part of their journey together forming new label Blaufield Music which would be hosting their upcoming album.

So as long term fans of Booka Shade when they announced they’d be squirrelled away in Manchester working on a new album entitled ‘Eve’ we were more than a little excited.

Billed as being a soundtrack to their story over the last few years, a tumultuous period in the pairings artistic relationship in which they almost split up during the first half of the production. In order to create something exciting they needed to be somewhere exciting and in search of inspiration headed to one of the UK’s hotbeds of electronic music, Manchester, to record at the acclaimed Eve studios, a residential vintage recording studio. This is where they found themselves together again, where the music came to life and  thus this is why the album is named after the studio as the pairing explain “We recorded an electronic album in a traditional way and it made us feel like a band again, it was like going back to the beginning. ”

With the album about to drop we spoke with Booka Shade’s Walter as the Frankfurt native looks back at five pivotal moments in the outfits illustrious career.

First Contact With Music

My grandpa had an old acoustic guitar and a piano and from time to time he played some songs for his friends and family . I remember that I liked the way the music moved me and will never forget the sensation when he first played me `summertime`. My father played a lot of classical music in our house, almost every day and I remember watching him conducting the music during he listened to whether it be Wagner, Tchaikovsky, Mahler or Mozart and how he dived so deeply into the music to completely immerse himself in the sound. Looking back I think this was a very important phase in my musical life and most certainly the starting point for my future career as a musician.

Shortly afterwards when I was just eight years old, my father bought a piano which was when I started to learn the instrument. I didn’t always enjoy playing the instrument as I had a very strict teacher and there were points when I hated it so much that  I would pretend to be sick so as I’d not be able to go to my piano lessons! At twelve my grandfather began to teach me a few chords on his guitar and it felt as if a door had been opened, a light switched on in the darkness and it was then I knew it was time to play in a band. I was going to be a musician.

Meeting My future partner Arno

After two years of training my skills on piano and guitar I met a guy in the train on my way to school. He told me that he was in a band and that they were looking for a second guitarist. That same day I went to a rehearsal with him and from the very outset when  I realized it was only me and Arno, who was the drummer in the band took the whole `we will be rockstars and change the world` thing as seriously as I wanted us to and we would need to if we wanted to succeed. I still have all the old demos from that time and aside from the drums (Arno had the best skills in the band) you wouldn’t hear anything that would suggest we had any talent at all. Despite such humble beginnings we worked really hard for more than half a decade and finally got our first record deal with EMI in 1991.


Meeting Peter Hayo And The Deal With EMI

The next big step in our career all came down to as a coincidence as we had played a few concerts under our new name of  Planet Claire whilst still in school and on a regional festival as well as deciding to record our music under the moniker. So we went to an affordable 8 track recording studio in a very small town in the southwest of Germany. The owner of the studio was Peter Hayo who saw one of our concerts, and liked the way we had integrated electronics in our music. This was easy as in 1989, because instruments were expensive and the PA systems at that time couldn’t handle the acoustics of drum machines and synthesizers like they do today but it seems it was good enough to impress Peter and he offered us a record deal on  his new label,  which was invariably a milestone for us . Now  we had a producer and a label. It took us more than two years to finally sign our first record deal with a major-record company and much to our surprise, the first single went into the straight into the German sales charts. I was 19 and felt like a rock star and thought that this would never stop. What a fallacy…

Meeting Torsten Fenslau From Culture Beat

After the frustrating and nerve-wracking end of our band Planet Claire and the end of the deal with EMI , we were infected with the techno-virus in the middle of the nineties. we produced a lot of tracks for all kinds of upcoming labels like R&S, Touche, and Harthouse. One song we’d produced was entitled ‘Temple of light’ and was signed by a guy called Torsten Fenslau from frankfurt, the owner of the euro-dance multiplatinum act Culture Beat , for his label Abfahrt. He loved the production of the track and asked us if we then wanted help to produce the next Culture Beat album. This was our entrance into the big chart production business. Peter Hayo , Arno and myself  then founded the production company Perky Park and on the back of the million selling record of Culture Beat we began to produce all kinds of chart acts in Germany, pop idols and star search winners , upcoming stars, and fashion models. We built a 400qm studio complex in Frankfurt with high end studio gear and started to produce songs as if in a factory. it was a very stressful but equally very exciting time.

We we constantly learning and developing new skills from how to do a set up a great vocal arrangement to how to write music for a forty piece classical orchestra to how to work  with a professional jazz or rock or punkband. We worked  withiin all styles and genres and nothing was off limits. It is still very helpful that we have this knowledge and this history for our own music and you can hear the various influences that have left their mark on a productions from early on in our career all the way upto the recording of our latest album.

In 2002 we produced our last German number one and left the business overnight. As fascinating the business was, the major record label business was not the real stuff we had been aspiring to make  and not that what we wanted to do for the rest of our lives. It was time to pursue our true passions.

Moving To Berlin

In the beginning of 2002 we met Patrik and Philipp again as we had grown up in the same city and thus already known each other for a long time. We had never really worked together before but whenever we would meet we would talk about music for hours. We started to write some music in our new studio in Berlin and actually in the beginning it all began in the bedroom in my apartment. We hadalready written a few songs together when we first met DJ T who was the owner of the German magazine Groove at the time. He asked if we could do collaborate on some music together and we started to work  on songs like `freemind` and `philly`. We then sent out the music to all kinds of labels and distribution companies but nobody was interested in releasing our new music, so we decided to found our own imprint called Get Physical. This was an amazing time in our career, it felt like us against the world and we had a huge worldwide success from the start. Out of these exciting times we were motivated to start to write music for an electronic live show and this was the move from Booka Shade the producers behind the mixing desk to Booka Shade the live band. Suddenly we played festivals like Coachella, Lollapalooza, Pukkelpop and Glastonbury whilst supporting bands like Depeche Mode. It was unreal.

 Check out ‘Love INC’ – From the forthcoming album ‘EVE’. Pre-order at iTunes & get Love Inc now:https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/eve…


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