Need to Know: Booka Shade
By Max Berlinger
Since you crossed into the mass media market in Australia, does that allow you to explore with your sound at all?
I don’t think so much about mass media success. Arno and I have a long career as pop producers behind us. In 1999 we were producing for Pop Idol and casting shows for German TV. We were so tired of it that in 2002 we said, "no more." We decided to just do Booka Shade. It's our heart. This is what we are proud of. If we strike a chord with many people and they like the music we might get into mass media. We never think of it, though. All the hits we’ve had so far we never expected to be so successful, especially “Body Language.” We did that song as a track for a compilation and then the DJs came back and told us to look at the track to see how successful it was becoming. They told us to release it as a single and we said no because it’s just another dance track. After six months, because there was such great feedback, we finally decided to release it and then it took another year before it became popular in Miami. Then it developed into a monster club classic, which was never the plan. You can never plan success. Just do what you like and try and find as many people as you can. That's what we're doing.
When you are touring, do you prefer to play in the festival scene or as a solo show? I'd say that I love both, but if I had to choose it would be the big stage. My dream is to one day have the biggest live electronic show in the world. Will we we ever get there? We'll see. We're constantly investing in our live show to make it better and trying to find new people to do the sound and lighting. We try to present something that's neat, something that's more attractive to us. A DJ show isn't really as dramatic. You're just going there, playing records, and leaving. Of course, when Fatboy Slim is DJing he has big screens and LED lights behind him. That's not what I mean. The live show is this moment when you are onstage playing music, even if you just have four hands. I’m coming more from this as a rock band than as a DJ. That is why if I had to choose I'd say the big stage at the big festivals are ideal.
How do you write a song? Do you and Arno collaborate equally?
We've been partners for 26 years now. In the beginning, Arno did a lot of drum programming because I dealt with the instruments like guitar and piano. From the start I was more of the composer. Fifteen years ago we decided that I was the studio guy and Arno is the voice. Usually he's doing all the interviews. He has a family engagement tonight but normally he's the one presenting us with his voice. I present the demos and ask him what he thinks and then we work together in the studio to work on the details, the concept and the mix. We're both involved in every little aspect of Booka Shade, but when it comes down to the first musical idea -- that's my job.
Do you have a favorite track to perform live? Or a track that your audiences respond more excitedly to?
Of course everyone waits for “Body Language” because it the biggest hit we have had so far. Our second album, Movement, has five monster club hits. People are waiting for those. From the new album, More, the song “Teenage Spaceman.” You can see in the crowd that people love listening to that, especially the live version. For me, at the moment, I like performing “Teenage Spaceman.”
I always wonder with electronic acts whether you prefer an outdoor venue or an indoor venue.
It doesn’t matter. We played the other day in Portugal directly on the seafront. It was a late show and it was warm. It was wonderful. On the other hand, if you have great concert venues like the Koko Theater in London or the Fillmore in New York, which we've played twice, they're legendary places to play. The first tour we did this year in the USA was at Red Rocks. This was definitely in the top three of all the shows we’ve done so far. It was definitely one of the best concerts ever. We felt that that place was magic. There are so many indoor and outdoor areas I really enjoy to play -- I can't choose.
As far as collaborations are concerned, are there any artists you're looking to work with in the near future?
We're thinking at the moment, for the first time in our career, of trying to find a producer. We've worked for 26 years together and we used to be more famous as producers. We were pop producers, more behind a desk than on the stage. We worked in the studio. Now we're more artists, in a way, and we're presenting our work on a stage. We have a feeling it would be a good time to bring new blood and ideas in from a new producer. We'll see. Perhaps we'll find somebody. We're just thinking about it and we will definitely work with singers again. There's no one particular singer I would choose at the moment, though. There are so many great singers that range from Depeche Mode to David Bowie in the '70s and '80s to the lead singer of MGMT who's very modern and a really great guy. He has great ideas for lyrics. If they're up to it, I would love to get these guys together. It also depends on the song. I'd like to work with David Bowie and ask him if he is up for doing something but it has to be the right project. That’s why I really cant say where this path will lead us.
I know your music is featured on various soundtracks and video games. Is there anywhere you've just wanted to hear your music (movie, television, or otherwise)?
We had some of our music on CSI in America, which was great. I saw some of the scenes and they worked really well together. If I had a chance, I would prefer to do music for a science fiction film of course because with electronic music would be a good fit. But I could also imagine doing a soundtrack for a western. This would be a contrast project. It's just an idea. We'd been asked if we had time to do the soundtrack to Tron, but then Daft Punk signed on. It's totally understandable because Daft Punk works perfectly for the movie. It was a really interesting offer but in the end it didn’t happen. We're waiting for the right moment to do something in film, which is definitely a goal for us.
Does your son listen to your music?
My son is 3 and a half. He listens to the music and immediately recognizes that it's my music. He's not judging anything. He's just dancing in front of the system or watching snippets on the Internet when he wants to see Daddy onstage. He doesn’t realize what’s happening. He'll realize later what his daddy is doing.
-- COURTNEY NICHOLS
Booka Shade with be playing the Music Hall of Williamsburg on October 26th. For more tour dates visit: http://www.bookashade.com
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