In response to the predictable 1990s electronic bands, German duo Walter Merziger and Arno Kammermeier began mixing their own music, which eventually turned into their current band, Booka Shade. The two friends grew up together in Saarbrucken, Germany, and at a young age, they soon realized their similarities.
“We met in a school band at the age of 13 and quickly realized that we both are very passionate about music and wanted to achieve something with music,” Kammermeier said. “We met in the afternoons after school and recorded songs on a stereo cassette recorder. A bit later, we spent all our money we had saved in a Commodore 64 computer with a very basic sequencer software – we’re talking mid ‘80s here.”
After 25 years of writing and recording music together, Merziger and Kammermeier are now well-established veterans of the German music scene. Kammermeier said he believes their friendship and the amount of time they put into the band have been essential to their current success.
“We spend more time with each other than with our parents or wives. A working relationship, just like a private relationship, is work,” Kammermeier said. “It’s wonderful to see that even after such a long time, we still look in the same direction musically and have dreams to bring to reality.”
Booka Shade has pulled much of its inspiration from the sound of early-1980s new-wave bands, such as New Order, The Cure, Depeche Mode and Soft Cell, as well as some movie scores. The duo’s love of jazz and classical music has also influenced the band’s sound, which Kammermeier found difficult to define.
“We don’t like categories so much, but if we have to, it’s electronic – very emotional and melodic combined with strong club grooves,” Kammermeier said. “Let’s call it science-fiction house.”
Apart from musical influences, Booka Shade also draws inspiration from elements of Merziger’s and Kammermeier’s everyday lives.
“It can be anything – a song we hear, people we meet and places we visit while we’re touring,” Kammermeier said. “Our song ‘In White Rooms’ has its name after a hotel in Stockholm we once stayed in. Everything was completely white.”
In another song, “Teenage Spaceman,” the subject is the son of a friend of Booka Shade, who updates the band’s social-networking websites.
“You hear him in the intro of ‘Teenage Spaceman,’” Kammermeier said.
Booka Shade’s sound has grown out of their anti-formulaic sentiment and their desire to create new, exciting material. Because of this outlook, the band conquers the idea of party music with their albums and has gained a huge recent following. Booka Shade’s hit singles, “Body Language” and “Mandarin Girls,” are widely popular in the disco-club scene. Its growing popularity also led to the Black Eyed Peas’ Will.I.Am sampling the band’s song “Body Language.”
Booka Shade’s newest album, “More!,” released May 3, offers 11 tracks filled with raw emotions. In developing this album, Booka Shade put energy into creating something important, rather than the new latest fad, Kammermeier said.
“It’s definitely a challenge to keep yourself interested in finding new ways to write and produce music,” Kammermeier said. “We don’t like to repeat ourselves. It’s dangerous to follow a certain formula of success.”
Booka Shade is currently on its first tour in the United States, and Kammermeier said he and Merziger are excited and hopeful about the tour, their new album and the future of the band.
“We feel very privileged already. We have the opportunity to play our music to a lot of people and have invitations for concerts from all over the world,” Kammermeier said. “If we could continue for a while to create music that means something to our audience, that would keep us happy.”
Mark Lauterbach can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.