Booka Shade have been integral to the contempoary dance music scene for more reasons than one, but one undeniable factor is their daring refusal to stick to anything but their own musical aesthetics. Blending live musicianship with beats and melodies, their trademark sound has gained them a worldwide base of fans. Since their humble beginnings at the forefront of the techno scene in Berlin (and their subsequent Body Language album), it's been headline shows and huge singles ever since (check 'In White Rooms') as they continue to explore their unique sound. At a time when EDM spectacles are controlled by one man laptop button-pushers - and the race to become more daring and elaborate continues - Booka Shade's focus on ways of exploring the live performance and technology (without comprimising on the music) is heading back to a more organic mindset. Ahead of their appearance at FIRE London (and the debut outing for their brand new live show in the UK), Arno chats to Pulse about progression, technology and the blurring of boundaries between acoustic and electronic music.
You're about to embark on an updated live tour featuring an all new show. Can you tell us about the idea of this updated spectacle? Yeah the year started in Australia around the new year for festivals. we're starting the live show in Europe, way before the release of the album actually, in cities like London, Paris and Berlin - to showcase a couple of the songs from the album and try them out live a bit closer to home. That's always been very important for us, to test out our music in the live setting.
Is this a method that you usually choose? Are you into this trial and error attitude? Yes we did in the old days, especially when we used to only do live shows. But in the last coupe of years we've started to DJ a lot more. That made it easier to check out the more club orientated tracks. On the new album there's a lot of atmospheric tracks so it's not always about the groove - but it's also very melodic, as we always are.
we wanted to present the tunes in these smaller shows and try them out. Then, we're going to Ultra Festival soon and then to Coachella and then its straight into Festival season. So there's a lot of live shows in Europe coming up this year. The nice thing is we're doing this 6 months before the album comes out - so we're doing headline slots, second stage and more. It/s moving on nicely and gradually to the bigger slots. The production has to grow as we go along this progression so it's very exciting in that respect too.
So how have you updated the live show this time around, what's different? It's still Walter playing Keyboards, and I still play electronic drums. But the new album has more acoustic elements and more depth in the overall sound. It all sounds very electronic in the end, but more of the original material is acoustic, rather than out of a synthesier or a laptop. It's more perfrormance driven and the roots are more hand made so to speak.
Is that to capture that unique, organic sound and to represent the Booka Shade ethos of live electronics? Yes that's what we were looking at because we got a bit bored of laptops. It used to be great to be able to write wherever you like. It's a great thing and we did it a lot over our careers. It's a great quality but when you've done it for a while, you look for something else. we looked for possibilities to be more hands on, so we went to studio just outside of Manchester and it was full of outboard equipment. It's a playground for musicians, so we went there and spent a couple of days recorded and recorded. The synths were also re-amped, so it'd be recorded and then re-recorded through a guitar amp or even through a room - just to have another sound rather than the digital reverberation. For the live show, there's more live elements. The sound have been tweaked to suit live more - more live focus on the percussion and even the sound of our synths. It's still an electronic show - we haven't gone rock - but it's got more of a live show and I think that's what attracts people to a Booka Shade live show in the first place. Something you can come and watch and experience.
Its a;ll about giving peopl a 360 experience. Dance music has seen a trend of live, elaborate shows that are getting bigger and bigger: huge productions and stage shows with a guy standing behind a laptop controlling it all. How do you feel about this trend? Um, there seems to be a market for it at the moment... that's great for sure! I always come them these bling bling shos (more bling bling for everybody), but from the beginning e decided we didn't want to play this game cause there is always people ho have bigger screen than you, more LED lights than you... but that's what is special about us and what we want to focus on is the fact we're a live band and we play electronic music. So what we're working on at the moment - especially for the bigger summer gigs - there shall be more opportunity to do what we do live as well. This idea has been roadtested in Australia already, and basically we set up lots of small cameras around the set-up. It's to make a connection to the audience and also to show that what's happening on stage is REAL. It should always be about the live element.
You guys have been doign your thing for a while and you've seen the trends come and go, all the different changes in technology and consumption. Do you think dance music is more concerned ith the musicality of dance music, the focus on musicianship and notation when writing music? In the end it's all about the idea rather than the style. And also, what comes across for the audience in their eyes. There are lots of new producers who are doing a seriously great job, and bring back a lot more emotion and melody to the music. The beats are slower and very harmonic and I like that But as you say, these trends come and go so we stopped worrying about what's happening or what's going to be. Booka Shade are very lucky to have a trademark sound and identity and there times when it hits the nerve of the club. Other times it hits the nerve of other scenes and spaces I like to believe that what we're good at is creating atmosphere and writing decent songs and melodies. I've always been like this - whether the sound is harder or softer, it all comes and goes. I guess we're like cockroaches - we'll always be there no matter what happens.
Is it fair to say that what you make is pop music (not in the terms of Brittney Spears) but more like creating popular music eelectronic music for all? You definetely broke out of the underground techno scene a long time ago and your shows attract all types of people.... I guess when we started, we were in the underground Berlin scene; I still love it that we've got a foot in the door there. But you see the audiences at our shows these days - you stop thinking about these things as you go along - but it's the club heads from back then, from our early days. Then there's the younger club heads and then regular people who wonder where it's all come from as you don't hear iour music on the radio. It gets to them through word of mouth, and independent structures. I'm a big fan of the internet - the way Body Language blew up, it's so successful because people heard about it on the internet and helped us spread it. The audience is always diverse and we're very very happy about that, because we are like that as persons also. It's very reflective of who we are.
Booka Shade play FIRE this Saturday, the 9th March as part of their Blackout tour. Tickets can be fiound by clicking the link here.