- 29 May 17
German techno heroes Booka Shade discuss collaborating with Irish singer Craig Walker on their new album, DJing in world-renowned Berlin club Berghain, and playing huge support slots with Depeche Mode. Interview: Paul Nolan
There is a notable Irish contribution to Galvany Road, the latest effort from German electro gurus Walter Merziger and Arno Kammermeier, aka Booka Shade. Vocals on the album come from Dublin singer Craig Walker, whom Booka hooked up with in their hometown of Berlin.
“Craig moved to Berlin about 18 months ago,” explains Merziger. “Arno has a studio complex called Riverside, which has many people working in it, one of whom was Craig. We found out that we have the same musical taste, and that he’d written ‘Fade Out Lines’, which was a huge hit in Europe a few years ago for a French guy called The Avener – we loved that song. So we gave Craig a few tracks and he provided lyrics and melodies for them. That was that – the first song hit us and we really liked it. We continued from there.”
Walker will be touring with Booka Shade throughout the summer, an excursion which happily will include a hometown visit courtesy of the group’s Forbidden Fruit appearance. Of course, Berlin has become a hotbed of clubbing activity in recent times, with Berghain now one of the most renowned clubs in the world. Has Walter played the venue?
“I have actually,” he nods. “There was a place called Panorama Bar, and then they moved with Panorama Bar to Berghain. We played there twice when they’d just opened – I don’t think the main room had even opened yet. It was pretty weird I have to say, because at that time they didn’t have the dark room, where they can do all the stuff they want to do. All the action was happening in the toilet – I saw some things that were hard to erase from my brain! But it’s a cool place.
“There’s a similar place now in London, Printworks, where we played recently. It’s not as freeminded as Berlin, where things are really crazy and there are no limits, but it has the same feel.”
A notable moment in Booka Shade’s live history came with their stint supporting Depeche Mode several years ago. How was it playing with the synth legends?
“It was probably only the tenth gig we’d ever played,” reflects Walter. “We’d had some success with our second album, Movement, and we knew that Depeche Mode loved the stuff we’d put out on our label Get Physical. Especially Martin Gore – he’s deeply into tech-house and electronic music in general. And also Daniel Miller from Mute, of course. But they were doing a show here in Berlin, and Goldfrapp couldn’t play, so they asked us. It was pretty frightening to be stood in front of 20,000 Depeche Mode fans at only your tenth ever gig!
“But it was also amazing, because being a support act is the most difficult gig you can do. I think some bands playing with Depeche Mode haven’t had the greatest experience, but with us, the audience were super nice. There’s a certain vibe in our music – even if the tempo and arrangements might be different – that Depeche Mode fans can relate to, probably because we’re huge fans of the band ourselves. So yeah, the shows were great, and when they kicked off their last tour a few years ago in Tel Aviv, they invited us back to play again.”
Walter says that he generally doesn’t get the time to hang out with other artists at festivals, although he notes, “We did hook up with Sigur Ros at Coachella and then had dinner with them when they played Berlin”. But Forbidden Fruit does find Booka Shade sharing the bill with fellow German techno legends Moderat, whose early career – when they were still Modeselektor – Booka had an instrumental role in, releasing their records on Get Physical.
“We don’t get to see too much of the guys these days,” says Walter. “But yeah, they’re friends of ours. Funnily enough, we did this EDM package tour with them in the States, which was quite the experience! Skrillex and a few other people were part of it too. In some areas it was wildly popular, but then you’d go to, say, Charlotte, and the EDM scene is about 500 people. It was good fun though.
“But these days they’re busy themselves and Radiohead are fans of theirs and whatnot. They told me about playing in Japan with Radiohead, and of course they’ve collaborated with Thom Yorke as well. They’re doing great.”