The electronic bug has certainly hit America super hard in the last 2 years, taking over mainstream airwaves and inspiring nearly every aspect of our culture from fashion to nightlife and beyond. DJing from the age of 14 after learning to play the piano and drums, Alex Ridha caught a case quite a bit earlier. This month, he is releasing his third full length album, Out Of The Black, on his record label Boysnoize records.
There are so many gems on this album, already garnering critical acclaim before the album’s US release next week, from melodic “Ich R U” to the slowed down “Circus Full of Clowns,” “XTC,” a dreamy techno track and first single, and “What You Want” a Beastie Boys inspired robotic trip. Definitely don’t miss Snoop Dogg’s verses on “Got It”. Ridha’s oeuvre includes two prior full length albums on his imprint, monster remixes for the Chemical Brothers, Cut Copy, and Scissor Sisters, among others and an ever expanding roster of collaborators who tap him for his unique electronic mash up of influences like hip hop, house and disco. We caught up with the German electronic producer, better known as Boys Noize, following his Electric Zoo set last month and this is what he had to say.
TL: What is your earliest memory of music?
AR: I was a super super small kid of about 6 or 7, I had a tape recorder and made my own radio shows. I was beatboxing, recording from my keyboard, which had beats already, so I did freestyle mix tapes musically composing and singing.
TL: Did you have a music education that helped shape your abilities?
AR: Not really, I played the drums for five years, I taught myself, by listening to Nirvana, Guns n Roses, and just replaying what I heard. There was a music cellar at my school, and when I was 10 or 11 I’d spend what little break time I had in there.
TL: You’re producing and DJing, do you like one more than the other?
AR: When I started DJing it was just a hobby, an expensive hobby as well, so I had two jobs to afford to buy vinyls, spending thousands of dollars in a month for music only. When I was 15-16 after I had my first gigs, I did more and more mashups, where you take like an a Capella to a different record and mash up things, getting more creative and that’s when I got into producing as well. A friend of mine had a computer, I was always hanging out at his place and he had this shitty program sampler. That’s when I started to learn programming on sequences. Now I have to say I love both the same because it’s a total different world being on stage and playing for people. You get feedback right away from something. When you’re in the studio you’re alone, no one tells you what to do, and I just do what I feel, I play around my machines and do live sections with those machines.
TL: You’re self releasing Out Of The Black, how is that experience?
AR: It’s very difficult when you have an authority over you because for me, music is still an art. I don’t make music to make money, which already explains why I do and don’t do certain things. I don’t want to be a part of the machinery, I want to control everything that I want to do, and I don’t want to change my creativity or have anyone involved in my creativity, in order to sell records. I started my label because I want to put out great music, in the beginning it was just about pressing 1000 vinyls and having that for the DJs. I was always someone that just went to the record shop. It’s good when people just go, digging around and, (forgetting) what’s the word, when Columbus found America? Discovery!! Haha (laughs). I like when you discover music, without seeing artists in your face everywhere or people pushing it, I want to discover it, and that’s the vibe of my label.
TL: What was it like doing the Becks collaboration?
AR: You know normally over the last few years I’ve turned down any collaboration with any brands. With Becks it was really cool because they let me create my own label and let me design the whole bottle…and they made like 90 million bottles all over the place, everywhere in Europe. All my fans we’re 100 percent behind it, like, “I’m drinking techno beer now!” I think it turned out really well. I drink Becks, Becks approached me for this, and some other cool artists like MIA had done this collaboration… and the fact that they made 90 million bottles was pretty crazy.
TL: You’re on your way to Tokyo, how do the crowds in that part of the world compare?
AR: It’s very special in Tokyo. There’s always been a huge DJ culture, it’s a bit of a mecca of underground music, you could play the most underground white label 250-only vinyl release, and they know it, and they know the credits. A lot of great artists get to play there that you don’t see on the big festivals. A lot of love for details, taste, subculture, they’re always a step ahead.
TL: Thoughts on recent Boys Noize collaborators Skrillex and Snoop Dogg?
AR: Yeah Skrillex came to my studio in Berlin, I showed him all my equipment and I think he was blown away. With Snoop Dogg, I thought I’d probably only get the chance once in my life, I thought I don’t care if it’s a pop hit, i just wanted to do something super cool. I played him a lot of old school booty house. He invited me to his house in LA and we did it there.
TL: What special qualities do you look for in artists you sign to your label?
AR: First of all it’s about the talent, and the production, but you get them because they’re different, sound different, there’s a vibe to it that’s not on other records. Producers that are at least trying to sound different and not copy the copy of the copy. I want to find producers that try to be different and have a great sound. I’ve been producing for many years so I get bored of a lot of sounds very easy; I look for producers that can surprise me with their techniques and their sound.
TL: How involved in the work of the acts on your label are you?
AR: Some send me 20 tracks, and I have to find the pearls and what are most significant, and others, I give them a lot of tips when mixing down a record, or what they can do to make the track better arrangement wise. I try to be involved as much as possible of course, but some make it more easy and some others are really intense. I love it!
Out Of The Black is out in Japan, Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Look for it next week in North America, or pre-order a copy here.