Boys Noize, Never Too Perfect
Alex Ridha, better known by his stage name Boys Noize, is taking the world by storm. And just in time. Electronic dance music has seen a stateside resurgence, sweeping across the nation and making international superstars out of innovators of the mix.
Growing up listening to music, and through his amplifying career, for Ridha it has always been a perpetual journey to discover new sounds.
We sat down with Ridha at the Standard Hotel in New York City ahead of the release of his brand new album Out of the Black (out today) to speak about the early days in the clubs of Hamburg and the influences that colored the evolution of the Boys Noize sound.
What sorts of music were you surrounded with growing up?
I was listening to most of the music my brother was listening to. In the 80s, early house records, a lot of rap. From my mother: all those disco records.
I loved house — that tempo — it was cool to dance to. My brother was DJing and breakdancing; I was playing piano, but I always wanted to play drums. So, when I was 11, I began playing for four or five years, but then I broke my arm from skating, and couldn’t play drums so much anymore. Then I began buying vinyl and became really addicted.
Ridha started working at the local record shop (he was already hanging out there every day) to pay for his growing collection. At the same time, the young DJ began making mixtapes for his friends and doing warm up DJ sets.
What do you remember from those early days?
When the other DJs came on [taking over the decks from Ridha], people would come up to me and say, ‘Man, that was incredible!’ Word got around and I got more and more gigs. And, about that time, I started producing.
What is the decision process like to pursue music as a career?
I never planned to be a big DJ, or to make loads of money. The only thing I wanted to do at that time was make mixtapes, and then once I realized that someone is paying me to DJ — that was awesome. I used that money to buy more records.
The sound of Boys Noize is both intricate and intense — a heady proposition that is not as easily found as one might wish. Given the dual properties of the mixes, listeners can get lost in their headphones for hours.
What’s the role of a studio album for a electronic music producer?
It was a very personal thing. Once I got more and more into electro and the harder stuff, around 2002-2003, and electroclash kind of died, I was doing those records for my DJ sets — to have my own weapons.
When you’re composing a song, are there themes? Have you ever written a love song? Or, is it more of a purely sonic journey?
It’s pretty random. The whole production thing is based on looking for sounds. Sounds that excite me. Sounds that I don’t hear on other records. It just happened that one of the tracks on my album, in the end I was like, ‘okay this could be a robot love story,’ but I like to keep it open for interpretation. That’s also why I don’t like to have others singing on my records.
What are the sources of your sounds?
I have a pretty big collection of drum machines. I’m a sucker for drum machines. I’m looking for new software all the time, plugins that can destroy the sound. But, it’s mainly analog stuff that you hear on the record, because for me it just feels better; I was never a fan of something too perfect.
The EDM scene has experienced a sort of arms race to build the biggest and baddest stage. Put another way: there is a burgeoning pursuit for engaging and experiential setups, one that can seamlessly interweave sound and light.
What has playing live been for you in the past?
It was super basic. I’ve been playing most of the big festivals, but it’s been stripped down – just me playing records.
Today, the Boys Noize production has evolved, with Ridha “perfectly framed in a terminatoresque stage featuring ‘The Skull,’ accompanied by brute visuals and storming lights.”
When you begin to bring in an elaborate stage setup with the lights and visuals, how do you make those elements an extension of the music rather than a distraction from the music?
It’s a concept, an idea that I have in my mind. I was always trying to find a way to realize it, and now I’ve come to the point where you find the right way to do it. I’m not going to have visuals in the traditional sense; it was more that I was looking for a certain type of light.
With a grin, Ridha admitted he didn’t want to say too much.
How have you you seen the DJ scene evolve?
Not only from a technical point-of-view, but also the whole thing of ‘What is a performance? What is a DJ? What is he doing there?’ For me, DJing is a very cultural thing, a very precious thing, and always a lot of fun. It’s not so much about doing something for the people. It’s more balanced out. I’m always DJing new stuff that people don’t know. I miss a little bit the creativity to push the boundaries.
Aside from headlining festivals as a globetrotting DJ, Ridha remains a musicologist and entrepreneur. His label Boysnoize Records plays host to a roster of up-and-coming stars, including a few on our WILD sonar like Spank Rock, Strip Steve, Djedjotronic, and SCNTST (who is only 17 years-old).
The tempo of Alex Ridha’s life seems almost perfectly beat-matched to a classic Boys Noize banger. So, I end with this:
What’s your WILD Wish?
I’m really happy with how everything is right now. I wish that it could stay like this forever.