Boys Noize [Interview]

The man, the myth, the legend, the eyebrow, the inspiration. They’re all one in the same to this writer, and they all share the same name – Alex Ridha. Better known as Boys Noize, the German producer has finally delivered unto the listening world his long awaited 3rd full length LP. “Out of The Black” is just that. It’s a mysteriously experimental album that could only come from a producer who has the history and definitive sound behind him to provide a worry free platform on which such an eclectic album could be released. From acid to house to hip hop – Alex shows what a bit over a decade of production experience can manifest with “Out of The Black.”

The LP opens up with the enjoyably heavy track ‘This is What You Want’, foreshadowing hook and all. Then we come along to track two, which if you’ve been to a Boys Noize show or seen one of his sets within the last year, chances are you’ve heard ‘XTC’ dropped. It comes as no surprise that the full album version is just as pleasing in headphones in full duration as it is hearing a snippet played out live by the man himself. Digging deeper into the album you will find some notable pieces – ‘Missile’s’ hypnotically optimistic style makes for excellent workout music, inspiring a drive to push forward with whatever the task at hand may be. ‘Rocky 2’ feels like a tribute to all of the sounds encompassed within ‘Oi Oi Oi’ mashed into a single track. ‘Conchord’ – the Siriusmo collab track – as you would expect features the signature complex arpeggios that Siriusmo has become known for as well as some beautiful piano samples blended in.

All these sounds make for an indescribable album – best summed up with the track ‘Reality’. The dark, eerie, and almost dirty feeling encompassed within nails the overall emotions I’ve found associable to the whole collection. It’s a song best suited for driving down the coast on a dark night with the windows down. Now, this praise isn’t to say that the album doesn’t have it’s faults – tracks like ‘Touch It’, ‘Merlin’, and ‘Stop’ all felt just a little…. unfinished. As if they were the start of an inspirational studio session that just never got the final direction they needed to be complete. Then we have ‘Circus Full of Clowns’ feat. Gizzle…while I will applaud Alex (who is no stranger to producing Rap/Hip-Hop) for including such a unique style on ‘Out of The Black’ – the track comes off as a terrible attempt at something similar to recent Danny Brown pieces.

All in all, I’m very pleased with the album in it’s entirety – it shows that after nearly a decade of production under the same moniker – Alex isn’t afraid to take risks and step outside of the style his fans have come to know him for. Grab the album off your preferred Internet retailer, and go have a listen yourself.

Almost forgot to mention the exclusive album only track – ‘Got It ft. Snoop Dogg’. Maybe the best song on the album. Go listen to that too. Snoop Dogg is the shit.

Boys Noize: Hello Jordan this is Alex Ridha [Boys Noize], how are you?

Jordan Spaulding: Hello Alex! I’m doing excellent, how about you?

Excellent as well, just enjoying the LA sun before I have to head back home.

That’s always nice! Guess we’ll get started then – before the release of Out of The Black – you posted around for a while certain percentages that you claimed the release was at, its “completion” so to speak. What was the decision process like in deciding what made the cut and what didn’t as you got closer to the final 100%?

Everything became so hard to decide at the end there. A new drum machine, a new session I just recorded, and even sometimes jokes can happen at the last minute. So, all that is always the most fun part – but then coming to the 96 – 97 percent things – it’s just things like mixing down records. There’s one record on the album that I tried to mix down for like a year.

Was that ‘XTC’? I know we’ve been getting snippets and teases in your sets for awhile now.

That one was really easy because every element is clear and on point, it’s kinda minimal as well. But the one that was kinda giving me a little bit of headache was ‘Reality’. It’s way busier; it’s almost like mixing a rock record in a way. It’s the most epic song on the album as well, so that one was really hard to finish. But I didn’t want to give up on it because I loved the song so much.

It sounds like you definitely enjoy the creative process, I’ll be sure to give that one some extra attention when I get time. As far as styles on the album – over the years from Oi Oi Oi to Power to now – did you try to come at this one with a clean slate? Did you try to incorporate any tricks or styles from your previous works? Is there anything specifically you tried to break away from on this album?

Yea, that’s a good question. There is definitely I think some parts of what you just said, bringing in some old tricks. In a way, I felt like the first time I was looking at everything I’ve done and it’s like being in a big building – on one level is my first album, and my second is on a different level, and then you go up and down a little bit to the new projects taking a little bit from here and there – but in the end, you’re still in that building. It’s still one thing that comes out, and it’s very much instinctively, and saying that it means I always look out for new styles that excite me, so I don’t really like to repeat any sound too much. But yea I felt especially right now – with the American Dubstep scene so big, and what’s being called EDM – it all has some hard elements, and I like some bits every here and then…but a lot I miss the soul in. I think the soul comes a lot from the machines as well that I use. When you do live sessions with a machine there’s a lot of things that you can’t really plan, so I like that element in my music as well. In a way, it’s a mix of old and new again. Maybe it’s even a step forward in taking a step back, you know?

It’s refreshing to hear an artist pick up on this newfound American trend and be able to separate out the desirable traits in it without being enveloped, as the subculture has done to so many newcomers. In contrast to the recent “just push play” debate that’s been going around, I like your perspective on the “soul” of a live machine. Now, as far as technical/production goes, the 303 sound has been making a comeback with BNR at the forefront of this resurgence. Is this something you tried to purposefully reflect in the new album? Or was that something left more in the back of your mind during production?

Not really, I don’t think the album sounds too much acid-y. There’s a little bit of acid in the snoop track, and there’s a little bit of acid/303 in ‘Ich R U’. I mean, we’ve done that super acid compilation. Generally if you listen to my albums there’s always a little bit of the classic 303 sound in it. I have the machine, it’s in my studio – It’s always cool, it never ever gets old. It’s always cool to bring in a little bit of acid. However, I don’t think that this album is something of a statement to acid. I’d probably go more for my older tracks like ‘1010’. That was like a true true acid track. I mean it’s always around. Sometimes I’ll take a track and if I don’t know what
to do I’ll take a 303 and jam away.

I noticed with ‘This is What You Want’ taking starting placement in the album – you talked about how there were some different facets you’ve picked up from the new American EDM scene and with this album being in the works for what I can assume was at least a year plus – was there any message behind that title/those vocals being placed first? Perhaps as a sort of foreshadowing for the rest of the LP?

I normally don’t have messages in my tracks; I leave it open to the listener. It’s the same with all my robotic voices. With ‘This is What You Want’ sometimes it’s really clear, and other times you don’t know exactly what it’s saying. I like that, it opens room for the imagination. With ‘This is What You Want’ it was pretty simple where to put it, unfortunately though with the structure of the rest of the album I was left with no choice but to put it at the front. I put other ones without the vocals there, but after testing everything out ‘This is What You Want’ just sounded so cool.

Whose vocals were featured on that?

They’re all my vocals, on the whole album!

Oh wow, I hadn’t picked up on that. Can we expect a Kid Alex comeback? Maybe a re-mastered version of ‘Topless’?

No, never…haha, never at all.

All right well, we’ll keep a copy stored in our archive at least. So with the album set, the release date coming up, and the first EP pretty soon – is there any news we can pry into on remixes for the album? If that’s a little top secret, was there a direction in style you were looking for in the remixes?

Ah, those are definitely important – I always find it difficult with remixes for my own tracks – for instance on the Power album there was only two or three tracks that got remixed. Transmission was remixed officially like five times, but then another track didn’t get any remixes. It depends on the track. There are a few planned for ‘This is What You Want’ and the names are really exciting, but I can’t tell any because they’re not done yet! But there will be some remixes, not too many. There’s already going to be a lot of bootleg remixes, I mean there’s already one or two of ‘This is What You Want’ on the internet. I think it’s great that bedroom producers just do it; I think that’s amazing. But for the official ones, I’m not going to go crazy. I just want to have one or two amazing ones, not too obvious either.

Taking this album release and reflecting that into your new live show, you’ve always been pretty humble, very minimal with your stage setup. Every time I’ve seen you it’s been very simple – visuals, a table, a mixer, and 4 CDJ’s. With this new live setup, this is something new for you, isn’t it? The whole skull construction piece and prep involved, what was the planning and direction involved in something like this?

I was doing the new album with the thought of having it presented live in mind the whole time, but I think as well it’s something new for me in that I’ve never really had my own show. I’ve never done, you know, 80 minutes of just my own tracks. It was funny, when I announced the new tour so many people were like “oh I’ve seen him live many times before” and things like that. As most people know, I always like to remix and edit my tracks live, you know playing a lot of new stuff, but I haven’t really done a live set where I just play my own music for the whole time. And for my album I just realized that I usually can’t do it, so I wanted to try it this time. So that is one thing, and another thing is that it’s going to be a pretty crazy fucking production – not so much a visual LED thing, but more about some big piece on the stage.

Yea, A-Trak did something similar recently with his giant wooden “A,” where he strayed away from the overhyped pyrotechnics, explosions, and glamour in favor of something more…daunting, and large. Something that just sort of sits behind him and provides its presence.

Haha, yea it’s going to be exciting like that. Unfortunately I can’t tell you more details but it’s going to be fun. I’m really excited.

Aww, that’s all right. I look forward to the San Francisco stop when it rolls around. There are a lot of artists that are coming up with the rise of dance music and understanding that there is a lot of freedom with this type of music to really do what you want, and we’re seeing a lot of artists founding their own labels and gaining a lot more creative control over their releases. Is there something that, with your experience for doing this for so long, you try to do with BNR to help out the rest of the artists on your roster? Anything that you’ve learned in the past, be it constructing a full length LP, crafting a live set, or anything along those lines?

Yea, I do try to be involved as much as possible in their progress, and building their own profile, and getting closer to their own sound. I have to say though, I pretty much let all the guys do what they want to, it’s good because all of them – they kinda have their own sound. Most of the time with most of the artists it’s really like you know…they send me ten new songs, and I like nine of them. So anything they do, I tend to like. That’s the artist I look for, I don’t want an artist where they do twenty tracks, and I only like one. I want to find a whole character and their personality in the sound as well. Then that way it’s more refreshing for other people, and it’s different. I’m not looking for artists that sound similar to something that is out there yet. Of course, it’s hard to really do completely new stuff, but most of those guys – they try to make something different. As far as the live shows or other shows, I can only do what I can do – support them, play their stuff…I mean, I play their stuff anyway, it’s what I want to play. But they’re all good at building their own reputation, for instance this young guy I just signed – SCNTST – he’s this seventeen year old and yeah…everyone’s going crazy for him right now. He’s blowing up in Europe right now, and all those guys with the funky UK sound dig him. Even the heavy techno guys like Sven Vath and house guys like Jimmy Jones – they play his stuff. It’s very diverse, and he’s amazing so…I guess, I try to give them as much advice as I can, but I also give them freedom. I guide them as much I can, but in the end it’s them making the music.

Some poignant advice there. So with the SCNTST EP out, the phenomenal Strip Steve LP just released, an ever-expanding label roster, a new live show, and a co- produced festival with Ed Banger – it seems like you can’t really top this year. So does BNR go on vacation for 2013 after this…?

That’s what I did this year! I really took off 8 months and I just did 1 gig a month since March. Since then it was basically me being in Berlin and taking it easy working on my album. No festivals except for HARD and Electric Zoo. This year has been amazing actually, chilling at home. You know, watching all the twitter timelines of other DJs going crazy about delayed flights and shitty hotels haha. But it’s all starting again come October, like big time – crazy touring. I’m really happy; I think I’m really lucky also. I play along with a lot of other big names at the festival, and all these guys have a major label behind them, or a lot of big marketing, or crazy corporations – and I haven’t done any of it! To be able to be playing at that level without the crazy stuff, it’s really amazing and I’m really really thankful for that and I’m happy my fans see it like this as well.

Very much so…Well, thank you Alex – I don’t want to take up any more of your time and well, I’m out of questions. Thank you for all the info on the album, and I can’t wait for the world to hear what my ears were just treated with!

Thanks man. It was great talking to you too!

I look forward to catching you knowing all this as you come around San Francisco in December!

Yea it will be cool, but different! No DJ set this time haha!

-Jordan Spaulding