Interview: Boys Noize
The techno king tells us why he’s ditched the decks
German electro-tech producer Alex ‘Boys Noize’ Ridha has reached an interesting crossroads in his life. A festival-slaying DJ whose singles and remixes have moved techno away from the hardcore fringes and into a far funkier field, he’s arrived at his third album ‘Out of the Black’ slightly jaded with the current world of dance music. As he tells Oliver Keens, becoming one of the growing number of dance musicians to ‘go live’ is a risk he has to take.
Firstly, what’s made you decide to move away from DJing and towards doing a live show?
‘I think it’s a good time to try something new. I’ve been DJing for half of my life, and don’t get me wrong, it’s my passion, but right now I think DJing has changed. So it’s good for me to try out something new and watch how the whole DJ thing goes in the next year.’
Almost as though you’re not getting the same buzz from DJing anymore?
'Yeah. I think it has a lot to do with music and the way it’s produced nowadays. At a lot of festivals, especially the American ones, I hear a lot of music that’s just made to please the crowd, y’know? Like, it’s already a banger right away, before it gets a chance to have some creative exposure. There’s always been this crazy element to what I do that’s always been the most fun for me. But right now I feel like that kind of craziness we’re talking about has kind of shifted to a different dimension.’
So who’s doing the whole ‘live’ show in dance music well at the moment?
‘I’ve just seen the new Justice show and I have to say I loved it. Not only how stylish everything looked but also how you can really feel the music they produce too. Stuff from their last album especially makes more sense live.’
So what’s the vibe of your show going to be like?
‘I think it will be pretty much a rock concert vibe. You’re going to definitely hear some classics of mine and I’ve done a lot of the remixes for the show as well. There’s also going to be one pretty crazy element on the production side. It will be a good mash-up of all my hits and then there’s going to be one element on the production side – but you’ll just have to wait and see!’
Do you worry that people might just think ‘it’s all pre-recorded, he’s just pressing play on a CD’ when you do your live show?
‘I don’t know. I think people have said that about a lot of stuff recently but I certainly don’t just press one button! That would be pretty boring for me and not the challenge I want. There are people who have pre-mixed CDs and have pre-mixed edits, who play the same festival set everywhere and get paid a lot of money. The fifty-thousand people at the festival all go crazy for it so it seems like no one really cares what’s going on. But I can’t do that shit. I like to do stuff, that’s why I DJ! If I was a DJ who just went out there and played the hits, then I’d be retired already and pretty much bored of everything!’
It sounds like you think festivals are to blame?
‘I don’t think the festivals are to blame for it – I think it’s because DJing has become a business for a lot of people, especially in America. For me music is not a business, it’s still art.’
Who are you talking about exactly?
‘I guess the Steve Aokis, or whoever. They take everything from everywhere and they know how to make it big in an American way. That’s been going on now for a couple of years and it’s really powerful now. At first you were able to ignore it but now it really took over. Also the major labels don’t want to sign a singers or bands right now– they’re signing DJs right now. It’s the simplest thing for the majors, because you only have one guy to deal with!’
Going back to the start of your career, what was the first gig you ever played?
‘My first DJ gig was in a proper house club in Hamburg when I was sixteen, supporting a local hero at the time, Boris Dlugosch. I was playing stuff by Mateo & Matos or Theo Parrish, a lot of Guidance Records releases, a couple of Masters At Work tunes. The first French stuff started to hit hard as well around ‘97 and ‘98 and from then I got more and more into electro labels like Gigolo Records.’
Do you consider yourself lucky to have established your career during the MySpace era?
‘I was very lucky, I have to say, because my music was only released on vinyl until then and it was the first time that people everywhere could listen to my music easily. I had a great deal of output at that time – a lot of 12”s and remixes – and it was so lucky that regular people outside of the DJ world were able to listen to my music.’
…and at what point did you meet (future collaborator and all-round techno guru) Erol Alkan?
‘Erol was one of the first people to really support my music. I remember packing up white labels of my early releases and sending them over to his home address, hoping that he would listen to them. Then he invited me to support him in London and ever since then we’ve got along really well. He’s an outstanding man and I really think he’s an inspiration for a lot of people.’
Finally, how are your ears after playing techno almost every evening for the past fifteen years?
‘Very good actually, I don’t have tinnitus or anything like that. I can’t really say I’ve been taking care but when I DJ, I try not to go too loud. Erol is the one who likes to smash his head though…’