If there was an electronic music hall of fame, Boys Noize would be an easy addition. Hailing from the the techno mecca of Berlin, Alex Ridha has been making electronic music and touring the world as a DJ for over half of his life—which is impressive considering one of the only things I've been doing for half my life is eating Jell-O.
Throughout the continuous cycling of styles and trends—from disco revivalism to minimal techno and electro house up to today's current festival favorites—Boys Noize has managed to carve his own path, staying abreast without buckling to the demands of the new new. With a mountainous collection of analog gear and a video gaming habit, the dude could pretty much retire at the ripe age of 31 and never leave his studio ever again (but we know he won't).
Meanwhile, Boysnoize Records allows him to keep one foot in the underground, supporting up-and-coming artists while also taking some of the world's biggest festival stages alongside Skrillex for their collaborative act Dogbloog. Boys Noize does what he wants, when he wants it and loves to catch all of us off guard—hopefully you'll catch him on tour, performing live from atop a demonic skull stage that he had custom fabricated.
I spoke to Rhida while he was taking the day off in Berlin, a day before the London release party that would celebrate his addition to the FabricLive mix series. Unlike many of the city's hard-partying denizens, Alex was relaxing at home, playing video games when he wasn't glued into the chair in his studio.
THUMP: So how's it going man? I hear you're in the studio right now?
Boys Noize: I'm back home in Berlin in the studio now finishing a remix, mixing down some stuff, but I'm doing great! Tomorrow I have my release party for my FabricLive CD at Fabric in London. They asked me to curate the full night at the club. I'm really stoked!
What do you love to do when your home in Berlin?
Normally I like to see my friends, hang out, play some video games. I'm well into GTA V right now and of course some Mario Kart. I also try to do some label stuff and make sure I go into the office to check on the releases and stuff like that.
I saw on your Facebook you posted a screenshot of you playing GTA. I think that's my favorite part of the game—when Michael smokes that crazy chronic and starts tripping out! There's such a groovy song playing in the background. Didn't you have a song in the last GTA game?
Yeah I think it just didn't come together this time. Maybe on the next one! Whenever that comes out
Probably five years or something! What character do you think you would be in the game? Michael, Franklin or Trevor?
They're all pretty bad guys so I don't know if I could choose. I do like playing with Trevor though.
Me too. He's a wild man. So tell me a little bit about how the last few months have been. What have been some some highlights? I know you just played HARD Day of The Dead in L.A, how was that?
HARD was one of my favorite shows of the year for sure and this year overall has just been crazy. There's been lots of touring and some great releases. I put out my Go Hard EP and a remix EP for my Out of the Black album last year. I've also had some amazing moments in the studio lately with Chilly Gonzales who I've been working with on a new project. The only person who I've played it for is Thomas [Bangalter] from Daft Punk, and that was a big moment for me to hang out with him and show some of my new material.
That sounds awesome. Did you dress up as anything cool for Day of The Dead or do you like keep it simple?
I didn't go crazy on my costume, I went more crazy on my set! I brought out my skull stage and we created some crazy scary visuals. So that was pretty cool. I actually put on… what do you call it? One of those things you wear when you rob a bank?
A black ski mask! Man, you're really channeling the Grand Theft Auto vibes aren't you!
[Laughs] Yeah, maybe! I used to wear masks when I dress up but then I decided they weren't so cool.
Tell me a little bit about your skull stage. How did that all come together? Who designed it?
Well I've only been using the skull for my live sets. But for HARD it was the first time I was doing a DJ set off the skull. Besides that it's just been part of my live show where I only perform my own music. I designed the skull together with my good friend from Berlin Siriusmo, who's also a really brilliant producer, as well as being a crazy good artist. We worked together to think of some cool versions of the skull. A lot of the time I think skulls can look pretty cheesy so we wanted to make sure it looks new and furturistic and—
Yeah exactly! The visual element is really a big part of my live show and it all goes together with what I am performing. It was a big project; it took me like a year to get everything together musically and visually. It was a very exciting thing for me to do and it was a new area for me to explore as an artist. I just love to try out new things where you take yourself out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself.
Were there ever any other ideas thrown for your live setup besides the skull?
I've had the skull idea in my mind for a long time, it just never really came together. It needed a special angle. So when I released my last album, I had so much material and the sound was just fitting so it was the right time to bring it out.
So you never thought about DJing from inside a giant teddy bear?
Yeah… I don't think so! The skull has just always been a part of my image, even dating back to my first album. People were always pretty connected to that with my music.
How were all of the Dogblood shows all summer?
I love playing with Sonny, there's always a great energy. We try out different stuff from outside both our worlds. It's a really cool collaboration.
What's your favorite thing about playing with Sonny?
Generally when you play with someone else, things happen that you can't always control all the time. And I think that puts me into a position that I like. It's like when you're playing ping-pong; he's giving me a top spin and I have to return it even harder to keep it going. We both work really hard and continue to push each other to keep on working harder.
I hear you're a bit of an analog gear nerd and have a lot of cool stuff in your studio. What are some of your favorite pieces to mess around with? Tell me a bit about your collection.
I'm pretty obsessed with drum machines—it's always been a big part of my music. I generally prefer the analog sound because it's more organic and feels a bit warmer to me and is also a bit easier to mix with. I of course love a bit of the older stuff as well; those classic elements like the 808 or 909 or that 303 acid bass line. I've been using that stuff for so long and it really never gets old because they're just such timeless pieces of gear and sound.
There's a lot of new stuff I dig as well, like the Elektron gear. They do a few machines I really love. I generally always look out for new gear all the time. I have to be careful sometimes because if you just keep on buying more and more it's tough to get everything out of the machines. Right now I think I can't really get more or I might I need to sell some stuff!
Are you a movie guy? If you could be one famous movie character who do you think you would be?
Hm. Maybe Eddie Murphy from Coming to America.
Great choice. Here's another one. James Bond, Jason Bourne or Jean Claude Van Damme?
This is not easy. I'd say either Bond or Jean Claude Van Damme. Depends on which Jean-Claude Van Damme movie, maybe if it was during Blood Sport. Then I would be him.
You've produced a lot of techno music throughout your career, but your last EP really went into a lot of different territories. Some disco, some trap, a lot of different types of sounds. What made you decide to delve into those territories?
I think I've always been into a lot of different genres throughout my career. I've had a few disco remixes, some more house-y stuff, some techno. I generally can't really say I'm only "this genre" or "that genre." when I DJ I try to play all types of styles. Basically every track on my last EP I did it in like a day or two maximum and that was the idea, because normally those quick tracks are those easy things in the studio where you can get them together fast. Those tend to be the most effective in my sets and the most fun to play out. I never go in the studio with a plan—I just go for a sound that can often lead to something that I didn't expect. I like to surprise people and fuck up people's expectations of what they think I will do next.
If you could be one thing besides a DJ and producer what do you think you would be?
Maybe a farmer. Pigs and stuff.
What do you parents think of your musicl Do they ever listen to your stuff?
No, they don't really listen to my music. I'm not sure if they know everything about what I do. But they've always been super supportive in letting me do what I love.
So you're going to London to play Fabric tomorrow and are about to release your own FabricLive mix CD. Tell me a bit about your relationship with the club? What's the vibe like there for those who have never been?
Fabric is one of the best clubs in the world. It's a cool venue and is pretty dark and has two to three rooms. I've been playing there for the last six or seven years almost. People there are very open minded to hearing stuff they haven't heard before. That's kind of the perfect scenario when you play in a club. It's good to have people that don't go into the club with too many preconceptions about what they're going to hear.
Did you grow up listening to the FabricLive mix CDs?
Yeah of course! I've bought a ton of those mix CDs over the years. I really liked ones by Akufen, LCD Soundsystem, Robert Hood, Metro Area. Jacques Lu Cont's was also great some years back.
What have been some of the biggest moments of your career that you never really expected or saw coming?
Unlike a lot of other artists I've never really had to conform and put out a "commercial" record or do many of the crazy things people have to do to become successful. I've never really made decisions just from a business standpoint and I'm really really happy with how that's worked out. It's great that people appreciate how I release my music and the way my label is finding artists.
You've put out some really cool remixes throughout your career, I saw you just put out an awesome Donna Summer remix. What would be some dream remixes for you?
I kind of slowed down remixes in the last two to three years. It's tough though because some music is so perfect that I kind of don't dare to touch it. But Prince is one of my favorite artists ever, so maybe I'd do one of his older tracks.
Could you tell me about some up and comers on Boys Noize Records that you're excited about?
You should definitely check out SCNTST. He's about to release his first album next week. He's getting some hype from a lot of UK guys—it's definitely a little more "electronica" sounding, and I'm very proud to have him on the label. Were also going to relase a new Spank Rock record which is absolutely crazy. He's been in the studio writing a lot of new shit and it sounds incredible. I've been playing it out a lot and it gets great responses. We also have a Dance Mania compilation coming out in a few weeks. It's a tribute to the classic Chicago booty house label; people like DJ Funk and DJ Deeon. It's going to be a compilation with all new tracks from my label and some other friends. DJ Funk himself even made a new track for the compilation.