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Alex Ridha—better known to the world as BOYS NOIZE—has been making electronic music and working as a DJ for over half of his life, which is no small feat considering that Ridha is currently only 29 years old. As a DJ, Ridha has established himself as one of the world’s preeminent wizards behind the DJ decks, having played some of the world’s biggest stages alongside some of the biggest names in dance music. As a recording artist and a producer, Ridha has created his own sound, and pioneered his own brand, amassing a formidable body of work in the process. He has released two albums (2007’s Oi Oi Oi and 2009’s Power) and countless singles as Boys Noize, as well as doing profoundly influential work as a remixer and a producer for everyone from Depeche Mode, Feist, Daft Punk to David Lynch and Jarvis Cocker. He has also collaborated extensively with Erol Alkan and Mr. Oizo (on a project called Handbraekes). At a time when most of his peers are just beginning to make a name for themselves, Ridha is already a proven industry veteran whose talents as a musician, a DJ, and label curator pretty much ensure that he never stops moving, playing, and creating. It’s a situation that should only become more hectic with the release of his third long-player, Out of the Black, this fall.
“It was hard for me to put together a new album because I basically never stop playing shows,” says Ridha, “So last year, after spending nearly two years working as a producer on records for Gonzales, Spank Rock, Santigold and the Scissor Sisters, I finally took some time off to just work on my own stuff. I had almost forgotten how nice it was just to be at home in my own studio. It felt really good.”
The raucous, schizophrenic sound of Out of the Black--much like previous Boys Noize records--has more to do more with Ridha’s attention span as his choice in gear. “I get bored really easily with sounds,” he explains, “The exciting part for me is trying to come up with new sounds, putting new sounds in a new dress. I’m sound obsessed. I buy a lot of machines and synths, and I’m always looking for a way to destroy sounds in an unconventional way. I’m always drawn to music and productions that sound entirely different or really naïve or sometimes just stupid. I don´t like it when it sounds too clean and generic, there needs to be some sort of soul. I guess that explains a lot about my sound which I think I instinctually capture. But I do try to keep in mind what I loved about dance music when I started doing this and how it made me feel. Those thoughts were also very much on my mind when I was making this record.”
The new album nicely bridges the gap between his previous two efforts; providing the requisite in-your-face electro bang of classic Boys Noize on tracks like “What You Want”, “Rocky 2” and “XTC”, or more melodic songs like "Ich R U“ and “Reality“. At a time when mainstream electronic music—particularly the pervasive cultures of EDM and dubstep—have moved dance music out of the clubs and into the stadiums, Ridha is quick to acknowledge the old school house and acid records that shaped him as a DJ; the very same records that continue to bubble up as an influence on Out of the Black.
“I was playing music ever since I was a kid,” explains Ridha, “I played drums in bands for years, and before that I was around 10 when I would record myself on cassette tape playing songs on a keyboard and singing in German. I started to DJ when I was fourteen and I immediately got really addicted to buying vinyl. I had to hold down two jobs in order to pay for my records. The feeling I had playing records and making people dance was the same kind of feeling I got from learning how to use a sampler and make beats. At the time, I didn’t know anyone else who was a DJ and all my friends thought the music I loved was weird. There was no big culture for it then, but to me it was just the most fun in the world…and it still is. I just learned it by doing it…and that is still kind of my approach.”
Besides his role as a DJ and producer, he is also the heart of Boysnoize Records, the label that Ridha started back in 2005. Founded originally as a means to get his own music out into the world, Boysnoize Rec.—and it’s sub-label, BNR Trax—is now home to more than a dozen artists (including up-and-comers like Spank Rock, 17-year old SCNTST, Le1f, Strip Steve, Housemeister and Siriusmo) and responsible for almost 100 releases while remaining 100% independent.
“Everyone has their own sound” says Ridha. “It´s kind of a non-conformist DIY collective, multidirectional and escaping any ill-fitting genre pigeonholes. This inspires me, that´s why having a label is so great. That’s the kind of stuff I want to support”.
“I never compromise when it comes to creative or musical things,” says Ridha. “I only do what I think is cool and what I like. It’s not about what the market wants or what people expect. Maintaining artistic freedom has always been the most important thing to me — for my own music or for anyone on my label.”
Despite his ever-expanding label roster and the increased demand for his time, both as a producer and a remixer, Ridha’s primary loves continue to be the twin pursuits of making and performing music—two activities that continue to provide the same charge they did back when he was just a kid back in Hamburg. In addition to his label duties and endless DJ gigs, Ridha is looking forward to bringing a more “official” Boys Noize show to the masses in support of Out of the Black. “I have played at pretty much every music festival in the world,” he says. “I was happy with just being able to show up with my CDs and play. I never really thought about having an actual production. I always figured that in the end the music was the only message that was important. I still do believe this, but now I feel like presenting a show that’s specifically about my own music. I really want to give people a concert, you know? It’s also a way for me to keep this interesting. I don’t want to ever feel like this is a job. That would be boring. And weird.”
As for the title of his new record, Ridha explains that this music isn’t coming from out of the blue. In fact, it’s the opposite. “I tend to make and produce music only at night,” he says. “I also generally only perform at night, so this is music that’s coming totally out of the black. Also, they say the color black can absorb all other colors, which is a cool way to think about making music. You absorb every other kind of music—every possible sound—and what comes out of you is something new, something out of the black.”
OUT OF THE BLACK OUT ON BOYSNOIZE RECORDS | on OCT 8th 2012
Release/catalogue number: BNR090
Release date: Oct 8, 2012