Electronic impulses

From Erol Alkan and Kelis to Snoop Dogg and the Scissor Sisters, the queue of those seeking out the talents of Hamburg-born DJ Alex Ridha keeps on growing. Having produced, collaborated, remixed and shared stages with some of the world’s biggest names in music, he also founded Boys Noize Records in 2007, and – following last month’s release of Out Of The Black – can now lay claim to three full-length albums, all of which have pushed the boundaries of modern electronic music. And all this before the age of 30. Ahead of his explosive live performance at London’s Coronet, Alex took time out to talk Glass through his collaboration hitlist, his groundbreaking live show and the hotbed of talent emerging on his record label …

Boys Noize' Alex Ridha photographed at the Coronet, London, October 13, 2012Boys Noize’ Alex Ridha photographed at the Coronet, London, October 13, 2012

Alex, you’re a busy man. How did you find the time to record Out Of The Black in between touring, producing and running a record label?
The album came at a time when I was working as a producer, touring and collaborating with the likes of Chilly Gonzales and Erol Alkan, and I just wanted to make my own music again. While I made the other two albums between live dates, I actually took time off and I locked myself in the studio this time.

The third album can often be a difficult one to approach. How was it for you?
I didn’t have a plan before starting work on it. There was a moment when I wasn’t quite sure where it was going, so it was a case of trusting what my feelings were when I was recording.

Snoop Dogg collaborated on one track – Got It. How did that come about?
It’s a funny story – I did an official remix for him in 2009, and the first time I discovered Twitter, I tweeted Snoop to ask if he ever checked it out. He responded straight away to say he loved it and to send him more tunes. We kept in contact and I met him last – he already had a couple of beats he loved so we recorded two tracks and one ended up on the album.

Are you still in touch?
Not so much now he’s turned into a lion – I was lucky to work with him when he was the Dogg!

There must be other artists out there who you’d like to collaborate with, too?
I have a problem with rappers or singers on my own music – that’s why I’ve never really had vocals on my own tracks. Snoop was pretty much a one-off. But as a producer I’d love to work with a lot of people, perhaps another rapper or a band … Prince would be amazing.

You make lazy journalists’ job difficult by defying genre titles. How do you feel your music fits in to the grand scheme of things?
Haha. My music definitely has elements of techno but it’s not straight Berghain techno. It’s not house, either, even though I play some house beats, and it’s not really electro either – everything has merged together in the past ten years ever since the emergence of electroclash … I’ve always had problems defining myself with any of these categories – as a DJ I’m not a big fan of playing any one type of music for five hours straight.

Has the ubiquity of dubstep influenced your output at all?
Right now there are a lot of aggressive elements in mainstream music and I like some of that, but it can get too cheesy and there’s a vocal or breakdown that sounds like trance or it’s too functional and too perfect and I’m not a fan of perfect productions, which is why I work with machines and synths. While I record I can work on the sound and I try to give it life within a cold electronic world. Sometimes electronic music can be so predictable – you have an electro house track, which has a breakdown and a long build up and you know what’s going to happen after one minute.

Your stage show features a huge Terminator skull and light show. Talk me through that.
People have really connected with my music and the skull because of my first album cover. I worked with [Berlin music producer and graffiti artist] Siriusmo to think how we could make a skull look cool – we didn’t want to create something that looked like a fairground ghost train!

Aside from the skull, how do you translate your music to the live stage?
I play a lot of stuff that has a live element and edit and remix live, and rework my own tracks for a live audience. I control visuals, too. I didn’t want lights that felt random. Everywhere you go you have huge LEDs that aren’t really connected to what’s going on and I wanted to do things differently.

Who should we look out for from your Boys Noize Records label?
Strip Steve just released his first album – he’s a very talented young producer mixing up a lot of disco and funky elements. Then there’s SCNTST from Germany who’s just turned 18 and is a young wizard winning a lot of respect – we’ll be putting out an EP soon. And then you have SpankRock, too …

What keeps you motivated?
I look for new music every day and buy new music every second day. I have my own label so I get 15-20 acts sending me their sounds, so I get to hear new soundsball the time.

When are you happiest?
I feel very relaxed when I make my own music at home but playing and seeing the reaction of the people makes me most happy – it sounds cheesy but when I make them happy, it makes me most happy, too.

by Ben Olsen

Photograph by Jasper Clarke

Out Of The Black Is Out Now

Listen to Boys Noize, Ich RU

Listen to Strip Steve, Dancing:

Listen to SCNTST, Monday:
Listen to Spank Rock, Rick Rubin:

About The Author

Glass Online music editor

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