German producer/DJ Boys Noize, aka Alex Ridha, predates the ongoing EDMsplosion. He’s been a staple of the dance music scene for years, remixing everyone from N*E*R*D to Cut Copy. He’s also a tastemaker with his own label, Boysnoize Records, which just released Le1f and Boody’s Liquid EP. Last month, Ridha released his third album as Boys Noize, Out Of The Black, a collection of pulsing, simmering tracks to keep the dancefloor fresh. Snoop Dogg’s even along for the party, throwing a couple verses over the woozy bass of “Got It.”
I called Ridha at his home in Berlin to talk about his city, his album, and his North American tour that’s kicking off now.
What’s a normal day in Berlin like for you? Normally, when I get up, I have to go out with the dog first, because she needs to go out. She has the most priority in the mornings. When I go back, I do a lot of my label stuff, working out the music we’re releasing and talking to all the artists on my label, figuring all of that out. Basically, I’m doing the whole creative side of Boysnoize Records. That’s a lot of fun for me. Then when the sun goes down, then I go to the studio, which is also at home. Then it depends. I’m not a guy who can go in the studio from 9 to 5, that’s why I have it at home so I can go in a moment, because you can’t really force creativity, not in my sense.
If you were meeting someone who had never been to Berlin before, what would you tell them is the first thing they should do or see? Probably go to Kreuzberg and go through the streets and get a Turkish kebab, which is almost like the German traditional meal. It’s getting there. At night time, a lot of people come to Berlin to party, and I think you can do that really well because there’s a lot of illegal parties, there’s a lot of parties that start on Saturday and end up on Tuesday morning, so you have a lot of places like that, like the Berghain. Actually, you have to see the Berghain if you’re coming to Berlin for the first time, it’s probably one of the most amazing clubs in Berlin, it’s super techno and very dark. There’s no cameras allowed, you won’t get in if you have a camera on you. If you take a picture, you get thrown out as well. And then after that, you can eat a currywurst, that’s a traditional sausage, you know. And then there’s a lot of flea markets on Sunday. You should visit the wall as well, there’s still part of it in Berlin.
How is the way this record came together different from your previous albums? The first two albums I pretty much produced while touring, during my DJ gigs. Most of the time, I’m away on the weekends, and during the week I’m back in my studio. On this record, it was different, because after the second record I did, I wanted to try out new things and work with other people, that’s why I got into productions for other people like Santigold and Spank Rock. I did a full album with Chilly Gonzales, who’s a piano player, and we did this really fun electronic piano [project]. After that time working with other people, I felt the urge of making my own music again. So basically for this album, I took some time off to be in the studio only, I didn’t do any festivals or club shows this year and just enjoyed being at my home and in my studio all the time to make this album.
Is there a particular track that you’re the most proud of? It changes all the time. Right now, I’m pretty happy with the track I did with Snoop Dogg, it’s a pretty big honor for me to have him on my album. For me, it was kind of a statement to only have him on my album as a feature. For me, the most important thing was to make something fucking cool with him.
How did that collaboration come about? I did an official remix for him in 2009, I think it was, for his track "Sensual Seduction." You know how it is, the big record label asked me to do the remix, so I didn’t know if he knew it, and when I discovered Twitter, I wrote him directly asking him if he knew the remix, and he replied right away, saying he loved it and I should send more beats. Ever since, we’ve kept in contact. I met last year in LA for the first time, and this year I met him again and he invited me to his place and we recorded two songs together. It was really, really cool to meet him, he’s such a nice dude.
Do you have any dream collaborations for next time around? It’s always difficult for me to have a feature on my own music, because although I’m making a lot of different kinds of music as a producer for other people, for my own music I have a very pure vision and I’m more a fan of robotic voices than real human voices. On my album, you can hear a lot of electronic voices and different kinds of robotic voices I’ve been studying. Another thing is that once I work with other people, like a singer or someone, then it turns too much to me into a song or it’s getting too poppy, then it doesn’t really reflect me as a DJ or a performer. I’m not someone who plays shitty house records with cheesy vocals on it. It’s fine for the radio, but for my own sets I like it when it’s more in your face and not too much like mainstream or commercial stuff. It also means that for my music, I can’t really do that, just because I’m not doing that for my own music. I’m open to everything as a producer for other people, but for my own music, I prefer my own robotic voices and stuff like that.
Can you talk about the album title a little bit? I kind of started with the English thing almost immediately. I really liked the twist with the blue and the black, because out of the black doesn’t really mean anything. I liked that. It also kind of reflects me being in the studio at night. When the sun goes down, I can make some noise when everyone’s sleeping. I feel most relaxed at night as well, and most creative. The image sounded cool.
With this album, you’re finally going on your first full American tour. Would you say that has to do with the US finally catching up to the world of electronic music? No, actually, I’ve been touring a lot in the US since 2006, even 2005. I’ve been playing a lot of gigs pretty much everywhere. This is the first time I’m playing live, which is a new challenge and it makes sense, now that I have three albums. So I will perform my own music only, like a punk rock kind of concert. I’m bringing a big production as well, there are going to be some crazy things going on. I have one element which is pretty big, but I can’t go into much detail about it. I’m pretty excited to do that, it’s a new way of touring as well, I’m going on a bus for six or seven weeks. It’s pretty rock ‘n’ roll, I’m looking forward to it.
What can we expect from your show? I’ll be performing my own music only. I haven’t really done that, though a lot of people were wondering [how that would work out]. As a DJ, I do a lot of things in the moment, and a lot of things are spontaneous. I’m not mixing two records only, I do a lot of live remixing and live editing in the moment. This time, it’s my own music that I will tweak and remix live and have different variations on. I have a lot of controllers and effects units and a big production around it. There’s going to be one big element onstage, which is quite crazy. You should actually check it out, if you can.
Do you have any particular favorite places to go on tour? In the US, there’s a lot of cool cities. I’m a big fan of San Francisco, of Chicago, New York, L.A. Montreal is also a great city. There’s a lot of cities this time around that I haven’t visited yet, especially in the middle of America, Texas and stuff. I haven’t hit those places, I’m curious.
Those are probably places where it has taken a little longer to build a dance music following. Yeah, I feel like I’m on a mission, to be honest. Obviously, there’s the whole EDM thing, I guess I’m a big part of that as well. I think that’s a lot of music where it’s very functional, and I get to a lot of place where I hear the same music. It feels good to really be on a mission, to show different aspects of electronic music.
After having done this for years, I’m sure you know you’ve been ahead of the curve. I wouldn’t say that to myself. (laughs) But it’s true, there’s a new generation in America that is totally into electronic music. I think it’s amazing, because it opens a lot of doors for me as well. But obviously, once something gets really big, it’s most of the time driven by the really mainstream stuff and the more popular stuff. In the end, it’s just a new way of pop music. I think a lot of people that have just discovered it that like that, they will eventually move on to what’s after David Guetta and that kind of music. Once that happens, all those people will be discovered, especially in electronic music, there’s so much. I’ve been buying records, I have 15,000 vinyl records at home, and I still discover amazing electronic music every day, I’m buying new music every day, I’m finding old tracks, I rediscover them. So me as a total nerd in that, discovering new music, imagine someone who’s just discovered electronic music. There’s just so much to look out for after the mainstream stuff.
Who are some new artists you’re currently excited about? There are a lot of new artists that I love. There’s one guy I just found for Boysnoize Records, his name is SCNTST, he just turned 18 and he’s a very talented producer. We just put out an EP from him, there’s another one coming this fall, I’m very excited about him. You know how it is when you start off something and you don’t really know what to do, there’s a lot of magic happening in this moment. He’s really good. There’s another guy called Strip Steve who’s really more into the indie disco kind of thing, which I love. I’m going on tour with Spank Rock, who’s a rapper from Baltimore signed to my label, he’s super amazing. I produced his new album, which just got out as well.
Any other up-and-coming rappers you’re excited about, too? Yeah, there’s this guy Le1f, we’re putting out an EP he did as well. He’s part of this up-and-coming gay rap scene. He’s also a producer, he makes a lot of amazing beats as well. He also produced "Nasty” on that Spank Rock album. We just signed him, going to put out his EP with his friend Boody very soon on Boysnoize Records.