Boys Noize’s career has been a continuing evolution since his early days of supporting Felix Da Housecat and DJ Hell under the alias of Kid Alex. Nowadays he’s spearheading his own live shows, headlining festivals the world over and crossing over the genre boundaries to produce for the likes of Kelis, Scissor Scissors, Spank Rock and more. Real name Alex Ridha, the Hamburg-born electronic music producer is now three album releases deep and is continuing to expand his presence in the EDM scene. HYPETRAK sat down with him at his Mixmag Live! show at Village Underground in London to talk about ‘going live’ with his performances, the Dog Blood project with Skrillex, and more. Read on below.
What’s the difference between playing festivals and headline shows like the one you’re doing like tonight’s Mixmag Live! event in London?
There are quite big differences. I love small venues like the one tonight (Village Underground in London), which is actually my favorite kind. There’s a lot more intimacy with the audience, longer set times, it gives you a lot more leeway to try out new things and connect better with your fans. Of course I do love playing festivals, it’s a different kind of energy there and I do have a completely different setup for those kinds of shows. And then there’s my live show, which again is a totally different experience, more punk/rock n roll vibe, I’m just playing my own stuff and basically performing my own music live. But overall I do prefer the intimate setting like Village Underground.
You’ve changed to a live set up as opposed to conventional DJing, why did you go down that route?.
Basically I’m a DJ at heart and that’s how it all started for me, doing mixtapes and what not. But on the one side, I’m on my third album and over 50 of my own tracks at my disposal. Thus I realized I could easily play a two-hour set of my own bangers, and so with the new album and getting deeper into the creative process I was trying to figure out how I could play those tracks live and that also shaped Out of the Black as well. It was actually on my mind for a long time but I never found the right angle on how to make it happen. Plus when it came to festivals I wanted to have that option just because I think the perspective of DJing has changed a lot in the past couple of years, with visual productions playing a bigger part and that’s all cool but I just wanted to go out and do my thing rather than just adapting with the landscape.
What’s your live set up looking like?
It’s all done on Ableton, all my tracks are stripped down to every element so I can play around with the stems and do what I want with them with different controllers. Then there’s the visual aspect, which are basically synced to react to what I do on stage and react in real time. I’ve been working with Pfadfinderei from Germany (who also work with Modeselektor) who are good friends and we sat down a year ago and created all the right content for the right music so it really makes sense. I did this because everywhere I play nowadays always has a big LED screen behind me and I thought what appeared on there was a bit random so I wanted to take control of that fully. Finally there’s the skull where you’ll find me performing out of. Big show overall.
How did playing in the middle of a skull come about? What’s the story behind that?
I’ve always had the skull connected to my music in regard to death disco, and used an image of a skull on my first album cover Oi Oi Oi in 2007. Ever since it’s always had some kind of presence during my gigs. People have really come to connect that symbol to my music and I had the idea of a skull on stage for a long time but never really figured how to realize it, until my friend Siriusmo from Berlin helped me in getting designing it and it took almost a year for it come to fruition.
You were announced to play at Coachella alongside Skrillex as ‘Dog Blood,’ how did this producer duo come about and what are your plans going forward with it?
We really don’t want to plan too much, we’re good friends and we see each other many times and we usually end up in the studio. We’ve been working on some new songs but we don’t really have any plan to make an album at the moment but you never know. We could’ve easily called the project ‘Boys Noize & Skrillex’ or ‘Skrillex & Boys Noize’ but it was our intention to have it more of a long-term thing hence coming up with ‘Dog Blood.’ The music we’re making is something completely new and wouldn’t really associate with the stuff either of us have put out individually.
You’re both headliners in your own right. What was the motivation behind playing together live seeing as you’re both equally competent in doing in on your own?
It was really by accident how it all happened. We were both djing at some weird after party and we kind of had a mutual understanding although we didn’t play the same kind of music. Everyone was reacting to it in the best way, there was a great energy going on, people really loved our differing styles and our two worlds colliding live like that. He’s got really good DJ skills and we both gelled really quickly. On the two sets we’ve played so far there was never any planning in regard to playlists and they both worked out really well. We wouldn’t even tell each other what we were playing and we’re probably going to just keep things that way in future gigs.
Skrillex has his spaceship and you’ve got your skull, will there be a hybrid structure being made?
(Laughs) I don’t think so; I think we want to keep things basic on that front.
You’re album Out Of The Black dropped back in October of which you just released a double EP “ICH R U” and “What You Want.” Why did you release those two tracks for the EP?
It was a question of timing as I asked a lot of producers to remix numerous tracks from the album. Those were the ones which were completed around the same time so I decided to release them all in one go as an EP.
You worked with Kelis on her song "22nd Century," off her 2010 album Flesh Tone; you’ve also worked with Santigold and particularly Spank Rock, is there any projects like these on the horizon?
Right now I really want to concentrate on my own music, in the past two years I’ve only been making music with or for other people. But right now my plan this year is to do music for myself or with close friends. I have two new tracks coming soon; I’m also working with Gonzalez as well as helping my friend Housemeister a little bit on his album. There’s the Dog Blood stuff too. A lot to come this year for sure.
You’re a seasoned veteran in the world touring circuit, where would you say is gaining an increasing interest in electronic music lately?
Definitely Asia, I’ve toured in China a few times and the last time I was there was really crazy. Every show was sold out. Shanghai, Bangkok, Hong Kong, and there’s so many cities that I’d never even heard of with like 20 million people in them that I played at. I’ve really seen a lot of growth in that region particularly with the techno scene, which is particularly inspiring. Looking forward to going back there.