German electro superstar Boys Noize discusses the DJ scene and his own impressive career trajectory with Eoin Brady
Boys Noize is hitting the road again. Following the success of his 2007 album Oi Oi Oi, and a busy year that saw him working with both with Black Eyed Peas and Kelis, the electropop producer has a new LP on the way, Power, to be released next Monday. Despite being just 26 and being popularly perceived as a new arrival on the scene, Boys Noize has been developing as a musician, musical connoisseur and performer for longer than most of otwo’s readers have been alive.
As a child, he played drums and piano. The first albums he bought (as a five-year-old!) were LL Cool J and De La Soul albums on vinyl. Initially, he listened to hip hop, but he was heavily influenced by both his mother’s disco records and – most significantly – his brother’s house music collection. When his brother’s records were stolen, Boys Noize (then a 13-year-old Alex Ridha) began buying the records again for himself, feeding his “addiction” to vinyl by working two jobs. He made mixtapes on rebuilt Technics decks, and dreamt of making enough money from DJing to pay for all the vinyl he was buying.
The next step was to start working in a record store specialising in House and Techno music. Even though this was a significant era in his development, he retained his personal taste; he never bought into the hard, fast trance and techno that were popular in Berlin of the late 90s. Always independent and quirky, he preferred rough, imperfectly produced electro.
As his popularity grew, he remixed for Snoop Dogg, Marilyn Manson and Depeche Mode. In 2005, he launched Boys Noize Records, now home to Strip Steve and Shadowdancer. Boys Noize finally gained widespread international recognition in 2007 with the release of Oi Oi Oi.
Considering his fiercely independent character and the fact that he had the luxury of a strong musical community around him as he grew, it’s perhaps not surprising that he disapproves of much of the recent developments in DJing and consumer music technology. Even now, when many prominent DJs perform using a laptop as the core of their performance equipment, Boys Noize would prefer to use vinyl.
However, the club world is moving on: he tells of how at a gig in Manchester, on informing the staff that he would be using vinyl, he was shown to a separate dusty DJ booth with one working deck. It was because of problems like this that he transitioned to using CDJs (a system that allows the DJ to use CDs instead of vinyl), a technology he finds exciting as it allows looping and effects more sophisticated than those available to vinyl.
Despite the possibilities opened up for DJing by technology recently, he says (in his thick, Brüno-esque German drawl) that sitting behind a computer pushing buttons looks “unsexy”, especially when contrasted with how an old-fashioned DJ who has “so much to do” looks like they’re having fun. Even though he believes that DJing is “more about what you play than how you play”, he still feels that the modern innovation of automatic beat-matching is “cheating”.
Boys Noize confirmed his traditionalist leanings by explaining his views on music blogging. Even though he signed two of the artists (Shadowdancer and Strip Steve) to Boys Noize Records after finding them on MySpace, he feels that it’s preferable to discover music by going to record stores, looking through the records and paying for it. When an artist “goes into the studio and has a crazy time producing an album”, he believes it fair that they should get money for doing it, but thinks this concept “missing from the kids’ consciousnesses”. On the other hand, he has noticed a change in the make-up of the crowds at his gigs because of the music blogs: whereas once people went to clubs just because they were cool clubs, some of his shows now have more of a concert vibe, where people actually come to listen and pay attention to his music. This is not something that would have happened in the past, because for the first five or so years of his career, his music was only available in specialist DJ record stores, and so would have not been accessible to the regular music fan.
On Power, Boys Noize tells us that it “starts where Oi Oi Oi ended” but that we should expect a “less rock ‘n’ roll” sound. He says he tries to “stay outside of anything that is cool”, while having new sounds that “surprise and inspire” him. He states that one of his priorities was to make music to play in his DJ sets, so for all this talk of maturity, it sounds like it would be fair to expect one or two club bangers on Power.
As a final note, Boys Noize enthuses about “wild and crazy” shows in Ireland, where he is “shown a lot of love”. If you’d like to demonstrate your wild, crazy loveliness to Boys Noize, you can check him out in the Student Bar this Thursday.