When we arrived at the Boys Noize show in Los Angeles Saturday night at Minimal Effort’s Halloween bash, even through the ski-mask he had on, his excitement was impossible to contain. Alex Ridha, the man known as Boys Noize, is visibly having the time of his life, rocking the fuck out, waving to friends in the audience, and finally taking off the ski mask to reveal just how hard he’s laughing. Alex attributes the good spirits in which he finds himself to the fact that at this stage in his a career heading into 2019, he’s the most inspired and productive he’s ever been. On the verge of completing the new Boys Noize album, which he says will be out in 2019, Alex seems content without the slightest hint of complacency.
The scope of the Boys Noize project itself, not to mention the alter-ego monikers and duos Alex is also producing for, has taken on unimaginable proportions compared to what he imagined back in 2004 when he first released “The Bomb” on DJ Hell’s label, International DeeJay Gigolo Records. The roster of artists he’s collaborating with lately is astounding; it includes names like Lady Gaga, Virgil Abloh, Steven A. Clark, Jean Michel Jarre, Chilly Gonzales, of course, Skrillex, and again most recently, Mr Oizo. Handbraekes, the joint project with Oizo which he’s been involved with off and on since 2012, began around a time that Alex describes as strange for him creatively. “I definitely went through some times where I was maybe not as inspired, maybe around 2012 or 2013 when the scene was weird and EDM came up so big and techno wasn’t really killing it, neither was house,” he said. “It was a strange time for myself too, I think every producer goes through phases, but right now I’m the most productive and inspired I’ve ever been — it’s pretty crazy how much music I make these days.”
When the third Handbraekes EP installment #3 hit last week, Boys Noize, old school Ed Banger, and Oizo fans alike went ballistic — they’re as great as they’ve ever been, maybe better. It’s such a timeless and on-brand amalgamation of their respective sounds twisted into a fantastical, six-track sonic roller coaster, I’d have guessed the two of them had been working closely on it together for months if not years (the last Handbraekes EP came in 2014). It turns out that speculation is completely inaccurate: the actual Handbraekes creative process essentially boils down to Oizo sending sounds that either inspire Alex or don’t. He typically likes to be in the studio with his collaborators, but as he explained, “Weirdly with Oizo, it’s the only project that works sending stuff back and forth but only because there are some sort of unspoken rules, at least for myself. So he would send me some trash-crazy sound, Oizo-crazy stuff, and I would just start chopping things up and try to find what the bits are like and then add drums and arrange it. And it has to be done in two hours.” Therein lies one of Alex’s unspoken rules about this collaboration.
When pressed on what happens if the track doesn’t come out that fast, he quickly responded, “Then it’s not going to be released. It’s got to have that magical moment in the studio when you know exactly what to do and it’s finished up in two hours. All the records that we put out have that moment of ‘You know what? It’s done, it’s doing its trick.’ And we do work remotely, so I’ll send him the track back and he’ll say this is dope or this is not dope and we try again.” He also described Oizo’s unique sound design as “controlled randomness” and said that sometimes he’d send up to 20 files at once and only one would inspire a new record, but that one is going to be special all the way down to the core of its origin sound. “And if I make that track in one hour, we know it’s good,” he laughed.
Like so many kids, Alex’s older brother guided his early music education, which I had to ask him about after learning he owns over 20,000 vinyl records that take up an entire room and several large Ikea storage bins in his Berlin home. At around age 7, he bought his two very first records on his own after his brother sent him out to the record store to repurchase a copy of D Mob’s 12” single “Put Your Hands Together,” which had warped after being exposed to sunlight in the family flat. It was on that errand as a little kid that he bought his first two records, De La Soul’s 3 Feet High and Rising and LL Cool J’s “I Need Love” single because both were used and on sale. When he talks about his collection, his brother, and that fateful day he was sent to the record store alone for the first time, it sounds like Alex is smiling so big his face might break. He told me that while he justifies owning all that vinyl because, “As a DJ I have to always find tunes that no one else has or plays,” that’s not typically his source of inspiration in the studio.
“As a musician and producer, for me at least, I always have to put myself in new positions where I don’t feel comfortable to find new triggers. For me, it can be anything, mostly a new module or drum machine or plug-in that inspires me to do something new. It can also be something from travel and dance, like when I travel and I go out dancing myself. But right now I’m basically organizing all my music into different projects because there’s so much,” he explained before furiously referencing new projects in the house, techno, and Chilly Gonzales-style classical spaces coming out next year. “But musically what I’m the most excited about right now is my next album. That’s going to take me a bit more time you know, because it’s easier for me to do club tracks that just work for the club. But to make something that has all that and connects musically with a different crowd, that’s always been the most motivating for me. I’m pushing myself to make it more musical and to go a bit deeper into a sound that no one will know how I made.” The last remark seems to reflect Alex’s greatest joy — twice in our relatively short interview, he referenced his mysterious and highly-speculated about the sound-crafting process with an air of devilish satisfaction.
The newest alias Alex is operating under, ELAX, will be performing in LA at Sound Nightclub on December 7th, and if you’re relatively new to Boys Noize, the ELAX project might just be a sweet spot for you; Alex describes it as “more house and way accessible.” Boysnoize Records released Djedjotronic’s debut album R.U.R. last month and this week dropped the vicious remix pack with cuts from Janzon, Broken English Club, and Obscure Shape & SHDW. Check those out and stay tuned for news about the forthcoming Boys Noize LP.