Alex Ridhya is the mysterious young man behind Boys Noize, the love ‘em or loathe ‘em electro outfit responsible for one of the biggest club music albums of recent years, Oi Oi Oi, and its full-throttle follow-up, Power. Originally from Hamburg, Alex first moved to Berlin for his girlfriend but now considers the city his home in the rare instances when he’s not touring the world. I met Alex at the rather unusual location of Berlin’s Ramones café and found a young producer with a surprisingly frank view of his own music, and where it fits into the wider scheme of things. A quiet confidence gleaned through copious remix requests and the popularity of his music, is matched an affable and friendly attitude – there are no allusions to grandeur here.
Hey Alex. What’s the deal with the Ramones café?
I live just across the street!
Oh! I thought there was maybe some hidden meaning.
Are you glad the album is finished?
Yes, for sure. For me the concept of an album is not such a big thing, like many other artists. For me, I see it as an easier thing. I don’t worry too much about telling a story or anything like that – for me it doesn’t really work anyways. It’s just capturing the moment I have in the studio. Even though I have the vision of a track or I want to do something that is in my mind, it never works out because I always end up doing something different. I seem to finish my tracks quite quickly
So it’s the same approach as when you approach a single or a remix?
Well, I must say that approaching remixes is different. You have parts already that you can twist or change or build around you know? And when I do a remix I also only do songs that I really like, so there is always something to build around. You need way more discipline to try and do something original.
You have done a huge amount of remixes. Is that something you really enjoy?
Yeah it’s definitely something I really enjoy, and also for me it is something I find kind of easy as well. I kind of stopped doing remixes this year, because they don’t have the same value anymore – any blog kid can do a bootleg remix. All the young kids don’t care if it is official or not.
So for now, you would prefer to concentrate on your own productions, as they have more value to people?
Yeah, exactly. I am doing so much music that I can’t put it all in one project. I have so many beats. I am a producer, but I also see myself as a musician. You can’t DJ forever!
How long have you been playing now?
More than ten years.
And you started to release on 2004 with Gigolo?
Yes. I also had a release on Datapunk that year, and then a year later I started my own label (Boys Noize records) where I had about three different projects as well. I originally started to produce in ‘97, ‘98 with some very shitty software. I learnt a lot of engineering from another guy in a proper studio when I was about 16, so everything started quite early actually.
But you took your time before releasing anything? Were you playing anything in clubs to road test your [production] skills?
Actually I had some projects with friends, but it never worked out as we wanted different things. It was in 2003 that I decided to just work on my own stuff. That was also the time I decided to move to Berlin. I really started then to do try and create stuff that I could play out when I DJ’d. For me I was always trying to surprise myself with sounds. When I started the Boys Noize stuff it was a bit more out there, definitely not so cool. I just wanted to try and make the music that I liked and not to ask people whether they liked it and then change it based on what they said. It was really for myself. As it should be!
The label has been successful in its on right with releases from other artists besides you. Did you anticipate that?
It was, to be honest, really unexpected. My original idea was just to release 12”s in the traditional sense of having them in a record shop with only DJs buying them.
You make a 1000 copies and that’s it. I was also DJ’ing a lot, in order to try and get DJ gigs outside Germany — it felt like I had played every club in Germany five times already! I was always hoping to get more bookings and so I just released the 12”s in a very traditional way, very underground.
I guess with the remixes that I did, a very diverse range of DJs were playing my stuff, like Ata from Playhouse and then Erol Alkan, so that helped me a lot. Also in 2007, all of the Internet stuff seemed to blow up, and then even more people were discovering the music. It was not a plan though – it happened quite naturally and now I am happy. I think the artists have a very special sound, and I am happy that Boys Noize has its own distinct sound — like a branding, really.
As a German label your sound is very distinct and quite unusual. When I hear your records, I find they don’t fit into the context of most German club music.
For me, I never went into the studio and tried to emulate something else. Of course I take elements that I really like. I guess in Germany, the biggest sound has been minimal techno. I was trying to do something not like this. But then there was all the nu-rave stuff which also became annoying, so I didn’t want to do anything that sounded like that. I like to look for sounds that excite me that I have not heard on other records. The sounds can come from anywhere.
Power feels like a continuation of a theme that was started with Oi Oi Oi.
To me it is not as rock and roll….
In what way?
More with the sounds; Oi Oi Oi was quote noisy. I can’t really change my attitude to musical ideas. I must say Oi Oi Oi was an unexpected success. I didn’t anticipate so many people buying the CD. Normally you would build from that and try to take a step more towards pop or do an album that sounds more like my remixes, but I didn’t feel like this. Again, this is just what I did in the moment in the studio. I also always relate the music to my DJ sets. All of the tracks that I make, I like to play out. I don’t like to play a lot of melodic stuff or too many vocals. For me, it’s just tracks.
So you just wanted to make a collection of tracks, rather that an album in the conventional sense.
Most people wouldn’t be so straightforward about that.
Well, to be honest I don’t believe in the traditional concept of an album anymore. I buy a lot of music, but I also just buy individual tracks from iTunes. I don’t buy CDs anymore. I think that is what everyone does. They pick the tracks they like and that’s it. On one hand it makes me a bit sad, but on the other hand that’s just the way it is. I don’t think an album need to be totally deep. I mean, the music I make is not that deep. I’m no Sigur Rós!
Check out Boys Noize’s mix for "The Radio Sessions – EB on Air":