About to release his third album in October, German producer Boys Noize reflects on an unusual career in electronic music, Snoop, and why music is better unclean.
With the advent of EDM upon us, it’s hard to place Boys Noize, and it’s pointless to try. The enterprising Berlin DJ/producer/label manager Alex Ridha has been dabbling in hard, unrelenting glitchy house music since he was a teenager, and remains something of a floater — maintaining a distinct style while collaborating with everyone from Scissor Sisters to K-pop legends Big Bang to — on his upcoming album — Snoop Dogg.
His third full length Out of the Black is hitting shelves on his own label October 16, so we had a chat with the knowledgeable, friendly producer about tweeting with Snoop, the lost days of German anarchic rock, and what it takes to get signed to Boysnoize Records (a lot).
You seem like a pretty free agent. Was this a deliberate career choice?
Ever since I started to make music I wanted to make sure to be true to myself and really do the things I think are cool. You can say I’m very careful about who I’m working with, and where I put my name, because I think that music is still an art and I want to look back in 20 years and say this has all been cool. If i collaborate with someone, i need to take something with me as well, to learn something, and if someone has a totally different background than me that’s really cool too.
So what made working with Snoop Dogg compelling for this album?
Snoop dogg was someone I grew up listening to. It was always a dream of mine to produce something for him. I was always saying that, if I have a chance to produce something for him, I can retire from music [laughs]. I’m certainly not gonna do that. But you know, I was just happy that it worked out the way it did. I didn’t care if it was going to be a big pop hit, because for me having Snoop Dogg next to my name is already enough. And he’s actually the only feature on my album as well. It was really really nice to meet him. He is super funny. I played him these old Chicago ghetto house records and made him laugh with that, and yeah we recorded two tracks.
Watch part of our interview with Boys Noize
He’s everywhere it seems. What does it take to collaborate with Snoop?
It started off with an official remix did of him in 2008 or 09. And when I first discovered twitter, I didn’t really know how it worked, I was like alright, I can just talk to anyone! I put @snoopdogg and said, “hey man did you ever check out the remix I did for you?” And he replied right away! He really liked it and said he listens to it and smokes up to it and stuff, and he said “send me more shit!” Ever since, we kept in contact and I met him a couple of times. With Snoop, you gotta vibe with him first. It’s not like you’re gonna meet him in the studio and record something right away. You’ve got to find a way to hang out.
What should fans be looking forward to in the new album besides, well Snoop.
I think the new album is probably a little mix of my first and second album. I tried to go back to those feelings I had when I started producing. When you don’t know what you’re doing sometimes it’s very magical, because I never learned officially how to be an engineer or producer, I just taught myself everything. So, I wanted to free myself from all the music that is around, and just do what I love to do best. And of course a lot of new, exciting sounds.
Are you a big crate-digger? Do you dig into the record stores looking for the most obscure shit possible?
Totally. I go out into record shops every week still. I was working in a record shop for six years so that gave me a chance to dig deep into the really old house labels and have big catalogues of deep house labels, and I always look for weird bootlegs and recordings. Right now it’s interesting because a lot of young producers put music out on vinyl only. It’s a little movement right now in the UK and in Berlin as well, there are new labels you can find on vinyl only. But even if I don’t go to record shops, I check out different Soundclouds and I spend hours finding new producers. I love to support them on my record label and put out some music that other people wouldn’t put out.
I realize that among the big names, there aren’t a lot of German names. What’s going on?
There’s a lot of things going on! You know Berlin used to be very punk rock in a techno way, there was a lot of rough little backyard parties. Since Berlin became a mecca of international DJs, it changed a little bit. It became a little more house, a little softer. I kinda miss the punk rock vibe. You still find a lot of producers though, Modeslektor, Siriusmo, and Apparat, and then you have still the whole Kompakt crew from west Germany. I just signed a new guy who just turned 18 his name is SCNTST. He’s a good example of the new generation of young producers. He produces again in a totally different way than I do. he sends me hundreds of tracks like, every week. Every night he sends me 20 new tracks! and they’re allll so good!…In the beginning when I moved to Berlin I felt like an outsider. It was the height of minimal techno, so everywhere you went it was that Minus, Richie Hawtin sound. I like elements of it, but at that time I was making the hardest music possible!
Do you feel like that hard sound is influenced by the punk rock atmosphere that was going on then?
I was definitely inspired by the punk rock vibe. There was a whole riot thing going on, like, we do what we want and we really don’t care if anyone likes it. And that’s how house and techno music started, and it started in the US as well! Which is funny to think about, how it turned out. I like music that isn’t clean. This small group was in a small club with music that most people didn’t like or accept. That, for me, is punk rock. Even though there’s no guitar.
You seem to be a pretty humble dude. Being among all the big personality DJs out there these days, are you turning off your megalomaniac side?
I think for the new generation of the kids out there, being a DJ is the coolest thing right now. It’s funny, because when I started to be a DJ, I was really the only guy out of all my friends and I was the only guy listening to that music. When I was 14 and 15, I was also listening to hip-hop, but when my friends heard house music they thought it was bullshit and not cool at all. It’s great to see that it’s so much easier to be a DJ, because I had two jobs to finance all of the vinyls I was buying. I spent like a thousand on vinyl a month, and the turntables — it was not an easy thing. It was an expensive hobby, and you have to be really really passionate about it. So, you can take the big hits and get the people rockin’ and stuff, and yes, at the end I wanna have everyone go crazy, and every now and then you have to feed them with little bits, but I think the most exciting thing about it is to find the balance and to go in there and see how the moment is, to drop the right record at the right time.
Enjoy the album preview of ‘Out of the Black,’ out October 16 on Boys Noize records.