Groove interview (English)Since the multimedia offensive called "Windowlicker" we didn't hear too much from Richard.
The only new music, which got out in the passed two years to one - limited - public,
were the soundtracks to two videos of the director Chris Cunningham in
London art exhibitions and own MP3-files, which Aphex Twin used in his DJ-sets.
Getting in contact with Richard James is not that easy. More
precise: to communicate with Richard James at short notice, is impossible.
He does not own a mobile phone, and the telephone,
which is located in his house in the South London district Elephant &
Castle (James lives in a former bank building for three years now. Rephlex artist Cylob
lives on the first floor, a musician mate of Richard's lives in the second,
and Richard himself lives in the upper 3 floors.) takes its place in his basement
which is connected to an answering machine. "Nobody calls me no more. I just check
the calls every five days. The only one who's speaking to it all the time is my mum."
Richard says. So the best way to get a date for an interview is to E-Mail.
But he only checks his E-Mails when he's home or at the Rephlex office, which has
a DSL-connection. The coordination of the interview finally worked due to "Short Message
Service"-contact with his girlfriend Joanna Seguro, a former WARP employee, who organized
a party one day ago with several Rephlex-, Schematic- and vv/m artists at the
Victoria & Albert museum where Aphex Twin used to rave the audience (including
members of Autechre and Ladytron) out.
Since James did his last release, the "Richard D. James"-LP, which had a large promotion
schedule to work off, including citytrips and 12 interviews per day in average,
he's now in short temper with interviews. He did a couple of interviews along with Grant
Wilson-Claridge for the Rephlex anniversary but only if he's not asked about his music.
For his, in his own words, last WARP-release, the double-CD "Drukqs" he claimed he won't
do more than three promotion dates - worldwide.
I met Aphex Twin at an Italian restaurant in a lousy mall in James' neighborhood. Even
though this interview is nothing but a concession to WARP Records, he's extremely willing
to talk. Only three hours later he excuses: "I gotta go. Promised my girlfriend to go to
the botanic garden with her...".
You still live in this old bank building around here, do you?
"Yeah, it's a cool neighborhood. I like it here. It's quite not trendy here, that's why
I moved here. There are no young people - nobody recognizes me here. I think in five years
I only got recognized two times. Where my girlfriend lives, in East-End, it all became
pretty trendy, lots of people visit you. It's like: 'Oh, you live in a cool neighborhood
so we'll come around and visit you.' Down here it's like this: 'Oh, you like down there?!
I never got there."
Well, at least the Ministry Of Sound Club is nearby.
"Yeah, and when the row is long enough, it even reaches to my house. Sometimes me and my
mates like to throw waterbombs at the people that stand there. I use to do it regularly
but didn't do it for three months now. I do it form the roof. It's great, 'cause nobody
knows where they come from. It's really dark and you can hide yourself perfectly. I also
got pretty good video material of my friends wearing those Teddybear thingies I had a
couple of time ago. One time they just walked to the row dressed up like this and
started to insult the people that were standing there.
A friend of mine, Damon from Rephlex, taped it on video. He used to record every piece
of junk for three or four years. He's crazy. He's not a good filmmaker. He never tapes
any good stuff. But since he owns the camera for such a long time, he's got plenty of
good material, but not on purpose. He's got lots of impressing Rephlex material and we
always tell him to do a video from that. He's got 150 tapes and it would take three
years to check all of that.
Yesterday you did a DJ-set at a party at the Victoria & Albert Museum. Your set sounded
like a history lesson about Breakbeats of the last decade - from Happy Hardcore to Jungle
and back to Drum'n'Bass and your own songs as well.
"I wanted to put up some real trashy Rave music, 'cause the gig took place in a museum.
I know, it would have been more appropiate to play music with style but I thought it
would be more funny to play something trashy."
Do you use different sets on different opportunities?
"I got shitloads of different sets. Although I didn't play any ambient or other strange
music for a long time ago. I do lots of stuff with my laptop and this could mean anything.
It's mostly just a mixup with playing live and DJing. But no one realizes that I'm playing
live 'cause I never really say it. I do this sort of thing for one and a half year now.
When you say, you play live, than it's like a gig and people come up, just stand around
and stare at you. But when you say you're DJing, everybody dances and goes off."
I remember you played hardcore gabba set at this years Sonar festival in Barcelona.
"It depends on the place and my mood. If the place is more for dancing, like on huge
raves, I dig brutal fast music. Lots of people are on drugs and try to dance to this
kind of music. That's so amusing to me. In clubs people are usually just staring at me.
They come to me and just stare, they don't even smile. And so you get the feeling you're
just playing in front of 5 people, 'cause you're not supposed to see anyone behind.
Then I just play wicked noises sometimes, just to make them fuck off. Before I got really
famous, I liked to DJ in the middle of the club. People just used to dance and didn't
really noticed me. But when you're some kind of famous then everybody's just fucking
staring at you, and this doesn't work."
You seem to DJ a lot lately.
"Yeah, I do. It's because of the tracks I did recently, they're really something to dance
to. Raving is fun for me again. It didn't quite a long time. And when you recorded the
tracks it's just phantastic to play them a day after to see if they're working or not."
Last year your music was played to a video by Chris Cunningham in the London Royal Academy.
Yesterday you did a set at the Victoria & Albert museum and in October a guy named
"Prichard G. Jams" is going to do a set at the Barbican for a Stockhausen festival.
Do you like it when your music is being played at traditional places of culture?
"I don't do concious decisions when I accept to play at these kinds of locations. I would
rather do a gig at any fucked up club. I just do this Stockhausen thing 'cause it's
probably one of his last concerts and I just wanted tickets. He played a few live gigs
recently but I don't like his new stuff. But this time he plays his first three electronic
songs. Some musicians who started in shitty clubs and were underground their whole life
now play at South Bank (venue in London) and shit. I just think it's wrong."
It is known that you also play in people's living rooms.
"Yeah, I played in people's houses. Last month I got an E-Mail from a guy who said:
'My grandma died and she left me lots of money.' We thought, that sounds cool, and drove
to the place with a huge tourbus. Those are my favorite gigs: a mixture of friends
and people from the street. Soon I am going to play at a wedding and just recently a
girl asked me if I would play Gabba at her party 'cause she finished her exams in
history of art. I said: 'Yeah, definitely!". As long as it's in London and I got time
for stuff like that, I like doing it."
Would you even play in this restaurant here, if the owners ask you to?
What do like in Gabba music?
"I like the aggression. But I usually don't like it when it's totally distorted. I like
controlled aggression. I think this is more effectively. When somebody just fucks around
with the volume level on the mixer, that's not really frightening. But something like
the new Squarepusher stuff, I consider this way more disturbing 'cause it's totally wicked.
But it's not distorted at all, it's crispy. But it has bigger intesity. You can feel the
spirit, the motivation behind it and that's more brutal. That's the difference between a
lunatic getting mad at a mall and takes his knife and a serial killer who's calculating
cold-blooded. The serial killer is more frightening."
What does WARP Records mean to you today?
"(laughs) Not that much. The difference between them and any other record label is getting
less, that's why I won't release any new releases on WARP in the future."
Isn't there any personal relationship between you and the people that work for WARP?
"Well, somehow. But I don't know most people who work there anymore. Me and Rob (Mitchell,
co-founder of WARP) used to be friends but now he's having a terrible disease and doesn't
lead WARP no more. I like Steve (Beckett, co-founder of WARP), but it's not as we were
best friends or something."
So why do you release your new double album "Drukqs" on WARP?
"Uumm, that's a good question though. I'm somehow in a contract that says I have to
release on their label. But I don't have any problem with that, so it's no big deal.
Me and Squarepusher are starting our own record label now. I did these acid remixes
("2 Remixes by AFX", MEN 1). That's our first release."
Why do you want another label?
"Mostly because Tom is having a big problem being on a label where he hates some of the
other artists. He hates anything on WARP. He only likes the old stuff. "LFO" is probably
the last record that he liked (laughs). He doesn't want to take them all with him. I don't
mind being on a label where there are shitty artists as well. I don't like the music on
WARP neither. And I'm sure that they profit from the stuff that you do. Like: 'Oh, we are
on WARP!", and people take it to the knowledge and buy their albums therefore. But it
doesn't mind me like for Tom. But he's a good friend of mine and so I understand what he
means. So we do it ourselves. If it was for me, "Drukqs" would have been released on
Rephlex, but due to contract issues I had to give it to WARP."
As you started working with WARP you signed a contract for six albums, right?
"I should have given them two or three albums - I can't remember. Before I gave this album
to them I said: 'When I am going to give you this album, you have to let me go." (laughs)
I thought they would say: 'No fucking way. We sue you!'"
What does that mean?
"I didn't give them an album in 3 years now. I told them: 'OK, I give you an double album
but then you have to let me release my other stuff on my own label.' And they just said:
'OK'. I also tried to talk to Warner Bros (Richard's record label in Japan and the US) as
well but they weren't that easy to persuade. I told them something like: 'I want to do
Aphex Twin on Rephlex.". But they just said: 'No way. we bought you, we own you.' We
discussed it a lot. I said: 'If you don't say yes you ain't getting anything in future
from me.' And they said: 'Alright, then we just don't get anything from you.' I'm allowed
to use AFX on Rephlex so I just focus on this."
Does the name Aphex Twin mean a lot to you?
"Well, yes, I guess. Of course, I could use some other names, but I wanted to use Aphex
Twin just to release my experimental stuff. Lots of people, I suppose, will who are not
into my stuff are going to buy my (Aphex Twin) album. And I like the thought that they'll
buy something experimental."
The 30 tracks off "Drukqs" surfaced in the Internet. Are you upset about this?
"I think being on the Internet is a good thing. When people are downloading my tracks
and they like what they hear, they will tell everybody that they liked it. I think in this
way an artist can even sell more."
You said once that you don't care how much records you sell.
"Yeah, but... well, for this record I want to sell as much as possible now. It's my last
thing that I promote with WARP though. I just want to know it for the last time. Not for
the music but promotion."
OK, you want to sell as much as possible, but you don't want to release any singles,
apparantely there will be no video, you don't want any pictures taken, you'll just do
3 Interviews worldwide and you don't want to tour. So that's what you think of promotion?
"(laughs). Well, I made a few compromises. The CD is just in a regular jewel case, and
it'll be pretty cheap. If it was for me, I would have designed a nice digipack and
released it that way. But that would be too expensive and you would lose too much money.
And if it also was for me, I wouldn't do any interviews and promotion gigs at all.
The little things that I'm doing now is all that I'll do for promotion."
Is it true that you plan to do a new single for the album?
"I plan to do a single with a wicked Cunningham video again. But I probably won't do it.
And if I do, it'll be released in about six months. It was a lot of fun to do to work
with Chris (Cunningham, director) on 'Come to Daddy' and 'Windowlicker' and I would do
it again for sure. But WARP just wants to do it because they see the dollars. But I got
a wicked idea for a track, and Chris might like it."
Why do you make compromises anyway?
"'Cause it's the last thing. There's no need to do it on the next one. So I can do anything
else. The other reason is, I think with this album I am going to reach the maximum of an
audience with whom I'm still happy with. So I can take it not to do any promotion in the
next few years."
Don't you think you got into this situation two years ago with "Windowlicker"?
"Well, maybe. But I think it still has to take a little while. Just a bit."
Why did you need such a long time to release the new album, five years after your "Richard
"(laughs). The true reason is I lost one of these portable MP3 players along with 282
unreleased tracks by me and 80 unreleased tracks by Squarepusher! I forgot it in a plane.
I was on my way to Scotland with Grant (Wilson-Claridge, Rephlex owner) to do a gig, that's
about 4 months ago. I had got my MP3s for about six months and he laughed at me and said:
'You're not gonna lose it, you won't, right?' and I said: 'I'll never gonna lose this!' And
five minutes later I forgot it in the plane."
Didn't you have a copy of the music stored on hard disk?
"I didn't lose anything. I got the copies. I think I would have committed suicide if I'd lost
the masters. Since that I browse the internet every fucking minute. I thought they'd be
available five minutes afterwards. I wrote 'Aphex Twin - unreleased tracks' on it! (laughs).
If they would have put them into the net, I definitely would have paid them a visit - anywhere
in the whole fucking world - and get my fucking stuff back. But probably one of them
stewardesses stole it, they all looked like 35 and are apparantly into Bryan Adams or some
shit like that. If they'd heard it, they would have deleted it. If a fan got it, I would have
got nothing against it. It's a nice present for somebody I reckon. I would like that, as
long as they don't put it into the net and ruin my salary for the next decade. I told Tom
(Jenkinson) about this on the phone but I think he wasn't listening (laughs). That's why I
wanted to release as many tracks as possible. I wanted to release 4 CD's in the first place
but I think this would have been an overkill and would definitely take too much work. I think
a double album is still a great effort - managing , artwork, mastering, editing..."
Your "Richard D. James"-LP only features music for about half an hour. When it was released
you said 'nobody would pay attention in a longer time'.
"(laughs) Yeah, but MP3s weren't invented at this time and I didn't know I would own an
appliance someday that can store my whole music, and lose it then."
Do you think people can honor a double album from you?
"You can listen to it in a row but I think you're dead afterwards."
So the only true reason for releasing the album is because you want to release as many tracks
officially before they appear inofficially anywhere?
"Yeah, that's about it."
Why would you mind if somebody would put your unreleased tracks into the net?
"'Cause I won't be able to earn money with it anymore. It would just piss me off."
Why would you mind earning no money with it?
"'Cause that's the only reason I release music."
You once thought about releasing a 4 hour DAT with free music by yourself, without any
copyrights. You changed your mind?
"(laughs). Yeah, this is kind of a contradiction. I reckon. But if you spend lots of time
releasing something, you can achieve anything that's in it as well. It depends on the tracks
I think. If I said that I want to release a 4 hour DAT with unreleased music by myself I
definitely meant older tracks, that I wouldn't have used on a album anyway. I wouldn't mind
in this case. But the tracks that I lost were totally new, nothing older than two years."
It is rumored that Mixmaster Morris recently said he found a CD for 2 pounds in Moscow
with all your tracks as mp3.
"It's worse. Soon you'll be able to buy DVD's with Electronica from 95-2000 or something.
You can probably store 100 albums on one DVD. You can put the whole back catalogue of WARP
or Rephlex on one single DVD."
(...to be continued)
Translated by: sine707