Perfect Aphex Sound ForeverNME: Your current DJ "set" consists of you messing about with sandpaper and food-mixers. It's not big; it's not clever. In fact—it's bloody stupid. Isn't it?
RDJ: Er, yeah. It's not like a new set or anything, it was just a favour for a club. I thought it would be a bit conventional to just play records so I did that instead. Pointless? Well, it probably would've been if it was my stylus but they paid for it. I didn't lose anything and I got paid to do it, which sounds like a good deal to me.
I really liked it actually, it sounds really mental. I did it again in New York and there were people there who danced to it. I think they thought it was death metal or something. I suppose people might feel a bit ripped off if they paid to see me. Do I care? Erm, I don't know really. Most people seem to be into it, which is a bit disappointing really. I'd rather do it down Ritzy's on a Friday night and get people really mad.
NME: Record wise, you'll just put any old rubbish out, won't you? Don't the words "quality control" mean anything to you?
RDJ: I suppose I haven't got any quality control. No, I think I'm all right, actually. I never put anything out that I'm embarrassed about, but then again I never really reject anything that I write. There's only one track in 20 that I think is...well, it won't be shit, but I won't use it. It'll only be all right. Maybe one track in 40 actually is shit, but I probably won't bother finishing those ones.
I don't think I put too much stuff out. In fact, I often think I don't put out enough. Can I give The Stone Roses lessons? Erm, well, I'd quite like to disappear like them, actually, but I'd do it forever 'cause I don't really like making records. My two ambitions are to make music forever and to never get a job. This record caper allows me to do exactly that.
NME: Your music is just prog rock for the 90's, or put another way, noodly old hippie shit with no grip on reality. Discuss.
RDJ: I've not really heard any of those prog rock bands though I know Tangerine Dream—a lot of their early records are totally excellent. I feel more like a punk really, 'cause when I started I wanted to clear all the shit techno records out of the shops.
It's me and my friends who are trying to clear out the old boring cunts. We're not the boring old cunts ourselves. No way! When a band like Oasis say they hate dance music, I don't really understand it. I mean, they are dance music, aren't they?
I didn't agree with all the techno bands who said rock was dead either. I like rock music. Oasis is pretty good, they're like a modified version of old music like The Beatles. That's OK. I mean, I suppose my ambient stuff is just a modified version of Brian Eno. The difference is, I had never heard any Brian Eno before I started making records.
NME: Mucking about with computers in your bedroom is strictly for nerds, surely?
RDJ: Yeah, I'm a nerd. I'm proud of it, definitely, but I go out as well and do the same as everyone else: get fucked up, annoy people, look for nice birds. I used to play sport. I did! But I can't get into it in London, it's all too expensive. I've always been in my bedroom doing things but I've also always had loads of mates and got into fights and stuff as well. I just go to my studio after everyone else has gone to bed. I don't miss out on anything.
NME: All that stuff about you never going to sleep is just bullocks, isn't it?
RDJ: Well, I go through phases. Sometimes I sleep, sometimes I don't. For a while I only ever got about three hours of sleep a week. Then that fizzled out to about two hours a night, and now I'm pretty normal, I think.
It's really difficult to go a week without sleep. I need to be doing the music 'cause that's the only thing that keeps me awake. If you go over four days, it gets really trippy and you start losing it. You can't think properly, but you sort of get through that and then it's just like being stoned. It's all right once you get used to it. If people don't believe me...sorted.
NME: You're still just a charisma-free boffin, aren't you?
RDJ: That's a bit of a stupid question. I can't be faceless 'cause I've done loads of press and I've had my photo taken loads of times. I mean, I get recognised in the street, I get people coming up to me and talking. I don't know any rock stars. I've never been on Top Of The Pops or anything but I think I've got natural charisma, everyone has. I don't really know what a star is, but there's a big difference between me and the people dancing to my music, definitely.
NME: Yeah, but you're never going to mean as much to the kids as Damon Albarn/Liam Gallagher/the bass player from Ruptured Dog, are you?
RDJ: Ha! That's wicked. Nah, I know people put Richard James posters on their wall. It's embarrassing, but they do it. I guess that's what pop is all about.
I don't know if my music says as much to people as Blur's, but I think having lyrics in songs is a bit shit, really. I prefer things to be abstract. A song with lyrics always seems to be saying something specific so you can't interpret it in many different ways. That's why I like electronic music, 'cause people get different reactions from it. The same track can make different people upset, aggressive, or euphoric, but I wouldn't want to be spokesman for a generation or anything. People want to know what I think about stuff, but I don't want to tell them, I can't be bothered.
NME: Richard James, a tune. A tune, Richard James. You haven't met before, have you?
RDJ: Bullocks! Total bullocks! That's all I can say to that. I do write tunes you can whistle. God damn it, I've done songs with whistling on them so you must be able to. But music doesn't have to have tunes to be music. I can listen to a single drum beat for hours sometimes and just get into rhythms and things. I mean, not all of my stuff has a tune, some of it is just sounds. It's sounds that I'm obsessed with and the tune comes later, if it comes at all.
I already have written catchy pop songs with big choruses and they've already been successful. I'm not telling you which songs they were. They were by famous people. I'm not saying who, no. It's a secret. They were Top 40 hits and everything, which I've never had with my own stuff, but I'm not that bothered really. Maybe I'll do a song like that myself one day, but you have to choose the best way for a song to come out.
NME: Remixing—at best, money for old rope; at worst, the complete ruination of a once half-decent song. How do you plead?
RDJ: I admit that sometimes I don't put any work into remixing at all. Sometimes I just give them an old, completely different track and say, "Yeah, there's your remix." I did that with The Lemonheads. I couldn't be bothered to do their track 'cause it was so shit. I don't know if they noticed or not 'cause I never bothered talking to any of them.
Basically, I was supposed to do it but I forgot the courier was coming that day. The doorbell rang and I realised I'd forgotten so I just told him "15 minutes," went upstairs, found an old track, taped it off, and gave it to him. I got paid four grand for that—a nice day's work. I've done that a few times, but I don't always do it.
A few people do complain that I've ruined their song but that doesn't bother me. Shit happens. They're only using me to get credibility anyway, so they deserve everything they get, the fucking bastards.
NME: By the way, your beard is completely horrible.
RDJ: It is a bit, isn't it? But I get girls stroking it all the time so that's a bonus. I don't know why I grew it, I don't suppose it's very fashionable. I got the full-on beard 'cause I couldn't be bothered to shave but then my mate bought some hair clippers so I chopped a few bits out of it and grew the tuft really long.
Most of my mates have beards as well, so it doesn't really bother me. I can't believe I'm sitting here discussing my beard! I'm going to keep it now, until it grows down to my toes. Rip Van Aphex!
Written by: Mark Sutherland, March 1995, New Musical Express