Words from Loaded interview roomAphex Twin opens up a hatch in his brain and lets the word music pour out.
There is a ventilation grill in the Loaded interview room. The airshaft feeds back onto the stairs and when anyone clomps into the office, the sound echoes up and reverberate around the room. Richard D James, the man behind the mental dance sounds of Aphex Twin, is completely transfixed.
"That's wicked!" he coos. "It sounds *well* lush! Is it coming from the stairs? If I worked here, I'd have this office!"
Tapping his toes, (hanging, wino-stylee out the end of his fucked trainers) to the ghostly stairgroove, Mr Aphex turns back to the ink blots spread on the desk in front of him. We are cruelly subjecting the techno madman to the Rorschach Test, a cunning psychological exam designed to reveal the mucky inner-workings of the mind.
"They all look like cunts and faces," mutters Richard. "And I don't reckon that's my weird brain at work, I reckon they must look like cunts and faces to everyone."
Erm, not *quite* everyone. To Loaded staffer Phil, they all look like
squashed animals, to editor Derek they look like the "dirty papist
conspiracy to break the will of Ulster" and to me they all look like my mother in the bath. Still, the brain of Richard D James *is* a weird one. His reputation as the maddest dance genius since St Vitus popularised the Measles Fling din't come from nowhere. He lives in a bank vault, he drives down Tesco's in an armoured car, he's been known to play DJ sets with sandpaper discs instead of records and he makes the weirdest, most twisted noises ever to come from planet Techno. Hang on, you live in a *bank vault*?
"Oh yeah!" he says as he absently scribbles "mentally deranged bird" on a bat-shaped blot. "It's got four-foot thick walls! It solves the noise and the burglary problem in one fell swoop. I also wanted the karma of living in a place where money comes in all the time. I've earned about three times more money since I've been there. It just pours in through the letterbox."
What, by just doing nothing?
"Exactly!" he chuckles. "I just have to do the minimum amount of effort and I get a *fortune*!
Jammy bugger. Tales of Richard's inspired laziness are legion in the dance world. The classic Aphex Twin story is that when US grunge rockers The Lemonheads asked him to do a remix, he couldn't be arsed so he just grabbed the nearest tape and sold that to them instead.
"That's absolutely true!" he grins. "I didn't even bother listening to the song because I knew I'd hate it. Then I totally forgot all about it until the courier turned up to collect it. So I ran upstairs and gave him the first track I found. Strangely, they never released it. They should've been honoured, I reckon. It would have sounded better than any rubbish song they wrote."
Aphex Twin is the ultimate loafer, a man who'll only get out of bed if he thinks it'll really annoy people. In fact, another rumour has it that Richard actually composes tracks in his sleep.
"Yeah, I used to go to bed jus to write songs," he explains. "But now I just sleep and occasionally wake up with a new one by mistake. At the moment I'm getting into inventing things in my sleep instead."
What sort of inventions? Orthopedic beds?
"No, really essential simple things like Tetra Pak drink cartons: fucking wicked, they are. That's my concept - come up with one fucking lushly simple idea that changes the world and then fucking retire!"
So what's next on the dream-invention list?
"I'm going to invent a computer program that makes music for me so I can spend more time shagging."
A picture pops into mind of the Twin bangin' about in the shed at the end of the gardenlike Rhubarb the green dog while cheeky cartoon birds take the piss.
"I've almost done it!" he insists. "It's fucking amazing! The most awesome program, incredible! You just give it some ideas and it does all the work for you. So I'm gonna stop making music soon."
Noting my sceptical purple Custard face, Richard quickly corrects himself.
"Well, I won't stop *making* music," he says. "I'll just stop releasing it. I only ever released music to earn a living anyway."
In fact, since he started making records in the early '90s in a number of guises (trainspotters should seek out GAK, Caustic Window or Soit: PP), Aphex Twin has always insisted that he has no interest in what happens to his music after he's finished with it.
"I really don't give a shit. I get loads of requests for films and adverts, and I'll let anyone have it. My mates go, 'How can you let them use your music to advertise Japanese lingerie?' I just find it mental they'd want it in the first place."
But by an almost inevitable leap of super-logic, the one thing t'Phex would really like to do is write a children's TV theme tune.
"It'd have to be a cool show, though. But Teletubbies apart, at the moment they're all boring, no imagination. They used to be fuckin' mental when we were kids: Fingerbobs, The Clangers, Bagpuss. Cartoons now are appalling, awful!"
For the first time, the Aphex Twin's eyes lose their natural stoned glaze and he starts to get wildly passionate: "Remember Battle Of The Planets?" he squawks. "Remember how 'Kee-op' had that really weird voice? I saw that the other day and they'd *changed* it! Kee-op just sounded normal. It was rubbish!"
"Oh, it was exactly the same, but the voices were fucking bent! I was
really angry. I wanted to fucking smack someone for doing that!"
Just the sort of extreme reaction you'd expect from someone who makes such extreme sounds. While the rest of the world was making ambient epics called 'Credence Of Blue/AquatiK 3 (Enw'r Cyfrif)', Aphex Twin had buzz-saw attacks called 'Come On You Slags!' and 'Wax The Nip'. Aphex's last single 'Come to Daddy' had a demonic voice screaming. 'Come to DADDEEE! I want your SOOUUUUULL!"
"My music insn't extreme at all!" yelps Richard, clearly appalled at the very suggestion. "I just like filling in the gaps that everyone else leaves out, that's my motivation."
He gestures angrily towards the Rorschach blots on the desk: "And if that comes across as extreme to people, then *they're* the mental ones."
Most people would think playing a live set spinning sandpaper discs to the accompaniment of an overloaded blender is extreme, I insist.
"That was just a laugh, though!" he chuckles, "That's not music, that's just a good night out. I didn't release it or anything. Hang about... it might have been released, come to think of it. They pressed it up on sandpaper and sold it!"
So do you just enjoy annoying people, then?
"Oh yeah, it's fucking brilliant annoying people! Bit I didn't do the
sandpaper thing to annoy people, it just happens, I just irritate them
without trying. It's much more fun that way."
And it looks as though Aphex Twin is going to keep on annoying people if his last video, the award-winning promo for 'Come To Daddy', is anything to go by. It features a gang of children in disturbingly realistic Richard James masks, smashing up cars and attacking old ladies. Nice.
"I think *that* cold have been loads more extreme," says Richard with a sly grin. "much more intense. I mean, when you watch it, you do notice that you'll start to clench your fists ans that's always a good sign. But the clench factor wash't tight enough for me."
It looks like most of my dreams, I tell him.
"Yeah, mine too.." he agrees. Richard looks up, suddenly intrigued, as if he's just noticed that I'm in the room with him.
"Loaded..." he muses. "Hmm... I never read magazines; my attention wanders and I'm off in another world, I only ever read technical manuals because there's no story. I try to keep up with every new bit of technology that comes out, but it's moving too fast. Like yesterday, I got this CD of new software, packed with these state-of-the-art, headfuck sounds. It was such a rush, my heart was racing. I had to have a wank and go to bed to calm myself down."
An unusual response there...
"It was the only thing I could think to do!" he giggles. "I was so excited I couldn't stop shaking. The only way to come down was to have a wank and a lie down."
Mabe you need stronger drugs, I suggest.
"I don't really do drugs any more. I have been getting well into coffee overdoses, it's well brutal. What you do is, you get freshly ground coffee, but you put 20 times too much in the cup. You get such a mental rush, almost as mental as coming up on acid. It's wicked, but you shit your load out straight away and then your heart goes mental, you get all sweaty and really irritable..."
Not a very social drug, then.
"It's good if you have to go and talk to your lawyer, but if you're out with your mates you'll probably just killl them."
Even if he has given up drugs, Aphex Twin still likes a social jar. On one memorable night just before Christmas, James was seen to down pint after pint of the Aphex cocktail, a vicious combination of Guinness, Gold Label barley wine and a triple Tia Maria.
"That was a fucking right laugh that night!" he enthuses, fixing me with a funny look.
"Were you there?" he asks.
Er, no. We've never met before.
"I can't remember who was there, I can't remember too much about it at all. I actually thought I ws going to die that night. I ran out into the middle of the road stopping traffic. See, my plan was to drink as fast as I could, then go into the toilets, throw it up and fool everyone about how much I could drink. But I got too pissed too quickly and just didn't give a shit what I was doing. I made a few of these Rorschach blots on the pavement that night."
Aphex Twin, mad? He's as sane as the next man. Unfortunately, the next man is me.
Written by: John Perry