TF Archives

Aphex Twin

Author: Andrez
Sunday, January 1, 1995
He's known as the enfant terrible of the electro circuit and he has a penchance for building his own equipment and his own music-writing software. He owns a building in London that was formerly a bank and he drives a tank around the outskirts of Cornwall. He's been known to DJ with nothing more than two pieces of sandpaper and a blender. He's recorded music under aliases like Polygon Window, The Dice Man, Mover and AFX, and perhaps more appropriately worked with Mike Paradinas - aka Jake Slazenger and µ-Ziq - on a project called Expert Knob Twiddlers. His name is Richard D James, but you can call him the Aphex Twin.

This is the guy who, as a teenager at the beginning of the 90's, turned dance music on its head and cut a breakbeat swath through the rave scene with tracks like 'Didgeridoo' and 'Isoprophlex' while at the same time creating a collection of ethereal ambient works.

Fast forward five years.

Richard's set in the Boiler Room at the Big Day Out earlier this year blew a lot of people away, not only in terms of the music he played - which was by turns remarkable and iconoclastic in its dancefloor setting - but for the fact that the audience went crazy and got into it. Anyone else would've cleared the floor yet the Aphex Twin soundsystem somehow rocked. "To be honest, I don't really think about that when I play - it's just what I do and to me it's quite normal," he says. "That performance wasn't any more experimental than others I would've played before or since."

The success of the performance is symptomatic of Aphex Twin's acceptance in recent times. While always steering the fringe and cavorting with idiosyncratic sounds, he's somehow won over the more mainstream dance music press in the UK and is now actually turning over a profit for major label Warner Music with records that are far from user-friendly let alone dancefloor oriented. Rather than compromise his style, these days Aphex Twin is given leeway to produce what he wants and people still get into it. "I've always done that," counters Richard, "it's just that I never used to get away with it before! Instead I used to get shut off or sacked, but that doesn't happen anymore."

So what's changed- "I don't know," he muses. "Because people are into it, I suppose. Sometimes I still wish that they weren't into it - I used to quite like it when people got offended by my music. I got really scared when too many people like it."

Richard's new EP is called 'Come To Daddy', and on first impressions it has a remarkable - if somewhat scary - cover that depicts a group of school children all bearing Mr James' visage. What's the story- "I don't know, actually - it was a pretty good laugh doing it, though. We hired out this class for a couple of hours, picked out the kids that we really liked, and had them running around me. Then we went back to the studio and merged my head onto them . . ."

The lyrics, inscribed in the cover notes, read thus: 'I Want Your Soul, I Will Eat Your Soul', repeated over and over. "Those words were in this letter I got from a fan ages ago," reports Richard. "See I did the track in its original form about two and a half years ago, the same day I received this fucking mad letter from this fan that ended with 'I want your soul, I will eat your soul, I want your soul'. I couldn't make head or tail of it at all, but I thought it sounded pretty good."

The opening track is the Pappy Mix of 'Come To Daddy', and it's truly bizarre - imagine if you can Aphex Twin's early work immersed in Richard James' own sampled vocals, which creates in turn something akin to eclectic speedcore heavy metal. "That was actually the first version I did; I was having a laugh really, because there was never anything serious intended. I wanted to make it as dark and brutal as possible. I don't normally like to use vocals because I see it as a bit of a cop-out. It's an easy way to get across emotion in music, whereas I really like computer music