This is the start of the new series by creative collective PKCZ®, comprised of EXILE MAKIDAI, Alan Shirahama, VERBAL, and DJ DARUMA. In the series, the members will be cross talking with global DJs and music producers who captivate their attention, about the current state of the club scene in the pandemic and its future. Discover the future of the club music scene, where the opportunities of physical shows have dwindled dramatically.
Vol.1 is a cross talk with the DJ/music producer from Germany, Boys Noize. Alex [Ridha] from Boys Noize appeared on the other side of the screen exuding a positive vibe and looking lively. The conversation took off from DJ DARUMA calling out, “it’s been a while—how’s it going!?”
Now, I live in Portugal, not Berlin
Boys Noize (Hereinafter Alex): I’m doing great! I really want to go to Japan as soon as possible.
DJ DARUMA (Hereinafter DARUMA): Since it’s your first time appearing on TOKION, can you tell us about yourself?
Alex: I’m Alex from Boys Noize. I was born in 1982 in Hamburg, Germany, and started playing piano when I was 6. I have a brother who’s 10 years older than me, and he used to listen to house music records. I used to listen from hip hop to hip house from 1987 to around 1989, like Steve “Silk” Hurley, Marshall Jefferson, and Jungle Brothers, and dance a lot in my room to the music. I started drumming in school when I was 11 or 12 but couldn’t play anymore since I injured my hand falling off a skateboard; so, I began shopping for records instead. That’s when I started going to this house & techno record store in Hamburg every day and bought a turntable with the money I made from juggling jobs. Regarding house records, I bought the ones my brother taught me from old to new tunes; back then, French house and disco house were especially popular, and it was when Daft Punk released their first album Homework (1997)—the first album I bought was of Daft Punk.
DARUMA: You were also working at a record store, right?
Alex: Yeah. The guy at the record store had kindly asked me, “I see you here all the time, do you wanna work here?” I was around 15, but I quit my other jobs and started working there. The man from the record store knew that I couldn’t afford a turntable, so he told me that I can save money by working at the store and meanwhile listen to records in the store. When I was 16, he took me to a house club in Hamburg and I DJed there for the first time warming up the stage for Boris Dlugosch. I remember being struck by his DJ performance and the view in front of me of young people to older people going crazy having fun in the room. That whole experience changed my life, and I felt like, “this is the best world. I love this!” Since then, I started saving money again to spend it on records.
Soon after that, a person who came to the record store asked me, “I’m making tracks at a studio. Do you wanna come?” Of course, the answer was “YES!” At the studio, I met Tensnake (from hereunder Marco) for the first time. Because I met Marco, I was able to release my first record in 2000, under the name Kid Alex. Then, I quit my job at the record store and moved to Berlin when I was 20, but then, I still hadn’t paid off my debt for the Technics turntable. I worked at the store for 4 years, but I spent all my money on buying records [laughs]. After I moved to Berlin, I started making tracks with my laptop and drum machine and started calling myself “Boys Noize.” I would say the characteristics of my tune at that time was, since I liked hip hop, I put a lot of effort into drum sounds like that of Timbaland and The Neptunes, turning hip hop beats busting in clubs into electronic records.
At the same time, I started the record label BOYSNOIZE RECORDS. But my first ever release as Boys Noize was from a record label run by DJ Hell, International Deejay Gigolo. When I started DJing in Berlin around 2003 or 2004, I performed at the same event as Westbam and DJ Hell. I used to go to Loveparade in the 90s, so they were absolutely my heroes from when I was a teenager. So, at the event, I gave them my demo. Then the next day, DJ Hell called me to sign a contract. International Deejay Gigolo is an incredibly cool label, so I was really happy. From then on, I started playing gigs not only in Germany, but in the UK and other countries, and it all just started with excitement…. Wow, I talked too long [laughs].
DARUMA: Thank you! I totally got you [laughs]. We’re going to change the topic from here—the club scenes all around the world are greatly affected by the novel coronavirus, so how is the club scene in Berlin, now?
Alex: Actually now, I’m not in Berlin, and I live in Portugal [laughs].
DARUMA: What! Portugal!?
Alex: [Laughs]. It’s been a year and a half since I moved to Portugal. Covid has messed a lot of things up. Schedules have slid, less live shows, and the club scene in Europe has become inevitably inert. There have been a lot of disputes occurring and many people were vexed by things slowing down, but meanwhile I had just finished the album, STRICTLY BVNKER. It was the same time when I released the single with Rico Nasty, “Girl Crush feat Rico Nasty,” but every show got canceled. So, I’d decided to make more songs and founded a new studio in Portugal. It’s been a prolonged battle with Covid and now I’m in Portugal, but thankfully, I’ve also been able to write tracks that aren’t club music style. Essentially, I’m a positive guy, so I try to adapt to circumstances as much as possible and output what’s best, but I’ve got to admit, I want to get out of this situation soon and just play live shows.
DARUMA: But why did you choose Portugal? How is it living there?
Alex: It’s the best! There’s nature and the beach isn’t far from here, and I think it’s a great environment especially for kids to grow up.
DARUMA: Has your life changed after having a child?
Alex: My daughter is 4 and a half years old, but she’s definitely got a special energy. So, I’m really happy and having fun, and I’ve been able to have a healthy lifestyle because of her. Everything in my life depends on my daughter [laughs]. So, I schedule tours mainly thinking about her. She’s 100% amazing [laughs].
I want to be inspired at all times through songwriting with artists
DARUMA: I was so proud of you as a friend when you were nominated for the Grammy Award for the song “Midnight Hour” you wrote together with Skrillex and Ty Dolla $ign! Would you say that Dog Blood was the source that led to the release of this piece?
Alex: I’ve known Sonny (from Skrillex) for a while, and in 2012, he stayed over at my house when he came to Berlin. We started making tracks at my home studio and that’s the genesis of Dog Blood. In the studio, he was sitting behind me touching the gear, and every time he heard a song he was like, “what the hell is this!” [laughs]. So then, we decided to record sounds together, and released “NEXT ORDER” and “LITTLE THING” from BOYS NOIZE RECORDS. It’s been 10 years since then, but it’s been crazy. Regarding “Midnight Hour,” Sonny and I started making the beat on Sonny’s birthday. When we started the actual production of the song, we had Ty Dolla $ign join for the vocal track. And it happened to be nominated for the Grammys.
DARUMA: Is Dog Blood planning something in the future?
Alex: Actually, recently, we were just talking about each other’s songs. We both had different projects going on, so we were slightly away from Dog Blood, but we already have new tracks ready, so I think we will be having a new release next year.
Alex: They all have different characters, and they all give me great inspirations. Plus, everything is connected within me and I’m constantly thinking of ways to implement my skills that are different from theirs. Chilly Gonzales is an unbelievably incredible musician, and he was like a man of my dream. So, I’m on cloud nine to have written a song together with him; it’s just really fun. I want to be inspired through making songs with artists, as it becomes a source of feedback when I’m making my solo songs. This might be something I wouldn’t have been able to do in the old days, but now I can get good balance when producing music.
DARUMA: When I first heard your song “RAIN ON ME” with Lady Gaga, for us as a French touch generation, we got insanely excited that the song is the same source as of Cassius. What was the recording process like?
Alex: I did the recording with Gaga at a studio in Los Angeles, and I immediately felt we had a good vibe. We produced 3 songs in 3 days. But later, Blood Pop became the main producer and since then the song was made under his decision that the song turned completely different from what we came up with in the beginning. However, I thought this way of making music is really interesting. Initially, I wrote “RAIN ON ME” together with Gaga, and the song was completed after a complex process. A lot of people like to get involved when making music for big artists. But anyway, I’m really content to have had the opportunity to work for this song.
I’m really sad that Daft Punk had split up, but I still love them
DARUMA: I love the song “MVINLINE (MAINLINE)” released from the renowned house label Defected Records. Can you tell us about how you came about releasing from Defected Records and why you chose to sample Black Ivory’s “Mainline”?
Alex: Regarding Defected Records, I remember I was working at the record store when they released their first record, and I even remember about the day it came out. Of course, ever since, I checked out every release they made. If I’m releasing a house track, I definitely wanted to release from the best house music label, and for us, Defected Records is the greatest record label, so I sent a DM on Instagram to Simon (Simon Dunmore, the head of Defected Records.) I sent him the track and he really liked it. And he told us that we should release the track from his label. The sampling cost was also cleared then. I think “MVINLINE (MAINLINE)” became one of the biggest hits out of last year’s releases from Defected Records. We were able to make both of us happy, so we are now thinking about putting out a new single.
DARUMA: JOMMY (also attending this cross talk) and I always play this song at B2B!
Alex: DARUMA, you might now this: I’ve been influenced by French house and disco house, so every year, I release 3 or 4 disco house records. By the way, I wrote “MVINLINE (MAINLINE)” in about 2 hours; I like how disco house tracks can be made quite swiftly. Also, like Daft Punk, if you use a good sample and beat, the track is going to sound good. Every month, I make that type of track, and I enjoy it.
DARUMA: Since you just mentioned Daft Punk, what did you think about their breakup? You’re also a fan of their private label, ROULÉ and Crydamoure, right?
Alex: Did you see what I wrote on my post?
I still love them, so I’m really sad that they had split up—what I saw was the end of the legacy.
For me, Daft Punk is undeniably one of the top 3 artists I was influenced by—Music wise and production wise, from the way they sample songs, and their sounds: they’re just simply amazing. Even for their last album, they had a different new approach compared to their other records. I think they elevated the level of club music in various aspects. Not only did they create the best filter disco & house tracks, but also best pop music, best live show…. Their live performance in 2007 was insanely crazy. They’ve been releasing music since around 1993, and I’m sure they had been thinking like, “what’s our next goal and what should we do to go to the next level?” And they eventually saw the end of their legacy. It’s really hard to approach towards the end in a cool and smooth way. I personally got nervous and wished they had released their next album. But they’ve always done their best, so there are some parts that I understand. You know that feeling of when you are at a party at 5AM not wanting to leave the dance floor or leave the place at all? It’s a wonderful time, but that party needs to end there. Thomas (Thomas Bangalter from Daft Punk) founded a label and Daft Punk released their songs from their own label as well; their music was the best club music for me, and I’ve became a huge fan of their label as well. I’m very sad that they had broken up, but I still love them.
DARUMA: I absolutely feel you. In May, you performed at Porter Robinson’s online festival SECRET SKY MUSIC FESTIVAL 2021–so how did you meet Porter Robinson?
Alex: I met Porter couple years back in the states through Sonny (Skrillex) and later he asked me couple times if I can perform at his virtual festival. He’s a really nice guy and I like how he creates sounds that are different from mine. Another amazing part about him is that he can challenge new things without fear. I think Porter’s first song was released from Sonny’s label, and it was really incredible. So, I was happy that I got to play at SECRET SKY MUSIC FESTIVAL. He created an insanely cool worldview, and it became my favorite.
DARUMA: I thought the VR festival was really an epoch-making idea, but how was it for you? Actually, we, PKCZ®, are also creating live performances and clubs in VR, and we would love to have you perform there together one day.
Alex: That’s great! SECRET SKY MUSIC FESTIVAL was my first time doing a VR festival. I couldn’t see myself perform, but I thought it was a new experience where you can feel the technology in any way. I’m sure the people who joined the festival felt the excitement as well; it was an experience I’ve never felt before. Fans meeting virtually—isn’t that just incredible? [laughs].
DARUMA: How’s it going with BOYS NOIZE RECORDS? I love “Ride Or Die feat. Chilly Gonzales” by Boys Noize & Kelsey Lu, which was released recently. It’s like a modern version of Björk’s “Hyperballad,” and I thought it’s an extraordinary song.
Alex: I’m happy to hear that it’s close to “Hyperballad.” I was able to produce this song really organically. Chilly Gonzales played the basic parts, Kelsey and I exchanged ideas, Kelsey sang, and I recorded that with the Modular System. I’ve singed some cool new artists to Boysnoize Records, expect some incredible new music by BASECK, LOCKED CLUB, VILLAGER. BASECK is like a hardcore version of Aphex Twin, and I’m impressed with the way he records and constructs tracks with his modular style. Modular is D.I.Y as well as the production process of course, but also using effects like distortion, filters and flanger is fun. By the way, we recently released a record of a female artist named Anna Lann, and she’s wonderful. I met her at a party in Berlin; she performed in front of me, and it was epic. She then sent me her songs; they were like contemporary art, and I was just blown away. She’s from Israel and does both installations and live performances, but the tracks she makes as a DJ are also great, and everything about her is just amazing [laughs]. I would love for you to check her out.
DARUMA: Tell us your upcoming plans.
Alex: There are couple gigs coming up, and I feel like I’m able to go on a tour soon. Probably this fall, we might be able to perform in the states and in the UK. When everything is back to normal, I want to go to Japan, too. I think we can go there next spring.
DARUMA: I’d definitely want you to come to Japan when Covid is over. Finally, please give a message to the fans in Japan!
Alex: Thank you for always supporting. I miss Japan. I’m looking forward to seeing all my friends in Japan again. Until then, please check out my music and releases!
DARUMA: Thank you for today!