Alex Ridha, the prolific DJ and sound producer in the electronic music realm, who goes by the alias Boys Noize, has released his long-awaited fifth album, +|- (pronounced “Polarity”). The artist took four years to finish the album comprising 14 songs and dedicated his time brushing it up during the coronavirus pandemic. The artist has further transcended his musical aesthetic with this album, deftly merging his electronic sounds with unique performances by nine different artists of various genres. We spoke to the four-on-the-floor star, well-established in both underground and overground music scene, to learn about his new magnum opus.
The direction of the album spawned from the new sound discovered with the modular system
ーーThe new album +|-, it’s amazing. Especially these days, people seek to retrieve energy from music, so in that sense, I think this album is exactly what they want!
Boys Noize (Hereinafter Alex): I’m glad you like it. I really cannot wait to play everything out in clubs. It’s a great club record, and obviously some tracks work great on a bigger sound system. I’m just excited to play it out.
ーーThe covid pandemic isn’t still over, but are parties opening back up in Europe?
Alex: Yeah, there are some parties here and there, some legal and some illegal. Some festivals are back as well, so I hope things are getting better.
ーーCan you tell us about your new album, +|-? What concept was it made under?
Alex: There are two separate ideas in +|-. The first was sonically how it would sound. I had this moment in the studio in New York: Right after I finished the Justice remix, I found some of their gear on the side, which were some modules that were new to me. So, I tried it out, and suddenly I had this one sound, which later became the track, “Greenpoint.” When I heard that sound, I was amazed, like, “Wow, I’ve never heard such sound before.” It also gave me the idea of the album and its direction. It was a really interesting mix for me. It sounded hard but funky, stylized and slow, like something between George Michael and Nine Inch Nails. So, there was this interesting musical combination that I’d never heard before, and the sound was just so fresh. After that, I got so deep into the modular world. So, most of the stuff in the album is done with modular. After “Greenpoint,” I made “Close” and the instrumental version of “Girl Crush.” A lot of the sounds I made with the modular system became a bit more industrial raw sounding, which I loved because I was never able to make those sounds with my synths or my drum machines. Then, the concept of +|- became clearer when I started working with vocalists.
ーーThis album features tracks with various vocalists, which I think is one of the highlights of the album.
Alex: “Girl Crush feat. Rico Nasty” was the first song I worked on with a vocalist. I was a huge fan of Rico Nasty ever since I heard “Smack that bitch.” When I heard the song, I thought, “How amazing!” So later, I managed to get in touch with her, we met and made music together. I played the track I made, and she sang on it, which became one of the best examples of +|-: You have this very extreme side, like slow industrial techno beat, and someone like Rico Nasty, a rapper, is singing over those sounds. It was like a musical fantasy coming true to me, and that’s what happens if you combine two extremes. It was also how the album’s plus-minus idea came about. In the other tracks, too, you have these far-away ideas, musically or sonically, but they meet in the middle.
Another great example is the track “Love & Validation” with Kelsey Lu, who is known for doing classical music and playing cello in a quiet, beautiful environment. I thought, “What if she sings or makes music like ‘Love & Validation,'” which was another really romantic idea of music that you don’t hear so often; it became another leading concept of the album.
Mixing various styles and creating the original style
ーーSo you took the essences of the featured artists and blended them with your style to create each track.
Alex: The cool thing and beautiful part about +|- is that it reflects who I am as a DJ. I’ve always liked mixing styles, which has become more common than ever these days, but when I started DJing, House was one thing, Techno was one thing, and I’d always thought why [do genres need to be separated]? I wanted to bring everything together, which was always a great motivation for me as a DJ. As a producer, for many years, I’ve been looking for artists, like Rico Nasty or Kelsey Lu, who would be open to collaborating with different music and environment. It finally happened this time, and it happened very organically with them. It’s a beautiful thing.
ーーHow was the communication process like with the featured artists during the pandemic?
Alex: Most of the songs with the featured artists were written before covid. I think “Ride Or Die” was the last one to record: It was in the early days of 2020, and I was in LA. It was also when I heard about Covid for the first time, and I remember thinking, “This is getting serious.” Though I already had the body of work done by then, so during covid, I was given a good amount of time to work on my own.
ーーHow long did it take to produce this album?
Alex: I think I started around 2016, 2017, so nearly four years, which is crazy. I was sitting on some of the ideas in the album for a long time. But all the songs have stood the test of time. I never got bored of the tracks in the album, even after working on them and sitting on them for a long time, and I’m so proud of it.
ーーThe cover artwork is designed by Eric Timothy, and it’s absolutely fabulous.
Alex: To me, it’s very important to work with artists who can express the ideas and concept behind my music. Eric is an incredible fine art artist, and I fell in love with his work, the Bon Iver album cover he designed. When I was in New York, I visited his gallery, showcasing all his artworks, including massive printouts of some of his works. We eventually met and became friends and saw each other many times at festivals and gigs I played with Bon Iver. And so, one day, as a fan, I asked him if he’d be willing to work on my music. He loved the idea of my album, so he agreed to work with me. We then created a whole universe around +|- (“Polarity”), which turned out absolutely incredible. I’m really excited to show our work and all the works he’s done for the album. When music and art come together, they turn into the most beautiful thing.
Techno has an anti-music punk attitude
ーーHow do you express yourself through music?
Alex: Well, I think aggressive Techno is the way for me to express myself. I think Techno has a punk attitude, as it’s so far away from what we hear on the radio or what people typically like, and it’s kind of like anti-music. It’s very much based on energy rather than musical notes and compositions. It’s just energy with kick drums. So, techno culture works very well for me when expressing myself.
ーーWhat kind of impact do you think electronic music or dance music has on listeners?
Alex: It’s like a language that anyone can understand. It doesn’t matter where you’re from, whether you’re from Japan, Brazil, Africa or Germany, we can all meet in one room, and dance together. It’s the biggest peace-love message and the biggest thing we have as humans to unite with one another. So, it’s important for people to go out and dance. It’s how we live and what our bodies need. I’ve been supporting clubs and parties affected by covid, as the governments have been trying to shut them down. I believe it’s my biggest love-and-peace mission to bring people together with what I do.
Immersing into digital platforms and exploring the potentials of NFT
ーーWe’re there anything new you’ve discovered during the pandemic, and are there anything you would like to start in the future?
Alex：I’ve been active in Cryptospace. Last year, I released my first NFT project. I got really inspired by Cryptouniverse and Cryptospace. I’ve been following a lot of what’s going on with blockchains and technologies, but since last year I got really deep into it. Releasing digital art as NFT is absolutely mind-blowing. Last year, I started releasing PVNX, a project I started with Sus Boy, my old collaborator on the Mayday album. We created some audio-visual NFT. At the beginning of this year, I released Boys Noize NFT for the first time. That whole community around it is just amazing for me.
ーーWhat a new thing to get into!
Alex: Once you have your experience with WEB3.0, it will change your mind. It was a great learning curve for me. Also, it feels great to build crypto community and friends. It was a positive thing during covid.
ーーHere’s our last question, which relates to Japan—Are there any Japanese artists you are currently interested in?
Alex: I signed one artist from Tokyo to my label, whose name is Hoshina Anniversary. He’s a great house techno producer rooted in jazz, and he mixes different styles. We released two albums from BOYSNOIZE RECORDS, and we’ve played a gig together in Tokyo before. He’s great. So, shout out to him!
ーーPlease give Japanese fans a message!
Alex: I really miss Japan. As soon as the lockdowns are over, and the covid situation gets better, I’m coming back as soon as possible. I’m really looking forward to seeing you guys again soon.