The reclusive Richard D. James, best known as legendary English producer Aphex Twin, talked tanks, tools, and being an outsider in an interview conducted by 26 of electronic music’s most respected names.
The piece originally appeared in the November/December issue of German club culture mag Groove and was later translated to English. James’ contemporaries from Caribou to Richie Hawtin get the chance to fire a question at the cranium responsible most recently for the critically acclaimed Syro LP among numerous other releases dating back to the ’90s. From acid boat parties with Captain Iglo to feeling watched by ghosts on the regular, James offers a rare look into what it’s like to be him. See the highlights below, and read the complete interview here.
Richie Hawtin: Do you think growing up with these landscapes being on the somewhat most isolated tip of the British isles [Cornwall, ed.] paved the way for your musical style and passion to remain somehow isolated and anonymous?
“It’s more trippy in nature. When I moved back to Cornwall after I had lived in London, I had this kind of fantasy about wild, beautiful nature. And it is, when the weather is nice, but it’s probably a fuckin scaring nature with the wind, the lightening and stuff. and it is also trippy. I also think that this feeling of being isolated has formed my outsider perspective.”
Caribou: Are you ambitious? If so, towards what ends?
“I’m trying to do the best thing imaginable – that’s my ambition. And I try this by making music. When you make music and you listen to it, it changes you and then it gives you an idea of something new to do. It’s a constantly evolving process. Everytime you make music, if you’re on form, you should be imaging what you want to hear, which is basically how you want it to be.”
Joe Goddard (Hot Chip): Is the story about you hiring Captain Birdseye (aka Captain Iglo) for a boat party and giving out acid true?
“No, but I want to do this! It’s one of many undone ideas.”
DJ Koze: Do you feel curious about how people will react on your new album Syro, as it has been such a long time since your last release? Are you nervous because of this?
“In a way, yeah, but I think I know my stuff so well. I’m really objective now, so no one could really say anything I wouldn’t have really thought about. If you make anything creative, you have to be your worst critic if you want to be good or in order to succeed. You have to tell yourself you’re rubbish in order to getting better! The only thing that can hurt me is, if someone criticizes me, and it’s true and I haven’t thought about it before. I selected the tracks of the album and made it pretty accessable. It’s one of my pop albums, so I kind of know what kind of reaction it will get.”
Nicolas Jaar: Have you ever had a ghost, a spirit or an accident speak directly to you through making music or while making music?
“Yeah, I always felt a presence or something, I don’t know what it is, maybe it’s just a human conditon, but it always feels like the gods are looking on us and are like: ‘Ah, let’s make him do this’. And it’s really weird, because the other day I got stoned and went to bed, and I had the biggest intense feeling of someone watching over me.”
Miss Kittin: Do you still think you have very short attention span?
“When I’m doing my stuff, I got really good concentration. But when it’s someone telling me something to do, it’s terrible. Then I have to really concentrate. I think I’m a bit hyper actually.”
Bonus question – Skrillex: Do you still own your tank and if so, can I come visit to you, try it out and drive it?
“He can come, yeah! It’s still at my sister’s house in Wales. It still works! Amazing old technology, when things were designed and they lasted forever. So, it’s 50 to 60 years old and it sounds fucking amazing.”