(idm) [LONG] Aphex Interview

From Jeremy Meyers
Sent Mon, Feb 3rd 1997, 04:24

	INTERVIEW: Richard D. James (Aphex Twin)
		- Joe Silva
	On no noticeable cue or without the standard dimming
of lights, Richard James walks casually to center stage at
a mid-sized rock venue in Atlanta. Both his arrival and his
demeanor are so subdued that when he bends over to poke
at certain pieces of equipment, the audience assumes he's
just another disheveled member of the road crew preparing
for another rendition of the acapella standard "Check, one two."
	But in a moment,  the club's soundsystem perks up and
something that sounds like an assembly of toads rhythmically
bleating is laid atop the audience. A massive drum beat ensues
and a thin blonde kid done up in baggy skate gear next to me
stops the conversation he's having and says "Look, that's him.
That's the f*cking Twin!" The sound of the toads erupts
further.
	Yes, it was him - the Twin. The infamous tank wielding,
sleep shunning asthmatic who figures high up in the
fellowship of electronic music's knob twiddlers.  The Aphex
Twin - spinning vinyl more than a year or so ago so as to
warm up the masses who came out to see Bjork tour behind
her mega _Post_ lp. When she appears later, she will make
the crowd surge and holler, but while James shuffles
booming slices of jungle and techno between turntables,
the capacity gathering hardly responds. A few bob emphatically,
trying hard to rave proper but most just shift restlessly
while they await her elfin-ship.
	"Yeah, I remember that." James says a release or two and some
many months later over a lo-fi transatlantic phone line. But with
some more urging, he'll add that the reaction was more the exception
than the norm as far as the rest of the tour went. While he makes
that point when pressed a bit, you can tell that Richard probably
only cares so much about incidents like an off night in Georgia.
For a while he abandoned appearances in general for a while,
even though he gigs were fairly well received ("Yeah, they were
great," he now admits). Instead he did some woodsheding and took on 
the mammoth task of filling his laptop with the sum total of all his 
repertoire. "It took about a year...." So the Twin can now basically
recreate his psyche-shredding beats and soundscapes
anywhere and all out of something smaller than a suitcase.
To him, this seems massively liberating.
	Which is part of the Aphex Twin work ethic. He insists on
being at all times, totally capable and self-sufficient. He
works at such a breakneck pace that while we're all set to
muse over his new recording (_Richard D. James_), he's
already hundreds of hours and probably one or two projects
ahead of us. Since one record company can't sanely keep up
with his output, James' has gone the way of releasing material
under multiple psuedonyms (Polygon Window, Analogue
Bubblebath, etc.).
	But what he's sent over Stateside, for the moment, is a fairly
compelling group of selections from the backlog. _Richard D. James_,
with it's blurred drum beats and winsome synth tones, is not
jungle (in a sense), but not purely ambient either.  It strikes me
at the moment that I found it most engaging during an evening's
drive home through the country with daylight fleeing fast over
a horizon dotted with frost covered trees and a few roaming bovine
characters settling in for the evening - the soundtrack coloring in
a landscape during a moment of drastic shift in character or mood.
Dance floor material this is not.
	Richard, for his part, has not too much to add by way of 
explanation.  He has no reason, for instance, why two key tracks on
the new album which share an almost orchestral fraternity with one 
another differ in that one in solemn and simply beautiful ("Goongumpas")
and the other ("Girl/Boy Song") is sprayed with frantic jungle rhythms 
and haywire percussion. Richard "reckons" it's completely arbitrary -
two pieces of modern electronic music whose presentation is
perfect as is but possibly completely whimsical.
	Then there's also the appearance of the Twin's vocal debut.
"I've used my voice a lot before on other tracks, but this time
it was untreated," James recounts. Indeed, a shy, almost reticent 
Richard appears sonically naked on "Milkman." It's not really singing 
as such, but more like the Twin endlessly chanting a little two line 
bit of fancy that a child might more aptly recite in his head en route
to school. "I wish the milkman would deliver my milk in the
morning/I would like some milk from the milkman's wife's
tits."
	But Richard is not particularly preoccupied with this bit
of evolution either. Instead, he says he's more interested
in a type of programming that he's recently taken to: "It's
more like putting together pieces of sound than actual
code." When he's mastered this, we shall see some dramatic
things appear in his music apparently. He's almost ready to
have a few classical musicians in to play a few parts and
let him sample the complete range of their instruments
for an idea that, while he doesn't discuss in much detail,
should be quite revolutionary. Pictures will also be figured
into the process eventually, but his compulsion to have a
command over that aspect of his work before he
unveils it to the planet, will keep this under wraps for a
time as well.
	Right now, however, I leave Richard with the minor
dilemna of trying to return to composing without the
hinderance of headphones. Since he left his native
Cornwall for London, any of his efforts that involve
volume have been put down by his neighbors. And what
with Richard's near-legendary habit of avoiding sleep,
this is fairly understandable local concern.
	"Well, I sleep a lot more than I used to, but if I have 
ideas I want to get up right then and get them into my computer,"
James confesses.  Further transmissions are apparently imminent.


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