In 2005, Berlin’s Alexander Ridha established Boys Noize Records. He quickly managed to make a name for himself as one of techno’s most influential DJs, remixing acts as diverse as Bloc Party, 50 Cent, N*E*R*D and Feist – his take on her “My Moon, My Man” is probably better known than the original at this point – and he’s the production mind behind Feist-buddy Chilly Gonzales’ latest album.
Ridha has also been privileged with a special stage for the second night of the fifth edition of Berlin Festival (Sept 10-11), on which he and his Boys Noize labelmates will present their current faves.
The Berlin Festival is coming up. What can we expect from your gig?
It’s based on a DJ set. At festivals, I tend to play a lot of my own music – as opposed to when I play at clubs, where I like to play other people’s stuff as well. For me, it’s always been a simple thing, playing two turntables: technically easy. So at festivals or clubs, I try to improve myself by editing, remixing and looping live. For me, it’s about making the music exciting live, usually by mashing my tracks together in an exciting way.
Tell me more about the stage you’re setting up.
Basically, it represents the label. Everyone is playing. Djedjotronic, a very talented tech modern/old school house DJ. Les Petits Pilous, a French duo. They are wild! There are special guests as well, like Gonzales, who opens with his music. Peaches has a laser show that should be exciting…
Berlin Festival is such a great idea. It’s fun, because it’s a young festival, which is being mirrored in our gig. This line-up is just another step towards something great.
Which acts are you looking forward to seeing?
LCD Soundsystem. I like what they do. My good friends 2 Many DJs and Erol Alkan are playing as well. And I haven’t seen Caribou yet. Then there are Editors and Hot Chip…
What’s the biggest difference between playing now, on these big stages, and when you started DJing?
A lot of things have changed. The way of mixing was different then. It wasn’t that complicated. Now the mixer has thousands of effects. I like that, because for me it’s much more challenging now. And as for the genres played, those who played minimal play house now. And as you say, stages are bigger.
When I started as a warm-up DJ at the age of 16, I played at clubs with a 500-person capacity. In the 1990s, DJs were not considered to be the rock stars they are today. Now the DJ is in the center of the dance floor, with much more focus on the DJ and his music; back then, the crowd focused on finding a girlfriend or boyfriend or getting drunk [laughs].
To be honest, I’d be happy if everything stayed like this. I get to play a lot and be a part of exciting collaborations – basically doing the things I love doing.
Do you have any advice for the rookie DJ?
There are several things to think about. For me, good DJing is about creating something interesting by not playing the obvious stuff. Technically, you don’t have to learn beat-mixing today. It’s enough to know how to handle your laptop: I have a friend who only plays music from his iPod and that can be enough.
It’s important to find your own sound – now everybody is playing the same tracks. It’s also important to get a feeling for the moment. It’s easy to play the hits, but in order to be exciting you have to present a new sound. I used to work at a record shop, where I got my hands on many white labels and promos. I played these new tracks until other DJs followed, and by the time they did, I had put the tracks aside. This is harder today, though: everything moves so fast.
How would you describe the electro/techno scene in Berlin at the moment?
It’s huge. I mean, it’s been the capital city of techno music since the 1980s. And today, DJs move here from all around Europe. I meet DJs everywhere on the streets of Berlin [laughs]. I think that the scene is cool; however, I’m missing the individuality of DJs. Generally, people don’t have the balls to try out new things. Instead they look at what other “big” DJs are playing, which is quite boring. The scene would be more interesting if they did.
You’ve been touring the world. What is it like to play in your hometown?
It feels great not getting up early from a hotel bed to catch a flight somewhere. Then it’s always hard work to bring vinyl to clubs when I’m touring, so my sets in Berlin tend to be a little bit different. And of course, it’s more fun to party with my friends!
Boys Noize will be playing at 2am on September 12 at the Hangar 4 stage at Berlin Festival.
BERLIN FESTIVAL | Sept 10-11. For the complete program, visit www.berlinfestival.de