He’s a wild ravin’ boffin who makes all his own instruments. He’s THE APHEX TWIN and he’s Techno’s first maverick genius. According to ANDREW SMITH, who’s sharing his bubblebath.
WHEN HIS schoolmates were experimenting with guitars and forming bands, THE APHEX TWIN was learning to take apart and reassemble synthesizers and discovering Kraftwerk. He never uses samples.
“That was a conscious decision. I don’t want to nick someone else’s ideas. I don’t take anything from anyone. Some people can shed new light on an old tune by sampling it, but that’s not what I’m into at all: I want to create things that are original. I get so much more satisfaction out of sounds I’ve made up myself.”
We thought this unfashionably pure attitude to the creative process had died away years ago, before this particular electroniker could even vote, but the proof of the pudding is in the eating and in these knowing, market-led times, the Twin’s Digeridoo EP tastes doubly good. Released this month through legendary Belgian label R&S via Outer Rhythm, the title track is already a rave staple, wild end-of-evening Techno which takes its name from the fact that punters used to chant for it (identifying with its digeridoo-like bass line) during the Aphex set.
The truly startling tune, though, is called ‘Analogue Bubblebath I’. This is a beautifully shifting ambient workout, so out of step with current club fashion that the original white labels, which so impressed DJs like Colin Faver, now change hands for up to £90. It’s on the strength of this that The Twin, aka Richard James, is being hailed as Techno’s first maverick genius. The clarity and uniqueness of James’ sound, like that of his older German mentors, stems, at least partly, from the fact that he manufactures his own instruments.
“Yeah, when I was about 13, I started ripping stuff apart, getting a feel for how these instruments work and toying around with customising them. When I was 15 or 16, I began putting my own together. Now I’ve got circuits everywhere.
“My music comes about in different ways. You don’t spend your whole life in clubs, you want things you can take with you to other areas of your life. If I’m making a hardcore or a mad House tune, I’m simply thinking about what I’d like to dance to. With something like ‘Analogue Bubblebath’, I’ll just have a tune in my head and be trying to express it in as pure a way as possible. Obviously, you can dance to it as well.”
In fact, ravers tend to stand and sway — confused but delighted.
“The last few months have been really terrible as far as the UK is concerned, nothing coming up at all, but there’s some great stuff coming out of Belgium and particularly Germany at the moment. Techno’s coming round again. The Euro scene is really, really healthy, with styles like Acid being explored again. The older Acid tunes — a lot of the stuff on Trax especially — are still among my all-time favourites. Over the next few months, there’ll be a lot of good Acid-influenced tracks coming out — people are much more advanced in the way they approach rhythm and melody now than they were in 1988.”
The Aphex Twin has just finished making an ambient album, a collection of pieces he’s been working on since as far back as 1985.
Is it difficult to make a synthesizer?
“Well, not once you know what you’re doing, and I’ve been doing it for years.”
And he’s only 20. “Keep an eye on this one” is my advice.
© Andrew Smith, Melody Maker, 16 May 1992