Photo by CJ Foeckler
German electronic music producer, DJ, and dance music enthusiast Alex Ridha of Boys Noize made the journey from Berlin to Eau Claire, Wisconsin, this month to play Justin Vernon and Aaron Dessner’s inaugural Eaux Claires Festival. This is a big year for Ridha: He celebrates 10 years of his own imprint, Boysnoize Records, and on June 22, he released a mini album of original music on the label called Strictly Raw Vol. 1. Consequence of Sound sat down with him in his (literally) cool backstage dressing room among the trees of the grounds before his Eaux Claires set.
You’re the only dance producer or DJ at this festival. How does that feel?
It’s the best feeling. I’m really, really honored to be here. It’s true that I’m the only DJ, and that makes it feel even better.
Justin Vernon has spoken about being attracted to your work because of how eclectic it is. How do you cultivate your craft?
I can’t really speak about my own music because I started it as a hobby. When I started to DJ, which was before I became a producer, I just thought, “I’m gonna start making my own tools that I can play out.” I do love to produce other music as well.
Your record label Boysnoize keeps you pretty busy, and this is a big year for you. You’re celebrating 10 years, correct?
It’s crazy that it’s been 10 years having my own label. When I started it, the main idea was to just put out my own music, be completely independent, and really do whatever I feel. I’ve released three albums on it now, and it’s been 10 years with a bunch of artists I’ve signed over the years, and I love all of their stuff. I’m really happy we’re still around.
We are doing a big tour throughout Europe and a few dates over here in North America too. It’s great to be on tour with your friends. It’s fun.
Who was the first person you signed?
Housemeister. Housi was my first friend in Berlin. I moved to Berlin when I was 20. I’m originally from Hamburg, and we immediately became friends after playing the Christopher Street Day After Party on a Sunday at five in the morning in Berlin. We met and I was a big fan; he had put out two records on BPitch Control, Ellen Allien’s label, and I loved his music, so we started making music together. Our project Eastwest was actually the third or fourth release on the label. I’ve put out a lot of his albums.
Tell me about the latest mix you’ve made.
That’s my HARD Summer Mixtape. It’s a lot of stuff I’m playing at the moment — there’s some really cool, more rough house-y stuff. It’s always a challenge to make a mix. Especially for HARD, because I’ve basically been with them from the beginning, so I wanted to bring back the more classic house/techno banging stuff.
What’s been your favorite project that you’ve remixed?
That’s not so easy to answer. I mean, when I did my first remix for Depeche Mode, “Personal Jesus”, that was a really big one for me because I was a huge fan.
It seems like there is such an endless possibility for a DJ, especially in the live setting. How do you prepare for a live set? Are you consciously thinking about introducing audiences to new music, or is it more of what you’re into at the current moment?
When I started playing vinyl, I’d pack a box of 60 to 80 records. Maybe you take two of them, but basically it’s like a fixed selection of records, and you’d have to make the best of it. I would make my mind up about the gigs that were coming up and pack the records. Today, it’s basically the same. I think of maybe 60, 80, maybe 100 songs that I would love to play, but then I have a huge backup of everything. I still don’t really know what I’m going to play, so I’m just going to go in and be inspired by the moment.