The Berliner's label released its 100th record earlier this month, an incorrigible double a-side by the man himself that had a melancholic robot make the alphabet danceable on one track, and celebrated the singular pleasures of a certain methylamphetamine on the flip. It was a fitting release to mark an auspicious occasion: two tracks of foundation-shaking, jagged edged electronic pop.
Boys Noize plays for Bugged Out at XOYO tomorrow, and we caught up with him in advance of the show to talk about touring, Skrillex, and remixing pop stars.
Hi Boys Noize. How are you?
I’m good thank you. I’m back in Berlin. That’s where my home is, that’s where my dog is, and my studio.
So where have you been?
I was playing Coachella and a few other things. Coachella was really good. I was playing under my new project Dog Blood. It was fantastic - we had a really great show. It was great to play with him. They wanted us to close but we didn’t want to do our set at that time so we chose to play 7 in the evening, when the sun goes down. It was just the perfect time and the perfect setting, more of an underdog play.
Why didn’t you want to end it?
I feel like the sound of a lot of DJs and the time a lot of DJs play there is er, how do you say it...‘peak time'. So I thought in order to make it more special it was cool to do it a bit earlier so people would rather talk about it then than if it was the end. If it was crazy already before we played it could have been tougher and less fun for us because there are parts of our set where people don’t know how to move. We play so fast and it’s not like the most crowd pleasing set. I closed the Sahara Tent as Boys Noize two weeks ago so I thought it was better to do it earlier with Dog Blood.
Sharing a stage and working with Skrillex must have felt different at first.
It’s totally different than when I play on my own. It’s a little bit more going back and forth between different styles, especially with Skrillex as he has a totally different musical background to me. But it’s always good to play with someone who is so talented so you can just let go and trust they won’t fuck up the next mix. He obviously usually does a very different style of music than what I do, but in a way I feel we share a certain attitude. He’s into different music but he’s taught me to open up my mind to a lot of new styles of production, so I think there’s some inspiration in there for me. People might think that I’m about to get into dubstep or something because of it, but I’d never do a dubstep track.
What's inspiring your music at the moment?
There’s some really exciting producers from America right now, especially kind of connected to the rap scene. For me, that’s very inspiring. It’s funny because every few years something fresh comes out of a country or area, like with the UK there was the funky UK bass stuff and the minimal stuff from Germany, and electro from Paris. But now I feel there’s a lot of exciting music coming from LA and New York. There are a lot of creative producers coming out of there now. It’s been a long time since amazing stuff is coming from young electronic producers over there, but I feel like now it’s attached a little bit to the rap scene and rap beats from the US – that’s always my favourite. The beat scene is coming back and it’s really strong. I just signed a young kid from LA but he’s making proper techno. It’s first time I’ve heard proper techno from LA! It’s so good. His name is Pylo. He released an EP on the sub-label from Turbo and I really liked it and he sent me loads of stuff.
Now that you’re established you seem to enjoy helping other artists flourish. Did you have the same support at the start of your career?
With Boys Noize Records I’m just really proud to present other producers who are so talented and that make great music and help them grow as well. I love to do that. That’s my passion for sure. In the very, very, very beginning when I started I was working in a record shop when I was 15 and the first gig I got was through my boss at the record store. He definitely helped me in that way as he got me some warm up gigs in Hamburg where I was living. But when I started my label and my music I was basically alone. I moved to Berlin and was just doing my thing and actually, one of the first DJs who I met and who supported me was Erol Alkan. He was definitely a good supporter. He was booking me for his club gigs in London and was one of the few DJs playing my music all over Berlin and everywhere too, so that was cool.
How has the music scene in Berlin changed from when you first started out there?
The first time I played in Berlin was 2000 and it had loads of mixed styles, loads of different stuff. I was playing nights with minimal and hard techno and then there was the big minimal wave of course and then after I felt like DJs became very pure about their stuff. So like minimal DJs would only play minimal records, deep house DJs would only play deep house, and that’s something that’s definitely changed over the last few years. I mean when I started playing it was different because it was just loud and noisy and I always had my own crowd in a way. Now when I’m here we do our own Boys Noize Records nights and try and bring the DJs here.
European dance including elements of Berlin techno has had a huge effect on mainstream pop lately. How do you feel about this?
Personally, I’m not really into the sounds they use in those sort of dance songs so I guess it doesn’t bother me. But arrangement-wise it’s a new thing for the pop world to have a break down and a build up. Pop music used to be so predictable, like A,B,A,B, verse, chorus, verse, bridge, chorus, and what the new kind of sound is doing is introducing a new arrangement. But I don’t really know what’s in the charts to be honest. I’ve been approached by pop stars for remixes but I never wanted to put my name next to stuff like Britney Spears or Lady Gaga. I only want to put it next to stuff I really believe in. Like I’m just finishing a remix for the Pet Shop Boys, actually. It’s a song from their new album, which was produced by Stuart Price. It’s a really random choice but they sent me the single and I really liked it.
Nice! What else are you working on?
I’m finishing that one right now, and I’m also working on a new EP that I want to put out in the summer. There will probably be like four or five tracks. I made so many tracks that didn’t make it to the album that I just want to get out there. There’s a new album coming from Chilly Gonzales and myself as well. We’re just writing a few songs at the moment and they are sounding incredible – I’m really excited.
How did you guys initially collaborate?
He just hooked me up after I did a remix for him. He actually co-wrote ‘My Moon, My Man’ with Feist which I remixed, and then he asked me to do a remix for him. He kind of then suggested we do an album and that’s what we did. For this album he came to Berlin a few weeks ago and had written the piano parts already, so he brought the stems and I remixed them. It’s crazy, I have to tell you, I had the craziest compliment of my life the other day. I was with Thomas Bangalter at Coachella, and he was telling me their new album was inspired by the first album I did with Chilly Gonzales and I just, I couldn’t believe it. He said even when they did the Tron soundtrack he listened to it every day!
Holy shit, that’s like God telling someone they inspired him to create the world.
You must have heard the new album, then.
I really like it. I think it’s so cool what they’ve done and I think they’re so happy to recorded the album in the way they have. I think these guys are just so, so big that they could have made it so easy for themselves and made another crazy banging dance-floor album, but what they’ve done is so good and will open a lot of doors for producers like me and other people to get out of that very functional dance music scene, especially in the US where dance is very stuck. It’s cool they’ve given other producers a chance to do something different too through this.
Thinking about this idea of dance and electronic being very stuck, what’s the difference between when you play a show over there compared to Europe?
It’s different. I mean, there’s a similar reaction because I play to kids, but there’s definitely a difference in what you can play. I have to say though there is a difference to when I play in London to somewhere random in America. I mean in LA and New York I can play super long sets and super cool stuff but then sometimes in the more secondary markets, they haven’t had a chance to listen to the good stuff that you can hear every week in London. They don’t have access to it like London does, so you can’t blame them. But if you create an atmosphere and a vibe, that’s more important I think.
You’re definitely creating an atmosphere with the huge skull you now bring to the live shows, which I assume was influenced by the Oi Oi Oi album cover?
Yeah yeah, I take that to the live shows. I was into the skull and the death disco kind of vibe at the time. I had it in my head for a long time – the idea of performing out of the brain. But I didn’t really realise what I wanted until my friend Sirius helped me and came up with the idea of the skull. The good thing is that I have the option of playing live or doing a DJ set, and they are so different to each other. The live show is a lot of work to put on for the stage with production and travelling etc and it’s not always easy to bring the live show to a festival. I’m playing a live set at SW4 but at Glastonbury it’s a DJ set, twice on my own and once with Dog Blood. I’m playing every day there!
Being so busy, when you take a second to breathe and look back on your career so far, which moments stick out?
The first DJ gig when I was sixteen in a proper club. The first time I played I love Techno. The first time my album came out. I’m just so happy I can do what I love, travel the world and make people happy through my music. I just want to be myself, I never thought about creating a sound. I listen to all the same records that other DJs do and just try to approach it my own way. With my last record, it wasn’t really the ‘sound of 2012’ but it felt good to me and I just kind of went with it.
You had a certain Snoop Dogg (who is now a Lion) collaborate on it, which must have felt awesome.
Yeah, that took a long time to do actually. I’ve met him a few times in LA and was sending him a lot of beats over the years but last year I finally got to hang out at his spot and we recorded two songs together. That was crazy. Actually that was one of those big moments. Smoking a joint with him, fucking crazy – he has the best blunts in the world. He has a guy who rolls his weed for him all day – that’s his actual job. With Snoop Dogg he can do whatever he wants, you know.
I think you know you’ve made it when you’re invited to smoke joints with Snoop Dogg. You seem so busy all the time, though - ever thinking about taking a break?
I do like to take time off. Last year I actually took like eight months off from travelling. I have a dog so when I’m home I like hang out with my dog in my studio. We go to the forest, or I love to play Mariokart on my Wii. I actually have a custom made Mariokart player. He looks like me too! He’s got a cap and little freckles and stuff.
Ok scrap what I said before, that’s when you know you’ve made it.