1:36 pm - 08/26/2014

Aphex Twin Speaks on His New Album, Being Sampled by Kanye, More


Late last week, Pitchfork’s Philip Sherburne sat down with Richard D. James in London for a rare interview about his first proper Aphex Twin album in 13 years, SYRO, along with his influence on electronic music and what he’s got in store for the future. The full Q&A will run in the weeks ahead, but here are some choice bits in the meantime:

  • The title SYRO is pronounced “sigh-ro” and it is a made-up word one of James’ children came up with.

  • Of the several albums he’s been working on, SYRO is the “most accessible one.”

  • He’s not behind any of the SYRO fakes on YouTube but he has seen them: “I saw the first one that got up, it's got like 26,000 views already, so obviously there's a lot of incentive for people to do fakes. It's like, ‘Shit, I should have put the real one up there.’ I can't put it up yet, though, can I? How much do you get paid for a YouTube thing?”

  • SYRO features unintelligible vocals from James, his kids, his wife, and his parents.

  • On Kanye sampling Drukqs’ “Avril 14th” on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’s “Blame Game”: “Is it a sample? I actually don't know what it ended up being in the end, I'm so slack. I know that he tried to fucking rip me off and claim that he'd written it, and they tried to get away with not paying. I was really helpful, and when they first sent it to me, I was like, ‘Oh, I can re-do that for you, if you like,’ because they'd sampled it really badly and time-stretched it and there was loads of artifacts. I was like, ‘I'll just replay it for you at that speed if you want.’ And they totally didn't even say ‘hello’ or ‘thanks,’ they just replied with, ‘It's not yours, it's ours, and we're not even asking you any more.’” [laughs]

  • He’s currently making new music with electro-mechanical instruments including MIDI pipe organs, a Disklavier controlled piano, and computer-controlled percussion.

  • On the Kickstarter campaign to distribute audio files of his unearthed Caustic Window album, which exceeded its goal by more than $50,000: “The whole thing is just really touching. When they reached that goal on Kickstarter and it kept going up—people just wanting to give it money, even though they didn't need to do it—it's like, ‘Oh wow. Humanity is nice after all.’ Fans were just so happy to get it, fucking hell. I've got thousands more like that at home. I should release all that stuff as well.”

  • The limited-edition version of SYRO will include an extra track printed in ink on heavyweight cardstock: “I tried it a few times, and it sounds like noise, but you can hear music in there, somehow.

  • He still DJs anonymously: “The good gigs are always the smaller gigs. The few I've done recently, just for fun, totally anonymously, were so much better than a normal gig. The soundsystem's usually shit, but it's really nice when nobody knows who you are.”

  • He confirms that he was the artist behind the much-rumored-about Melodies From Mars album, which was made circa 1995 and has been circulating online for years: “There's a really bad copy of it on the net. I think I gave the tape to Warp, so one of those fuckers leaked it years ago. I actually went back and re-edited it, because I almost released it again, but then I got distracted again. Each time I go back to it, I realize there were loads more tracks. So it started off like a double album, but I think it's about four albums' worth. So it's really hard to pull together. I just need Warp or someone to come around and say, ‘Come on, let's fucking get these things out.’ But they don't, so it's just up to me. And nobody else hassles me.”

  • James’ five-year-old son recently taught himself how to use a music software program that he downloaded off Pirate Bay and even uploaded some tracks to Bandcamp.


if Richard is willing to help you Kanye, you take it ..Aphex Twin >>>>> Daft Punk imo
wheresandrae 26th-Aug-2014 06:10 pm (UTC)
I can't wait! but lol wtf @ "The limited-edition version of SYRO will include an extra track printed in ink on heavyweight cardstock: “I tried it a few times, and it sounds like noise, but you can hear music in there, somehow."
mistress_f 26th-Aug-2014 06:15 pm (UTC)
esp. since this limited edition is 400$ and you can only hope to spend said money after entering a ballot. like, wtf Warp? anyway, you do you, richard, just give me the fucking music
pillsburydoughb 26th-Aug-2014 06:12 pm (UTC)
FINALLY my icon is relevant!
I'm so hyped for this especially considering the Metz track is going to be on it. But that thing about his son was obviously not to be taken seriously.
deceitful 26th-Aug-2014 06:14 pm (UTC)
wow, excited for this!
crazyspaced 26th-Aug-2014 06:14 pm (UTC)
Wtf at his 5 year old producer son. What am I doing with my life?! Lol I've always wanted to get into that kinda stuff but didn't know people to teach me and the software always seemed so daunting to me. So daunting to the point that I didn't even wanna try to mess around with any of it because I thought I'd never get to the point where if learn and create something decent :/
mistress_f 26th-Aug-2014 06:17 pm (UTC)
the softwares are not hard to understand. you use them for a while and then you start getting it. the main issue is the analogue / digital ''instruments''. they're super expensive and some are actually impossible to figure out :|
timbershiver 26th-Aug-2014 10:42 pm (UTC)
Didn't Richard James start off by making a sound on the ZX Spectrum that the makers said was impossible? He was about 9.

My husband may have made that fact up.
marvelhill 27th-Aug-2014 05:44 am (UTC)
I'd start with Garage Band (super easy) and then move to Ableton. Maybe even take a workshop in Ableton or diff advanced program.
mistress_f 26th-Aug-2014 06:19 pm (UTC)
i can't wait to have this in my hands omg

also, that kanye story is truly upsetting. like all that fuss and then they also claimed it wasn't a sample? yeezy, pls

(and i would die if i randomly attended one of his secret dj sets. die.)
shy_mse 26th-Aug-2014 06:22 pm (UTC)
woah, kanye actually tried to say he wrote that riff in "blame game"??

i'm a kanye stan but that is really disappointing.
pillsburydoughb 26th-Aug-2014 06:25 pm (UTC)
Kanye's team/Def Jam probably had more to do with it, but I'm not really that surprised.
garlicsong 26th-Aug-2014 06:23 pm (UTC)
I'm so excited for this album! My brother introduced me to his music back when I was like, 10 so I have a very soft spot for Richard.

Also wtf at Kanye and his team acting all stank. Aphex Twin fans don't take that shit lying down.
emmy0001 26th-Aug-2014 06:27 pm (UTC)
With Boards of Canada releasing a new album last year and Aphex Twin releasing one this year, my 8th/9th grade heart is very happy.
grandmascorner 26th-Aug-2014 08:04 pm (UTC)
yaaaass this Boards of Canada mention
emmy0001 26th-Aug-2014 09:24 pm (UTC)
flawless taste! :)
phookie 26th-Aug-2014 06:29 pm (UTC)
It's more like aphex twin is VASTLY superior to daft punk in terms of precision, detail and sound. It's on another level (tbh I see him more as an engineer first, and then an artist. Architecture is his thing.) If Richard offers his help, I would be fucking honored. Not really surprised by kanye's behavior though (and his label)
aquaricom 26th-Aug-2014 06:51 pm (UTC)
wow, he seems so nice and easygoing in this interview. I think I remember a past interview of him being more abrasive and detached.

I just started a MIDI course in school today, so Im finally excited to learn about the technology my old favs have been using! Im nervous though because I have no real musical training, and I wish I had some basic understanding of chords or composition.
marvelhill 27th-Aug-2014 05:42 am (UTC)
IA about his change of interview tone. Maybe it's cause he's a peepaw.. I'm in a similar boat re: music. It was cute to read that Claire Boucher doesn't know a lot about chords either, and just cuts n pastes. I'd approach it like that and eventually work with people who are better at structuring :-)
flirflir 26th-Aug-2014 07:23 pm (UTC)
I've been listening to aphex a lot lately and yes im super excited for this album
lavdiaz 26th-Aug-2014 07:33 pm (UTC)
So excited for this.
marshathedime 26th-Aug-2014 07:35 pm (UTC)
Who isn't gonna let Kanye have a sample these days? He is not to be denied.

grandmascorner 26th-Aug-2014 08:04 pm (UTC)
caligari1 27th-Aug-2014 01:26 am (UTC)
So excite!!!
marvelhill 27th-Aug-2014 05:39 am (UTC)
Really looking forward to this!
prophecypro 27th-Aug-2014 09:19 am (UTC)
Their videos in the 90s>>>
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