Richard James aka Aphex Twin also known as Blue Calx, or Polygon Window, oh an Dice Man, or Q-Chastic…Martin Tressider…DJ Smojphace, can’t forget GAK…is a man of many face, many genres, and almost too many aliases.
Aphex Twin is James’ primary recording moniker, derived from the audio signal processing equipment company Aphex Systems Limited while also paying homage to his late brother who confusingly had the exact same name. James is Irish born but London made, leaving behind his backwoods homeland at 20 to continue both his education and techno career. He was an early starter — he began producing music at only 12 and entered into an engineering National Diploma program at Cornwall college at 16. He found the relationship between electronics and music to be natural, organic. His debut EP Analogue Bubblebath was an exploration of the genre closest to his heart: acid techno. And at the same time to further promote the development of the acid techno he co-founded a recording label, Rephlex Records, in an effort to continue innovation in the misunderstood genre. James isn’t a huge fan of labels but if you twist his arm he’ll identify with breakbeat, jungle, drum&bass, ambient, noise and of course dear A.T. The seemingly one genre he’s wary of is the one he helped to create — IDM, or “Intelligent Dance Music.” A term coined in the early ’90s by hyperreal.org, it was inspired by the sounds of Warp Records’ Artificial Intelligence series, which included a few of James’ tracks under secret names. Of it he states, “I just think it’s really funny to have terms like that. It’s basically saying, ‘this is intelligent and everything else is stupid.’ It’s really nasty to everyone else’s music. (laughs) It makes me laugh, things like that. I don’t use names. I just say that I like something or I don’t.”
His career in techno has lasted over 20 years and with that have come 6 official Aphex Twin records — and in 2011 he revealed that 10 or 11 more sit unreleased. His work hops, skips and jumps across the spectrum. 1992’s Selected Ambient Works 85-92 was lauded for it’s “lush soundscapes” and “oceanic beats and bass lines.” It was called the most interesting music made with a keyboard and a computer. The second volume of this was released two years later, this time technically looser, softer. Inspired by lucid dreams the EP was itself dreamy. He came back with a bang though and in 1995 released Hangable Auto Bulb, a wild ride of computer material, jungle beats and themes of childhood. It was his work in the mid-90’s though that got him mainstream appeal. The release of tracks “Come to Daddy” and “Windowlicker” not only got him face time on MTV but also placed him in the top 50 of the UK charts. James has continued his experimentation with electronic music, vacillating between the hard and fast to the calming and ambient. Popularity and critical acclaim aside, one of the coolest parts of his long lived career came in 1998 with the song [rhubarb] which was subsequently used for the BBC’s digital test transmission. Talk about mainstream. Below you’ll find some of his most loved songs, a rare gem or two and the controversial music videos directed by Chris Cunningham.