Buried beneath Hart Plaza’s hulking concrete, Boys Noize can’t wait to hit the decks at Movement Electronic Music Fesival’s aptly named Underground Stage.
It’s easy to see why. The German native — real name Alex Ridha — is making his first solo appearance at the storied Detroit techno festival’s Acid Showcase after playing the main stage as Dog Blood with Skrillex in 2015. It’s also the first U.S. gig since his fourth studio album, Mayday, dropped on May 20, so he’s eager to see how the stateside crowd responds to its hard-hitting, genre-disruptive material.
While Ridha would be forgiven for taking it easy just one week removed from his album release, complacency has never been the hyperactive artist’s calling card.
“I just flew in from Germany,” he says, grinning widely. “I’ve been working on my live set and the movie soundtrack for Snowden. It’s a new Oliver Stone movie coming in September.”
As that live set won’t be unveiled until Sonar Barcelona later this month, Billboard Dance had plenty of time to catch up with Ridha prior to his performance to discuss his new record and techno’s American resurgence.
What was your creative approach on Mayday?
The only thing I wanted to do was get away from the 4/4 rhythm and try different tempos. I didn’t really have a plan for which particular styles. I bought a few new drum machines and synthesizers and let myself get inspired by these. The first track I made was “Mayday”. So that kind of set the tone, you know? It’s like 100 percent machine. Then I made “Midnight,” a kind of industrial vibe. The collaborations were all very organic. I didn’t really plan the vocals, they just kind of happened. For example, TEED and I were actually going to a POLIÇA concert before we ended up going back to my studio and making “2 Live.”
What inspired you to get away from the 4/4?
I just wanted to try new things for myself. It has always been hard to integrate vocals into my music, because as a DJ, I don’t play vocal tracks. It’s always a bit too cheesy for me. So with “Starchild,” I basically made this very complex rhythm. It’s not really a dance track in the end. It’s really refreshing to me because it’s still a little bit chaotic and then she brings the calm into the song. But when it comes to structures, I’m always bored by the verse chorus, verse chorus format. But it is the same with basic techno tracks, they just go on for six minutes. So I always try to transform it and make it more interesting with a structure where the listener don’t really know where it’s going.
You blend techno with hip-hop on the album. Do you feel that the current climate is more open-minded to that?
Yeah it’s not like that anymore for the new generation, especially over here. You can see kids playing a rap tune and then a techno tune and I think everything is possible. That’s something I have been looking forward to for many years. 2ManyDJs were one of the first DJs that really paved the way for it. Because back then there was nobody else doing that type of shit. And now I think that people have accepted that things kind of move together, especially in electronic music. It’s funny… some of my inspirations were also those early UK breaks records. And even back then they sped up hip hop samples and put techno sounds on it. And when house started in the gay community and also in the hip hop community, there were all these hip-house records. Like late 80’s and early 90’s, they were also merged. And I grew up with that sound, so I’m happy to see that.
What’s your sense with how the American public feels about techno?
It’s growing like crazy. The underground sound is growing bigger and bigger. I guess all the kids are now growing out of the EDM sound, so first they were like ‘now it’s deep house’ and now from that they’re getting more and more into techno. And you know Movement is such a great festival, it’s like one of the most traditional ones. They’ve been here before EDM and have always been super supportive of the house and techno sub-culture. And you can see it. I mean, Kraftwerk is playing here. That means so much, because they usually don’t play anywhere else. I think it means a lot to have this… especially for Detroit and Berlin to have such a great past in common. So it’s great to have a festival that celebrates that and to see that it’s still possible to throw a big festival without booking the obvious mainstream music.