Richard James (aka Aphex Twin, AFX, Caustic Window, Polygon Window) is among the first generation of music makers to use the computer as primary instrument, not just as a manipulation/editing tool. His genius spans various electronic music categories including the ambient, techno, hard core and trance subdivisions of house music, as well as his own brand of electro-noise experimentation. His Selected Ambient Works are classics of the genre, as are his trance/hard core Analogue Bubblebath EPs.
Richard James was born Aug 13, 1971 in the seaside town of Truro in Southern England, and began his musical experimentation at the age of 10 with a modified piano and a tape machine. I spoke to him about his career a few years ago.
"When I was 10 it was just a game - same as playing with my cards, and it wasn't even my favorite game to start off with - just mucking around with tapes. I steadily got more and more into it; I got more satisfaction out of it, and got more and more obsessive about it. I probably peaked in obsession about a year ago and have remained at that level only because I couldn't be any more obsessed. I haven't got any more time."
James was 11 when he bought his first computer, which only had 1k of memory. Every time he would play a different game, he would have to reprogram it into the hardrive. He became so good at memorizing the programs that he figured out how to program the computer itself.
"I started writing my own software and games and such," he says. "I even wrote a music program; it didn't have any sound to it, but it won second place in a magazine software competition and I got 50 quid. I found this machine code that detuned the TV signal, and you get this really stupid noise out it. I did it on the keyboard and so I had like ten notes, but they were just all fucked up frequencies from the TV."