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Listening to art. Playing with audio. Sounding out technology. Composing in code. Rewinding the soundscape.

Disquiet.com 25th Anniversary Countdown (8 of 13): Aphex Twin Interview

An archival ambient advent calendar from December 1st – 13th, 2021

It’s day 8 of the 13-day countdown to Disquiet.com’s 25th anniversary (that’s 25 as in years). Who am I kidding, like I’m gonna do this and not include an interview with Richard D. James, aka Caustic Window, aka Aphex Twin? We spoke in 1996 in advance of his eponymous(ish) LP, The Richard D. James Album. The purpose was an article I was writing for Pulse! magazine, the Tower Records publication. I had recently left Tower employment to move to San Francisco for a new job, living in “corporate housing” (aka: shared room in a vacated home) while trying to find my own apartment.

Just as a side note, finding an apartment in SF in 1996 was difficult. The only reason it worked out was a realtor happened, per chance, to have been part of a classical ensemble I liked. We got to talking, and the realtor tipped me off to a Richmond District opening coming up. There was a long line for that apartment but I knew enough about the it to make a decision without seeing it in its entirety. I still remember someone shouldering past me in a rush down the narrow hallway. Lived there until 1999, when I moved to New Orleans. Back to SF in 2003.

But I digress. RDJ already had a bit of a reputation in 1996, so much so that even the publicist (the person working for the album) warned me, in an “Are you sure you wanna do this?” sorta way. At the appointed time, the call came. I remember sitting on the floor of this vacant corporate housing, notebook and tape recorder at the ready. We spoke for a second. Then he hung up.

Except he hadn’t hung up. We were just disconnected. But in very long minute between the hang-up and the reconnection, I briefly thought, “Wow, it’s actually worse than I was warned.” Except he hadn’t, and it wasn’t, and in fact we had a really fun conversation.

The point of which is: with Disquiet.com, which I launched soon after doing the phone interview, I was able to have a place to post the full (lightly edited) interview transcript, rather than just the limited number of words the print publication could manage.

This probably seems ordinary in 2021, but it was a daily revelation in 1996/97. Heck, “blog” didn’t come around until 1999, the Internet Archive was founded the same year I started Disquiet (and is located, physically, in a former church about a block from that first apartment I mention above), and Wikipedia five years later.

In the past quarter century, everything’s changed about music, releases, technology. Everything except, for me, how much I enjoy speaking (and, since 2006, working) with musicians. Sharing the transcripts has always been about tapping into that central (to me) activity.

Read the full interview, along with the original Tower Records Pulse! article: “Eponymous Rex.” And while we’re at it, there’s an article about the virtuous circle of Aphex Twin online fandom and an interview with classical guitarist Simon Farintosh about transcribing and arranging Aphex Twin’s music. And of course, there is my 33 1/3 book on is album Selected Ambient Works Volume II.

By Marc Weidenbaum

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  • about

  • Marc Weidenbaum founded the website Disquiet.com in 1996 at the intersection of sound, art, and technology, and since 2012 has moderated the Disquiet Junto, an active online community of weekly music/sonic projects. He has written for Nature, Boing Boing, The Wire, Pitchfork, and NewMusicBox, among other periodicals. He is the author of the 33 1⁄3 book on Aphex Twin’s classic album Selected Ambient Works Volume II. Read more about his sonic consultancy, teaching, sound art, and work in film, comics, and other media

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    • December 13, 2022: This day marks the 26th anniversary of the founding of Disquiet.com.
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  • My book on Aphex Twin's landmark 1994 album, Selected Ambient Works Vol. II, was published as part of the 33 1/3 series, an imprint of Bloomsbury. It has been translated into Japanese (2019) and Spanish (2018).

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