Richard David James, known on popular media by his stage name ‘Aphex Twin’, is an electronic musician and composer. Many critics have noted his ability in electronic composition, especially the fact that most of his tracks were composed on archaic computer software, compared to the advanced synthesizers of today.
Richard David James was born on 18th August 1971 in Limerick, Ireland. During his early childhood, his family moved to a village in Cornwall, England. James revealed a lot about his childhood later on in his career. He stated that his parents let him do anything he liked, thus stating that they never really stood in his way when it came to curiosity and experimentation. It was this experimentation that led him to perform the remarkable feat of composing a track on a small home computer called the Sinclair ZX81. Although the ZX81 had no sound hardware whatsoever, James noticed that it made a ‘weird sound’ when he played around with its code that had to do with rerouting TV signals. James would then go on to earn a diploma in engineering from Cornwall College in 1990. This diploma gave him all the knowledge he needed to produce music using electronic equipment. During his time in college, James often worked as a DJ at the Bowgie Pub. He formed a partnership with Wilson-Claridge, who was another DJ from the pub. At first, he used the stage name Aphex Twin to release several albums with Wilson-Claridge, including analogue bubblebath, an album that received attention from a national radio station called KISS FM. James also used other stage names in his collaboration with Wilson-Claridge, such as ‘AFX’ and ‘Bradley Strider’. Arguably, his greatest album was ‘Selected Ambient Works 85-92’ which he released under the stage name Aphex Twin. This album had received attention from acclaimed music magazines such as ‘The Rolling Stones’ and ‘Pitchfork Media’. FACT Magazine went as far as calling it “the greatest album of the 1990’s”. He went on to release further albums and singles such as ‘Analogue Bubblebath 3’ and ‘I care because you do’. He then regularly started incorporating the synthesizer in his music, as evident in his later albums such as ‘Come to Daddy’ and ‘Windowlicker’. Since 2004 James has been busy with Analord series, under which he has released 11 albums to date, with 4 tracks per album.
Richard James is very particular about the way his audience perceives his music. He makes sure that his tracks could be received by DJ’s and electronic music enthusiasts alike. Reflex Records, which is a recording label that he formed in collaboration with Wilson-Claridge, came up with the word ‘braindance’ to describe James music, stating that ‘braindance is a genre that encompasses the best elements of all genres’, thus hinting towards James musical prowess and versatility. James musical influences include Karlheinz Stockhausen, John Cage, Brian Eno, and Delia Derbyshire. Some critics state that he was unlucky to be born in the 1970’s, for his music was said to be ‘ahead of his own time’.