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Tools of the Trade

Electro-house veteran Boys Noize talks DJ setup, tools, and tracks—and asks some deep mixmaster questions

By Ken Taylor
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Back in the mid-to-late aughts (remember those?), the Berlin resident, DJ, and producer Alexander Ridha (aka Boys Noize) rose to the top tier of the electro-house movement and really hasn’t stopped since. He’s continued to push forward with his adventurous, pounding dance-music hybrids, and you can catch him piecing said hybrids together live next month at the stacked I Love Techno festival in Ghent, Belgium.

And while his production prowess has certainly served him well, particularly on his brand-new Out of the Black LP, Boys Noize’s DJ skills are just as much of a prized possession, which is why we jumped at the chance to get a better picture of how he manages to lay down the funk day in and day out, in the latest edition of Tools of the Trade.

To begin with, tell us a little about your DJ setup.

Right now, I’m playing CDs through four Pioneer CDJ-2000s and a Pioneer DJM-900 DJ mixer. This is the perfect setup for me because I like to mix fast sometimes, and I always use a lot of tools and stems on the fourth CD player. For me, this is the best way to be intuitive and create a new DJ set every time I play. No DJ set is ever the same with me.

How do you organize your music?

I’ve got around 15,000 vinyl records at home. They are organized in many categories, like labels, artists, style, etc. My MP3s are all on one hard drive, and stored similarly to how I organize my vinyl. Sometimes, I have a hard time remembering names, so keeping music by labels often makes it easier to find. I burn new CDs almost every week before I go out to play. It’s essential that I always have the newest tracks or demos to try out.

How many hours do you spend preparing music for an average gig?

I basically I look for new music all week and every day, and I love it!

Do you make edits of commercially released tracks to play out, or do you pretty much play tunes “as is”?

I do a lot of edits. I actually do most of my edits while playing out, by looping things or setting cue points.

Do you typically bring only one or two major styles of music to a gig, or do you pack options for many different possible vibes, depending on the mood of the dancefloor?

Yes, I have around 80 to 100 CDs with me to cover all types of parties. You never know where you’ll end up playing, or what the mood will be, so it’s good to have your favorites from every genre—house, techno, electro, jacking stuff, disco, and some weird shit.

How much does your set vary in tempo over the course of the night?

Right now, I’m pretty much all about 128-130 BPM. Depending on where I play, I do like to speed it up for some Dance Mania-type stuff or slow it down for some rap and trap.

Do you use loops, effects, etc.?

I’ve made my own loops. Basically, I was collecting all these loop records—endless loops on vinyl, 50 of them per side—and then I recorded my favorite ones over the last few years. Mostly, I’ll have them on my fourth CD player.

Do you generally record your sets?

I never record my sets, unfortunately. There have been a couple times where I played for three or four hours and the set was magical, but nothing was recorded. Still, then it stays in the moment and for the people who were there.

Do you have any absolute don’t‘s when you play? Anything you absolutely won’t do?

Of course, yes. There are so many records I’d never play because they are so horrible, cheesy, or just plain bad. I like every style (except trance and country), so I’m pretty much open to playing all kinds of stuff, but the music still has to be good!

When you’re headlining, what would you like to hear from the opening DJ?

Well, I was a warm-up DJ for a couple of years, and I was always playing deeper stuff. There’s always been some unspoken rules as a warm-up DJ, like never play the big records that the headliner might play, never go too crazy, and never play the records of the DJ who plays after you. Also, a tip is always to get the girls dancing first. It’s always good to play some groovy and funky stuff. It’s a very interesting position which I love as well because the questions is, “Is it easier to get everyone dancing or to keep them dancing?”

What technological innovation would you most like to have as a DJ?

A CD player or mixer that is really tight on MIDI so I can sync my drum machine or something to play out.

What’s the worst thing that’s ever happened to you onstage?

Besides fucked-up systems and monitor boxes that are not working, I really don’t like to get cut off without knowing it.

Do you ever miss the simpler times, when all you had was a bag of records?

Yes, I do. Sometimes being limited can make you more creative. But I would still miss all the possibilities I have nowadays, because that is a lot of fun too!

Share some good music with us:

Peaktime favorite:

Opening track:

DJ Koze – The Geklöppel Continues [Kompakt]


Track for when you really need to visit the bathroom:

Throbbing Gristle – Hot on the Heels of Love (Carl Craig Re-Version) [NovaMute]


Closing track:

Anything but electronic music; maybe some ’70s, ’80s, or ’90s shit.