Born in Limerick, Ireland and raised in Cornwall, Aphex Twin is the alias of Richard James, an electronic musician known for his unique music and often off-beat personality. He has created music under many other names, including: AFX, Blue Calx, Bradley Strider, Brian Tregaskin, Cuastic Window, GAK, Karen Tregaskin, Phonic Boy On Dope, Polygon Window, Power-Pill, Q-Chastic, Rutchkfard Games, Smojphace, Soit – P.P., The Dice Man, The Tuss, user18081971 and user48736353001.
Widely influential, he pioneered such genres as Ambient and Drill'n'Bass.
For James, music and electronics went hand in hand. At the age of 11 he won £50 in a competition for writing a programme to make sound on a ZX81 computer.
An early inspiration was the sound of his ZX Spectrum computer, particularly when loading games. "It's more extreme than any extreme noise music," said James. "I always wanted to make my music sound like a game. A danceable version of a Spectrum game."
He was sent to a psychologist at the age of 13 because of his misbehavior at school. "I was well into setting fire to things and got done by the police loads."
James is a gifted computer hacker, for which he was once suspended from school. If he hadn't made it in music, he thinks he would be in jail for hacking. Said James: "I'm a really good hacker, but I'm not a sensible person, so I'd have got caught if I'd gone down those lines."
James has been able dream lucidly, maintaining consciousness and awareness during dreams, as well as manipulating them, since he was young. "I taught myself how to do it and it's my most precious thing. Through the years, I've done everything that you can do, including talking and shagging with anyone you feel that takes your fancy. The only thing I haven't done is tried to kill myself. That's a bit shady. You probably wouldn't wake up, and you wouldn't know if it had worked, anyway. Or maybe you would."
He says that he used to get much of his musical inspiration from them, and would create melodies in dreams to use the following day. He no longer does this however as it's too much hard work.
After finishing school, James started at Kingston University to study electronics, but left to pursue music. He says it was a "waste of time."
In an interview with David Toop, James confessed to only two ambitions in life: never to get a job, and make music. If it weren't for social convention he would spend all his time making music. "Deep down, I know that I'd always want to be in my studio, like 24 hours a day, every day," he said. "I don't do that, because my friends wouldn't let me. They'd come and drag me out. The other reason is, I don't think it's healthy. I want to do other things. I think I do, anyway."
The "Twin" in Aphex Twin is a reference to James' stillborn older brother, who was also named Richard. His mother was so upset that she kept the name for her next child but forgot about the first. "Aphex" comes from Aphex Systems Limited, a brand of audio single processing equipment.
Tracks by Aphex Twin were used in Chris Morris' ambient radio comedy program, Blue Jam, which aired in the early morning hours on BBC Radio 1 from 1997-99, as well as an episode of his dark comedy TV series, Jam. James had only met Morris once, at a friend's house where Morris had tried to kiss him.
Many shorts by animator David Firth contain music by Aphex Twin.
James started off his career as a producer, making his own brand of Acid House as a way of making records that his friends would want to hear.
In 1991, James founded Rephlex Records with friend and fellow Cornwall DJ, Grant Wilson-Claridge. After early Aphex Twin tracks like "Analogue Bubblebath" and "Didgeridoo" were played on London radio stations (such as Kiss FM, at the time a pirate station), the duo decided to move the label to London in 1992.
In 1994, James was invited to play at Disobey in London. Instead of playing records, he "mixed some sandpaper together for a bit and then played a food mixer and threw it at someone." The man hit in the head with the food mixer asked him to sign it for him afterwards.
The cover of his 1995 album …I Care Because You Do is a self-portrait.
The 2001 album, Drukqs, is not a misspelling of the word "drugs," but just a word he made up. James never makes music while under the influence of drugs.
After the release of Drukqs in 2001, James kept a relatively low profile for over a decade (until the release of Syro in 2014), save for a handful of releases under his AFX and The Tuss aliases.
In 2003, James admitted to magazine The Wire that he had trolled his own fans on Aphex Twin online message boards. "I've been banned from message boards, kicked off straight away for winding up other people — which is ironic."
In the run-up to the release of his 2014 album Syro, the tracklist was left on Tor, a browser for navigating the deep web. Its album cover consisted of the artist and album title, the Aphex Twin logo, and a mock cost breakdown of the album (in which many of the costs are priced at under £0.01). The accompanying press release biography, which also features on his Warp Records artist page, contained a semi-coherent summary of his career, opening with "Whenever one of the most celebrated and influential electronic fartist, Richard D. James can compete with the music flip to influence built."
A mysterious SoundCloud user uploaded over 100 tracks in 2015, quickly confirmed to be unreleased Aphex Twin demos. They were all available to be downloaded for free. Aphex Twin has uploaded tracks in this way as users, user48736353001 and user18081971.
His 2016 EP, Cheetah, was named after and primarily created using the Cheetah MS800 multitrack sequencer.
He dislikes remixing, and often doesn't put any work into it. The title of his remix album 26 Mixes For Cash is testament to his attitude towards remixing others' work.
When paid to remix a track by The Lemonheads, he forgot to do it and instead gave the courier a disc with random beats on it, claiming he had used one note from their song and sped it up, though he never actually listened to the original.
Aphex Twin created two tracks for Nine Inch Nails which on their album Further Down The Spiral. Often misattributed as Nine Inch Nails tracks, or Aphex Twin remixes, they use only original samples from the album; James claims to have never heard any of the original tracks, nor his "remixes."
James coined the genre name "Braindance" to refer to the music put out by his label, Rephlex. He is also credited in part with the genre "Intelligent Dance Music" (IDM), with his involvement in the Artificial Intelligence compilation album released by Warp Records.
Radiohead cite Aphex Twin as their primary influence for their electronic-led change of direction on albums Kid A and Amnesiac.
James once went five weeks without sleeping, apparently to increase his unpredictability when making music. "Your mind starts getting scatty, like you're going senile," he said.