Boys Noize on doing mainstages: “A lot more DJs are just playing the obvious hits”

When the Future Music Festival tour rolls around in March, things are guaranteed to get raucous at the Warrior’s Dance stage. Headliners The Prodigy have already told inthemix to expect “the ultimate set-list”, and they’ve assembled a heavyweight cast around them. After a succession of DJ tours, it’s time for German don Alex Ridha to bring his custom Boys Noize stage show to Australia for the first time.

The Skull has spent the last few months on the road, with shows everywhere from New York to Belgium for the I Love Techno festival. In between all that action, Ridha has had a few chances to get back to DJing, including a very memorable return stint on Boiler Room TV (the recording is coming soon). While sweaty, close-quarters clubs suit the Boys Noize sound just fine, he often finds himself on vast festival stages with DJs who don’t share his approach. However, as he told inthemix over the phone recently, those situations don’t faze him.

“I don’t have a problem sitting alongside other DJs who play more radio-friendly, cheesy stuff,” he told inthemix. “I’ve had it many times before where it actually works really well. For me, it’s a good challenge too, to go up there and play my sound and rock as many people as possible. That’s actually a lot of fun.

“I think what has happened in the last years is a lot more of the DJs are just playing the obvious hits,” he went on. “There’s been stages at festivals for 20 years, but it’s never been quite like this. There have been techno and house festivals where 20,000 to 50,000 people are rocking to a DJ who isn’t playing the radio stuff. That’s how it’s always been, but just recently in the last two or three years, it’s become more a thing that the DJs on mainstages just play the music you hear on the radio right now.”

As Ridha sees it, his command of those sets, without resorting to easy wins, all comes down to match practice. “I think a lot of the new DJs haven’t got the experience of just being a DJ,” he said. “A lot of names are getting really big after just one song; it plays on the radio, and suddenly they’re on the big stages. Then there are DJs who have experienced clubs and have a feeling for the people.

“I can only speak for myself, I was always doing mixtapes at home, I was a warm-up DJ for many years; you get a good feeling of ‘the moment’ really and how to play to it. And that for me is the most exciting thing as a DJ, and I think a lot of DJs who don’t have that experience think they have to play the stuff people know to easily rock the crowd. But you can rock the crowd in so many different ways.”