Inside the best week of Boys Noize’s life
“OMG, this is the best week of my life,” Tweeted Boys Noize on 25 March 2013. In the whirlwind days before that declaration, inthemix tracked the DJ around Miami, from beach parties to peaktime at Ultra Music Festival, and found out first-hand why he’s one of dance music’s true all-rounders.
Down with the kids
It’s 1:30pm on a crisp Sunday in Sydney, Australia, and Alex Ridha, hungover and underslept, is surveying the scene at the Good Life festival. Playing underage gigs is not his usual terrain. In the last 24-odd hours, he’s rolled from Future Music Festival in Sydney to a club kick-on, commanding a rammed dancefloor till the wee hours. Now he’s side-of-stage, watching Slice N Dice, a local DJ duo with a predilection for horror masks playing an anti-warm-up set to the strictly under-18s crowd.
“I was scared to go out there a bit, because there were two guys I didn’t know with masks on playing really cheesy big-room stuff,” Ridha later tells me. “The crowd was going insane for it. I was all, this is not going to work.”
Luckily, the man better known as Boys Noize likes a challenge, and keeping the attention of a mass of kids who’ve just been hammered with hits is a challenge he’ll gladly accept (Ridha thinks he saw “a nine year old raver” in the melee). He steps up, cues the barnstorming XTC from his Out Of The Black album, and the underage sea is suddenly airborne. “The whole crowd started to sing along,” he reminisces. “Every kid was jumping and the energy was incredible. They knew my shit!”
Friday, 8:20pm, show-time
One week later, around 9,000 miles away from those up-for-it minors, Alex Ridha is waiting side of stage again. This time he’s facing Miami’s downtown skyline, the hotels and apartment blocks shuddering from seven powerful soundsystems with no apparent decibel restrictions. It’s day one of Ultra Music Festival, and in front of Ridha is a tiered amphitheatre filling up with neon, flashing wands, slogan tees and kandi. Two girls wave the cut-out cardboard heads of Zedd and Kaskade. There are people actually bouncing across the grass with an enthusiasm that may be wrung out of them by Sunday.
As Modestep leaves the stage, on rolls The Skull, the “terminator-esque” podium that accompanies Boys Noize around the world on his live tour. Ridha is dressed in his familiar uniform: black jeans, black tee with a bold coloured print and flat-brimmed cap. Despite his concerns that the amphitheatre’s seating might hurt the vibe, once he’s inside The Skull’s cranium, it’s game on.
While the Main Stage is currently in the thrall of Fedde Le Grand’s slick crowd-pleasing, Ridha favours abrasive edges. For some passers-by, it’s too rattling, and they bounce off elsewhere, but a throng of true believers is losing it at front-and-centre. There’s a magnetism to Ridha as he beams out from his post, one arm raised to greet the next thundering tune. And thundering tunes are his speciality, from &Down to Yeah to the arsenal built into Out Of The Black.
Tonight, he works them jerkily into a full-throttle hour, as The Skull’s eyes flare red and the vast video screen behind matches the hyperactive pace. Some DJs say that transitioning to a live set-up can feel restrictive, but Ridha looks elated to be revisiting his older weapons and hearing the cheer of recognition each time. “I’m not bored of it yet,” he later smiles.
Backstage, outside the ‘mega-yacht’ SeaFair that houses Ultra’s artist dressing rooms, Boys Noize and Skrillex are an incongruous pair: the tall, composed German and the animated, fast-talking OWSLA boss. (Both, though, share a sartorial preference for black.) Yesterday was Skrillex’s chance to bring the OWSLA crew to the UMF Radio stage up on the hill near the live amphitheatre, a small outpost that tremored with bass all day. Today, it’s all about Dog Blood, the result of Alex Ridha and Sonny Moore jamming in a Berlin studio last year.