Ask anyone about the first time they heard of Aphex Twin, and you’re bound to be met by tales of late night TV spots or stories of listening to CDs with mates after school. Weird posters glimpsed on the walls of siblings’ bedrooms or trauma-inducing record sleeves in the racks of suburban record shops.

The one thing all these accounts have in common? They’re not easily forgotten. And for many, that first Aphex Twin record or video is akin to experiencing a hard reset on your understanding of music. For many artists, composers and producers working today, formative encounters with Richard D. James have impacted the course of their careers, creating a mutation in their creative DNA that may not always be obvious in their own sound, but is seismic nonetheless.

We reached out to some of our favourites – Aphex Twin fans all – to recall their own personal experiences, from “What’s an Aphex Twin” to, in some cases, meeting the man himself. Most importantly, we quizzed them on his unique, untouchable legacy, and why he continues to influence a new generation.

Nina Kraviz

Nina Kraviz

Techno superstar and трип labelhead

Can you remember when you heard Aphex Twin for the first time?
It was this pirate CD I got in Irkutsk. I thought it was really dope.

Can you tell us about when you met Aphex Twin?
I was mixing records at a festival and he was preparing for his show at the back of the stage.

How has Aphex Twin influenced you personally?
He influenced me in a positive way.

Why has Aphex Twin remained such an important cultural figure? Why has his music endured?
Because he is king.

Tommy Cash

Tommy Cash

Estonian rapper and viral sensation

When did you first discover Aphex Twin and what did you think?
I don’t remember how I discovered AT. I think it was around Windowlicker, way before I had anything to do with music but I do remember how his visuals scared me and at the same time pulled me towards his art. After that, I got all his discography from Piratebay and there we go.

What’s your favourite Aphex Twin album and why?
In each and every one of his projects there’s something interesting to find. So I can’t really choose but definitely my favourites are Richard D. James Album and Selected Ambient Works 85-92. I also love Collapse, I have it on vinyl.

Has his work influenced yours in any way?
He has! Well to be precise, his main video director Chris Cunningham is a big inspiration in my visual/video directing skills. I think that Windowlicker and Rubber Johnny were the most shocking music videos I saw at that time. And that left a big impact years before I started to shape my own visual ideas. Little Molly’s concept is very much inspired from their old videos.

Why do you think Aphex Twin remains such an intriguing and influential figure?
Well, first of all, all the “myths” surrounding the legend. Then, of course, the way he makes music and that never sounds like anyone else after all those projects. And I love how low-key he is moving! Aphex does what Aphex wants and when he wants. That’s life, that’s art, that’s the brilliance.

Silent Servant

Los Angeles-based producer and Jealous God labelhead

Can you remember when you heard Aphex Twin for the first time? Where were you and what did you think?
I was about 15 or 16 years old and it was 1.50am. I was watching 120 Minutes on MTV in my parents living room in a small apartment in Westminster California. The video for On started playing and I was immediately hypnotised. It was so memorable that I have never forgotten that moment.

Do you have any weird or funny stories relating to or about Aphex Twin?
I closed Sónar Festival many years ago and I guess there was a rumour that Aphex Twin said everything was shit except my DJ set in a interview. I have never been able to confirm that but I like to think that it happened.

How has Aphex Twin influenced you personally?
Just mainly staying true and keep progressing in whatever you’re doing.

Why has Aphex Twin remained such an important cultural figure?
He’s like the Mozart of our age.

Object Blue

Object Blue

Tobago Tracks affiliate

Can you remember when you heard Aphex Twin for the first time?
I was 16 and a guy I met through a music group chat (we’re still friends) showed me Flim. It was so incredibly pretty, very refreshing like downing a sports drink on a summer day. I was so obsessed with the track I figured how to play it on piano so I could sneakily “listen” to it when I was supposed to be practicing.

Do you have any weird stories relating to Aphex Twin?
I did make my MSN profile photo the Windowlicker cover. That one got a lot of complaints.

How has Aphex Twin influenced you personally?
Most immediately as a teenager, it gave me something credible to say when answering “what kind of music are you into?” I didn’t feel like I was enough of an electronic music head, not enough in any genre, but saying “I love Aphex Twin” gave me some confidence in music nerdism, since everyone seemed to unequivocally agree on his genius. I wish my upbringing hadn’t been so focused on this constant performance of legitimacy, but I grew up in a really patriarchal and culturally scarce environment. I was happiest when listening to Vordhosbn on repeat in my room, not trying to prove myself in order to have some guys I could talk about music with.

Drukqs was such a powerful thing to hear – piano and voicemail spliced between digital beats. That was one of the earliest examples I had of album curation; all these different things tied in together beautifully and I preferred its involved, energetic rhythms more than the Selected Ambient Works. I got his entire discography after that. He was definitely the first electronic artist I really got into.

Why has Aphex Twin remained such an important cultural figure? Why has his music endured?
Honestly, I think his status as a mysterious European guy on R&S/Warp/Rephlex has done a lot. The fact that music nerd critic types worship him and his “innovations” without giving a single nod to pioneers that did it before him – his jungle tempo/rhythm, breakbeat, sampling, etc – gives insight in to why he’s been given music god status; posh white guys feel more comfortable waxing lyrical about IDM though they’re not comfortable going to a jungle night.

Of course this is not Aphex Twin’s responsibility. He’s just one person making music, and from what I know he is a very keen listener of many, many genres, and from young artists too.

His long absence (though he was working under aliases) was charming too, I think. If you look at “secret” artists now – Amnesia Scanner, perth Daijing – everyone loves the mystery, you know? People ask in music forums every week where Sd Laika has gone. I remember when Aphex Twin returned with Syro, everyone, including myself, was elated, so excited! Like, what is he putting out under this alias after 10 years? I actually didn’t really dig Syro and haven’t kept up with new releases. But he is undeniably prolific, and his ability to produce such a vast amount of original music is what keeps him so enticing, whether it’s the 90s or 2020s, you know he’s been making a lot of music and you can’t wait to hear it.

David Firth

Animator, creator of Salad Fingers and the Aphex Twin Milkman video

Where were you when you first heard the music of Aphex Twin and what track was it?
It was 1999 and Windowlicker. It was voted single of the year by some music magazine so I downloaded it from Napster. I thought it was ok but it didn’t blow me away at the time. Then I heard Come to Daddy and I was more interested in the video than the song. It wasn’t until I heard Girl/Boy Song and Analogue Bubblebath that I was fully captured. Following that I had the urge to hear everything he’d ever made.

You’re an animator – can you explain how Aphex Twin has inspired you?
Aphex Twin modifies his instruments and even builds his own. He modifies musical scales, uses microtones, records his own sounds for drums and then heavily processes every aspect using an array of hardware, often decades old, obsolete, ultra-rare machines. All of this makes his sound utterly unique to him, which can easily be proven by the fact that no one can convincingly replicate it. Every one of his releases usually spawns a few fakes and they are not difficult to spot because it’s either Aphex or it isn’t. This to me is a huge inspiration and has shaped how I approach any kind of art.

Have you ever met Richard D. James?
I have never attempted to get in contact with him. I’m much happier to appreciate his output from a distance. Maybe it’s the fact that I don’t feel his personality could add anything to the music. I’m the same really. I don’t have any interest in selling my everyday life because it’s quite boring compared to my work. In fact, once I read that he creates music out of boredom, which is interesting. Like his world doesn’t contain enough excitement so he brews it up himself. Sometimes with creativity there is a feeling that boredom could never exist so long as the ideas don’t run out. Or at least that how I interpreted it.

I made a cartoon called Milkman which was inspired by, and contains, his track Milkman from the Girl/Boy EP, where he sings “I would like some milk from the milkman’s wife’s tits”. Just that line alone set the tone for the whole thing. Upon presenting my original idea to a friend he suggested that I take it even further and make it into a full-on shock fest, which I did and subsequently got my first selection of hate mail. In fact I occasionally do still get hate mail about that piece.

Why has Aphex Twin remained so relevant?
So many musicians are looking for easy money. They find a sound that sells and then do it to death. When it stops being profitable they move on to another sound and often just get caught up in the nonsense of trying to stay cool and relevant. Then, years later, they return to their original sound and manage to sell it again on nostalgic value, riding it out until they fizzle away to nothing. Aphex is the complete opposite. He finds a sound that no one else does, gives us a small taste of it and then retires it for a completely different one. Aside from that he’s a melodic genius and seems genuinely interested in exploring new areas of sound.


Eotrax labelhead (and Aphex-approved producer)

Can you remember when you heard Aphex Twin for the first time? Where were you and what did you think?
The first time was seeing the video for On on MTV’s Party Zone in about ’93, ’94 and I wasn’t into it at all! It was seeing the video for Come to Daddy a few years later that opened me up to the world of Aphex Twin. I was 17 and still in school and it blew me away. I was a massive Prodigy fan at the time. Fat of the Land had come out that same year and it was a total letdown, so hearing Come to Daddy was just what I needed and sent me off in a whole new musical direction.

How has Aphex Twin influenced you personally?
He has hugely influenced my music making. While I have never really wanted to sound ‘like’ Aphex (well, a bit!), I have always wanted to be as brave, eclectic, emotive and honest in my music. I’ve always liked his ‘not giving a fuck’ attitude. I was sitting in a hotel room last year, about to go to play a show, when NTS were doing the live stream from London Fields. I had goosebumps all over my body watching it. Seeing Aphex melt the place with Merzbow-esque noise at such a huge mainstream festival was so inspiring and reminded me of why he is such an influence on my music. The intensity and the courage to take things into places where they become transcendent.

I remember those amazing times when he played mine and Lakker’s music in his sets around 2011, 2012. They are memories I’ll never forget. Friends messaging me saying, “check YouTube – there’s videos of Aphex playing your tracks again!!!”

Why has Aphex Twin remained such an important cultural figure?
Because his music reaches those places that very few musicians reach. He doesn’t bow to fashions or fads (though is savvy enough to be aware of them), he does his own thing. That’s what makes it timeless for me. It is honest, sincere, beautiful music which also happens to be technically amazing and idiosyncratic enough that nobody else could have made it. A true artist.


Montreal singer-songwriter

Where were you when you heard Aphex Twin’s music for the first time?
A friend of mine introduced me to Drukqs when we were in the 10th grade. I had never listened to anything like it before, and basically had no idea what I was hearing. It was probably the first time I was opened up to electronic music.

How has Aphex Twin influenced you?
It seems like every five years something of his finds its way into my listening rotation again. Windowlicker blew me away when I was like 20 or something; I finally took the time to listen to Selected Ambient Works some years back, and I really enjoyed that Cheetah EP from last year or whenever. It can be intimidating getting into an artist so prolific, where do you start y’know? Honestly I’m still pretty intimidated by it all.

Why has his music endured?
His influence is undeniable. Maybe modern music would sound different without him.

Gazelle Twin

British composer

What was your introduction to Aphex Twin?
Firstly, an enormous poster my big sister had on her living room wall when I was about 11 years old, and I remember asking her “What’s an Aphex Twin?” She used to listen to his stuff a lot but it scared the shit out of me and made me feel nauseous. Then later, when starting University, it was through the music video Come to Daddy by Chris Cunningham, back when (I think) you still had a chance to see left-field music videos aired on primetime TV. I think I was probably more taken with the visual side than the music at that time, as that’s when I was exclusively listening to choral music and wearing velvet dinner jackets.

What influence has Aphex had on your own work?
Actually, I listened very little to his music at all until I was well into my second album Unflesh, and especially at the mixing stage. I think that was around the time I was becoming aware of the communal power of techno, as well as analogue production, which I was working with to mix the record with Benge (who is now, I believe, a neighbour to Richard down in Cornwall).

Do you have any memorable experiences relating to Aphex Twin?
I saw a collaboration he did at the Barbican with the Heritage Orchestra about six years ago, where he had a grand piano swinging from the ceiling like a pendulum. It’s probably the first and last time I will see anything like that.

Why do you think Aphex remains such an intriguing figure?
For me, I admire the way he presents his music. For someone you never hear speak, or even see as part of the press, there’s always a strong identity behind it and a sense of humour. That’s something I always admire. On a purely musical level, there’s a transcendental quality to the complexity of it at times, and it makes for a kind of brain-expanding experience, as if just listening to it forges new neural pathways.


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