The origins of Aphex Twin’s Didgeridoo (and its curious link to Leeds United)…
The enthusiastic response to Aphex Twin’s newest track, T69 Collapse, indicates just how much the electronic music industry has missed Richard D James, who, while aged just 46, has been making music for an incredible 33 years.
Back in 1992, the ‘Twin’ gave a memorable interview to Mixmag alongside fellow underground legend Mixmaster Morris, in which the duo recalled their influences, early noise experiments and the politics of ambient music.
While James spends most of the interview behind his Gameboy (this is 1992, after all), the conversation soon turns to ‘new age hippies’, and the origins of one of Aphex Twin’s most-revered early works, Didgeridoo.
“The parties we used to throw in Cornwall and on the beaches after hours mainly got local youths and travellers,” he recalls. “The travellers never had any money and used to pay in grass, and they would throw their weed into it for us. They would play their didgeridoos at the back of the club and I knew I had to get that sound into a track.
“One of the clubs we used to do had this problem that we had to shut at 2am but the atmosphere was so mad that no-one wanted to go. So I decided to make some music that was so fucking mad that it would blow their minds and they would be ready to leave. Didgeridoo was one of those tracks. There’s another four that I haven’t released, they’re too mad.”
The demo for Didgeridoo was famously sent to Caspar Pound’s Rising High Records stuffed in a drainpipe covered with brown paper – a Blue Peter-esque Didgeridoo if ever there was one – before it was picked up by Dutch label R&S Records.
It even reached No. 55 in the UK charts, sandwiched for one glorious week in May 1992 between Leeds Leeds Leeds by Leeds United AFC (there’s the football link, fact fans!) and Julian Lennon’s Get A Life.
Despite this early chart setback (!), Aphex Twin would go on to carve a career as progenitor of a cavalcade of epic electronica and an icon of both the IDM scene and wider music industry. As the Mixmag interview illustrated, he was just getting started.
“I’m working with metal instruments, metal tubes with my own circuits to make new sounds,” he explained. “The first thing I wanted to with my music was make it completely original. I didn’t want to make a track that used anyone else’s sounds, even the drums. I don’t want sounds that some Chinese bloke has programmed into a black box so I’ve been customising and building my own equipment.”
Not bad for a then-21 year old.
As for Leeds Leeds Leeds? 1992 would prove to be their last hurrah at the summit of English football.
And as for Julian Lennon? Don’t ask.