There’s only one rule in Boys Noize’s ERROR chatroom: ‘No Emojis Allowed’ [Interview]
Discovering new music through blogs, streaming services, sub-Reddits, or other online communities is typical in the digital age. Some may remember the early days of online communities through the bulletin board systems of the 1980s and 1990s as the proto-social media sites where digital communities began. As homage to these online collectives, Boys Noize has updated his mobile app, ERROR, with a new chatroom feature and other upgrades. Recently, Dancing Astronaut joined Alex Ridha in a chatroom on the app to discuss this recent update, his future plans for some of the apps features, his thoughts on technology’s effects on the music industry, and plans for future BNR projects.
“Trust me, I could do some cool shit with your phone…”
Typically, interviews are conducted in person, over the phone, or via email. In this case, however, the interview was through the inaugural chat in ERROR’s chatrooms. Interviewing such a profound and thoughtful artist is a complicated dance in a chatroom. After every question, a long pause. The anticipation becomes palpable. Similar to chatrooms in days past, ERROR opts not to notify its users when the other party is preparing a response. Suspense resonates between each statement. With every pause, the temptation to interrupt, to ensure he’s still there is, at times, overwhelming. But, you’d be a fool to interrupt Herr Ridha’s train of thought – profundities take some time.
ERROR launched in 2013 as Alex’s unique take on Instagram filters, and was originally built as a photo and video editor. After over a quarter of a million downloads, the app was updated this week with new features. In addition to multiple chatrooms, this collaboration between Alex Ridha, SUSBOY, and Lil Internet features a command terminal reminiscent of text-based IRC software from the late 20th century. Older chat modules offered users the ability to write code in their interface, which would return some sort of Easter egg or surprise to the user.
While ERROR’s command terminal is more of a parody of its decades-old inspirations, its still functional in the sense that it permits users to enter specific lines of secret code to return a Boys Noize easter egg. The artist says he plans to release codes to his fanbase through his email list, and though he has yet to send any out, he gives some hints as to what these “easter eggs” could contain: exclusive samples, unique content, or even secret tracks. Or, potentially, Alex could, “hack your phone,” he jokes…hopefully.
There are endless possibilities regarding how the terminal functionality can and will manifest are endless; there aren’t currently any other artists in the dance music doing anything quite like this project, so the waters are uncharted. However, Boys Noize bluntly promises, “if you you’re logged into the terminal…trust me, I could do some cool shit with your phone.”
Ridha even claims that, if used properly, the app could allow users “to become part of the show,” though he keeps mum on the specifics of how this would work. When asked whether he intended to integrate the app in to his upcoming Dog Blood reunion show at HARD Summer, Boys Noize also says he had no plans to use ERROR at that event, “until now.”
The multiple symbols, logos, and crests users can apply to their photos are unique to the Boys Noize image. Designed by Ridha, SUSBOY, and Lil Internet, this app features Boys Noize’ iconic smudged smiley face, as Riha’s homage to acid house and techno. Alex says “the black bar is to hide your face or eyes or whatever part of your body,” but why stop there. It could be used to to hide pets, plants, treasure, anything worth hiding. Unordinary and often jarring photo and video filters provide users with the means to imitate some of the editing featured on the Boys Noize Instagram page.
There is controversy at the intersection of technology and music: tension between Spotify and music publishers, Soundcloud rumored to be near the end. For the Boys Noize project, the increasing role of technology in music is a double edged sword. On the one hand, Alex thinks “its great the world came together,” in recent years through social media and the proliferation of smartphones. Production and distribution of Boys Noize music has never been easier, he claims. “There was a time when you could only hear my music in certain house/techno record stores,” but now can be found with a quick Google search. Access to and creation of electronic music has never been so easy.
On the other, listeners today are inundated with so many options to discover music, they often algorithmically silo themselves into existing tastes. Exploring music has become, “almost like a Facebook algorithm,” Alex admits, “you like this, try this.” For Alex, “music is about a culture, a lifestyle, a community, a way of expressing yourself. I find that less with technology and spending most time in front of a screen.” The ways in which artists get paid today is “basically terrible” Alex claims, “but people discover you and you get shows. It’s hard to say this is better or it was all better, but I love technology and am fascinated by it.” ERROR is an opportunity for fans to build community and express love for the Boys Noize brand in a unique way.
Unbeknownst to this interviewer, more and more Boys Noize fans and ERROR app users join the chat room. Many begin to ask questions themselves and compliment the app. This September, Boys Noize’s freshman album, Oi Oi Oi turns a decade old. While he doesn’t want to be “too nostalgic” about it, Alex says he would like to do something to honor his first full length album – perhaps a remix or event, he hints. Other chat members chime in, and Alex slips out that there is a Madame and Raito collaboration set to release in a couple weeks, Raito has yet another EP ready to release, and there are plans to record the Dog Blood Hard Summer set. As the official interview winds to a close, Alex jokes with fellow chat members: “this is the first chat ever here,” he points out. “No emojis allowed,” he ordains.
As a colleague noted in our first interview with the artist, Boys Noize combines “older motifs and forward-facing visions” in previous works. This handheld interview was Alex’s way of fusing the two in a mobile app as his medium: a clunky and cumbersome interface reminiscent of old technology wrapped in an iPhone.
From Oi Oi Oi to Mayday, Boys Noize has represented an amalgamation of the old and the new. Tracks like “&Down” remind of heavy punk rock guitar riffs, but features new age synthesizers and distortion, which all combine in a timeless noise. “Overthrow,” feels to be a blending of the old and new Boys Noize sound, and seems to pay reverence to French electro of the early 2000s. ERROR operates like something old and clumsy within in something new and strong, as the decades-old interface runs on smartphone technology. In this contradiction lies profundity.
Featured image by AJR Photography.