Richard D. James, better known as Aphex Twin, is one of the most inventive and influential artists in the electronic music world. Born in Ireland to Welsh parents, he grew up in Cornwall. Richard began producing music at the age of 12, and a few years later began DJing as well, at one point teaming up with fellow future electronic music heavyweight Tom Middleton for a show in St. Ives.
After graduating with a degree in Engineering in 1990, James began a career in music, starting up the Rephlex Records label with his friend Grant Wilson-Claridge. He released a handful of EPs, the "Analogue Bubblebath" releases as AFX, a shortened version of Aphex Twin, which he would later readopt as his moniker for most releases. The releases were received favorably and landed him on the playlist of Kiss FM, an influential London radio station.
Aphex Twin's first full-length, Selected Ambient Works 85-92, was released on R + S Records in 1992. Around the same time, he released some tougher-edged material as Polygon Window, the "Digeridoo" EP, as well as the more melodic single "On." At Warp Records' urging, he recorded a sequel to the Selected Ambient Works album, Selected Ambient Works II, which has become one of the most successful and critically acclaimed electronic albums of all time.
At Warp Records' urging, he recorded a sequel to the Selected Ambient Works album, Selected Ambient Works II, which has become one of the most successful and critically acclaimed electronic albums of all time.
James took a different approach with his next album, I Care Because You Do, breaking out of the ambient mold and incorporating influences from acid house, pop, and drum n bass. With jungle gaining in popularity, Aphex Twin incorporated the sound as an influence but took a more eccentric approach, creating hyperactive, jittery edits that took the scene's obsession with the amen break to a kind of ADD-induced extreme. Instead of the typical ragga or hardcore sound palette, he added 303 acid squelches and twisted minor key melodicism over his breaks. With other artists such as Mike Paradinas and Squarepusher moving in a similar direction, Aphex Twin helped define an emerging genre - one that is often referred to as IDM (or "braindance" as Rephlex like to call it).
I Care Because You Do was followed by a pair of singles - "Come To Daddy" and "Windowlicker" - that would become Aphex Twin's closest thing to an actual commercial successes. Exploring heavy metal and R + B influences respectively, they were accompanied by masterful videos by Chris Cunningham, with "Windowlicker" setting a new bar with its disturbing yet completely hilarious parody of hip hop culture. This occurred against the backdrop of the "electronica" craze in America, where bands like The Prodigy and Fatboy Slim were being heavily marketed. Aphex Twin almost seemed to fit in - although his music was quite a bit more demented and more accomplished when examined more closely.
After 2000, Aphex Twin's output slowed quite a bit compared to the prolific years of the 90s. His 2001 album, "Drukqs" was well-received by fans and the press but didn't break any new ground. However, James returned to the underground, releasing a series of old-school acid vinyl EPs as AFX. These EPs, the Analord series, were eventually compiled together in a "best of" collection called Chosen Lords. In late 2009, Warp Records revealed that Aphex Twin was working on a new album.