Richard D. James is the twisted mind behind Aphex Twin, AFX, The Tuss, Caustic Window, and countless obscure aliases. He’s a mythic, reclusive character known for his drill-and-bass techno and IDM as much as his ambient, Eno-eclipsing softer pieces.
He was prolific in the ‘90s and defined the decade’s electronic music more than any one person. And part of the reason he’s been so deified is that he’s been hermetic, restricting the supply of truth to the fervent demand of the public to know more about him. But when he does come out to do press, he flat out lies and distorts the truth while occasionally saying a true thing to the point where almost nothing can be believed.
James is back in the news after a gonzo press assault to market Syro, his first album in 13 years. He’s dropped cryptic announcements on the deep web, issued ciphers to decode the gear he used on upcoming songs, and flown a blimp with his trademark glyph over London. He’s gone to great lengths to make his 'comeback’ album announcement as bizarre and arcane as possible, just like his the story of who he really is.
The following is a primer on the most common Aphex Twin rumors.
Aphex Twin has a dead brother called “Richard James”.
The cover of the 1996 Girl/Boy EP features a photograph of a gravestone of “Richard James,” whom he claimed was a dead brother. Rumor has it that James had an older brother, also named Richard, who was stillborn, three years before his own birth. There is no actual evidence from any reliable sources, and, while lack of proof does discount this as a possibility, it feels like a sick joke.
He’s into lucid dreaming.
He has claimed that he hears and writes music during a fugue state of partial consciousness, achieved through a practiced form of sleep deprivations. Though seemingly unlikely, it is technically possible and an established form of living. In the '90s, James claimed he only slept 2 or 3 hours an evening (though other times he would say 6 hours) and, sometimes, not at all. This might be one of his most believed blags of them all, though common sense tells us, while a juicy story, it’s still unlikely.
He owns a tank.
Richard D. James owns something that is very similar to a tank.. So basically, yes.
Many Rejected Remixes
At least partially true
The guy has a compilation called 26 Mixes for Cash, so he’s clearly been tapped often for remixes. Back in his early days, Madonna allegedly wanted a remix, but he said only under the condition that she record an impression of a pig on the track. No word on whether she responded or just patently ignored the request. He’s claimed to have turned in a completely unrelated track as a 'remix’ when commissioned by The Lemonheads. In this case, he claims to have been paid for it, even though it was never released.
He lives in a strange, aluminum building in the center of a roundabout.
While he doesn’t live in the middle of a roundabout, he did live down the street from Elephant & Castle…
He lives in a bank.
He purchased the former HSBC bank building near Elephant & Castle in London around 1997 when he recorded the Come To Daddy EP. He is believed to still own it today, though he lives elsewhere.
The Bill Murray Effect
James claims that he—schedule permitting—will come play local gigs, especially unpromoted ones like house parties, if given a proper invitation. Like Bill Murray’s legendary pop ins, we hope they really happen. There are only positive accounts of this being at least a somewhat common occurrence.
Aphex Twin has more unreleased music than there is music in the public domain.
Unconfirmed, but probably true
it’s not entirely clear how much music in the public domain, but it’s a vague way of saying he’s got a Prince-like vault (maybe in the bank vault?) full of music that’ll likely never see the light of day. Unless proven otherwise, we’ll buy it.
Aphex Twin is Burial
Any time there are two anonymous music makers running around one place (London), conspiracy theories are inevitable. But this isn’t true.
Aphex Twin is Banksy
But a funny thought experiment nonetheless. Both were trolling London hard in the '90s and have similar a jet-black sense of humor.
He lives in the countryside with his second wife and children.
He’s just like you and me.
Richard D. James’ first album in 13 years, Syro, comes out next week on Warp.