If you’ve seen Snowden, Oliver Stone’s biopic of the titular NSA whistleblower, then you know that the movie’s considerable tension is often highlighted by a sharp, heavily electronic soundtrack. No small amount of credit for that nerve-jangling accompaniment goes to German producer Boys Noize, whose remix of Craig Armstrong’s “Secret Downloading” appears throughout the movie. The soundtrack also features “Next Order” by Dog Blood, Boys Noize’s collaboration with Skrillex, and “Mayday,” from the producer’s 2016 album of the same name.
The video for “Mayday,” which recently premiered on 4Chan, mixes bits of the film with surveillance footage. Raver happy faces peep through the collage and information about spying programs is met with quips like this one: “So if the NSA isn’t watching you someone else probably is.”
Alex Ridha, aka Boys Noize, is in Berlin, his homebase for the past 15 years, when he talks to Playboy.com by phone. Lately, he’s been hanging out with Bon Iver, who is throwing a massive, multi-artist event in the city on October 1 and 2. Ridha is about ready to head back on tour too, with a string of U.S. dates to launch on October 5 in Los Angeles.
Read on for Ridha’s thoughts on Snowden (the movie and the guy), as well as the closing of London nightlife institution Fabric and the state of Berlin.
How did you become involved in Snowden?
I think the main music supervisor knew my music and so they reached out and sent me some stuff—like super-raw, one-melody ideas—and asked me to build something around that or to remix it or twist it. So I sat down and built a bunch of ideas, taking the main idea they had, and I flipped it into something new and built a bunch of sounds and different versions that I sent back and they loved it and we ended up using a lot of the sounds throughout the movie.
It was one piano recording, so I replayed that melody and built other sounds and other parts to it and then, from that, that’s the “Secret Downloading” song that’s also on the soundtrack. They chopped it up and used bits from that version all over the place.
What are your thoughts on Edward Snowden?
In East Germany, back in the DDR, there was surveillance control and spying on people. That was normal and you couldn’t do anything about it. It’s crazy that it’s happening on a much broader scale in the digital age because you can’t really do anything about it. All the companies—Facebook, Apple—they all have access to your profiles. They all have information from you and it’s crazy that the NSA gets access to anything of that and can just go into any profile, anytime, anywhere in the world.
It’s also crazy to see the reaction of the Americans. A lot of people just don’t get it. They think Edward Snowden is a traitor and he’s the bad guy. That’s scary and crazy too, to see how many people just don’t really think about it and don’t care about it either.
You travel a lot. Have you seen different reactions to Edward Snowden and surveillance from country to country?
Yeah, the craziest is the U.K., right? They have had cameras on streets forever and they have crazy spying techniques and next level stuff. I think, when I sat down with Oliver, we talked about different countries too and how the reaction is. It seemed like some of the countries where it is such a big thing, they also try to hide that this movie is out in a way. In Germany, it’s really well-received. People love it. In other countries, where it is such a big thing, the country tries to hide the thing and not talk about it.
What are your thoughts on the Fabric situation right now, considering that you played there before?
I played there many, many times. It’s such an institution. It’s crazy that Fabric is even known outside of London; that’s something not a lot of clubs can say. I think it’s really stupid to decide to close the doors because of what happened. It’s really, really sad that people die of drugs. But to say it’s the club’s fault—you can close every club in the world. You can stop playing music out, because music and drugs sadly—or not sadly—go together really well since the ‘60s.
Fabric, I think they’re still fighting against it and hopefully they will reopen it sometime. It’s an important club. They supported subculture for a long, long time. I think they’ve been there for nearly 20 years, so it’s kind of sad that the government just decides that we have to put someone to blame and we blame the club.
With the reputation of Berghain getting really big all over the world, have you seen changes in the Berlin club scene?
I’m not really up to date with the Berlin clubs, to be honest. Of course, it really is crazy to see that Berghain is this brand—it’s everywhere you put that name, people want to go there. But, honestly, it is a fucking big club, I have to say. It is a great location and if you know Berlin nightlife, they actually managed to keep that spirit of techno and the rave alive.
I don’t know if that changed a lot of other things in nightlife. Obviously, Berlin has been really exposed in the last 15 years. Even in 2003, I thought, wow, this is crazy. All the Americans are coming here. A lot of my friends from New York also moved here, but it just gets bigger and bigger. Now that it’s so on the radar for so many people, a lot of other people see it again as an investment to take stuff and make stuff and make money out of it. That’s always the scary part.
Are people wondering if what has happened in cities like L.A. and New York and San Francisco could happen in Berlin, where it becomes extremely expensive and the wages aren’t going up?
Totally. Gentrification is happening here already. It happened to a few districts here. It’s always, I think, a thing where the artists go and afterward the rich people go because it’s so cool because the artists live there. But then people come and buy everything and make everything their way.
It’s a shit thing and I can definitely see it happening here in Berlin as well.