We go deep on Grant Wilson-Claridge and Richard D. James's trailblazing record label.
"Grant and I met at The Bowgie club in Cornwall," James tells me over email. "Before either of us started DJing we both loved going to see Paul Guntrip (RIP) DJ there. Hearing all these beautifully bassy tracks he used to play was a massive influence. It was a combination of brilliant tunes, lush Turbosound, lush location on the cliffs in Cornwall and top early ravers, full of spirit. There was also a rave scene in Cornwall before Rephlex started, which also contributed to its beginnings."
Rephlex carried status from an early stage thanks to the notoriety of James' music as Aphex Twin. A significant portion of his catalogue appeared on the label during its tenure.
"[Founding Rephlex] just seemed like the obvious thing to do," says James. "Grant had a bit of money from when his parents died and he amazingly wanted to invest some of it in a record label. Everyone I knew, including myself, was totally skint, so it was a magic combination and tantalising opportunity. Grant also is a very funny dude and was always awesome to hang out with. Pretty much whenever I'd go to the cinema with him, the quiet bit in the dark just before the film would start, Grant used to shout out 'REPHLEX.' He was also one of the first few people to give me encouragement. He was passionate about music and I think really liked my music, and after years of mostly listening to it on my own or with a very few select old friends, it was very inspiring to get genuinely enthusiastic reactions."
James and Wilson-Claridge soon moved from Cornwall to London, and set about releasing records from previously unknown producers breaking new ground in electronic music.
"I never planned on having a community but it did just happen," says James. "I did however plan on being a magnet for demos. I knew it would attract interesting people and I knew we would judge it in a way other labels just weren't doing. Bedroom producers were definitely not taken very seriously, and being one myself I was genuinely interested to seek out others."
From the start there was an air of mystique around Rephlex. Its impish sense of humour seemed to hint at a social scene at the heart of the label. Even in press releases, like their "manifesto" from 1993, they left hints at obscure releases which still drive fans mad to this day. The reality was that some of these early obscurities were limited white label pressings of perhaps 100 copies, sold directly to record shops. Recognising the value in not making everything widely available, Rephlex nurtured an aloof identity that continues to this day.
It's worth noting that many of Rephlex's central figures preferred not to comment for this article. Some said they weren't interested in reflecting on the past. Others kept their reasons to themselves, or didn't respond at all. Those that have contributed have fed into the air of unconventionality that hovers around Rephlex. It's a tangled tale made up of bold characters with different takes on the label and its legacy, all fiercely passionate about their craft and unanimous in their opinion that Rephlex was indeed the real deal.
"Rephlex was a safe space of sorts," says Bogdan Raczynski, who released a number of albums and EPs through the label during the '00s. "We geeks and pissants clamored to be a part of this musical wave which rewarded musical honesty. That the sound was wrapped up in squelch or FM tones or shitty samples or hot on the heels of ecstasy was beside the point. Rephlex was a joyful typhoon, a warm catastrophe. We were loving miscreants and smiling manglers, bent not on fucking shit up so much as tearing shit down to the bones, in the hopes of extracting every last possible beautiful ounce of sincere sound."
Throughout most of its history, Rephlex operated out of a house in North London. Self-professed cynic and breakcore producer DJ Scud remembers visiting this spot and being satisfied that it was a truly DIY operation, one James and Wilson-Claridge "lived and breathed." In another house round the corner, Ed Upton, the core Rephlex artist best known as DMX Krew, lived with a bunch of other people who either released on or worked for the label.
"It was the only time in my life I felt like being part of a gang or social group," says Upton. "We all used to live in Arnos Grove, and I lived in a flat with two of the guys that worked in the office at Rephlex and Grant lived over the road and had his office there. We all lived in the same area for probably about eight or nine years. We used to hang out and listen to music together. It was nice."
Kevin Martin, AKA The Bug, spoke fondly about his experiences in the Rephlex orbit, but also said the label was somewhat insular, made up of long-time friends "with their own in-jokes and signifiers." This social core spilled out into the label's events. From tours of Japan and Australia to raves in the Dead Sea, there were all kinds of adventures on the road for the Rephlex roster. After their formative years DJing at The Bowgie, the crew threw parties elsewhere in Cornwall, namely at the Sandsifter and Falmouth Rugby Club. Far removed from the hype of the UK's big cities, these spaces gave James and the rest of the Rephlex roster freedom to DJ in a relaxed manner not possible elsewhere.
"I did go to a party at the Sandsifter," recalls Upton. "It was just going to a dance party in a fairly remote place. It wasn't full of cool London people. It was just anyone around who was interested in having a rave. Richard still quite often does unannounced gigs in Cornwall at the local rugby club or whatever. Just no one tells you about them."
"I love Cornish raves," says James. "Still go to 'em. Always different."
Most infamous though were the RepHresh parties, which initially took place at a small venue at the back of Heaven in central London called Soundshaft. Between 1997 and 1998, these monthly events featured a revolving cast of the core braindance alumni.
"Soundshaft was amazing," says Upton. "It used to have strobes all the way around the top of the walls just below the ceiling, that went off one after the other. It wasn't especially big. It was three quid to get in, and once Grant had covered the cost of renting it he just let people in. I can remember Madonna coming down and sitting next to me at RepHresh. I couldn't think of anything cool to say to her, so I don't have an anecdote to tell you unfortunately, but she was definitely there with a load of muscly men. Apparently Kylie [Minogue] came in the following month but I was away."
At their parties and in their records, Rephlex had the feel of a few mates larking about and sharing odd abstractions of dance music. And why not? Looking back now, though, five years after the label ceased operation, it's remarkable how much music they put out (well over 200 releases), the sheer range it covered, and the overall standard of quality. At times it sounded deadly serious. At others, like brilliant technicians having a laugh. And for every Rewind! there was equal credence given to experimental music bordering on the academic. You couldn't even call Rephlex's A&R attitude dualistic. They simply put out whatever took their fancy, without particular heed to what the wider world thought.
It would take a much longer piece to pick apart every interesting nuance of the Rephlex catalogue, but here are a few identifiable threads that helped define the spirit of one of the most singular electronic music labels there ever has been.
Most accounts suggest Richard D. James and Grant Wilson-Claridge first met through their alternating residencies at low-key Cornish club The Bowgie. Wilson-Claridge was intrigued by the music James was playing, which turned out to be a lot of his own early productions, and the pair founded Rephlex to help carry this music and provide a source of records for the rave culture emerging in a remote part of the country. By 1991 James' career was already taking off, with the release of The Analogue Bubblebath on Devon label Mighty Force Records, with breakthrough releases on R&S and Warp not far off. Rephlex launched in '91 with Bradley's Beat by Brad Strider, an early alias James used for just one other record. Within a year he followed it up with Joyrex J4 and Joyrex J5 as Caustic Window. In '93, he delivered Analogue Bubblebath Vol. 3 as AFX (presumably a name used to swerve label wranglings from the upsurge in Aphex Twin material appearing elsewhere).
Many of James' most prominent LPs came out on Warp and R&S. His releases on Rephlex represent the wilder, rougher corners of his catalogue. There are test-press-only ghosts such as Analogue Bubblebath 5 and Melodies From Mars, or the infamous Caustic Window LP, once purchased via Kickstarter for $46,300. James returned to outboard production methods for the Analord series in 2005, which were presented across a lavish 11-vinyl run and a limited leather binder to house them all. The binder was expensive, and therefore divisive, but it's indicative of Rephlex's attitude that they compensated 20 customers whose binders were delayed with a free white-label of Analogue Bubblebath 5 (which has fetched as much as £1000 on Discogs).
"It's a bit hard to take criticism sometimes as quite a lot of folk thought that we were constantly rinsing it," says James, "but we lost money on many of the releases as they were so expensive to make, like the Analord binder. We had to charge loads for that and still lost money."
Seven years before James released Syro on Warp—his first Aphex Twin album since 2001's Drukqs—Rephlex put out The Tuss. In some ways a close cousin of the sound he presented on Syro, it's got a more rugged finish without compromising on the mind-boggling programming and sound design acrobatics. If the Selected Ambient Works albums and all the other classics form the most respected end of the Aphex Twin mythology, his releases on Rephlex act as a more direct line into his artistic psyche, where records can be pulled at the last minute and edgy experiments get free reign.
"Since Rob Mitchell from Warp died, nobody has ever said, 'Don't release this or that,'" James says. "Rob was funny as fuck. I remember when I gave him SAW2, he hadn't heard any of the tracks before and was straight on the phone going, 'What the fuck is this? It's just some synths with tons of reverb on it.' I like cheeky opinions like this. But when the A&R man is me, it is different for sure."
In its earliest incarnation, Rephlex was a label responding to rave culture. As Wilson-Claridge and James explained to Colin Dale during a radio interview on Kiss FM in 1993, they were influenced by acid house but felt like the sound had gone "a bit quiet," and they didn't want to see it fizzle out. 26 years later, it's safe to say their prayers went answered. As well as James' own strains of fierce acid techno, Rephlex carried a lot of rampant 303 abuse over the years. One of the key figures in this side of the label's sound was Mike Dred, who, as The Kosmik Kommando, lent his talent to many early Rephlex records.
Some of Rephlex's finest acid appeared on the Universal Indicator releases, another one of James' projects. Billed as "innovations in the dynamics of acid," they are as raw and direct as you could ever ask acid techno to be.
"Universal Indicator records had been brewing up in me since I had listened to just about every acid record ever released," says James. "I was and still am pretty obsessed with that late '80s acid period, '87 to '89."
Plenty more acid came out on Rephlex, from explicit squelchy stuff like The Railway Raver to foundational reissue material from 808 State and Stakker, plus more subtly wielded 303s embedded in tracks with a broader sound palette.
The Drexciya Connection
Rephlex was the first European label to release music from James Stinson and Gerald Donald's most fabled project, Drexciya. In a Red Bull Music Academy interview last year, Underground Resistance's 'Mad' Mike Banks recounted how the early Drexciya records were a hard sell outside of Detroit until Rephlex took an interest. Drexciya 3 – Molecular Enhancement represents the harder edge of the early Drexciya sound, where the innate funk of the beats is offset by abrasive synth wriggles with a distinctly dystopian slant. It's not hard to see why it appealed to Rephlex.
"I didn't immediately like Drexciya 'cos I was passionate about Kraftwerk and mistakenly wrote it off as a rip off," James admits, "but I didn't take long to work out they were just as passionate about it as me, and it was fucking excellent and I was wrong. They were just showing their passion directly, but bringing a lot more to the table."
This release set the tone for Stinson and Donald's ongoing relationship with Rephlex. In the years leading up to his death in 2002, Stinson released a number of solo records, such as The Other People Place's Lifestyles Of The Laptop Café and The Opening Of The Cerebral Gate as Transllusion. Arriving just one month after his death, L.I.F.E. and its accompanying Third Eye EP on Rephlex came bearing the poignant message: "Life is fast ending—so live!" Compared to the first Transllusion album, L.I.F.E. has an eerie, subdued quality and ranks amongst Stinson's most adventurous work.
Donald continued to deliver some of his more experimental projects to Rephlex, including Dopplereffekt. After the trailblazing android funk of its early material, gathered on the Gesamtkunstwerk compilation on International Deejay Gigolos, Dopplereffekt headed in increasingly abstract directions. Appearing on Rephlex in 2007, Calabi Yau Space might have startled anyone expecting the austere electro of "Pornoactress," but its largely beatless mode left ample space for astounding sound design. It's also worth digging into his Arpanet and Zwischenwelt releases on Rephlex, the latter in particular being an overlooked gem from 2011 recorded in collaboration with Susana Correira, Beta Evers and Penelope Martin.
"I of course absolutely adore everything by Drexciya," James says. "When James Stinson died I was so totally gutted, but Gerald Donald did the impossible and took their music to somewhere else equally as amazing if not even better. Dude has been churning out classic after classic. I don't know what we would have done without him. You can almost take him for granted but that would be a huge mistake."
Beyond the founding fathers of Drexciya, Rephlex's adventures in the aquazone extended to a couple of albums from Sherard Ingram, AKA DJ Stingray, under his Urban Tribe alias. Again, the strains of electro on Authorized Clinical Trials and Acceptable Side Effects are bold and uncompromising in their futuristic attitude. Nowadays you'd expect nothing less from Stingray, who's become something of a household name, but in 2006 his notoriety was reserved for the most avid followers of Detroit techno and electro.
At the heart of Rephlex was a love of experimental electronic music that took its cues from the house and techno explosion and experimented with just how far the sound and technology could be pushed. Braindance feels like a spin on the IDM tag—a more jovial celebration of party music that messed with your mind rather than a pretentious supposition of the intelligence required to appreciate it. It's an ethic that has been carried through and immortalised in raves like Bangface.
Stylistically, braindance spans many tempos and sound sources, and there were scores of artists on Rephlex who fit this loose term. In the early years, these included Chris Jeffs, initially as Kinesthesia, and more prominently as Cylob.
Rephlex was also the launch pad for Mike Paradinas and his µ-Ziq alias in 1993. Paradinas went on to start Planet Mu, a label that has carved its own path through electronic music over the past 25 years. His first release, Tango N' Vectif, was actually recorded with former bandmate Francis Naughton, who soon left Paradinas to his own devices. Bluff Limbo followed a year later, before Paradinas turned his attention to Planet Mu.
Jazz-fusion junglist Squarepusher could fairly be considered a braindance artist too. After a debut turn on Brighton label Spymania, he was quickly snapped up by Rephlex for the evergreen Feed Me Weird Things album, which acted as a springboard for his leap to Warp Records, where's he remained since 1997. While his style has changed over the years, his early work was full of rave's rabid energy and a gift for sweet lashings of melody, with plenty of slap bass thrown in for good measure. Rephlex also carried a valuable cargo of his early 'ardcore experiments under the name Chaos A.D.
"It felt right for [Tom] to go to Warp somehow," says James. "We drove around the Cornish lanes a lot listening to those first Squarepusher demos. Man, they were just so different at the time, so accomplished for someone so young. It was like putting a million volts across my lobes first checking his stuff out."
The same year Feed Me Weird Things was released, Rephlex helped introduce Ed Upton to the world as DMX Krew. While his music was rooted in a more pure, throwback style of electro compared to some of the braindance producers, his melodious approach and creative arc from debut album Sound Of The Street makes him a central figure in Rephlex's braindance troop.
A fan of Rephlex since it began, Upton had previously been sending them demo tapes of acid techno emulating James and Mike Dred. "They didn't call me about my demos," says Upton. "I did a record with another label and I put my phone number on that, and then Grant called me and said, 'I recognise your name from the demo tapes you send me. I just wanted to say nice one for putting a record out,' and I went, 'Give me a record deal then.' I had a new sound that I sent him and that was more interesting to them. They never were interested in putting out clones of Aphex Twin."
Channeling the electro-pop of Freeez and Paul Hardcastle, which Upton had grown up on, Sound Of The Street was raw in its execution and charmingly naïve, but it was a starting point from which DMX Krew evolved with each successive album, eventually launching his own electro label, Breakin'.
"One time I showed Grant these pretty amateurish but cool tunes Mandroid sent me," Upton says. "I felt they should be more polished, and Grant said, 'Just release them, because if you do he'll buzz so much it'll make his year, and then he'll give you his next tracks which are going to be better.' And looking back I realise that's what he did with Sound Of The Street. It's rough round the edges to say the least, but he could see something that was worth encouraging, so he encouraged it."
Other braindance alumni include the likes of Global Goon, Bochum Welt and Ceephax Acid Crew, but in sheer volume of contribution to Rephlex and the whole idea of braindance, it would be remiss to overlook Aleksi Perälä. Hailing from Finland, Perälä initially appeared in 1999 as Ovuca with a trio of albums that led quickly onto the development of Astrobotnia, a project that embodies braindance at its most elegant and accomplished.
There was a brief hiatus before he returned under his own name with the equally stunning albums Project V and Mental Union. From there he embarked on investigations into the Colundi Sequence. Partly a tuning system, partly a framework for all life on this planet, Colundi is a project spearheaded by Grant Wilson-Claridge that continues to this day with various intentions, including establishing communal "nodes" around the planet. Perälä talks more about his own involvement with Colundi in this 2015 interview with Angus Finlayson.
The braindance phenomenon continued right through Rephlex's later years. The likes of Wisp, Monolith and Jodey Kendrick delivered classy variations on the sprightly melodies and crunching beats typical of braindance's best moments. If there's one thing that bound together many of these artists, it's sheer productivity, and it's indicative of Rephlex's attitude that they often embraced this trend by releasing multiple albums by their favourite artists in quick succession. A case in point is Bogdan Raczynski, who emerged seemingly out of nowhere with a run of three consecutive albums all released in 1999. This is not the calculated release schedule of your average label. You can sense the excitement behind such deluges of music.
"Bogdan was a massive inspiration for some of my tracks on the Drukqs album," says James. "The fact he was doing it all on a shit PC tracker… totally amazing. This was before 99.9 percent of people used the computer for everything. His records are so underrated."
London club The End hosted larger RepHresh events after they moved on from Soundshaft, and also hosted the launch party for the Grime compilations. Released in 2004 as grime and dubstep were hitting their strides in the UK, Grime and Grime 2 captured the zeitgeist at a thrilling early stage. As the record sleeve stated: "Grime, Sublow, Dubstep… It's Music. Different people call it different things, depending on when they discovered it." The compilations featured Mark One, Plastician (when he was still called Plasticman), Slaughter Mob, Kode9, Digital Mystikz and Loefah.
The turn of the century saw Rephlex embracing more hardcore and bassweight sounds that sat in contrast to the house, techno, acid and electro that had guided most of the previous releases. Among the signings that made a stir at this time was Kevin Martin, AKA The Bug, who at that point was better known for his abrasive industrial abstractions in Techno Animal, God and Ice. Though he'd already released one LP as The Bug on illbient bastion WordSound in the '90s, Pressure felt like a debut when it landed on Rephlex in 2003, all searing ragga and dancehall with fearsome MC acrobatics from the likes of Daddy Freddy, Roger Robinson and Wayne Lonesome.
"Aphex and Grant heard the single I put out and emailed saying, 'We'd love to do stuff with you on Rephlex,'" Martin says. "To be honest with you, at that point I knew fuck all about Rephlex. I was just discovering my sound myself and quite shocked when I was trying to do something with dancehall, suddenly Aphex Twin's knocking on my door. What's he got to do with dancehall?"
Playing at Rephlex events was an eye-opening experience for the "rave-allergic" Martin. "I always got the feeling from the outside a lot of it was just quirky and just done for the sake of being left, without a lot of emotional impact," he says. "But as I got to know the stuff and played more parties, I couldn't help but be won over by the enthusiasm and the energy of the people making the music."
Rephlex also gathered together Martin's even more abrasive Razor X productions for a compilation in 2006, and James donned the short-lived DJ Smojphace alias to remix "Run The Place Red."
At a time when this kind of industrial approach aligned with the swelling breakcore scene, it made sense to see a release like DJ Scud's Ambush! compilation landing on Rephlex.
"I remember going up to North London to the [Rephlex] HQ and being impressed and reassured that it was a proper DIY operation," says Toby Reynolds, AKA DJ Scud. "Cynically, one could frame my release as kind of expendable cannon fodder ahead of The Bug. It was a pretty feeble release, really—I'm not proud of it at all and I'm almost certain they feel the same way too. It was like an embarrassing one night stand, for both parties."
All forms of intense breakbeat music were enjoying something of a renaissance around then. Longtime Rephlex crew member Luke Vibert turned his hand to a series of inspired jungle 12-inches as Amen Andrews (as well as dropping the dubstep-influenced Spac Hand Luke project). One of the strongest jungle celebrations in the Rephlex canon is surely the Rewind Records compilation, licensed from Ann Arbor, Michigan producers Todd Osborn and Tadd Mullinix as Soundmurderer & SK-1. Its studious assault of amens, MC rips and ragga samples carried an authenticity that lived and breathed the culture it harked back to.
Reissues and licensing
Even in its early days, Rephlex had a keen instinct for interesting reissues and licensing that reflected the eclectic tastes at its heart. In 1994 they put out Rephlex Presents The Best Of Future Sound Records, a compilation of material from the cult Chicago house label. A few years later they gathered up some of the hottest jams from Miami electro lynchpins Dynamix II on From 1985 To Present. In 1999 they shone a light on one of the building blocks of UK acid, 808 State's Newbuild. These tracks were so formative it moved James to deliver one of his most potent dance floor workouts to date when he remixed the classic "Flow Coma."
"I can't remember not loving Newbuild, one of my fave ever records," says James. "The same for Grant I'm sure. I helped master that from the original tapes on my Studer machine, all stuck together with sellotape. I would love to do another remix of 'Flow Coma' but more the original vibe, all X0X boxes and no breaks, one of these days."
If the catalogue of original music on Rephlex is idiosyncratic to begin with, the licensed material is a gleeful celebration of how little generic boundaries matter in the pursuit of good music. From obscure boogie producer Dwayne Omarr to fiercely underground hardcore hip-hop collective The Criminal Minds, the reissues show just how deep the label's knowledge and tastes ran. This came to the fore when they dropped Black Devil Disco Club's Timing, Forget The Timing, a freakishly brilliant oddball disco bubbler from French library musician Bernard Fevre, originally discovered in a car boot sale by Rephlex alumnus PP Roy.
"At the end of the '90s I was getting ready to retire," says Fevre. "I had basically forgotten about my mid-'70s experiments, until I heard that my publisher at the time had sold the rights to 'Earth Message' to The Chemical Brothers for their song 'Got Glint?' My publisher told me, 'We have a cheque for you, and there's a UK label called Rephlex wanting to reissue the 1978 record as well.' To me it was music from the past, which had tanked back then, end of story. So it took me a while to understand people were into it 25 years after it was released. Rephlex kept it secret, credits weren't really written on the sleeve, and this Kerrier District remix I think confused people into thinking Black Devil Disco Club was a moniker for James and [Luke] Vibert. I guess they were just fans excited about having found a gold nugget in a trash can."
Academic / avant-garde
Rephlex wasn't just about dance music in all its mangled forms. In 2003 they released a 4x10-inch compilation Music From The Radiophonic Workshop, licensed from the BBC at a time when there was less appreciation in wider music circles for the pioneering work of Delia Derbyshire, Dick Mills and their colleagues. As well as this early electronic music, Rephlex released other, more experimental fare, including the creeping ambient experiments of Jeremy Simmonds as Voafose, Peter Green's modern classical score for Macbeth and Victor Gama's study in updating the purpose of ancient traditional instruments, Pangeia Instrumentos. The electro-acoustic bent to Gama's work was bookended by two other conspicuous entries on Rephlex from mechanical maverick Pierre Bastien.
"I wanted to put more historically important experimental stuff out," says James, "like Herbert Eimert, which was less Grant's thing."
Leila Arab is perhaps the quintessential Rephlex anomaly. From her attitude towards the music business to the spellbinding quality of her sound, she's the embodiment of the label's philosophy, even if she doesn't sound like anything else they released. The story goes that Arab met James while they were both on tour with Björk. Arab was doing live mixing for the Icelandic pop titan and James was one of the support acts.
"[Richard] used to come round my house and he would hear what I was doing," Arab remembers, "and was like, 'If you want to put this out I'd really happily do it.' I like him as a person but my history is not with that kind of music at all. But what phenomenal taste Grant [Wilson-Claridge] has. His favourite artist was Prince, so when he heard the shit I was doing, for him it was an extra, 'Oh my god. I wasn't expecting this.' To be honest, to give it to Rephlex was literally the most low maintenance version I could do. I had other people who wanted to put it out, but it would have been a lot more grown up. Rephlex were small and they were my mates."
The resulting album, Like Weather, came out in 1998, and it stands up today as a marvel of circuit-fried soul, sample-clashing free expression and acid-dipped funk. There really was nothing else quite like it out there.
"What's funny about Like Weather is it was the first record a lot of people heard with R&B singing and shit," says Arab. "Jamie Lidell was literally like, 'You know that record kinda switched my head to sing.' Sean from Autechre came up to me and was like, 'This is the most exciting thing that's happened since The Wild Bunch.' Those people don't like fucking singing, so to get singing that wasn't annoying was really a thrill for them."
Compared to other legacy labels recently appeared in this series, like Basic Channel or Sähkö, there's no single discernible impression Rephlex left behind. It was a launch pad for many artists, championed some esoteric sounds and put out a hefty amount of music.
"I just want to say how generous Grant was and how generous Rephlex were," says Upton. "They helped a lot of weirdos who probably wouldn't have got a chance at a lot of other labels. I'm sure a lot of those releases lost money, and when things got really bad they would do a Caustic Window reissue or something to get a bit of money back in the coffers, and that worked for a while. Some people on Rephlex complained they didn't get their royalties and accounting was always really shit, which it was, but I'm standing here outside my house I've bought from being a musician, and that wouldn't have happened if it wasn't for Grant and Rephlex."
The refusal to operate with the more calculated business strategies of other labels is a defining quality of Rephlex's otherness. Depending on who you talk to, that's either to its credit or detriment—or both.
"These weren't boys pretending to be reluctant for the attention," says Arab. "At that time they genuinely just couldn't be arsed. In a good way."
"It became more apparent to me Rephlex was a hobby label," says Martin. "It was run on passion and enthusiasm, but I felt they couldn't go that extra yardage to get me and Warrior Queen in particular to a situation where we could pay our rent. I wanted Warrior to get the fuck out of cleaning hotel rooms, and while Rephlex helped us and paid us cool for the shows we did, my aim was to get the music to a bigger audience. It felt like they were happy and satisfied with things as they were."
Rephlex's nonchalance towards the business end of the music industry might have hampered them financially, but it kept the catalogue pure—if such a word can be applied to this volatile stew of musical flavours. What's clear from James' comments is that it really was run from the heart.
"It felt so special and exciting to put music out that I genuinely loved," James says, "but which didn't have to be produced in a studio and be polished."
"I don't miss it," he adds. "I think it operated for exactly the right amount of time. I still use the same A&R techniques, but just apply it completely to music listening pleasure and DJ selections now."
You can also read Aphex Twin's email conversation with RA's Oli Warwick here. The pair go deep on the Rephlex years, discussing Cornish raves, Drexciya and that time Madonna turned up to a RepHresh party.