Aphex Twin at Coachella 2019: It’s Really Happening
The elusive electronic music legend is set to appear at the most popular music festival in America. Here’s a closer look at how it happened.
It’s late December, the no man’s land between Christmas and New Year’s Day, when the city of Los Angeles becomes something of a ghost town.
On a quiet stretch of Pico Boulevard, not too far from the original location of Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles, a brightly colored series of posters appeared overnight. Upon closer inspection, the yellow and green stripes were emblazoned with a psychedelic version of the Aphex Twin logo and the word “COACHELLA” in its unmistakable signature font.
The official 2019 Coachella lineup announcement wouldn’t come for days. There was no word online revealing Aphex Twin as an act expected to be on the bill. These mysterious posters appeared like a glitch in the Matrix, a brief glimpse into an alternate reality where Aphex Twin headlines the biggest music festival in America.
When Coachella promoter Goldenvoice did reveal the 2019 festival lineup after the first of the year, there was Aphex Twin, sitting pretty on the second line underneath Saturday night headliner Tame Impala and alongside the likes of Solange, Billie Eilish, Weezer, and J Balvin.
While it’s not exactly of the magnitude of a Daft Punk Coachella announcement, the news that Richard D. James will be bringing his manic electronic soundwaves to the deserts of Indio is just as big of a deal to a very particular demographic.
“Aphex Twin playing Coachella around my wife’s due date,” joked one music writer on Twitter. “Anyone know a good divorce lawyer?”
Forbes even went so far as to say that Coachella 2019’s lineup could represent “its best yet for electronic music.”
Aphex Twin is not known for playing American music fests. When he does, however, he makes it count. The last time the artist touched down on U.S. soil for a festival set was in Houston for Day for Night. He showed up with an extremely limited edition 12″ single exclusive to the event. The five hundred copies pressed were only up for grabs at the Day for Night merch booth, where they predictably sold out quickly. Copies now go for upwards of $300 on Discogs.
All of this creates an obvious mission for any serious Aphex Twin fan going to Coachella: You’ll definitely want to hit the merch stand ASAP, in case he’s in the mood to share more exclusive vinyl releases (or anything else for that matter). Of course you don’t want to carry it around all day, so invest in an onsite locker to store your booty while you venture the polo fields.
Considering the rarity of the moment, we were moved to reach out to Goldenvoice in hopes of getting the inside story on how Coachella was able to land such an elusive and enviable booking.
“We’re pretty stoked to have Aphex Twin back, too! Can’t believe it’s been as long as 2008 since Coachella last had him,” shared Shea Kopp of Goldenvoice via email. “Unfortunately, the only person that can speak to this awesome booking is Paul Tollett, but he is not looking to interview in the festival lead up.”
These mysterious posters appeared like a glitch in the matrix, a brief glimpse into an alternate reality where Aphex Twin headlines the biggest music festival in America.
The founder and visionary behind all things Coachella, Paul Tollett is famous for the lengths he’ll go to in order to secure artists for the annual festival. Just this year, Tollett traveled to Korea in order to personally invite the wildly popular all-female K-pop outfit, BLACKPINK. The band’s confirmation secured them a place on Coachella’s highly coveted second-line of the show poster.
“If only Paul T. had a photo with Aphex like he had with BLACKPINK,” Kopp quipped, adding a link to the moment Tollett connected with the K-Poppers for the personal invitation.
Altogether, the poster campaign and ambiguity around the booking only reinforces and heightens the enigma of Aphex Twin, even as the artist himself has begun something of a personal demystification campaign, embodied by a recent Crack interview where the artist opened up in a most frank and vulnerable manner.
He also inadvertently revealed what fans might expect from his Coachella set.
“I put a lot of work into it. There aren’t many DJs out there playing different stuff… well, I think it is getting better now, over the last year it’s gotten really good,” Aphex Twin explained. “But [previously] people were just playing one type of music for two hours. Which is fine sometimes, y’know? But there’s nobody big playing all this amazing music coming out. There’s so much of it! And [it gives] great artists exposure as well. It’s not like I’m some huge artist or something, but you do give quite a good boost to a lot of people when you play stuff.
“I often try to think, if I’m playing in Berlin, say, ‘Who do I know in Berlin? What track do I know that I can play?’ Because they might be there at the gig. That’s happened loads,” he added. “I remember I played some crazy speedcore track [by Komprexx] in Italy. I thought ‘oh that guy is from Milan, he might be here.’ And he came running up to me at the end, ‘I can’t believe you played it!’”
Considering the luminaries that are sure to make the pilgrimage to Coachella this year to experience the inimitable Richard D. James doing it in the desert, there’s no telling who will be seen running toward the stage if they hear one of their productions in his expansive mix. Aphex Twin is good like that. FL