Richard David James was born to Welsh parents Lorna and Derek James in 1971 in Limerick, Ireland. James spent his childhood in Cornwall, United Kingdom. As a teenager, he became a DJ and musician on the local rave scene, taking on the moniker "Aphex Twin". James formed the Rephlex Records label in 1991 with his friend Grant Wilson-Claridge and released his first records on this label, as well as Mighty Force and R&S Records of Belgium. After success with his early work, James relocated to London and released a slew of albums and EPs on the Warp Records label, under a bewildering set of aliases (from AFX and Polygon Window to the lesser known Gak and Power Pill).
In 1996, he began releasing more material composed on computers, and embraced a more drum and bass sound mixed with a nostalgic childhood theme and strange computer generated acid lines. The early adoption of Native Instruments' softsynthesizers predated the later popularity of using computers to make music. The late 1990s saw his music become more popular and mainstream, as he released two singles, "Come to Daddy", and "Windowlicker", which were shown on MTV and the covers of music magazines including NME.
In 2001 Aphex Twin released his most personal album yet, drukqs, a 2-CD album which featured Prepared Piano songs under the influence of Erik Satie and John Cage. Also included were abrasive, fast, and meticulously programmed computer-made songs. The level of detail and artistry was so high, that reviewers and fans complained that the music was less in the style of innovative pop music, and more about detailed beautiful and personal musical art. drukqs is perhaps Richard's most controversial album to date; the album lacked the novelty found in his other albums, so reviewers guessed this album was released as a contract breaker with Warp Records - a credible guess, as James' next big release came out on his own Rephlex label.
In late 2004, rumours of James' return to a more acid techno based sound were realised with the Analord series. For these records, James used his extensive collection of Roland drum machines which he bought when they were still at bargain prices. Also he used one of the rarest, and most desirable synthesizers of his generation, the Synton Fenix, and the notoriously difficult to program Roland MC-4 sequencer (a sequencer with a reputation for excellent timing), as well as the infamous Roland TB-303 for his trademark acid melodies.
Apart from music, Richard D. James is a talented photographer, having done his own artwork direction for many of his albums. On the "Windowlicker" single, James hid a picture of his face in the second track (commonly referred to as "[Formula]", "[Symbol]", or "[Equation]"), which can be seen in a spectral analysis of the track.
Aphex Twin's influences
James has stated in numerous interviews that he has no musical influences other than himself.  He claims to have listened rarely to songs on the radio as a child and that he is unable to read sheet music.
Conversely, James has said that he has listened to many bands and artists for inspiration and sampling (notably Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin for their use of breakbeats, but he has also expressed appreciation for The Fall). He signed fellow musicans and personal friends Tom "Squarepusher" Jenkinson and Mike Paradinas (µ-ziq) to his Rephlex record label, as well as Luke Vibert.
Other debated influences include:
- 808 State, whom he has remixed for
- John Cage and his prepared piano technique (itself inspired by Henry Cowell and Erik Satie independently) in the piano tracks on Drukqs
- Tod Dockstader An electronic musician who worked with tape, mangling sounds into music of the frequency and dynamics spectrum.
- Brian Eno pioneer of ambient music, and for the artwork of his ambient records.
- Larry Heard (One song on Analord is called Laricheard, an obvious pun on the names Larry Heard and Richard, as the song resembles Larry Heard's techno style.)
- Kraftwerk and their electropop styles.
- Derrick May Techno pioneer.
- Erik Satie whose melodic style was borrowed on Drukqs.
- Squarepusher and Luke Vibert for their extreme versions of drum and bass.
Influence of Aphex Twin on others
Fans and journalists coined the genre names IDM and drill and bass to describe Aphex Twin's novel approach to dance music. Aphex Twin countered these genre coinings with his own Braindance genre from his Rephlex Records label.
These labels have proven useful for upcoming artists looking to find a genre name for their own music, influenced by Aphex Twin and Warp Records. In Aphex Twin's words on the 'Intelligent Dance Music' label: "I just think it's really funny to have terms like that. It's basically saying 'this is intelligent and everything else is stupid.' It's really nasty to everyone else's music. (laughs) It makes me laugh, things like that. I don't use names. I just say that I like something or I don't."
Aphex Twin tends to distance himself from rock/pop music, yet he has still had an influence on the rock bands like Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails and Peace Burial at Sea. Aphex Twin dismissed going on tour with Radiohead: "I wouldn't play with them since I don't like them."
Aphex Twin's press
Aphex Twin press interviews are generally entertaining, eccentric, and confusing.
Aphex Twin has a reputation for lying in interviews, which he has admitted to the Guardian newspaper. Hard to verify 'facts' often mentioned in the press are Richard owning a tank (actually a 1950s armoured scout car, the Daimler Ferret Mark 3), a submarine bought from eBay, composing ambient techno at age 13 (contradicting most music history), having "over 100 hours" of unreleased music (including songs on his answering machine that could be wiped away by leaving a message), being able to incorporate lucid dreaming into the process of making music and living in a converted bank.
A lie confirmed by his friend and label mate Mike Paradinas is Richard building his own synthesizers and samplers from scratch in his early years. Richard once built a fake sampler box, and a photograph and article of it was taken for a UK electronic music magazine. Although this was a hoax, Richard is experienced in electronics and electricity, and has modified and circuit bent his equipment from a young age.
Discography under Aphex Twin
- Selected Ambient Works 85-92 (1992)
- Selected Ambient Works Volume II (1994)
- ...I Care Because You Do (1995)
- Richard D. James Album (1996)
- drukqs (2001)
EPs and Singles
- Digeridoo (1992)
- Xylem Tube EP (1992)
- On/On Remixes (1993)
- Ventolin/Ventolin Remixes EP (1995)
- Donkey Rhubarb (1995)
- Girl/Boy EP (1996)
- Come to Daddy EP (1997)
- Windowlicker (1999)
- Analord 10 in the Analord Series (2004)
Promos and Compilations
- Words & Music (1994) (Interview and tracks from Selected Ambient Works Volume II)
- Classics (1994) (Compilation of early singles, rare and live tracks)
- 51/13 Singles Collection (1996) (Australia-only release)
- Cock 10/54 Cymru Beats (drukqs promo)
- 26 Mixes for Cash (2003), Compilation of material "remixed" for other artists (plus four original tracks)
- 2 Mixes on a 12" for Cash (2003), a 26 Mixes promo
- Falling Free, Curve Remix (2005), a 26 Mixes LP
Discography under Various Aliases
- Analogue Bubblebath (1991)
- Analogue Bubblebath 2 (1992)
- Analogue Bubblebath 3 (1993)
- Analogue Bubblebath 4 (1994)
- Analogue Bubblebath 5 (1995 unreleased)
- Analogue Bubblebath 3.1 (1997)
- Hangable Auto Bulb (1995, re-released 2005)
- Hangable Auto Bulb 2 (1995, re-released 2005)
- 2 Remixes By AFX (2001)
- Smojphace EP (2003)
- "Mangle 11 (Circuit Bent V.I.P. Mix)" (appears on Rephlexions compilation album (2003))
- Analord (EP series, mostly as AFX) (2005)
- AFX/LFO (split 12" between AFX/LFO) (2005)
- Bradley's Beat (1991)/(1995 re-issue)
- Bradley's Robot (1993)
- Joyrex J4 (1992)
- Joyrex J5 (1992)
- Joyrex J9 (1993)
- CAT 023 (unreleased, only 4 copies pressed)
- Caustic Window Compilation (1998)
- GAK (1994)
In the Universal Indicator series:
- (Surfing On Sine Waves) (1993, re-released 2001)
- (Quoth) (1993)
- Pac-Man (1992)
- Q-Chastic EP (1992 unreleased)
In the Universal Indicator series:
- Melodies From Mars (1995, this is an unreleased RDJ album that was given to friends at Rephlex and Warp Records on C-90 cassettes) This release supposedly includes selections from over 200 tracks James offered video game companies to use as soundtracks.
- With Squarepusher, contributed "Freeman Hardy & Willis Acid" to the Warp compilation WAP100.
- As "Rich" of "Mike and Rich" on the album Expert Knob Twiddlers ("Mike" being Mike Paradinas, also known as µ-ziq)
- A remixed version of afx237 v7 from the album drukqs was used as the soundtrack to the short film, "Rubber Johnny", directed by Chris Cunningham.
- The AFX logo was featured in the video games 'Worms Armageddon' and 'Worms World Party'.
- "The Diceman" - Polygon Window (Track 1) - Artificial Intelligence - (Warp 6) - Compliation released by Warp Records - 1992)
- Acoustica: Alarm Will Sound Performs Aphex Twin (2005), performed by Alarm Will Sound
- Complete Aphex Twin discography
- Aphex Twin discography at Discogs
- Aphex Twin links at Open Directory Project
- The Aphex Face - spectrogram screenshots of spectral analyses, including that of Windowlicker