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Dancing in the dark



Aphex Twin's Richard D James is up to his old tricks, says Louis Pattison

Saturday May 26, 2007
The Guardian


Altogether now: who is Brian Tregaskin? Oh, OK, it's never going to be an "I'm Spartacus", but the identity behind this unassuming name is currently causing a whole lot of conjecture in the mistier corners of the internet. Here are the facts as we've been told them: Brian Tregaskin is a member - perhaps the only member - of the Tuss, a pastoral-themed electronica outfit from deepest Devon. The Tuss have released one solitary EP, Confederation Trough - three tracks of enjoyable pumping acid techno and squelchy analogue synthesiser, packaged in a sleeve practically featureless, but for a rather nice picture of a ram standing on a windswept moor. Oh, and a bit of Googling brings up an Urban Dictionary entry that suggests a "tuss" is Cornish slang for the erect male genitalia.



The thing is, Brian Tregaskin almost certainly doesn't exist. Rather, wicked whispers suggest the Tuss is actually the creation of one Richard D James, aka the Aphex Twin - the multimillion-selling electronica prodigy who lives in a converted bank, claims he can "see" music and once appeared on the cover of NME with his grimacing Cornish face grafted onto the body of a buxom, bikini-clad woman. It's far from the first time his fanboys have leapt upon the work of an anonymous producer as evidence of the master at work from the shadows. Indeed, given that James is an interview-shy enigma with a raft of elaborate pseudonyms (Polygon Window, AFX, the Dice Man) and an array of bizarre apocryphal tales to his name - in the 1990s, he won a £5,000 commission to remix the Lemonheads, but forgot and handed the motorcycle courier a gabba track with no trace of the original song - it's rather par for the course.

But there are a few telltale signs. The Tuss lands on Rephlex, the so-called "Braindance" label co-founded by Aphex back in 1991. Circumstantial? Closer inspection suggests the Tuss's music is published by Chrysalis - not the sort of company who have their finger on the pulse of the Cornish techno underground, but the publishers for a certain Richard D James. One Tuss track, Devon, meanwhile, has been traced back to a live Aphex set in 2005. And in a degree of attention to detail mostly conducted behind closed doors before the advent of the internet, some keen-eared fans have identified the farty squelch of one particular synthesiser as the GX1 - a gigantic modular synthesiser so rare only a few exist. And you know who has one, right? Right. Seriously, it's like The Da Vinci Code for techno nutters.

Not afraid to get our hands dirty, the Guide decided to join the hunt. Acting all naïve-like, we approached the Tuss's PR guy to see if Brian was doing any interviews. Sure enough, the answer came back that young Bri wasn't doing any press. Funny that. There is, however, a helpful Q&A up there on his MySpace profile: "Q: Are you Richard D James? A: No!" Straight to the point. But we smell a rat. A smirking, ginger rat. The Tuss' debut album is out in June. It's good to have him back.





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