13 Songs for Halloween: "Come to Daddy" by Aphex Twin

Janice Headley

🚨WARNING: For Halloween, KEXP is exploring the horrifying true stories behind some of the creepiest songs we play. Please note, this post contains highly disturbing and graphic content. Please continue at your own risk. 🚨

I want your soul

This 1997 single from Aphex Twin is scary enough on its own, but when you add the award-winning video by famed director Chris Cunningham, you've got nightmare fuel for days. For a song so seriously-scary, it's hard to believe it started out as a joke. In a 2001 interview with Index Magazine, Mr. Aphex Twin himself (real name: Richard James) admitted:

'Come to Daddy' came about while I was just hanging around my house, getting pissed and doing this crappy death metal jingle. Then it got marketed, and a video was made, and this little idea that I had, which was a joke, turned into something huge. It wasn't right at all.

James was so appalled by the success that he pulled the single from circulation for one week to prevent it from reaching #1 in the UK charts. It got as high as #16.

I will eat your soul

As for the song's meager three-line lyrics, James revealed to Australia's Zebra Magazine in 1997:

Those words were in this letter I got from a fan ages ago. See I did the track in its original form about two and a half years ago, the same day I received this fucking mad letter from this fan that ended with 'I want your soul, I will eat your soul, I want your soul'. I couldn't make head or tail of it at all, but I thought it sounded pretty good.

He added:

I don't normally like to use vocals because I see it as a bit of a cop-out. It's an easy way to get across emotion in music, whereas I really like computer music because it's harder to express something.

Come to daddy

Over the course of his career, James’ own face has become a running motif in his album artwork and music videos. He's quoted as saying, “I did it because the thing in techno you weren’t supposed to do was to be recognized and stuff. The sort of unwritten rule was that you can’t put your face on the sleeve. It has to be like a circuit board or something. Therefore I put my face on the sleeve. That’s why I originally did it. But then I got carried away.” 

His face is used to great effect in the music video for "Come to Daddy." Silicone masks were scultped using photos of Richard James, and young children were cast from a local school to wear them and chase an eldery woman. In a 2005 interview with Pitchfork, Cunningham laughs, remembering how the old lady cast in the video had no idea what she was in for. "She had me in stitches. I had to look away when we were filming her scene because I was laughing so much when she was being hit by the wind machine." In a 2001 interview with The Guardian, James was quick to confirm that she was in on the joke. "She was an actor. She was really wicked, and she loved every second of it. She couldn't stop talking about it over her pie and mash."

Together, the relentless beats, apocalyptic scenery, James' unnerving grin, and his menacing howl of a vocal performance create one of the scariest music videos of all time. But mention that to director Chris Cunningham and he shrugs. In a 1998 interview with Urban Desires, he insists: 

Well, it was supposed to be extremely funny, but not extremely scary. That was almost a bi-product. I thought it was just going to be funny. It was so weird that people weren't laughing and they were saying, oh that was really gross.

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