The Tastemaker: Alex Ruder

Age 29 
Neighborhood Capitol Hill 
Hometown Bainbridge Island 
Last book read Hot Stuff by Alice Echols 
Childhood nicknames A-Rude, Rutabaga 
Personal hero Riz Rollins 
Favorite place in Seattle Capitol Hill during Decibel Festival

“Cult” is a touchy word, but it describes the stylish flock that follows the profuse feats of Alex Ruder. Ruder’s 2012 was a marathon of tastemaking: Early on, his monthly DJ night, Hush Hush, took hold of Seattle’s electronic music scene; he assumed more fill-in DJ shifts alongside his regular weekly spot at KEXP; and he recently launched his label, Hush Hush Records, with a well-received release by up-and-comer Kid Smpl.

A November party at Vermillion celebrated Smpl’s Skylight—and provided Ruder with a crucial moment of clarity.

“That was the first show where I was seeing people that were like, ‘I’ve heard about this Kid Smpl dude. Hush Hush—that sounds cool’,” he says. “A lot of homies come every month, but if people you don’t know are coming out of pure curiosity and interest, that’s the next step.”

So what’s the draw? Ruder’s radio sets, DJ parties and record-label output evoke a similar aesthetic: Low-key, forward-looking music that’s rich, warm, sensual and intimate. (As Smpl puts it, “I’d rather make girls cry than make dudes dance.”) Ruder’s scope spans genres. This is a man who carries a dozen boxes of CDs in the trunk of his car wherever he goes.

“I love playing music that puts people in a certain space,” he says. “Whether it’s folk music that’s fragile, or high highs with gorgeous vocal harmonies, or stuff that’s almost naked in a sense. I like music with emotional resonance.”

Ruder’s plans for the coming year include a Hush Hush release by a Houston beat-making talent so fresh he still hasn’t chosen a name, as well as collaborations with Seattle promoters and artists who are still under wraps.

It’s all part of Ruder’s ongoing mission, and it comes down to two words that he uses often: discovering and sharing. His is the sort of benevolence that engenders—ahem—cultish devotion.

“The reward is just helping support art,” he says. “Cultural evolution.” 

Photo by Dylan Priest. Return to the complete Future List.