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Jumbo Basement Jaxx


Thursday June 2, 2005

Jumbo Basement Jaxx

By DARYL GOH

The most eventful first six months for Basement Jaxx were about to wind down when Felix Buxton and Simon Ratcliffe found themselves smack in the middle of Asia’s biggest deejay competition – the Heineken Thirst Asia Pacific finals in Bangkok last Saturday. It was difficult to tell where their heads were at – considering the duo barely left London 14 hours ago and were now having their one-night in Bangkok schedule read to them by frantic Thirst media assistants, shepherding them between interview rooms and a sound-check as the Jaxx were slated to guest deejay at the Thirst finals later that evening. 

It wasn’t exactly a glamorous backstage area at the Queen Sirikit Convention Centre, the venue for the Thirst Asia finals, but the Jaxx weren’t complaining much. The Jaxx buzz was about, but if you didn’t recognise Buxton and Ratcliffe, you could have mistaken them for the Thirst roadies flown in from London.  

“There isn’t a bone of celebrity about them, it’s a very Basement Jaxx thing to blend in with the crowd,” commented James Kendall, a judge for the Thirst Asia finals and music journo from DJmag, an influential London-based dance publication.  

Maybe The Star’s exclusive interview with the Jaxx was delayed for nearly an hour-and-a-half, but once Buxton and Ratcliffe finally turned up, there was no denying that these regular blokes were the sort to make-up for the schedule mix-ups with a proper chat.  

BASEMENT JAXX: London-based production duo Simon Ratcliffe (left) and Felix Buxton are still keeping things real after the success of their Singles compilation.

The Jaxx were in a relatively upbeat mood, so why not a prickly question first? So, after winning the first-ever Grammy award for best dance/electronica album in February (for Kish Kash) and putting out a Singles retrospective in March before an upcoming “greatest hits” tour in Britain later this month, is there anything cool left about the Jaxx’s streets credentials? 

It’s all getting a bit too Rolling Stones for the Jaxx, huh?  

“They’ve done really well, you know. I suppose if you made that sort of money, you’ve got to hand it to the Rolling Stones. If we’d only make a fraction of their 40 Licks pile from our Singles tour, we’ll take it,” said Ratcliffe in a slightly bemused tone.  

Staying street 

Dreams of filthy lucre and technicolour carnival-like shows aside, these South London house heroes can still claim to have their street cred intact. Buxton and Ratcliffe themselves helm their own hugely successful monthly Inside Out, playing their own unique brand of Jaxx house, electro, techno and whatever else comes to hand at Brixton’s Jamm club. Cover charge is £6 (RM42) for everyday Big Issue-type punters and it’s basically an outlet for the duo to stay close to their roots and keep it real – inner city style.  

“It’s a chance to get back to the music and it’s also a party to go to in Brixton. Others should be doing these low-key nights,” said Buxton, before continuing: “we get to play something different, without Basement Jaxx in big bright lights. Inside Out is more of a social thing, but the music we play can be very extreme – we’ve got the whole UK garage underground thing going as well as it can be soft, ballady soul with a country track thrown in when we feel like it.”  

The Jaxx might be considered dance music royalty, but you get no airs from these guys.  

A perennial favourite as the best production duo in the dance world according to its Brixton hometown fans as well as the major music critics, the Jaxx has been a part of Britain’s dance scene from the heady days of house in the 1990s, with the occasional stops covering Latin disco exotica, progressive house, garage, electro-clash, Detroit bangers and all points in between. 

Signed to Britain’s XL Recordings only six years ago, the 2005 edition of the Jaxx has certainly come a long way. The group’s three albums – Remedy, Rooty and Kish Kash have been regarded as classics from an unforgettable era where dance was the business and the Jaxx had the music to spark a red alert in both the mainstream and underground.  

It’s all gold dust and glitter across the 15-tracks on Singles, collecting all the classics and early favourites Flylife and Samba Magic.  

“It’s the end of a chapter for us, really. Singles just says for all the people who got to know us through the live shows, that’s ‘the Basement Jaxx they know.’ We’ve always played live sets, and now we’ve got all the hits ready to go out,” said Buxton.  

There is a limited edition version of the Singles compilation with a bonus disc that features obscure cuts and rarities, and somewhere in the mix, there are concert versions of Romeo, Broken Dreams and Good Luck to prove that the Jaxx can kick it live.  

Punk vision 

The talk of punk-rock infiltrating the dance scene today also hardly fazes the Jaxx lads since they pre-dated this phenomenon with the robot rock Where’s Your Head At and dragged Siouxsie Sioux out for the electro-clash Cish Cash while the mash-up Magnificent Romeo, splicing the Clash’s Magnificent Seven and the Jaxx’s Romeo, courtesy of a 2 many DJs/Jaxx remix, has gained underground notoriety.  

So is the Jaxx going to crank up the guitars for its new material? Ratcliffe won’t reveal much but he noted that the Jaxx isn’t scheduled back into the studios until the year’s end for a proper album.  

“The tour and compilation gives us a bit of breathing space since we’re not quite ready to put an album out,” he added. 

But in between guest deejaying and preparing to tour, they have nailed a few tracks for Brit underground garage ‘grime’ star Lady Sovereign (“we done Blah Blah for the Sov”) and a possible hook-up on the new Kelis album is on the checklist.  

On the subject of how cohesive Basement Jaxx’s material has turned out on their individual albums, it’s amazing to find that Singles isn’t so far from a completely enjoyable listening experience in itself – a sort of drive-time quality to proceedings.  

It makes a really good album, and Singles got us to write two new songs, which are actually really good songs,” said Ratcliffe, who reckons it’s nice to have the new tracks – Oh My Gosh and U Don’t Know Me to do on this tour.  

Both of them also grinned cheekily when reminded about the recent MTV ban for their new video U Don’t Know Me, featuring a look-alike Queen Elizabeth II drinking, brawling and groping a lapdancer in London’s Soho.  

“MTV are doing an edit of what can be shown, they’re did exactly what XL (Records) were hoping. But I don’t think it’s that outrageous, maybe it’s the fact that it’s the Queen ... ahh, there is a scene where she touches a stripper. That’s not really a big deal,” Buxton matter-of-factly concluded. 

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