Interview: Basement Jaxx perform at RockNess 2013
London duo prepare to headline RockNess for a second time
It’s Basement Jaxx effortless ability to bring seemingly disparate elements together that makes them such a fascinating live act. Techno is welded to Latin while house tangos with calypso from the upbeat mania of ‘Red Alert' to the punk funk delirium of ‘Where’s Your Head At?’. It’s no wonder RockNess have invited them back to headline for a second time after a storming set back in 2009.
‘I think categorisation can be helpful but with us sometimes it’s slightly confusing,’ explains Simon Ratcliffe who makes up one half of the Jaxx alongside Felix Buxton. ‘We have never attached ourselves to one scene; if you attach yourself to one scene and that scene goes down you go down with it. So we don’t want to be on one ship, we’re pirates really just plundering then moving on.’
Their live shows have become synonymous with a riot of dancers, singers, feathers and good times. This orchestrated chaos becomes a carnival of colour, lights and sound under Ratcliffe and Buxton’s direction. ‘We’ve got some good people around us and they’re great performers and we just play off them. We encourage everyone to do what they do to the max, “don’t be shy this is your chance”. So we make the live shows more energetic than the albums.’
The pair first met in Brixton bonding over a love of DJ duo Masters at Work. Ratcliffe was already performing in a funk band and putting out his own bedroom productions. ‘I was the guy with a studio set up in his house,’ he explains. ‘I started making jungle and drum & bass records, then did some house stuff. By the time I met Felix I had made enough money to buy some samplers. He was into clubs, he was a party promoter really, he came from that angle and I came from a more musical angle. He was putting on a club anyway and I started DJing with him. It was like a project, we’d just experiment.’
What started as a club night soon morphed into a production duo and now six studio albums later everyone from Yoko Ono and Siouxsie Sioux to Dizzee Rascal and JC Chasez (N*Sync) have provided guest vocals on their music. However 2009’s low key Zephyr found them in more reflective mood with its ambient house sound while 2011’s live album Basement Jaxx vs Metropole Orkest saw their music reinterpreted for a full 60 piece orchestra. They further spread their wings working on the score to Brit urban sci-fi feature Attack the Block. And there is talk of a new album, or at least a series of 12”s, this year and you can get a taste of what to expect if you check out the tribal beats of new single ‘Back 2 the Wild’ featuring Korean singers Miss Emma Lee and Baby Chay.
‘The idea for the core of the music, the groove, is a two way thing,’ adds Ratcliffe. ‘We almost listen to music in a different way, I’ll turn round to Felix and say “the beat in that was great” and he won’t of been aware of it at all but he’ll turn round and say “I thought the strings were really amazing.” We hone in on different parts of the music.’
Basement Jaxx headline the mainstage at RockNess, Fri 7 Jun.