Even if you don’t know who Felix Buxton and Simon Ratcliffe are, or what these two gents do for a living as Basement Jaxx, you must have heard “Where’s Your Head At”. In 2001, the London duo unleashed that rock-laced house banger on the world and showed the world that you don’t need to peddle cheese or white-wash your sound to make universally penetrating dance music. A rightful explosion in profile later and armed with a clutch of undeniable albums, including 2014’s Junto, the duo is due to let rip at Sing Jazz 2017. Here’s Simon with the pre-game keys to the vivid, glorious Basement Jaxx universe.
We’re thrilled that you’re part of the Sing Jazz line-up. Are you looking forward to coming to Singapore again?
Absolutely. I love Singapore! I’ve been there many times. I love the people, I love the food, and I have friends who live there, so it’s always nice to go to Singapore. Playing at Sing Jazz is going be great. I’m hoping we’ll be able to see some other great musicians there. It’s a privilege to have been asked to play.
Where does jazz fit into your universe, as a musician?
It’s always been a huge influence to us. Both Felix and I are big jazz fans, but from different angles. Felix was influenced by people like Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Pharoah Sanders; I was influenced by artists like George Duke and Weather Report. We enjoy music that’s kind of improvisational, expressive and very emotional, so jazz is familiar territory for us. We always incorporate elements of it into the music we make, especially with our first few EPs. Actually, I’m currently working with a jazz trio from Prague, Czech Republic, and they’re essentially rock-y experimental jazz. So yeah, jazz is important to me.
Basement Jaxx came out of an underground music scene. Since then, dance music has shifted to become very much mainstream. How do you feel about this phenomena?
Fine, really. It’s imitation, isn’t it? Because the current type of electronic dance music that’s popular all over the world is a hybrid. Somewhere in there is the original dance music format, but fused with Scandinavian epic melodies and rock riffs – the kind of things that appeal to the white majority, basically. Twenty years ago, we’d be punching the air to Bon Jovi, and now kids will be punching the air to Calvin Harris and Steve Aoki. It’s that spirit. It’s epic and simple. You know what’s going to happen. It’s a release – it’s energy. It’s become mass-produced, but that’s fine; it was bound to happen, and it’s amazing. It’s just life; where it goes, where it takes ya.
“[Felix is] a very outgoing, colourful, inspiring character… Meanwhile, I’ve always been a quiet person. Our differences make it work.”
“Where’s Your Head At” was released in 2001 and has since come a long way. How do you feel about its success now?
We’re incredibly blessed that we’re still able to do what we’re doing, and we have songs in the charts like that one to thank. Because we had those big tunes, people would come to see us DJ, people would come to see the live show – I mean, we worked hard on that, but we were also very lucky, because the live show was something that got a big reputation of its own, and we played lots of festivals with that. One thing leads to another, you know? You get asked to do film soundtracks and art pieces and all. We owe songs like “Where’s Your Head At” a lot.
Is there a new album in the works? Can we expect any new music?
Felix is getting married in two or three months so he’s focusing on that. We’re DJing a lot. Last summer we DJed at Ibiza and this summer we’ve got a residency at Ibiza again. Apart from that, we’re just doing our own little projects and living our lives. We’ll see what happens but, at the moment, we’re just doing our own things.
How did it all start? What makes you and Felix such kindred spirits, musically?
When I was at college, I’d sit in my bedroom, instead of going out partying, and I’d make music on a four-track tape recorder. Somehow, eventually from that, I made my first ever 12-inch, and it did well; it made some profit. By the time I met Felix, I had a studio, which I’d built from the sales of music I’d made, in the early ’90s. We’re very different people. He’s a very outgoing, colourful, inspiring character. If you listen to our music, it’s very people-populated, with lots of characters – that’s because of Felix. He loves people and eccentricity, and he’s brought that into our world. Meanwhile, I’ve always been a quiet person. Our differences make it work.
Catch Basement Jaxx live at Sing Jazz 2017 on Friday. March 31. For tickets and more information, visit sing-jazz.com/2017.