Basement Jaxx Interview
Their new album and cabin fever from the South London speaker-shakers.
Basement Jaxx are headlining AKA’s 10th birthday on 31st July – ten years after playing the bar’s opening night way back in 1998. In those ten years, the pair have released four artist albums, a score of singles and remixes, won an NME award, a Brit award, played Glastonbury twice, and toured the world. Lots to talk about then! The duo are currently holed up in the studio working on their fifth album, but we managed to coax Felix Buxton out into daylight for a quick chat.
Endclub.com: You’re working on your new album at the moment - can you tell us anything about the follow up to Crazy Itch Radio?
Basement Jaxx: Well it’s not finished at the moment, which we were hoping it would – we thought it would be done around now, but it’s become a bit more of a sprawling, creative thing. The plan is to do a double album – one album being more of a soundscape, the other is more dance and radio stuff. The soundscapes will go a bit more psychedelic, and the other will be some stuff for DJs, some stuff for people that like Basement Jaxx, as it was. That’s the plan anyway – we’ll see what happens. We’re actually off to Ibiza today, we’re going to play some stuff, try out some of the new ideas over there.
That’s at your Pacha residency right? How did the first one go?
Yeah great actually! Really good. I mean it’s very easy work, very nice. We don’t go and DJ all the time, so I suppose we’re not tired and jaded by it, so going there is good – a club full of people, most of them on holiday. We played some bits and bobs from the new album, a couple of things went down really well, it was a good experience. I think it’s a bit of an easy gig really, Ibiza, playing to loads of people who have been in the sun all day and taken drugs.
Have you started thinking about live plans for the fifth album yet?
We’ve not really started to think about that yet – that seems a whole other world right now, because we’ve basically been locked in the studio for ages. We’re on the verge of either going mad or having an incredible breakthrough.
Is the transformation from two guys in a studio, to full-blown live band a difficult one?
In general, it’s not too hard because we write songs, we don’t just make beat music – we’ll write the whole song and then get someone to sing it. A lot of dance acts just write the beats and then get someone else to do the songs.
Your Brixton connection is well documented - did you start naming tracks after Camberwell because you got sick of Brixton getting all the Basement Jaxx PR?
Yeah we actually started in Camberwell, so that’s probably why we named some things after Camberwell, because everyone kept on saying we were from Brixton. That’s just the way it is. We haven’t managed to move to the Cotswolds or the Bahamas yet. I’m from the countryside, so I love London, but I love trees and rivers and nature, and not having the pressures of urban life. Who knows where we’ll end up. The main thing is to get the next album done and then we’ll work out what we’re doing after that.
You’ve played at pretty much every one of the venues in the area - which of the SW9 clubs do you feel the most affinity with?
We’ve been in various places – but to me it’s more about the vibe, the characters, and the time, so I guess that could really be anywhere, and where’s good always changes. Brixton’s still got good things going on – it’s obviously not as on the map as, well, ten years ago when we started. I did a DJ thing at Dex (new hotel and club on Brixton high street) when it launched, and I did put one Basement Jaxx night on there, which was a great room actually, and the terrace is brilliant.
This year, the big Glastonbury story was the Jay Z Noel Gallagher feud. But didn’t you do the whole Glasto showdown thing with Primal Scream in 2005?
Well we didn’t have a feud with anyone – they seemed to have a slight issue with us. The crowds backed us up which is all well and good…
Everyone’s saying what a success Glastonbury was this year…
I think it’s just down to the weather really – I went once as a punter years and years ago, and it was the best weather all weekend. That’s the only festival I’ve ever been to as a punter, and I had such a brilliant time, I just lay outside all weekend.
You’ve worked with a veritable 'who's who' of vocalists over the years, recently including Cyndi Lauper, Adele, Sam Sparro and Yoko Ono. Can you tell us a bit about them?
Cyndi Lauper is great – a real neurotic New Yorker, she speaks at nineteen words to the dozen, very nice woman, she’s really good to work with. Adele, yes very nice, she came into the studio with us for a while, although we never actually finished anything off with her. For ‘Cold Shoulder’ we just remixed the track, but we had met her previously to that, she’s great, really nice. Sam Sparro – also very nice - I mean generally we work with people when we’re into what they’re doing, so they’re usually nice people. With Sam, I like his voice – I went to see him do a live show which was great. He told us that he used to work in Brixton, in a pizza place, and he used to serve me pizza, but he never said hello because he was scared. Yoko Ono was very inspiring to work with, just because she’s got so much history and so much depth as a person, because of everything she’s had to deal with. She’s a very cool woman, I was really impressed with her.
But you’re not just about big names - is it true that some of the vocals for ‘Bongaloid’ were done by two local kids who knocked one the Atlantic Jaxx front door?
Yeah, I think they’re in there. Basically, anyone can have a go. We’ve worked with people who have just found out where the studio is, people we bump into in the street, people who recognise us and say hello, that kind of thing. Generally, we haven’t collaborated with big artists at all as Basement Jaxx. Well there’s Yoko Ono, but a lot of people consider that she’s got an awful voice; a lot of people don’t like her because she split up The Beatles. I only heard not long ago what she’s done with her music – I think its miles ahead of what other people are doing. And Sam Sparro, well I suppose he is big now all of a sudden, but it’s not normal for us to work with big names for our own stuff.
Anyone you’ve not worked with yet you’d really like to?
Well we’ve been trying to track down Grace Jones for… I don’t know how many years.
Does she know?
Yeah, she does know, but I think she’s quite hard to tie down, something was going to happen at some stage, then, well, I don’t know. She’s an interesting character.
And finally, who wears the trousers, you or Simon?
There’s no trousers wearer - we both wear our own kind of trousers. Or skirt, or whatever we fancy.
You wear skirts?
Could do – when we need a bit of aeration…