United Kingdom | 06 August 2009
With Creamfields taking place later this month, we thought we'd better catch up with headliners Basement Jaxx to chat about stalkers, festivals, remixes and Port Vale...
From their humble beginnings putting on club nights in Brixton, the Grammy-award winning dance duo have fused Bollywood inspired beats, ragga and house and shaped the dance scene with anthems like 'Where's Your Head At?'.
Their colourful live experience is a visual and aural delight for old and new fans alike. With jaw-dropping stage shows, chaotic carnival presence and a back catalogue of worldwide smash hits Basement Jaxx will drive their electronica, house party wagon right into the heart of Cheshire and are geared up to eclipse their roof-raising Creamfields performance back in 2005.
We had a little talk with half of the pair, Simon Ratcliffe…
Virtual Festials: You've not played Creamfields since 2005 what can fans expect at Creamfields this year?
Simon Ratcliffe: “We've been working on the live show since January and it's going down well. You can expect some loud colours, new singers, a lot of fresh material, lots of mash ups and improvisation in between songs.”
VF: You've remixed for Missy Elliott, N.E.R.D., Justin Timberlake and more, will you be remixing for anyone else in the near future?
SR: “We haven't done any in ages as we've been working on the album. We did Adele last year. Remixes are a distraction, really. When we started out it was good, one of our main sources of income. Now we're more established we don't need to do them. They're not the most exciting thing to do, anyone can do it on a laptop. But we'll do it to help someone out or if it's a track that both Felix and I love we'd do it.”
VF: Are you sad about the death of Michael Jackson?
SR: “I was just saying to my partner that I'm a bit indifferent in a way. ‘Thriller’ and ‘Off The Wall’ in the 70s were great, brilliant production and he was a beautiful, wondrous being for three years. But after that it got worse. The guy was not well in one way or another. I don't feel like 'oh my god' he's gone, his life was cut short. He'd died already. He'd gone. I remember a TV programme about him auctioning all of his records and they were desperate to show him at his lowest point. Now everyone is obsessed with his death. It's absolute crap.”
VF: Armand van Helden took you under his wing when you recorded in New York and you played Guitar Hero together - do you believe in Guitar Hero or think it's better for kids to pick up real instruments?
SR: ”It's much better playing real instruments and doing it for real. I'm not that familiar with Guitar Hero, I do play the X-Box though. I play war games instead of shooting real people.”
VF: What do you think of the UK house scene, how do you see it evolving?
SR: “I think it's good. Anything is possible at the moment. There are no divisions, Dizzee's working with Calvin. It's opened up people's minds, people are less worried about where they're from and where they're going. It's cyclical, Felix and I have been on the scene for 20 years and we'll hear a track and think that it could've been made years ago. And it's the same with a lot of rock music it goes in cycles; a lot of today's music harks back to the 60s. We're in a recession now and people want release. Not to hear stuff that's depressing. It's time to celebrate our inner strength and that will bring people together.”
VF: Where is the best dance scene in the world right now?
SR: “Japan is pretty happening. We did a clothing party at Fujirock Festival and they like it really banging and heavy. We played Bloody Beetroots, Crookers and hard electro. They're really up on their stuff. In Australia and Japan they're going for the electro insanity vibe, extreme madness is the way to describe it. Generally the world is getting into 'insanity' more.”
VF: Basement Jaxx have won a Best Dance Grammy and various BRIT awards - what else do you want to achieve?
SR: “I hope this album goes down well. It's the most revealing one and I want it to become a soundtrack to everyone's lives. We're looking to shoot a quality video and have a good director on board. We hope it'll be a winner. And music for films in the future.”
VF: Tell me more about scoring for movies.
SR: “I'd like to do more. It enhances what you've done. It liberates you and opens you to a while new world. You're treated and seen as an artist, not just a house music producer."
VF: Basement Jaxx began as a club night in Brixton called Rooty, do you ever fancy doing that again or moving into festivals like Groove Armada and Rob da Bank? Or a carnival?
SR: “Felix was hosting club nights when we met and he found it stressful. A month comes round so quickly, especially when you're working on an album. We used to use non-club venues in Brixton because it was cheap. Cheap to rent, cheap for the punters to get in and now most of them are non-existent, they've been closed down or turned into flats or wine bars. We wouldn't go back to it or go into festivals. I'm not enough of a businessman to do it. I guess we'd get someone in. But never say never. I'd like to try some rock projects. I'll need a drummer, bassist and keyboard player, I'd record it as a demo, then take it to the studio and mess it up and create something new out of it.”
VF: Will ‘Scars’, due for release in October, be your last album?
SR: “We're at the end of our contract with XL - a five-album deal. It might be our last. The future is very open. And we both want a bit of time to ourselves. It's been non-stop for 10 years, and we've been in and out of people's consciousness whether we've had a single or album out or not. We're always working on something and neither of us has had time for a breather. With albums you get an advance, which is great, but nothing beyond that.”
VF: So you make more money from live shows than album sales?
SR: “Yes, we make money on the live shows, which is great. I don't expect much from album sales after it all trickles down. Playing live works for everyone. That's why festivals are great, you get to see a lot of great music in one day and the bands get paid well.”
VF: The tile of the album is ‘Scars’ - have you got any scars?
SR: “It seemed like a good title for the album as we were both feeling slightly beaten up, being older and trying to find our place in the world. It's quite melancholy, about relationships that have not gone right. People have scars on the outside, they make you who you are, and give you character and you should be proud of them. I have a quite chunky scar above my left eye. I got it when I was three-years-old on a family holiday in Ibiza. I was knocked over by a car and flew over the bonnet, breaking my leg. My dad picked me up and practically held my head together. I was left with a massive scar but some people don't even notice it. You can see it from my left eye up my head when it's shaved.”
VF: Tell me about your work with a lot of strong, female vocalists and the theme of strength and empowerment in your music.
SR: “When we search for singers we try to find personality and expression. There are less female singers on the new album. It's a bit more male dominated. We write from the male perspective and switch it round by giving it a female vocal, changing the gender gives it a different meaning from a different psyche, it flips the meaning.”
VF: And Felix had a stalker, right?
SR: “This girl wouldn't leave him alone. It was hard, she wasn't quite all there and not dealing with reality. It all ended very horribly. It's not very nice.”
VF: Tell me about the artwork to your new album.
SR: “It's a mutant mouse done by Big Active who did the Rooty artwork. We were disappointed with the last album artwork. I wanted animals and creatures, we were going to have a bear at one point. It's a mutant collage, which is what a lot of people are today. People are interbred, and the world is a lot smaller. We're absorbing cultures from around the world. The mutation is about following basic instincts and still having modernity, like ipods and technology.”
VF: What's on your ipod at the moment?
SR: “I have an ipod but never use it. I've got a CD and my two-year-old loves dancing to boogie woogie music, my dad plays a bit of it too. [Shuffles through CDs] Giggs [grime artist] and Prefuse 73 who's from Chicago, it's a soundscape, Madlib style, 30-second samples, very modern, dancy and hip-hop, it's very colourful.” VF: What's with the rumours that Basement Jaxx are behind a bid to invest in the Port Vale Football Club? SR: I don't know anything about that. Unless Felix has been up to something and not told me!”
Basement Jaxx headline Creamfields 2009 on Sunday 30 August Bank Holiday weekend. Tickets are on sale now, with weekend camping and weekend tickets from £100, while day tickets start at £53.50. Also available are weekend and day hospitality tickets.
Click here to buy Creamfields tickets.
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