Ilya S. Savenok, Getty Images The sad news came across late Wednesday afternoon…
- Posted on Dec 31st 2009 1:30PM by Joshua Ostroff
But though the turn-of-the-millennium dance scene that briefly sent Felix Buxton and Simon Ratcliffe into the pop stratosphere has either been appropriated by Black Eyed Peas or has retreated underground, the latest Basement Jaxx album, 'Scars,' shows their mutant house music is still going strong.
So as the 2000s close, Buxton reflects on Basement Jaxx' first decade and tells us 'where their heads' at.'
I was cleaning my basement and came across a box of old CDs with 'Remedy' and 'Rooty' in it. I'd forgotten 'Remedy' was 10 years old.
Yeah, we've done the whole cycle now. We had a five-album deal with XL. We started with the 'Remedy' and finished with the 'Scars,' which is quite funny, really -- getting to the source of the pain. We've just come out the other side, which is actually nice because we've been really busy for 10 years.
The North America party scene was really taking off when those first albums came out, so there was a vibrant subculture behind dance music.
There is actually a new wave of it now -- electronic music is all alive again! It's the slightly alternative kids. In the '90s they'd have been listening to grunge and now they're listening to dance. It's in the mainstream, whereas before in America, to me, it was always a bit on the fringes, which I loved because it was the people who didn't fit in and didn't count. It was quite nice.
Yeah, it was raver kids with fat pants and glow-sticks and now it's the hipsters who went to see Daft Punk in 2007 and then got into Justice and that indie-dance sound. What's it like in England now?
All the clubs are still packed. A few years ago everybody was saying "Dance music's dead," but having said that, all the clubs were full every weekend with people dancing. They might be playing funk and African and drum 'n' bass and house. To me, it's all the same stuff.
You grew up during the late-'80s Acid House movement, right?
Yeah, that was massive. I thought we were going to be the new peace and love generation, which I found really exciting. During football matches in England there were people in the terraces taking E and all the violence that had been going on, it was all stopping and they were all having a party and having a laugh. For me, it wasn't based on E, because I didn't do drugs, I was just really into the whole thing.
What excites you now?
Dubstep is the only thing I've kind of come across that's, like, wow. There's loads of kids bouncing around to this really slow music and that's wicked. That's not what people would have done 10 years ago because it doesn't quite make sense. But it doesn't feel like it's a cultural wave.
Basement Jaxx stood out because you were called a 'house' act but were really mashing-up many different styles. Since then dance music has been absorbed into those other kinds of music.
Well, that really has changed things. But as someone was saying to us just recently, with R&B and hip-hop now you'll hear a full 4X4 track with ragga and soul vocals -- except, really, that's what we did with 'Jump n Shout' 10 years ago. But that's now mainstream pop music and it's all kind of been normalized and is becoming very boring.
Do you feel like you two were doing something on your own and the rest of the music industry has just caught up?
Yeah, to a fair extent. You've got Major Lazer over there, and Crookers and Justice. The 'fidget house' thing. We feel slightly like daddies because we created that kind of idea or whatever. Which is nice, they're all like, "I wouldn't be doing this if you hadn't done those tracks like 'Fly Life.'"
Dave from Switch was saying that's the reason he actually started making music -- and that's great. He did it really well, man, he took it and put a new angle on it. He's created a form that now other producers are copying. That's what Black Eyed Peas have done for years, it's just more into this big Euro-dance, hip-hop, world-pop music level.
Before iPods, people weren't listening to that many different genres but now that they are, it doesn't seem weird to have several genres in a single song.
That's right, so I suppose we were ahead of the time. I think it's good. When I was growing up, people listened to what was in the top 40 and that was it. The whole way we listen to music is different.
'Scars' has Santigold, Sam Sparrow, Yoko Ono, Yo Majesty and Lightspeed Champion as guests, all of whom have very different styles and send your songs into very different directions. Was there an overarching theme?
I suppose that's just modern society and contemporary culture. I've always seen the Basement Jaxx thing as a kind of emotional circus that draws everyone in -- you can be an alien or you can be from the Chicago underground or you can be in the royal family. I suppose that comes from the acid house sort of thing. It's very inclusive.
Do you ever get a nostalgic for those days when you and Simon were just running a club night?
No. I wouldn't want to do that again. I was sick sometimes, so worried if people would come. Basically, I couldn't afford for them not to come because I was in a mess. But yeah, I remember every night thinking 'Wow, this is such a great night.'