Photo by Andrew Whitton
10 QUESTIONS W/ BASEMENT JAXX.
A few weeks ago, Theme’s Chad Hinson caught up with Felix Buxton from the Basement Jaxx to check up on the boys and life before their massive world tour in support of their new album Scars.
1. Scars is your fifth studio album. How do you feel like you guys have evolved since Remedy?
We were unknown at first – really club focused…Brixton parties and the like. Now we’re headlining festivals and really experimenting with the ‘live’ side of things. Early on, it was just us on the decks with an MC and a percussion player. Now we’re playing with Kanye and Snoop. I guess now were just ‘busy being busy.’ It’s like a rollercoaster to be honest. A brilliant rollercoaster.
2. Back in the day, I couldn’t play a DJ set without dropping Red Alert or Bingo Bango. Do you guys still try to make big club-stormers, or is that just a bi-product of making a record?
Back in the day, club culture was such an enormous thing, it inspired everything we did. When we were making Remedy, we were really influenced by the sounds coming out of the U.S. like Timbaland and the Neptunes. But now, R&B is making 4 to the floor house tracks about ‘shaking my ass and making that cash,’ it’s world dance now. But in Ibiza, it’s still more refined, no vocals, etc. Anything could be a club hit now.
3. Scars seems almost like a back-to-basics record for you guys. An incredibly eclectic back-to-basics, but a return nonetheless. Was there a conscious choice to do something different than Crazy Itch Radio?
Initially, we were trying to do something different. People always want you to repeat yourselves, but you have to move forward. We started the record in a very dark place, but the sun came out towards the end of the album. There were such mood swings happening in the world with the economy and everything and we just felt like people wanted to feel full. I think that’s what music is supposed to do, right?
4. What were you guys listening to at the time that inspired the overall sound of Scars?
At first, it was a lot of dark and minimal stuff. I was listening to a lot of dub-step as well. But it’s funny, in the U.K., the ukulele has become popular, so it ended up being a mash-up of all different sounds. Towards the end though, we got brighter and more psychedelic…lighter. Groups like Vampire Weekend and MGMT were being played frequently. These are bands that have had a ton of success by taking traditional “English” sounds and massifying them.
5. The first two videos from the record, Raindrops and Feelings Gone are very different from one another. What’s your approach to making videos? Is it a “have to do” sort of thing, or is it a part of the creative package?
Making videos is brilliant. It’s basically making pictures to go with the song, isn’t it? You want as much money as possible to make the video though (laughs). Our whole thing is just to work with a bunch of different creatives and innovative type people. We’re writing the treatment for Scars right now.
6. A lot of amazing vocalists and MC’s are featured on the record. How do you guys decide whom you want to go after? And how on earth did you get Yoko Ono on the album?
I told Simon that I wanted to go to New York. I was initially just trying to interview Yoko Ono, just to have her impart some wisdom on me. I felt like we were both a part of the peace and love movement – her in the ‘60s and me as a part of the Acid-House movement. It turned out she was a fan of our music and wanted to do a record with us. It was incredible. Santigold was in Brooklyn – she was great to work with. Yo Majesty was there also. It all just sort of came together.
Was there anyone you wanted on the record that just couldn’t be sorted out?
We’ve wanted to work with Grace Jones for years. She said she was up for doing a track on Scars, but we never heard back from her. We told her we’d camp out in from of her house and she could just go out on the sidewalk in her slippers and sing something…but it never happened.
Amp Fiddler and Jose James are a few of my favorites. How did you guys track them down?
Amp was in town (Brixton) when we connected. It was such a beautiful vibe. He is a complete soul singer. And Jose James was in town doing an all John Coltrane tribute. He is such a great talent! Like I said, it all just seemed to work out.
7. Your upcoming tour has you guys in the states for the first time in three years. Why such a long absence?
There haven’t been any great offers, to be honest. This time around, we’re bringing a massive DJ set, but we’d love to bring the whole show – costume changes, MC’s, live instrumentation – everything…real big!
Last time I saw you guys here was in Chicago in 2004 I believe. I have to say that was a masterful show. The crowd didn’t know what hit them. I think I even heard Whitney Houston in the mix. When you guys DJ, is there ever an attempt or conscious effort to shock the crowd, or is it all about enlightenment and smashing genres?
(Laughs) We always want to keep things interesting. We’ll feel out the vibrations in the room and adjust accordingly. The bones are always there, but we wait until we get to the show to put the skin on it! To be honest, we’re really just playing the stuff that we are loving at the time. I think the crowd can sense that energy.
9. Is there anything you look specifically forward to when you come to the states? Food, people, specific cities?
There’s such a friendliness and a warmth in the states. We Brits are a bit cynical, so we’re always wondering if it’s sincere. After all of these years, I think it really is! Also, we’re really excited about Obama being elected. I was reading his book Audacity of Hope at the time we were recording. I was so inspired and hopeful. I hope he can hold on to his initial beliefs and have the support he needs to carry those things out. I feel like that’s what music is about also – lifting yourself out of all the rubbish bits and creating intense beauty.
10. What’s next for Basement Jaxx?
“Raindrops” is number 1 on the i-Tunes charts over here right now, so we’re really hoping to build on that momentum. We’re touring the U.K., Australia and Japan next. We’re also doing a television program here with Yoko Ono coming over to be a part of it. What I’m most excited about though is the 8-track follow up we’re doing as a sort of part two to the ‘Scars’ album. If you like what you hear on ‘Scars,’ you’re going to love what you hear AND see next!
Then I think it’s time for a quick break. Who knows, I may write some sort of surreal comedy or something like that. Regardless, I will definitely be keeping out of the studio for a bit. Stay tuned.