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Interview: Felix Buxton (Basement Jaxx)

“It’s important to grow old gracefully” – One half of electronic house duo Basement Jaxx talks about his new (maybe last) album, his travels in India, and a little love life goss’.

28 Nov, 2011

Mariyam Thomas

Sub-Editor

The first Basement Jaxx song I ever heard was  ‘Good Luck’ which featured the cracking rock-soul vocals of Lisa Kekaula (of The Bellrays). I danced till I was legless. Basement Jaxx have a talent. They make people dance. You just can’t help it.

‘Good Luck’ was on their third studio album Kish Kash. However their first two albums  – Remedy and Rooty – were what caught people’s attention – with chart-busters like ‘Red Alert’, ‘Where‘s Your Head At?’, ‘Romeo’, ‘Jump N’ Shout’, etc. Though, Kish Kash was the one that won the duo the Best Electronic/Dance Album Grammy at at the 47th edition of the awards.

This last month, Felix Buxton came to India and he made people dance in New Delhi, Chennai, Goa and at the Bacardi NH7 Weekender in Pune. We caught up with Buxton for a chat about his time in India, his musical projects and, um, his love life.

So what have you been up to in India?
I had some south Indian food, went to a kavali. Which was amazing. I went to the Taj Mahal yesterday and I think you’ve all done very well. I’m very pleased. After that, I recorded a couple of musicians in Midival Punditz‘ studio – a female singer and a flute player. At the moment, I am recording new stuff for the new album. You just have to do stuff and review it and see what happens. And they were great.

For me, it’s a great opportunity to see the country, meet the people. People are being really warm and really friendly. More than anything, the trip to the Taj Mahal, for me that was my first four hours of seeing life happening in India. People from every nook and crannie just all busy, running here, running there, the chaos and just kind of. More than anything, it just feels like there is lots of activity and stuff happening. Lots of building and I think it’s quite an exciting place, it really seems like its coming into blossom.

How come Simon (Ratcliffe) didn’t come?
Simon has a four-year-old kid, and we were in Japan last week and to come here as well was a bit too much.

I heard you were working on a new album? What’s it going to sound like?
I kind of said to Simon before that maybe we should do this like a last album… It depends, what we’re doing. If we trying to do stuff that relates to kids in clubs, do we want to do that individually. Or do we connect in the same way? It’s important to grow old gracefully. And do something that’s appropriate for your state of mind at that age. Which might not relate as well to an 18-year-old. Hopefully it does.

It’ll probably have a bit of a global feel. Our stuff always has. But maybe it’s a more informed global feel now perhaps with working with musicians in India rather than just Indian people in London.

How does the process begin, you know, making a new Basement Jaxx song?
It’s just making music. Either it starts with an idea from some words or, “Lets make THAT kind of tune.” Well yesterday, working in a studio here, I had a couple of grooves, and one of them was something that me and Simon had worked on together… we thought we could develop that into a tune. And play one version of it in Japan. And this girl, I got her yesterday to sing and write stuff and changed it around to the way her voice was. So it’s developing. We do all the engineering and production and everything ourselves. So the exciting bit is making the initial thing and making the song. But then, you’ve got to finish it off and clean it up. All the kind of boring bits.

So what is the difference between what you and Simon do within Basement Jaxx? What exactly do you contribute each to the music?
Well, he [Simon] is sort of rock and reggae and I’m more kind of melody and Latin. That doesn’t really help.

We’ve made songs before where he is strumming guitar and I sing. That is the basic form.

I’m more about melody – the top of the track. And Simon makes sure that the bones are there and working. I’m very much about how it makes you feel, the emotion, the melody, the words, and probably all the sounds everywhere.

Besides the album, have you been working on anything else?
In the last year, I was very involved with this orchestral project. It was a concert where I worked with a conductor and orchestral arranger for the last year – Jules Buckley. We did a performance in Holland where we took Jaxx music and did interpretations in all different styles. A 70-piece orchestra, 40-piece choir, we got the Jaxx singers, opera as well. So we did two nights in Symphony Hall in London earlier in the year and that went really well. It was punchy, strong, delightful and charming and all those things that music should be.

That to me seems more exciting that just doing another Basement Jaxx album of house tracks. Maybe we’ll make a Basement Jaxx album like that. That’s one thing that with Simon, I always have to give him a bit of time. He wasn’t particularly interested in the orchestral thing before. But he was happy to come there and people to go, “It’s amazing,” and he to go, “Yeah, that’s cool.” So its just one of those things we might incorporate. For me, I am prone to go too abstract and too all over the place. I’ve been talking to the woman who does the costumes for the live shows and she was saying for years she thought we could develop it further like a musical. So that is a possibility. But I think it would be great to get another album done and both me and Simon are ready to do an album now. He’s had a kid, and family and stuff, so I’ve still carried on with Basement Jaxx doing the orchestra and blah blah blah. But it seems like he’s come back into the building. Because you need focus and it’s hard to balance it out with your family life. But I want to do one more and then move into the family thing.

So are you single and mingling then?
Well, not mingling that much, because I don’t get that much time. Also, we are traveling around, that’s one thing. It’s trying to work out doing the live thing and have a home situation as well.

Have you sorted out your love life then?
Well, at the end of the last year, with the live show touring, we stopped and had time at home. For me to sort out my love life, and him to spend time with his kid. Well, yeah, because then I just keep running off and never sort anything out. So sorting out a bit of home life. I’ve been trying to… well, I have managed to do that. I’ve kind of finished everything and its like I’m backing to working again.

Once you’re finished up in India, where are you off to?
So, I’m kind of getting bits of material. And then I’ll go back to London. Hopefully, when I get there Simon will be in the studio with some ideas.

Felix Buxton stayed some extra days in Goa to do “some recording there. And maybe go for a swim”, before heading back to the UK.

Check out the video below of Basement Jaxx’s song ‘My Turn’ where they collaborated with indie-funk artist Lightspeed Champion for their 2009 album Scars. [PS. You have to check out the dancing bears sporting swimming caps and goggles]

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