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Artist Profiles :: Basement Jaxx

Basement JaxxBasement Jaxx are the most successful dance act to emerge in the last year. 1999’s Remedy album was hailed as an instant classic and even made it into several ‘Best of the Nineties’ charts. What most people who bought the album don’t know is that Basement Jaxx’s recent chart success is the culmination of years building their reputation on the underground house scene.

Felix Burton (the one with the goatee) and Simon Ratcliffe met at a boat party on the Thames organised by Felix in the early nineties. Felix, the son of a clergyman, was born in Leicester and had a fairly strict upbringing; watching Top Of The Pops was definitely out, for example. He studied engineering at college and before Basement Jaxx became a full-time thing he worked – depending on which version you believe – as a political spin-doctor and/or a gardener. He was a regular at Gilles Peterson’s legendary Talkin Loud, Sayin Something afternoon sessions (the spiritual ‘birthplace’ of the acid jazz movement of the eighties) at Camden Dingwalls before graduating to early Chicago house. Simon Ratcliffe, on the other hand, has a degree in French and Dutch and lived for a while in Amsterdam, where he immersed himself in Latin funk acts like George Duke and War.

They discovered a shared love of deep, funky, sexy American house music and began putting on parties together, starting out in the basement of a Mexican restaurant in Brixton, South London, where they both live. Because of the attention of the police, not to mention the local dealers, these didn’t last long and prompted a move into legal venues like The Brix underneath St Matthews church. Like many small club nights, Basement Jaxx (the name given to the parties) began as an excuse to party with friends and play their favourite records, but over the years the buzz around the nights and the boys themselves grew to the point where Basement Jaxx club nights became landmarks on the London house circuit, with the likes of Erick Morillo turning up.

Yet a Basement Jaxx DJ set is about much more than house. On the decks, Felix & Simon blend an intoxicating mixture of house, funk, R&B, ragga, Latin, garage, drum’n’bass and hip-hop without respect for so-called ‘musical boundaries’. Their most recent Essential Mix for Radio 1, for example, pitched Mr Oizo and Whitney Houston against Nas, Eminem, Prince and Fingers Inc.

Late in 1994 the duo set up their Atlantic Jaxx label and released EP1. Respected New York DJ Tony Humphries was amongst the first to pick up on the record and made Da Underground a staple of his radio show in 1995. The boys followed up with EP2, recruiting former UK kickboxing champion Corinna Joseph on vocal duties. Joseph has since become a more or less full-time member of the group and now accompanies Felix & Simon on live performances.

Yet it was with the third Atlantic Jaxx release that things really started to happen. Samba Magic, released under the name of Summer Daze, was an instant favourite with all house’s big guns, like Louie Vega from Masters At Work, DJ Sneak, Roger Sanchez and Deep Dish, and became something of a Latin house music anthem. It was picked up and re-released in 1996 by VC with new mixes by DJ Sneak and gave the boys their first taste of chart success.

After solo EPs from Simon and Corinna, Basement Jaxx scored another massive club hit with Fly Life, a track from their EP3 release. Fly Life was later licensed to Multiply Records who re-released it with a new mix from Basement Jaxx featuring ragga MC Glamma Kid (best known for his recent chart success with a version of Carly Simon’s Why?) and remixes from Cajmere (Green Velvet), Erick Morillo and Roni Size. Once again, the record charted.

The boys further demonstrated their ear for a tune when they licensed Italian DJ Claudio Coccoluto’s Belo Horizonti smash to Atlantic Jaxx, released under the name of The Heartists. The duo had become regular guests at Coccoluto’s club night in Italy and when the record was subsequently released through VC, it followed Samba Magic and Fly Life into the charts. Interestingly, both records sampled the same Brazilian musician, Airto.

Not surprisingly, there have been constant requests for remixes since the success of Samba Magic and amongst those whose music Basement Jaxx have revamped are 4th Measure Men, Raven Maize, Kathy Sledge, Kim English, Roger S(anchez) and Incognito. All the same, the duo are far from being the pop remix whores that other successful house producers have become, sticking to quality house and club records.

Want to know more? check out this CD...
Kish Kash
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