Basement Jaxx are the most successful dance act to emerge in the
last year. 1999s 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 dont know is that Basement
Jaxxs 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 Petersons 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 didnt 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
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, drumnbass 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 houses 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
Simons 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 Coccolutos Belo Horizonti smash to Atlantic
Jaxx, released under the name of The Heartists. The duo had become
regular guests at Coccolutos 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.