Basement Jaxx Looks to Make Fans Like Prince Harry Go Ape Yet Again on 'Junto'
Basement Jaxx was one of the leading lights of dance music's turn-of-the-millennium boom, with a string of top five hits on Billboard's Dance Club chart including "Red Alert," "Bingo Bango," "Romeo" and "Where's Your Head At." The duo's Felix Buxton, 43, and Simon Ratcliffe, 44, even won the inaugural best electronica/dance album Grammy for 2003's "Kish Kash." While the act remained popular in the years that followed, it dabbled in more experimental albums and soundtracks. Five years after its last studio release, the duo returns with "Junto" (Atlantic Jaxx/PAIS), which brings back the irresistible beats and happy vibes of its early work. Just ask Prince Harry or Vampire Weekend, who, as Buxton and Ratcliffe explain before a DJ set in Brooklyn, are known to dance in a gorilla suit for the cause.
You're touring the United States again in the fall. Why did you stay away for so long?
Buxton: It just seemed like, "America's not interested, they're not getting it - we won a Grammy but [the label is] saying they can't work our record." [Audiences] wanted us in Japan, Australia, Europe, so we weren't too worried about it. Our live show is rainbows and good vibes and fun, and that definitely informed the new album. We made the decision to not be all left field and tangential, and instead meet people head-on and say, "Here is something you love about Basement Jaxx."
Do you think you'd been all left-field and tangential?
Ratcliffe: Well, the album before that was [2009's instrumental, ambient] Zephyr.
Buxton: And the orchestral album [a 2011 collaboration with Holland's Metropole Orkestra on songs from the Jaxx catalog], which is not exactly high fashion.
Ratcliffe: And two film soundtracks!
Buxton: But yeah, maybe to a certain extent we were taking ourselves very seriously, and this album was definitely lightening up a bit, music for people who wanna dance and not get all highbrow.
It's great timing, with dance back on the charts. Which new EDM acts do you like?
Ratcliffe: Disclosure, obviously.
Buxton: Sam Smith, he's got a great voice. Rudimental, they're big fans. It's great meeting young bands who are doing well who like us. Two or three of them were gorillas in our live show, actually, a couple of months ago.
Buxton: When we do "Where's Your Head At," we have people dressed as gorillas [inspired by the song's video] onstage. We've had TV stars.
Ratcliffe: Vampire Weekend. Mike Skinner from The Streets. At a festival there's always people around, everybody's like, "Yeah, I'll be a gorilla."
Buxton: Prince Harry.
Ratcliffe: Yeah. He was hanging around backstage [at the O2 Wireless Festival in London's Hyde Park in 2009] and we asked him, "Do you want to be a gorilla?" and his security were like, "No, no, no, no, no. What are you doing? He's the Prince of [Wales]!" But he was well into it.
Buxton: The wardrobe girl loved it because she was there with Prince Harry in his boxer shorts putting on the gorilla suit. She was like [starry-eyed] "There you go!" [Laughter]
Ratcliffe: He was anonymous in that suit, he could do whatever he wanted in front of thousands of people. He was celebrating.
Buxton: And I tackled him onstage as well. I was like, "Who's that appalling dancer?" and his security were off to the side like [mimes talking into his sleeve]. But he said, "It's one of the best times I've ever had." Afterward, I almost did a curtsy to apologize for knocking him over, and I kind of went, "I'm really sorry" [curtsies as one would to the queen], and I thought, "What the hell am I doing?"
You're British, you can't help it.
Ratcliffe: It's in our genes.
Do you hear your influence in the dance music being made now?
Ratcliffe: Everything influences everything else.
Buxton: We just carried on doing what we were doing, but Daft Punk showed that there was light at the end of the tunnel. For us, production-wise it was like: [heaves a sigh of relief], you can do something that's not really loud and people like it. They think it's radical! People were telling me, "You know they're actually playing instruments? Wow!" Anyway, the cycles get smaller and smaller nowadays. We just waited and things came back around - we pulled into the service station and then got back on the road.