Basement Jaxx Biography
Felix Buxton and Simon Ratcliffe met over an obscure Masters At Work record in Brixton, south London in 1994. Choosing the name Basement Jaxx (Simon had a studio in a basement and the music jacked), their initial ambitions were humble: to put on great parties and produce records, which emulated their heroes on the U.S. house scene.
Over the course of several EPs on their Atlantic Jaxx label, however, a more idiosyncratic, homegrown sound emerged in the edge-of-panic squeal of “Fly Life” and the bassbin psychosis of “Set Yo’ Body Free”. Their 1997 Atlantic Jaxx compilation was informed by soul, jazz, reggae, house and samba but also the more raucous British traditions of punk and rave.
Signing to Astralwerks in the U.S. (and XL in the UK), they released their debut album, Remedy, in 1999. An instant classic, it spun ragga, disco and R&B into anarchic new mutations and yielded the hit singles “Red Alert,” “Rendez-Vu,” “Jump And Shout” and "Bingo Bango."
After touring the world, Basement Jaxx hosted an intense, intimate club in a Brixton pub and called it Rooty. That became the title of their second album in 2001. Fiercer and rowdier than its predecessor, it featured “Romeo,” “Jus 1 Kiss,” “Get Me Off” and, most startling of all, the Gary Numan-sampling punk garage blitzkrieg “Where’s Your Head At.”
Kish Kash was born in the aftermath of another lengthy tour. Exhausted and homesick, Felix and Simon settled into their new Brixton studio and set about developing a fresh approach, less reliant on grooves and samples and more focused on songwriting, often starting with just a voice and guitar. "We kind of went back to school," says Felix. "We got this new studio and had to learn how to use it." Adds Simon: "There was a greater sense that we didn’t know what we were doing but it was more enjoyable than before."
The recording process took place between March 2002 and August 2003. In the meantime they released the low profile experimental Junction EP and remixed Missy Elliott, DJ Sneak and Justin Timberlake. The remixes were easy – the tricky bit was deciding where to go next.
In the past, the pair had taken some of their cues from their dancefloor contemporaries but not this time. "We were listening to what other people were doing and realizing it was all pretty stagnant and uninspiring," says Simon. "There was nothing to look up to in a way. We had to do something new." The variety of records they enjoyed while making Kish Kash had a less direct influence: Radiohead, The Neptunes, Timbaland and contorted art-metallers System Of A Down.
Basement Jaxx records have always thrived on a sense of organized chaos, voices and sounds and ideas pingponging wildly around the mix. Kish Kash is simultaneously the most extreme and most cohesive example of the mentality. "I think this album sits together better than our other ones," says Simon. "They were a bit disjointed."