Basement Jaxx - "The Gay Interview" (!)



In August I talked with Felix Buxton, one half of house deity Basement Jaxx, about their latest album Junto. The interview was for GT (Gay Times) and so we talked a bit about Basement Jaxx's encounters with the gay scene and Felix's thoughts on the relationship between gay culture and dance music. We also chatted about drugs, growing up and how Myleene Klass is hot shit. I've been a big fan of Basement Jaxx since they blew up in the mainstream when I was about 11, so it was an ambition fulfilled to meet Felix and thank him and Simon for so much great music. Having saved up my pocket money to buy their first releases I felt fully compensated later on at the Junto launch party where there was a free bar!

There was only space for about 800 words of this interview in the September issue of GT, so here is my full transcript for you to read. Felix says some quite in-depth stuff about how Basement Jaxx build their music, so I wanted to share it here on my blog for all to enjoy rather than sit and decay in My Documents...




FELIX BUXTON: THE GAY INTERVIEW!

(a section of this appeared in the September 2014 issue of Gay Times)

With the arrival of their new album Junto and its hit lead single ‘Never Say Never’, Felix “Jaxx” Buxton talks to Jack Cullen about GBFs, gay clubbing memories and the egalitarian message behind Basement Jaxx’s music.

Twenty years ago Felix Buxton and Simon Ratcliffe bubbled out from beneath the undercarriages of Brixton’s deep house twilight zone, piloting their own dance scene and conjuring for themselves a unique sound that the world would come to know as Basement Jaxx. Their songs are sound collages that entwine the urbane with the ethereal, often combining pop, house and classical elements around a pelvically-dangerous soul groove, carried by unusual guest vocalists and topped off with a bucket load of bizarre samples and effects, Basement Jaxx tracks always pack a punch.

Today, on the eve of their seventh studio album, a bestselling greatest hits CD under their belt and a monthly Ibiza residency at Pacha, Basement Jaxx are at the top of their game. We caught up with Felix at his King’s Cross recording studio to chat all things Jaxx, with a gay twist of course…

Let’s talk about Junto the album...

Or “hunto” as it’s pronounced – it’s Spanish!

It’s your seventh major album but where would you place it in the Basement Jaxx story?

It feels like we’ve come back to square one. The musical style out there right now is like back when we started, that deeper kind of house has come back again.

The music press paints this portrait of Basement Jaxx exploding out of an underground Brixton scene in the 90s. What about the gay scene though?  Lots of big dance acts like Felix Da Housecat and Armand Van Helden played in gay clubs in their formative years, what about BJ?

Well, not so much Basement Jaxx the act, but on a personal level the gay scene was part of my early years because my best friend from school Alex turned out to be gay.

Did he drag you round all the gay bars then?

Not quite, but yeah I did experience the London gay scene a bit back then. I remember Horsemeat Disco was good and we used to go to nights at The Fridge and there was a place in Brixton too. Characters from the gay scene used to come down to the early Basement Jaxx nights too. My Gaydar has always been absolutely rubbish though!

Are you still friends with Alex?

Yes! He’s a doctor now but he keeps his piano here in our studio.

Last year when you played in Moscow your singers wore rainbow coloured dresses onstage, was it a protest against how badly Putin is treating his LGBT citizens?

Yes and no. Rainbows fitted into the picture of what we were doing at the time, in fact rainbows have always been quite a Basement Jaxx thing, part of that “somewhere over the rainbow” concept and hippy ideals of peace and love. Our music has always been about inclusion, celebrating people who are different and embracing everyone, so not just gay people but anyone who isn’t white and straight basically.

Do you and Simon sometimes feel like a married couple?

Well… to a certain extent! We have been working together now for about twenty years, but I would say brothers comes closer to what it feels like.

Have you had fall outs over the years or have you ever had days where you just don’t want to see each other?

We’ve always got on fine. We started off more as two people working together and then became friends. My friendship with Simon is so strong though because it’s been developed over years and years. I’m not the sort of person who just makes friends with someone when I’ve just met them. Like obviously you meet people all the time and you have fun together and it’s great, but a friendship like mine and Simon’s is on a different level to that because of our journey.

If in one hundred years’ time a music lecturer had to pick out a Basement Jaxx song for a class of students and say “This is who Basement Jaxx were”, which track would you suggest?

Er… Well I suppose… ‘Good Luck’ might be the one.

Absolutely Epic!

Well when you listen to it, er… I feel like that definitely wasn’t by any other band.

It is THE sound of Basement Jaxx.

I like how Good Luck cuts across the middle of who we are. It’s rock and roll, it’s soul, it’s dance, it really brings it all together.

How come you’re in the studio today?

I’m sorting stuff out for this new project I’m working on with Ella Eyre. I’m doing a radio show on Capital Xtra next week, then we’ve got our Ibiza residency in Pacha and then we’ve got Bestival. I’m also working on a project for World Peace Day based around our new song ‘Power To The People’ so there’s a lot to sort out here!

It seems like in your early stuff that was more anger and rage. Songs like Jump N’ Shout have this real gritty, gangster, filthy sex,  ghetto feel to them – you have sound effects like lighters flicking, and then over time your music’s become happier and has this glowing positivity about it, and you’re more likely to hear a harp playing than brakes screeching.

I think that’s just a response to the world we’re living in and what all of us are experiencing today. When you start out you feel this need to be as noisy as you can in order to grab attention, but now there’s so much stuff shouting at us all the time, that it’s boring to do that, that whole sound for us is a bit over. You have to remember the internet wasn’t even in place properly when Basement Jaxx began. When you listen to our earlier records they almost predict that the internet age is coming, that this overload of information and noise is one its way. And now that internet age has definitely arrived! And so I was very keen on moving forwards and away from that aggression and anguish you hear in the earlier stuff. We’ve done a lot of soul searching. Spirituality and new age ideals play a greater role in our music today, whereas in the past we might have used anger or these negative emotions for the base of a song, we don’t do that anymore. We’re trying to push out positive vibrations in our music. I’m very big on this psyche of not taking things personally, not making assumptions and always giving your best. Ancient Indian wisdom basically! Whereas back then for us it was very important to be as fucked up and twisted as possible.

On the new album there are still a couple of old-school Basement Jaxx tracks though right. Like “What’s The News” – that track really packs a punch, it’s like INXS and Freddie Mercury chewed up and rolled out of the Basement Jaxx hits factory. Really peachy, I love it.

Yeah, there’s a bit of that in there! With that track we really enjoying it in the live shows. Last week at Fuji Rock Festival in Nigata we really broke it down with this big section and then we did this whole kind of fashion show thing with it.

Now we wanted to talk to you about drugs. Clearly drugs play a part in the dance music scene, lots of people must party to your sets on drugs and you must have noticed a shift in the drugs landscape over your twenty year career. I just wanted some general views and perceptions from you, so like, Felix Buxton: On Drugs…

Obviously drugs has this sort of relationship with clubbing and house music, and when we started out in the 90s everyone was on pills all the time but for me personally I wasn’t into it at all.  Maybe because I was skint, but me and Alex would go out to a club purely to hear the music and to dance as much as possible. Dancing was always what we went for. We didn’t even spend money on drinks! I remember we would play this game where we would both compete with each other to dance as hard as possible. We both liked doing the splits, ha, and yeah - everyone probably thought we were on drugs! But for us it was about groove.

Have you ever taken drugs?

Oh yeah, when I got to university I was exposed to all of that. The club we went to actually was called Natural High, but everyone was snorting coke and tripping on acid. I had a really bad acid trip and after that I made a decision to leave acid behind. I went through a period of about six months where I did E too, and then I remember this one night I was out seeing a DJ from the states that I loved and I was completely pilled up, and I had this feeling inside me and I realised that it was boredom. I just felt really, really bored. The E was getting in the way of the music, and what I wanted to feel and what I really felt.

Tell us about your Power To The People project…

So the song Power To The People off our new album, we’re doing a version of it with lots of people all around the world singing it in different languages and different styles, and then we’re going to put out a mash-up for World Peace Day. So today I’ve been listening to the Indian vocals. Myleene Klass is playing the harp on Hampstead Heath in it too.

Isn’t she a bit prim and proper for Basement Jaxx’s image?

Not at all, she’s brilliant. Life’s too short to worry about things like “image” in that sense of the word. People get very nichey in London and there’s this constant ghettoization of the arts but it’s funny, something you learn from travelling the world is how silly and meaningless that all is. Like something in London that everything cares about and fusses over can mean absolutely nothing in another part of the world. London can be a very small-minded city, I really like Myleene Klass’s music and I love collaborating with a wide variety of people.

Talking earlier about London, do you think you’ll settle down here when you’re old, or move abroad permanently, or spring back to vicarage life?

Hahaha. I really like Ibiza actually. They say the lay lines and the energy there is really good. There are wonderful restaurants, nice beaches, you can go and party if you want.

So you’ll be starting a family in Ibiza next year?

Maybe! A while ago I thought long and hard about where in the world I most want to live actually, and it boiled down to Tokyo or Buenos Aires. I love the warmth and energy of Latin culture and Latin people.

Going back to the artwork, this new logo on Junto is quite simple compared to previous motifs like your crazy-cool coat of arms on Kish Kash and the hyper sexual graffiti stuff on Rooty…

Well both Simon and I wanted this album to be very clean and pure and Heather’s ideas fitted perfectly with our idea for the album. The logo really made sense to me on a personal level too, I’ve been looking at geometry recently and how everything is connected and this sense of balance in the universe.

What happens to your old artwork and stage props? I read that Pet Shop Boys keep all of there shit in an archive in South West London. Do you guys have archive too?

We have a lock-up in King’s Cross yeah.

So there could be a Basement Jaxx retrospective art exhibition happen one day?

It’s definitely something we’ll be wanting to do in the future yeah.

You’ve always collaborated with newcomers and a wide array of artists. With this new album I love Patricia Panther, the Scottish rapper you’ve got on your track Summer Dem!

Haha, yeah. We met her on the street at the Edinburgh festival. I was with my Dad I think and she came over and said hi because she’s a fan etcetera and she interviewed me for some magazine or other and then we stayed friends. With this new album she emerged as exactly what we needed because we needed a rap but I wanted a rap that wasn’t like any other rap. I feel like rap has become really boring, it’s just commercial corporate pop music now, whereas a Scottish rapper – we liked that! It took us a few goes to get it right, but I love the results – it sounds really different and yeah – Scottish, as opposed to just trying to sound American.

What sort of music are you into at the moment?

Right now I listen to a mixture of Korean music and classical musical. With the internet everything is so available and there’s so much out there, there’s load of really good house coming out at the moment too but I’m going through a Korean / Japanese thing, probably because we just got back from there.

How come you’re in the studio today?

I’m sorting stuff out for this new project I’m working on with Ella Eyre. I’m doing a radio show on Capital Xtra next week, then we’ve got our Ibiza residency in Pacha and then we’ve got Bestival, so there’s lot to sort out.





Junto was released August 25th. Lead single ‘Never Say Never’ is out now with 5m YouTube views and counting! Basement Jaxx are planning a big O2 arena show in December, take a look at their official site for details. 

~ The Endalude ~

Words and interview by Jack Cullen -  Twitter: @jackcullenuk – Instagram: jackcullenuk

Jack is also co-host of London's gay culture podcast 'Dylan and Jack' which he produces with Dylan B Jones. Listen on SoundCloud here: Dylan and Jack, or subscribe on iTunes here: Dylan and Jack.



London's Mephedrone Meltdown



Episode 8 of Dylan and Jack is out ! Kicking off with "Desert Island Dicks" - Jack's postmodern Radio 4 pitch.

This episode centres around a drugs-based discussion entitled "London's Mephedrone Meltdown" We also talk about (slag off) the Ice Bucket Challenge, Jack talks about his accidental night on crystal meth and its perilous consequences while Dylan manages to squeeze in a mention for one of his all-time-favourites - popular chanteuse Stacey Ferguson - the artist better known as Fergie! Plus some cool sound bytes from Basement Jaxx, Tom Worsfold, Ronika and Jetta. LISTEN NOW -
SUBSCRIBE TO DYLAN AND JACK - London's premier gay podcast - for free on iTunes. Or find us on SoundCloud. BOOM CLAP!

Slagging Off Cheryl Cole, Idyllic Devon and Backless Pants...



Dylan is back in the smoke after his hiatus in Devon and so we've managed to record the 7th episode of Dylan and Jack! Having been apart for three months there was a lot to catch up on...

EPISODE 7 - Listen on iTunes or Listen on SoundCloud


I'm off on a gay road trip this afternoon, heading to Sitges via bits of France and Italy. So see you in a few weeks! J xx

@jackcullenuk

Ladies With Latitude

(A rushed July update)


Woo. Just got back from Latitude festival in Suffolk where I was working on Jonny Woo's new show (TRANS)former, a high voltage spectacle born out of the Lou Reed songbook. Jonny and his crew absolutely smashed it, the Little House venue (which is actually a large barn) was packed out and the crowd went wild.

I went to the festival with GT's music editor Bob Chicalors, and we decided to make a little holiday of it, camping all four nights. We dragged up of course each night, because why not, and because nothing beats storming around Suffolk in the dark snogging out-of-it public school boys, right?

On the Friday night I channeled a drunk jogging mum, with no-sense-of-direction as a conceptual accessory:


I thought that was a pretty hot look, and on a Primark / Sports Direct budget too. Except for the jock strap which was off Amazon.

On Sunday night I went for a lazy dress-down day as you can see below, a waterproof Courtney Love exterior with a soft porn rugby interior:


What can I say. We were camping next to the spoken word superstar Zia Ahmed, which was kinda cool. We bought him a £5 dress off a festival stall and he wore it out with us one night!

My festival highlights were Lily Allen, Robyn and of course CHRISTEENE, the Texan "terrorist drag" queen that everyone is talking about and who is gracing the homepage of VICE right now. Here we are together:


If you don't know her yet then give her a YouTube whirl. "Tears From My Pussy" is a personal fave, as is "African Mayonnaise" -


We're all sad to say goodbye for now to Aaron Manhattan too. He was part of Jonny Woo's (TRANS)former show and he's an absolute delight. Hailing from Australia, he tore up the London gay scene in his few weeks here - appearing alongside Jonny at Glastonbury in Block 9, at Jonny's night KAFTAN, and also on his own at Sink The Pink and East Bloc. As a leaving present I gave Aaron my copy of Ultra Violet's book from my gay library as he's totally into that scene and period and he hadn't come across it before. Here's Aaron:


Can't wait to see him again when he's back. His routine to Grace Jones's Joy Division cover "I've Lost Control" is just fantastic, and comes with its own bubble-wrap gown. Aaron Manhattan is very garbage couture, as he will happily tell you over the course of an hour packed with endless arthouse references, all in his Australian voice too.

What else.

Next week is SUMMER RITES presents "Out On The Dock". Basically a big gay knees up, almost the entire London gay scene is being employed to spin, dance or perform at it. I interviewed 80s celesbian pop star Hazell Dean ahead of it, for Gay Times. It's quite an amusing little interview -

INTERVIEW WITH HAZELL DEAN


Oh Hazell.

I've also been busy working for Paul Foot as always. His new show 'Hovercraft Symphony in Gammon Sharp Major' is currently in its London previews stage and will launch at the Fringe in about ten days.

Paul himself is renting a cottage in Kent where he has been perfecting and learning the show, as well as making some fun little video logs on YouTube using his FootPad. You can watch those on his YouTubular Chandelier.

I'm too hot and sleepy to think of anything else to add to this bizarre little update from me so let's leave it there. Summer road trip in less than two weeks - can't wait!

JC xx @jackcullenuk

P.s. OH YEAH - The podcast is now on Episode 7, due to record at the start of August. You can catch up with episodes 5 and 6 on our SoundCloud page, or find 'Dylan and Jack' on iTunes. A gay underwear label has been in touch to ask about sponsoring the next episode so I'm looking forward to talking about that!

P.p.s. WHO THE FUCK IS SMILEY VYRUS - read that piece!


P.p.s. I saw this cartoon below on the net somewhere and downloaded it but I can't remember where I found it. Any ideas? Tweet me, would love to find out what it was from. Thanks.


xxx

Dylan and Jack Episode 4: Sex, Drugs and Rivendell !




That's right, the fourth episode of my podcast is fresh out! We kick off with an exclusive on a new Lord of the Rings TV series, and then go on to talk about shit jobs in Soho, what it's like working at Dazed & Confused magazine, getting trashed at the gay film festival, and we meet gay electro pop star Christianoshi.

Have a listen here: https://soundcloud.com/dylanandjack/dylan-and-jack-episode-4-sex


We've had some really good feedback on the show so far, and although it could be a coincidence,both Matt Lucas and David Walliams have started following us on Twitter!


LONDON GAY FILM FESTIVAL 2014 



Or "BFI Flare" as its now called! I thought you might like to read this piece I wrote for Gay Times on the 1987 film 'The Lost Boys'. I caught it on the big screen at BFI Flare and learnt some dark secrets behind the film and its cast when doing my research later on that night -

http://www.gaytimes.co.uk/Interact/Blogs-articleid-10171-sectionid-761.html

The other stand out film for me this year was The Last Match, or "La Partida". A gripping tale of two Peruvian lovers whose secret gay life is challenged and torn apart by the increasing pressures of arranged marriage, football trials, gay prostitution and tourism -


Well worth giving it a Google and learning more.

Any other news from me? I can't think right now, it's too sunny. I'm in the process of reading all of Patrick Gale's novels too, ahead of an interview in September which is when the uncorrected proofs of his new novel will be sent out.

Later on this month I'm going on a road trip around Eastern Germany and Poland too, so more about that soon.

Jack -x-


Dylan & Jack: Episode 2 !




https://soundcloud.com/dylanandjack/dylan-jack-episode-2-bad-dates

Episode 2 of our gay London podcast 'Dylan and Jack' went live today. In this episode we discuss scene haunts G-A-Y Late and Escape Bar, we answer a listener's question "What's the best way to end a bad date?", we discuss the business acumen of both Beyonce and Lady Gaga, and then leading on from a dinner party hosted by the author David Plante we talk about bareback sex - and its seemingly increasing popularity within the young gay community.

Also featured are Paris Lees, the drag queen Baga Chipz and part-time pop singer Alexandra Burke. Enjoy!


Guardian Top Comment !




I was chufffed today to receive the Guardian's "Pick" badge on my comment in response to Rebecca Nicholson's article today - "Could all the Russia is gay jokes do more harm than good?"

And 114 thumbs up so far.

I enjoy Rebecca's work at the Guardian. Our paths collided around about this time last year when I wrote my "Top 10 Cliches of Gay Short Films" feature for the Guardian, and it inspired Rebecca to write a lesbian spin-off piece.

Last month for Gay Times I wrote about the homophobic crisis in Russia, by reviewing the documentary "Young & Gay in Putin's Russia" and adding some of my own thoughts. You can read that piece here:

http://www.gaytimes.co.uk/Interact/Blogs-articleid-10004-sectionid-760.html

I've no idea why the article is categorised online under 'GT Music', but I don't suppose it matters too much.



Dylan & Jack : London's brand new LGBT podcast



Here it is! The pilot episode of "Dylan and Jack", a new London-based podcast all about the gay scene and our lives on, in and under the spell of it! This first episode pays homage to a host of familiar London personalities including Kate Moss, Sophie Ellis-Bextor and everyone's favourite toilet attendant Mary from cheap and chic week night haunt G-A-Y Late. Take a listen and enter one of our inane competitions:

https://soundcloud.com/dylanandjack/

Discussing our lives here in London as young journalists, our podcast sets out to expose some of the myths of this glorious city, while also offering heartfelt advice to anyone looking to move here as we ourselves did from the provincial sticks of Devon and Melton Mowbray respectively a few years ago.

For a while now Dylan and I have been talking about doing a podcast together. We both met as writers employed by Gay Times magazine, Britain's original gay magazine. After a bit of a teething period, which is quite normal apparently when two writers with similarities cross paths, we went on to form a strong friendship and sail the London scene together. I tend to write mostly about the internet, sex, art and gay literature. Dylan's writing currently resides more within the realms of gay youth culture, pop music and TV.

After Santa Claus bought me a microphone for Christmas, I decided to take it back to the shop and swap it for a different one that would enable Dylan and I to record a podcast together in a relaxed environment and talk to each other in exactly the same conditions in which we talk to each other most evenings. We decided that 2014 would be the year that we finally, definitely, make the podcast idea happen, recording from the centre of my avant garde gin-infused kitchen. This kitchen has seen several momentous events including Bob Henderson's notorious Ke$ha themed party, trans activist Paris Lees's "Most Influential LGBT Person on Earth" party, and comedian Paul Foot's "Night of Madness".

We'd quite like to host our podcast with a magazine, website or publication that fits our interests and our demographic. So if you're a prospective host or sponsor please do get in touch, either by messaging us on SoundCloud or by tweeting us: on @JackCullenUK or @DylanBJones. Enjoy!


Even though it is our personal belief that gay adolescents should be free to learn about the world at large at a pace that suits them in accordance with their own personal development, "Dylan and Jack" is an Over 18s podcast that should only be listened to by adults.

If you are 16-18 and want to listen to our podcast then seek permission first from a parent or adult guardian who has listened to the podcast first and approved it. The podcast is certainly not suitable for anybody under 16 as it casually covers material of an adult nature.

Albert Wainwright: Discovering the lost sketchbooks of one of Britain's most talented and controversial water-colourists



Today I mentioned my first New Statesman article "Discovering the lost sketchbooks of Albert Wainwright" in a conversation and I realised that I've never actually shared the piece here on my personal blog.

What's more, following on from the piece I am delighted to hear that the Hepworth Gallery in Wakefield have now decided to extend the exhibition due to a little re-surge in attention, and so I am going to write a second piece, a review of the show and some of the new insights it throws on Wainwright.

This short video released by the gallery is brilliant and really demonstrates Wainwright's talent and strength in his chosen field of water colours. The narration by exhibition assistant Holly Grange is splendid too:



You can follow the Hepworth Gallery on Twitter: @HepworthGallery



On the American national anthem... and its queer history.




Today is the anniversary of "The Star-Spangled Banner", the American national anthem (as of 1931) which Francis Scott Key wrote in 1814.

I decided to do a little bit of research into whether the lyricist was gay, not because "star spangled banner" sounds beyond camp and he may as well have called the anthem Vogue, but because, you know, a lot of successful early 19th century lyricists were at least bi.

I found this fascinating little piece written by the American writer Martin Greif (who died in 1996) that links the American national anthem to the pederastic Greek poet Anacreon.


Anacreon and the American National Anthem

By the late Martin Greif

"What does the Greek poet Anacreon have to do with Francis Scott Key? Well, Anacreon's poems (which were largely about boys he diddled, such youths as Smerdus, Leukaspis, Simalus, Euryalus and Bathyllus, to name but a few) had a distinct structure. This poetic structure became known therefore as 'Anacreontics'. 

"Several poets imitated the Anacreontic style when Anacreon's poems were rediscovered by English poets. The popularity of Anacreontics culminated in the popular song "Anacreon in Heaven", and, as every schoolboy should know, the music to the song eventually became the tune for the American national anthem.

"Francis Scott Key's words may have been inspiring in the past, but they're impossible to memorize because archaic. If you doubt this, listen to the mumbles that pass for words whenever the song is sung at a high school graduation. And watch people shifting uneasily from one foot to the other while staring at their shoes.

"The tune itself to 'The Star-Spangled Banner' is positively unsingable. There have been several attempts to convince Congress to seek a new national anthem, but no luck thus far. If you want to accelerate this movement, just let the Moral Majority  know that the anthem has everything to do with some foreign fag who used to dip his dork in little Greek boys just like theirs. That oughta do the job!"

- Martin Greif wrote this little piece in the 1980s. Thirty years later America is still stuck with the same terrible national anthem. Still, at least it's interesting to know that the song has its roots in pederastic ancient Greece.