About Basement Jaxx
From their '90s underground singles to the more ambitious projects they tackled decades later, Basement Jaxx are one of the U.K.'s most respected -- and enjoyable -- dance acts. While virtually everything South London production duo Simon Ratcliffe and Felix Buxton released was rooted in house, they mutated several styles (R&B, U.K. garage, ragga, Latin jazz, ambient techno) with an unmatched restlessness. They constantly shuffled the deck, all the while collaborating with an endless array of vocalists both known (including Biz Markie, Siouxsie Sioux, and Yoko Ono) and unknown. With 1999's instant-classic debut album Remedy, they provided a sexy, sweaty, funky antidote to what was ailing dance music at the turn of the century, then added a vibrant pop sheen on 2001's Rooty and indulged in genre-mashing maximalism on 2003's Grammy winning Kish Kash. Later in the 2000s, Basement Jaxx returned to the foundations of their music on 2009's Scars, and by the time of 2014's Junto, their music sounded as joyous, danceable, and relevant as ever.
Prior to forming Basement Jaxx, Ratcliffe -- a fan of the deep Latin funk of War and George Duke -- released white label records that won acclaim from fellow producers Goldie and LTJ Bukem and sold enough to use the profits toward a home studio. When he was introduced to Felix Buxton by a mutual friend at a London pub in 1993, they bonded over their shared love of New York house, and the duo began working as Basement Jaxx in 1994. They held a regular club night (also named Basement Jaxx) at several South London venues, with artists including Daft Punk, DJ Sneak, and vocalist Corrina Joseph among their guest collaborators. Ratcliffe and Buxton's first release, EP1, arrived in 1994 on Wall of Sound and the duo's own Atlantic Jaxx label and earned some success. Along with selling over 1,000 copies, DJ/producer Tony Humphries played "Da Underground" from the EP on his New York mix show consistently during 1994-1995. The duo recruited Joseph for 1995's EP2, which expanded the range of their sound and reached number 179 on the U.K. Singles Chart. That year's single "Samba Magic" from the Summer Daze EP was picked up for distribution by Virgin, and soon Basement Jaxx drew praise from the American and British house community as one of the genre's top production units.
Buxton and Ratcliffe spent much of 1996 working on remixes (for the Pet Shop Boys, Roger Sanchez, and Lil' Mo' Yin Yang, among others), then released Basement Jaxx's EP3 that August. One of the EP's tracks, "Flylife," became a Top 20 hit in England after being re-released by Multiply in mid-1997. The single proved one of the year's most popular anthems on the worldwide club scene, and its success led Basement Jaxx to sign a deal with XL Recordings. Also in 1997, the duo gained even wider exposure by opening for Daft Punk's first U.K. performances on the influential French act's Daftendirekt tour. Late that year, Ratcliffe and Buxton released Atlantic Jaxx Recordings: A Compilation, which gathered their most crucial Atlantic Jaxx sides.
In May 1999, Basement Jaxx released their full-length debut, Remedy (so named because Ratcliffe and Buxton saw their music as the cure for what ailed British dance music). A joyous expansion of the duo's style, it reached number four on the U.K. Albums Chart and spawned the singles "Jump 'n Shout," "Red Alert," "Rendez-Vu," and "Bingo Bango," of which the latter three topped the Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart in the U.S. That year also saw the release of the Betta Daze EP. The duo continued to release music at a prolific clip, including the 2000 EP Camberwell and that year's B-sides and remixes collection Jaxx Unreleased.
For their second album, Ratcliffe and Buxton added some pop gloss to their raw and soulful sound, and the results were June 2001's Rooty. Named for Basement Jaxx's second club night (which ended shortly before the album's release), it was an even bigger success than Remedy, reaching number five on the U.K. Albums Chart and the Billboard Top Dance/Electronic Albums chart in the U.S. Like its predecessor, four of its singles ("Romeo," "Jus 1 Kiss," "Get Me Off," and "Where's Your Head At") charted in the U.K., and the album was eventually certified gold in the U.K. and Australia. Several short-form releases followed in Rooty's wake, including 2001's B-sides EP Xxtra Cutz and Span Thang EPs and Junction EPs. Basement Jaxx's remix clients at the time ranged from longtime friends such as DJ Sneak to mainstream stars like Justin Timberlake and Missy Elliott.
Following the lengthy Rooty tour, Ratcliffe and Buxton recharged and took a more song-based approach to their third album. Incorporating disco, new wave, electro, Bollywood, and other influences, and featuring guest vocalists including the Bellrays' Lisa Kekaula, Siouxsie Sioux, and Dizzee Rascal, October 2003's Kish Kash was another success, peaking at number 17 on the U.K. Albums Chart and reaching number two on the Top Dance/Electronic Albums chart in the States. The album spawned the Top 20 U.K. hit "Good Luck," and was nominated for the 2004 Mercury Prize; in 2005, it won the first Grammy Award for Best Dance/Electronic Album. Also in 2005, Basement Jaxx issued the aptly named The Singles collection. It topped the charts in the U.K., and its two new singles, "Oh My Gosh" and "U Don't Know Me" (another collaboration with Kekaula), also appeared on the U.K. Singles Chart. The duo headlined the Pyramid Stage at that year's Glastonbury Festival when Kylie Minogue's cancer diagnosis forced her to cancel. Basement Jaxx rounded out the year with that December's Unreleased Mixes EP.
Following a stint opening for Robbie Williams on his 2006 European tour, Ratcliffe and Buxton returned with that September's Crazy Itch Radio, a loosely conceptual set of songs that expanded their palette to include Balkan horns. Boasting vocals from stars such as Robyn and Lily Allen as well as up-and-coming artists like Lady Marga, the album hit number 16 on the U.K. Album Chart and number four on Billboard's Top Dance/Electronic Albums chart in the U.S. It also spawned two charting singles, "Hush Boy" and "Take Me Back to Your House." In 2008, Basement Jaxx contributed to the track "Rocking Chair" on Cyndi Lauper's Bring Ya to the Brink, writing and producing the song; they also began the Planet EP series that year, with Planet 1 appearing in July, Planet 2 arriving in September, and Planet 3 wrapping things up in February 2009.
In September 2009, the duo delivered Scars, an album that returned to the leaner approach of the Remedy days and featured cameos by Yoko Ono, Yo! Majesty, Lightspeed Champion, and Santigold. Featuring the Top 40 U.K. hit "Raindrops," the album peaked at number 37 on the U.K. Albums Chart and number ten on the Top Dance/Electronic Albums chart in the States. The more experimental companion album Zephyr appeared that December and included music the duo wrote to accompany a work of art shown at London's Tate Modern museum. In 2011, the duo released the non-album single "Dracula." Basement Jaxx vs. Metropole Orkest, which featured versions of the duo's previously released songs arranged for a 70-piece orchestra, arrived in 2011, along with the score to Joe Cornish's film Attack the Block, on which they collaborated with Stephen Price.
Over the next couple of years, Basement Jaxx began previewing new songs during their live sets. They premiered the single "Back 2 the Wild" on their YouTube channel in April 2013, with "What a Difference Your Love Makes" and "Unicorn" following soon after. The uplifting Junto -- which means "together" in Spanish -- featured appearances by Mykki Blanco, DJ Sneak, and Shakka, and arrived in August 2014. The album peaked at number 30 on the U.K. Albums Chart and number five on the Top Dance/Electronic Albums chart in the U.S., where the single "Never Say Never" also topped the Hot Dance Club Songs chart. Junto Remixed followed in October 2015 and featured reworkings of the album's tracks by Luciano, Catz 'N Dogz, and the Martinez Brothers. The following year, the duo remixed Ti?sto and Oliver Heldens' "The Right Song." Basement Jaxx teamed up with Richy Ahmed on the mix album Elrow, Vol. 4 in 2019, the same year the duo composed the music for the animated TV series The Rubbish World of Dave Spud. In 2020, Ratcliffe and Buxton issued a series of archival releases: Jaxx Classics Remixed, Lost Tracks, Lost Remixes, and Lost Dubs. The following year, they contributed the theme song to the educational children's TV series What's on Your Head? and reunited with Yo! Majesty for the single "Bumpin' Too Hard." ~ Heather Phares & John Bush