Basement Jaxx in Dubai

Basement Jaxx’s Felix Buxton waxes lyrical with James Wilkinson about the joys of DJing, overcoming adversity and the house duo’s worst gig ever

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They’ve got five studio albums and a singles compilation under their collective belt; they’ve clocked in massive chart success over the past 11 years with tracks including ‘Where’s Your Head At?’, ‘Rendez-vu’ and ‘Romeo’; and they’ve headlined music festivals the world over. Basement Jaxx are big noise. So it’s a little disappointing when the first words we hear from Jaxx co-founder Felix Buxton’s mouth are, ‘Sorry, I’ll just get away from this noise. I’ve got someone fixing the damp in my kitchen wall.’

Then again, Jaxx have never pitched themselves as serious superstar DJs. Sure, they may clock in big-time festival work and be popular enough to sustain a punishing year-long tour schedule, but their colourful, goofy live shows – usually involving singers, dancers and all kinds of fun – never scream self-importance. Felix (pictured, above right) agrees. ‘We’re from a dance music culture where it was never about saying, “Look at me, I’m special.” It was about all being in a place together. It’s not like rock ’n’ roll, you know?’

That openness carries over into Basement Jaxx’s music, most notably on their recent album, Scars, which had the usual bright Jaxx tone leavened by hardships including Felix being mugged at knifepoint by a drug addict and trouble with a stalker. But he says he’s not letting moments such as those affect him. ‘I want to keep a positive attitude and not shrink into being suspicious and fearful of everyone. If you live life like that, you’re not going to get much from it.’

Jaxx will be revisiting their early days with their forthcoming DJ set at Chi, which will dispense with the outlandish stage show in favour of a stripped-back tune-spinning session. ‘DJing is really easy,’ says Felix. ‘You just get an idea of where the crowd is heading and then you play with the energy in the room. And club crowds are more focused than festival ones – everybody’s there to dance – so we have to delight and interest them, and move them physically, mentally and emotionally.’

That movement will take the form of classic Jaxx cuts, as well as the off-kilter house sounds that influence them – not to mention a few other surprises. ‘We play bits of dubstep and classical music as well, which is nice. I’ve got one track that has a brass band on it. It’s amazing when you’ve got a club full of people who are really jacking their bodies and then you play something that’s just pure music – nothing to do with beats – and everyone loves it.’

At least, that’s what it’s like now, but it wasn’t always the case. ‘The worst gig we ever did was back in the beginning, in Munich. We turned up with three vocalists and a percussionist, and the venue was almost empty save for a heavy metal guy dancing at the back. But he would have danced to anything – he was off his head. We still played, but it was awful. Two or three people walked through the room and we just wondered what we were doing. It was the biggest non-event of the century.’


Basement tracks

Felix runs through his top three tracks of the moment

‘These are my picks from dance music, rather than the wider spectrum of music. You could hear any of these in our DJ set.’

Art of Noise: ‘Moments in Love’ (Caspa mix)
‘This is a track from the mid-’80s that has been revitalised by one of the new generation of producers. It’s a dubstep version of the track that has taken what was good about electronic music in the early ’80s and made it sound good again. Caspa is about 20 and Art of Noise are probably about 60 [laughs]. But it sounds great.’

Vampire Weekend: ‘White Sky’ (Basement Jaxx remix)
‘We’ve taken the feel of the original song and changed it so you can play it in a club. The original is fantastic, though – it’s got African styles mixed in with a Simon and Garfunkel-ness; it sounds fresh and modern. It sounds like music that should be around in 2010, not an extension of existing pop sounds.’

Steve Angello: ‘Valodja’
‘This is a global house sort of thing; it takes Balkan music and does some really interesting stuff with it. It’s very well produced.’

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