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de-VICE the 3rd

much ado about BASEMENT JAXX

home on da range: 2007
the rambunctious de-VICE philosophy spiel
de-VICE back issues
a quickie with PLAID
a quickie with MR. SCRUFF
HAPPY FEET movie review
michael arias on TEKKON KINKREET
DJ KENTARO enters the picture
MAD PROFESSOR huffs and puffs
the de-VICE answer to Tarantino's DEATH PROOF
ZUZUSHI 2 melbourne vs. tokyo
KID CALMDOWN and SLEEPY ROBOT: sydney's coolest djs?
ISNOD is good
J-MACHISMO: top men in Japanese anime cinema
DJ NEO: acid meister
photographic exhibition KEITAI KOUTURE
IF? Records gets all shameless & impudent
movie review: PAPRIKA
SON OF ZEV: who's your dad?
GENIUS PARTY: new anime from Studio 4C
RYOJI ARAI: the best kids' book ever made into animation?
does DIGITAL PRIMATE have a siege mentality?
just how sweet is KANDYMAN?
jonathan more on COLDCUT
much ado about BASEMENT JAXX
JEFF MILLS: one man spaceship
from the back of the fridge: SI BEGG
from the back of the fridge: GAIJIN BABY
e-us if u really have'ta

by Andrez Bergen 2007


You could surmise that British duo Felix Burton and Simon Ratcliffe have traversed a long and winding yellow brick road since their earlier innovative days, just over a decade ago, when they embraced an underground ethic with their own club-music productions, their label Atlantic Jaxx, and their small, intimate club-night-in-a-pub called Rooty, in Brixton, south London.

Back then, Basement Jaxx were known to an enlightened and fortunate select few - most of them deejays and clubbers.

Fast-forward to 2007, and Burton and Ratcliffe have reconfigured themselves into one of the best-known live acts on the global festival circuit with upcoming shows in Japan.

But some would say the duo have traded in their creative ideals for a more commercial pop reality, particularly on last year's album Crazy Itch Radio.

Burton himself frames that transformation in a positive light.

"Well, I suppose the biggest change for us is the environment we play live in," he says over the telephone.

"In those early days at Rooty we played before a few hundred people, but these days we're doing arena shows in front of an audience often more than 10,000."

Burton is quite clear about which of the two avenues he prefers - as a musician - when comparing and contrasting the smaller, more intimate house parties at Rooty, and the stadium-pop gigs Basement Jaxx now headlines.

"I love the bigger events, like when we did Wembley Arena [in 2006]. That's quite a large place to try to get a vibe going, but it's more of a show - you have a bigger budget and more room to move, and the sound is sensational. The smaller gigs just can't compete with that. You may as well just deejay at a smaller one. It's too much work to take it live for that number of people," he says.

Burton is more elusive when the conversation turns to which sensory experience he himself would prefer as an audience member - an evening seated on a couch at his Brixton jaunt 10 years ago, watching old-school Basement Jaxx, or Wembley Arena now, alongside the masses, and miles from the stage.

"A couch?!" he objects, with a chuckle. "Why do you think I'd be seated on a couch at a Basement Jaxx show? I love them both... but there's nothing like being in the middle of several thousand people who are rapt in a show."

Basement Jaxx established their street-credentials via tracks like "Samba Magic" (1995) and the subsequent "Fly Life" two years later, which tied together innovative North American house music sensibilities with traditional South American and Caribbean rhythm structures, and set more inspired dance floors afire across the globe.

Atlantic Jaxx was a flagship imprint for open-minded deejays, and Rooty was reputed to be the most up-for-it club in London.

A decade later, Rooty has disappeared - traded in as the name of Basement Jaxx's 2001 album - and Atlantic Jaxx has slowed down its release schedule as its founding fathers' tour schedule has boomed.

An indication of the duo's success is the popularity of their Myspace site: at last count, they had 424,041 hits, and 38,987 friends.

"It's a fantastic way for new musicians to get their music out there," Burton raves about the Myspace phenomenon.

"If people want to find out more about a particular producer, this is a great avenue to do so - and it's creating a global underground, rather than a collection of local undergrounds."

It's a tool that he thinks aids new artists rather than established ones like Basement Jaxx. "We don't use it so much," he admits.

A decade ago, when Burton and Ratcliffe started out, there was no online friends network to help kick-start the band's career.

"We sent tapes out," Burton explains. "And all of them got knocked back. In the end I went to a distributor and introduced myself and said we'd pay to press copies - and he said yes. That distributor was Mark Jones from Wall of Sound. I didn't know who he was at the time. Then we went around all the record shops ourselves. It was a lot of legwork."

If Myspace has accomplished anything of note aside from putting millions of musicians' music on the Internet, it's been the recent success of British singer Lily Allen, who tweaked the network in innovative self-serving ways.

"I know Lily," Burton says. "She worked on our last album, doing backing vocals on one song ['Lights Go Down']."

Allen recently told The Daily Yomiuri newspaper that fans in Japan choosing between Basement Jaxx and her own upcoming gigs should head to her own.

"Well, of course she would!" Burton chortles. "I love what she's doing - but our gig would obviously be far better. No arguments there."

Basement Jaxx will perform Jan. 10 at 7:30 p.m. at Big Cat in Osaka, (06) 6258-5008; Jan. 11, 7:30 p.m. at Zepp in Tokyo, (03) 3599-0710.