Felix Buxton and Simon Ratcliffe aka. Basement Jaxx are coming back to Australia in April this year and they are going to be LIVE on stage, magically re-imagined with a full Orchestra & their legendary singers. The first Sydney show has sold out and they’ve added an extra Matinee performance.
Before the duo commence the tour, we caught up with Felix to chat on what’s in store for audiences, what it’s like working with an orchestra and if they’ll be playing any new tracks for the masses attending their Australian shows.
You perform in Australia in mid April. What has been one of the biggest highlights of touring and playing your material live with the Metropolitan Orchestra?
This will be a new experience working with the Metropolitan Orchestra.
I think their conductor Sarah-Grace Williams is great and I feel very positive about working with her and the Orchestra. She said she loved the re-imaginings of the music and her and the Orchestra are really excited to be working on the projects. She said it had surprised her how good the arrangements were in a classical orchestral sense and that it was rare to find that coming from the areas of Pop or Dance Music.
It has been great working with Grant Windsor also – He’s a young arranger from Sydney and has just been looking at a new version of the Jaxx ‘Romeo’ song.
How did you and Simon come up with the concept of composing and performing your tracks with the Metropolitan Orchestra and the logistics of taking it all on a live tour?
I’m very grateful to the wonderful Jules Buckley who was conducting the Metropole Orkest in Eindhoven, Holland in 2011, for coming and knocking on our door asking if we’d like to do some orchestral versions of the Basement Jaxx music due to the amount of colours, sounds and melodies that we’d cram into the tracks. I jumped at the chance as I was a massive Mozart fan and loved the experience of hearing Orchestras live (I have since discovered through studying Sound Healing that there is some real magic that can be experienced when feeling the vibration of real acoustic sound, in particular strings).
I was very particular with Jules that I didn’t want to do watered down versions of dance songs with strings playing some parts over an electronic beat but to take the Basement Jaxx spirit, power and life affirming ethos and interpret it in a proper orchestral setting, keeping the punch of it.
I was very conscious that when they did “Rock go the Classics” in the 70s it probably meant that the urgent seed of Rock had grown up and lost its vitality. I didn’t want to see it as the same thing for Dance Music as it was certainly tending to just be knocking the same ideas around the urgent seeds of originality that were formed in the late 80s. The clubs now are playing the same kind of sound as 25-30 years ago. Which is the cycle of culture, when I was 18 I was also listening to the Disco from 20 years earlier.
You’ve previously worked with an Orchestra on your 2003 track ‘Good Luck’ on the live album with the Metropole Orkest in 2011. Did either you or Simon have a love of orchestral or classical music before then and if not, has working with an Orchestra given you a new found love for the genre?
The string intro and string arrangement for ‘Good Luck’ was mostly done by Will Malone who both Simon and I were keen to work with and to make a record that felt classic and epic like the Disco classics or the Motown era.
I worked with Jules and the Metropole Orkest on and off for a year getting the concert and album sorted which we then also Premiered in the Barbican in London-it seemed it was a little before it’s time as the last couple of years has seen many in the dance fraternity embracing orchestral shows.. although generally it seems to be straight Orchestral covers which is something different than we’re doing.
In the words of Marie Kondo, have you found that re-imagining and performing your tracks with the Metropolitan Orchestra has ‘sparked joy’ on some of your older hit tracks that you’ve played a hell of a lot over the years?
I think the spirit of the music is all that matters, in fact in life I think that is all that matters. I was keen to keep the spirit of the songs alive and allow the new versions to find themselves in a new world -for example ‘Bingo Bango’ was a latin carnival house track and was interpreted as a Beautiful Carnival Waltz.
The orchestral version of ‘Raindrops’ we started to use in our Rock Festival Gig live shows and when DJing, ‘Joy’ is always important when making music and a lot harder to do authentically and well than being brooding or cool.
It has been 5 years since the release of your last studio albums Junto and Junto Remixed. Are you finding the time to work on new material whilst touring with the Metropolitan Orchestra and will there be any new songs performed as part of the live show that didn’t feature on your 2011 live album with the Orchestra?
There will a world premiere of a new Basement Jaxx song at these concerts which is exciting and also a Didgeridoo Waltz that I’ve composed for these shows.
Any plans for a sneaky secret after party DJ set somewhere in Melbourne and Sydney, post show?
You never know, although starts to feel a bit nothing after you’ve been at the actual show.
There’s a lot of good house music coming out of Europe and the States currently. Which artists are you listening to and being inspired by at the moment?
Loads of great House Music and Techno -people seem to be getting back to the original idea of being a bit more ‘real’ and authentic about music.. and life..what a relief..after a few years of some pretty bad pop house and EDM.
I think Trump, Brexit, Shallow Celebrity culture etc. has resulted in people waking up a bit .. to what are we all doing here on this planet in the small passage of time we have before we move on to the next life..
With the likes of Spotify, Soundcloud and all of the other streaming platforms that are out there competing at the moment and with the availability of Social Media platforms, do you think it is easier or harder for new artists to break through these days?
Culture is changing. I think if you’re a poet or a folk singer that’s not in fashion you have more of chance to be heard to a wider audience. Maybe what an artist ‘is’ is changing and there are so many more ways to express your creative than making a recording of a song.
If someone is good and genuine in what they do, they will be heard, because that’s what people connect to and want to be touched by music.
In your career working with Simon, is there one album or track you are most satisfied with?
I got a message from a Jaxx fan and now friend who has just given birth to a new baby in Japan -she said she listened to our first ever track ‘Deep inside Your Love’ to relieve her labour pains.. so I feel most happy with that one and I’m sure Simon would be glad to agree..
Your itinerary looks pretty tight. Are you going to get any down time to be a tourist in Australia whilst you are here?
I know Vula(singer) and Ollie (percussion) are staying a few days and my wife’s family are coming from Korea to see the show in Sydney. I’m thinking I might try and use one of my days off recording the Metropolitan Orchestra for the new Basement Jaxx song.. besides that I hope to be swimming in the sea.
Comprising of all the Basement Jaxx floor-fillers, as well as specially commissioned new work and a few surprises along the way, the show will also feature legendary Jaxx singers Vula & Sharlene Hector on powerhouse vocal duties.
If you haven’t purchase your tickets yet for the April shows, get onto them pronto as you will be missing out on some magic.
MELBOURNE – Saturday 13 April – Margaret Court Arena
SYDNEY – Sunday 14 April – Sydney Opera House (Sold Out)
SYDNEY – Sunday 14 April – Sydney Opera House (Matinee)
BRISBANE – Thursday 18 April – QPAC
About Basement Jaxx