Friday
October 13 2006
SGN.org
Volume 34
Issue 41
 
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the Music Lounge by Albert Rodriguez - SGN A & E Writer
Hot piece of Jaxx: Simon Ratcliffe of dance duo Basement Jaxx gushes on winning a Grammy, becoming a daddy, and bumping into Justin Timberlake at an airport
It's early on a Friday morning in Seattle, and I've just put away my second cup of coffee. In London, Simon Ratcliffe of the Grammy-winning house-electronica duo Basement Jaxx is preparing for dinner. He's also preparing, along with his wife, for the arrival of his first child. Add a new album (Crazy Itch Radio) and a looming spring US tour, and suddenly Ratcliffe's life gets incredibly busy. But it's a good kind of busy. And for Gay boys on both sides of the Atlantic, primarily club queens who adore Basement Jaxx's slick grooves, a new album and tour is heaven.

From his flat in Balham, a South London neighborhood, to my semi-cluttered office on Capitol Hill, here's what Simon Ratcliffe had to say when he shook his thing inside "The Music Lounge".

Albert Rodriguez: Basement Jaxx has a new album (Crazy Itch Radio). What's the first single?

Simon Ratcliffe: Here (in the UK), it's "Hush Boy" and the second single is "Take Me Back to Your House". I don't know what's going on in the States.

Rodriguez: Do you think "Hey You" will be released as a single, in the US or UK?

Ratcliffe: I hope so. We'd like it to be.

Rodriguez: How long does it take to record a song like "Hey You", and to produce it and perfect it the way you want it to sound?

Ratcliffe: It takes a long time. Can you hold on for a minute? (There's a slight pause because Ratcliffe's midwife has just arrived at his house.)

Ratcliffe: Sorry. Excuse me. We're about to have a baby and the midwife has arrived.

Rodriguez: Oh my goodness! Well, congratulations! Is it your first baby?

Ratcliffe: It is! Number one!

Rodriguez: Do you know if it's a boy or a girl yet?

Ratcliffe: No, we don't know.

Rodriguez: You're in for a surprise either way. Obviously, it's an exciting time for you right now with the baby, but is it tough putting out an album at the same time?

Ratcliffe: It's working out all right. We've been on tour around Europe for much of the summer. The baby is due on the twenty-ninth of September and the tour finishes in five days. So the timing is about right. I don't know how much of anything I'll do once the baby is born.

Rodriguez: That will surely consume a lot of time and energy, in a positive way.

Ratcliffe: It will. About "Hey You", that song went through many different phases. (He pauses briefly to tell his wife that he won't be long on the telephone.)

Ratcliffe: Sorry about that. We were going to South Africa to deejay and wanted a new track to play, and we had some Eastern European CDs lying around. We started listening to one of those, and there was a good loop on it, so we took it and put together an instrumental track. We played it at a gig in South Africa and it sounded cool. When we got back to England, I played around with it, put some chord changes in it, gave it a bridge, gave it more song structure musically and a bit of a crescendo. We got Robyn from Sweden to sing on it, and added layer upon layer on top. A guitar went into it, an accordion went into it, and it came out having a burlesque musical sound.

Rodriguez: I still listen to Remedy a lot. "Rendez-Vu" is my favorite Basement Jaxx song.

Ratcliffe: Cool, that's great. With this album we were looking towards Remedy as a feeling guide to get the mood - warm and soulful - because I think with Rooty and Kish Kash, the two albums after that, we got a bit more angular somehow. The sound was a bit more jagged and we wanted something more soothing and warm, and easy to listen to.

Rodriguez: Kish Kash won you a Grammy.

Ratcliffe: I wasn't even going to go to the Grammys and Felix said, "We've gotta go to the Grammys because it's a really cool thing to be nominated, and we're nominated three times!". We went there and Cyndi Lauper presented us with the award. It's atop my television now.

Rodriguez: You mentioned doing a small tour in Europe. What about the US?

Ratcliffe: The band, minus me, are coming over to LA and New York in October. That will be when I'll probably be having my baby or will have just had my baby, so I won't be able to accompany them on this occasion. We still haven't confirmed it yet, but we're talking about coming over in February to do a proper tour in the States.

Rodriguez: That would be very cool because the last time Basement Jaxx came to Seattle was several years ago at The Showbox. It was one of my favorite shows that year.

Ratcliffe: The last time we toured America, as a band, was 2001. Did you see us then?

Rodriguez: I was there. You were touring the album Rooty. You didn't tour Kish Kash.

Ratcliffe: No, we didn't. There wasn't very much encouragement from the record label, to be honest. When we first came out, we were put with other dance acts like Fatboy Slim and The Chemical Brothers. Those guys know where they are. We're a bit of an unknown quantity. We don't always fit into that box. With Kish Kash, that was definitely the case. I didn't think it had a real consciousness in America, although it got some really good reviews.

Rodriguez: What's currently spinning in your iPOD?

Ratcliffe: I've been listening to Me'shell NdgeOcello. Darius is in there. The Raconteurs are in there. There's some stuff from The Beats, which is The Streets' label. There's a selection of Lord Baltimore tracks. Lots of King Tubby reggae. I'm listening to some Stevie Ray Vaughn as well.

Rodriguez: Do you listen to American mainstream pop, like Madonna or Justin Timberlake?

Ratcliffe: I do. I don't own Madonna's last album, but every time I hear the singles I always think she's done a great job. She's got a really good sound now. It's completely commercial and mainstream, but it's cool. And Justin, I think Justified was a great album. The Neptunes, Timbaland are great producers. Justin's got a great voice, and he's a great performer. We had the honor of meeting him the other day. We were in Japan and he was at the airport. You might imagine someone like that would be ushered through a secret passageway, but in Japan he was just getting off the lift with us and waiting for his bags. We remixed one of his records, "Like I Love You". So we went up and said, "Hey, we're Basement Jaxx!", and he was very cool with us.

Rodriguez: You ran into Justin Timberlake at an airport baggage claim? What luck!

Ratcliffe: Yeah, at baggage claim! No one was fussing over him. In Japan, eighty percent of their CD market is homegrown stuff. So Western superstars can go there and not get fussed over. Rodriguez: Do you think the US was late in rising to the occasion of dance music, in terms of embracing it as a true art form, in comparison to the UK?

Ratcliffe: I don't know, really. Our inspiration for starting in the first place was American dance music. This is back in 1993-94. We were listening to Masters at Work, Roger Sanchez, Armand Van Helden and Moodswing, and it was light years ahead of what was coming out in the UK. I think America definitely set the standard. America was the leader in house music and hip-hop. Anything that came out of America seemed to be sprinkled with gold dust.

(There's another slight pause and then Ratcliffe is back on the phone, this time asking me to call him in an hour if I wanted to keep talking. I politely told him that I didn't want to take any more of his time.)

Ratcliffe: Do call me if you need anything else. Thank you very much.

Rodriguez: Thank YOU very much Simon! Best wishes on the baby, and we hope to see you in Seattle next year.
 
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