by Alicia Bridges, Perth Now.
AFTER 15 years as one of the two artists behind Basement Jaxx,
Simon Ratcliffe remains almost entirely anonymous.
A career of international hits and critical acclaim has done little to
coax him and bandmate Felix Buxton into the limelight.
For most of their fans they are names without faces, and that’s the way
they like it.
When the electronic dance duo materialise at the Future Music Festival
in March, it will be with the usual team of colourful performers who act
as their face.
It is these characters, and those in music videos for songs such
as Where’s Your Head At, Good Luck and Romeo, who have spared Ratcliffe
and Buxton from a celebrity existence in the harsh tabloid media hub of
But the performers are more than just a barrier to social scrutiny.
Without them, Ratcliffe says, the live show could never live up to
“It has always been about the humanity,” he says. “All our songs are
populated by different kinds of characters and they always sound like
there are 10 people in the studio at once.
“It wouldn’t make sense if our live show was just me and Felix standing
behind a mixing desk.
“So with that colourfulness and that diversity, we’ve got to bring that
out on stage and it’s paid off. I think it is a good show and it has got
human beings and life and energy, so that’s what we try to get across.
“With us it’s kind of like a package. It’s like the Basement Jaxx world
in a way.”
And as respected, genre-skipping producers, it seems the duo have the
music world at their fingertips.
Their upcoming, and as yet untitled, album will feature
diva-of-the-moment Santogold, Florida rap duo Yo! Majesty and enigmatic
experimentalist Yoko Ono.
Lightspeed Champion’s Dev Hynes has also provided vocals for a track, as
has Australia’s Sam Sparro, but Ratcliffe stopped short of confirming
they would make it on to the album.
He said the duo had recorded enough material to fill almost three albums
and were considering which songs would see the light of day.
They had hoped to release a double album, but say the format is not
popular with modern listeners.
“The double-album idea is a really, deeply unfashionable thing to do at
the moment,” Ratcliffe says. “The album is not a medium. It’s not
relevant anymore. The way people listen to music is not the way I did
when I was a lad. There has always been the side to us that does party
music, which we’re known for, you know – Basement Jaxx, good-time party
stuff. But for us, what is equally important and taking up just as much
of our time and our thoughts has been more reflective music, more
experimental, sometimes ambient mood music, music for the mind.
“We’ve always done that and our albums have had party music sitting
alongside songs like that … we’ve got an album’s worth of ‘up’ stuff
and we’ve got an album’s worth of a soundscape. But whether we’re going
to release a double album we still haven’t decided. I’d love to but I
just don’t know if people have got the attention span for that any
Looking back on his career so far, Ratcliffe says music listeners have
changed as much as the industry itself.
He says audiences have wider interests than in the past, when music fans
were dedicated to specific genres. In his eyes it is a generational
change that takes some of the romance out of music culture.
“When we started, there were a lot more clear definitions about music,
the music that we were doing, where we fitted in, who our contemporaries
were and you would feed off what was going on around you,” he says.
“In the last couple of years we definitely feel slightly detached from
everything, I think.
“Music is so kind of jumbled at the moment. People mix and match a lot
more than what they used to. I think it’s a good thing, but everything
is a bit general and so accessible. People will get this song by this
band and this song by a completely different band.
“I quite like the kind of devotion of being into a specific style of
music and dressing that way and belonging to something. The iPod
generation, well, we’re all just kind of modern and educated and
cosmopolitan and we all kind of know the same as each other.
Everything’s a bit watered down.”
Despite their success, Basement Jaxx’s dreams are not entirely
fulfilled. The duo have yet to record with Grace Jones, who they have
been hoping to work with for years, or jazz musician George Duke.
For now they are devoted to putting the finishing touches to their new
album and orchestrating their live show.
Ratcliffe says one of the greatest lessons he has learned about being a
musician is that it is, plain and simple, hard work. But it is also a
blessing, something he is quick to remind himself of when times are
“It’s great still to be doing something that I was doing when I was 14
in my bedroom,” he says. “I’m still doing my hobby, so I have to slap
myself around the face and realise that when something is a bit of a
slog and a bit of a drag, just get a grip and think, ‘F***, man, I’ve
got away with doing what I’ve always dreamed of doing’.”