Felix Burton and Simon Ratcliffe make up the DJ duo, Basement Jaxx, and are pioneers of the UK dance music scene rising to prominence in the 1990’s, they were amongst the first DJs to bring electronic dance music out from underground and into the chart toppers. As Andy Kellerman wrote in the All Music Guide of the world-famous pair, ‘they are to house what Miles Davis is to jazz, what Chuck Berry is to rock, what Public Enemy is to rap’
Although rooted in house music, Basement Jaxx has heavy influences of R&B, reggae, Latin jazz and garage. Their success is in a large way owed to how they changed house music, reintroducing melody, structured songs and real vocalists, whilst retaining the exuberant dance beats that made them favourites of club nights.
The pair met in 1993 in a pub in Clapham, London and bonded over their shared love of New York house music. While Burton was growing up, his father didn’t allow him to watch Top of the Pops, and preferred instead to listen to Austrian and Japanese music. Despite the difficulty to get hold of it, Burton was a big fan of American house music, and his various musical encounters had an enormous influence of the unique music he later produced with Ratcliffe.
Ratcliffe meanwhile grew up in the Netherlands, where his father was working as a chemical engineer. He went to an Americaninternational school, and picked up an interest in American rock music. Their eclectic music tastes growing up had great influences on the music they produced during the 90s.
The name Basement Jaxx came from the club nights that they played at together in Brixton, South London in 1994. That same year, they released their first EP, ‘EP1’ which sold over 1000 copies; an impressive amount considering their novelty. Most exciting for the pair was that one of their biggest influences, Tony Humphries, the US DJ who was one of the earliest proponents for house music, frequently played their single ‘Da Underground’ on his New York mix show.
Basement Jaxx became renowned for their live performances at their club nights in Brixton where they were playing alongside other DJing heavyweights, such as DJ Sneak and Daft Punk. They were growing from strength to strength as they released popular singles such as Samba Magic that was picked up by for distribution by Virgin Records.
Two years later, the duo opened for Daft Punk’s Daftendirektour, and as a result of their show, were signed by XL. It was then that they started producing albums, and the debut album released in 1999, ‘Remedy’ was met with high praise. The positive reviews that were normally reserved for traditional rock groups were given to Basement Jaxx, with Rolling Stone awarding the album a ‘four-star, excellent’ and Spin named it one of the top albums of the 1990s.
The duo went on to produce six more albums, including ‘Kish Kash’ (2003), which won the first ever Best Electronic/Dance Music award at the 47th Grammys. The group also won two Brits for Best British Dance Act in 2002 and 2004 following ‘Kish Kash’ and their second album, the hugely popular ‘Rooty’ (2001).
The extensive repertoire of the duo includes much more than awards, having produced music for iconic films such as Bend it like Beckham, and collaborated with some of the biggest names in the music industry, including Yoko Ono, Missy Eliot and Justin Timberlake. They have also held the headline slot at Glastonbury Festival.