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Rooty - Basement Jaxx

Author: Jo Vraca
Wednesday, August 15, 2001
"Yesterday we were all crowded on this bus and the toilet wasn't working properly so it was always smelly. The air conditioning had broken down so it was very hot and sticky," recalls Simon Ratcliffe of the Basement Jaxx road trip which brought them home from Denmark on a 20-hour bus ride.

With summer heading towards a scorching thirty degrees in the UK, Basement Jaxx has taken it to the streets to flog their latest ware, 'Rooty', the highly-anticipated follow-up to the 1999 release, 'Remedy' which set festival-goers and home listeners' hearts aflutter. While the duo of Simon Ratcliffe and Felix Buxton begin their gruelling summer schedule which sees them DJing and performing live throughout the UK, Europe and the USA, 'Rooty' has been hailed a resounding success. Curious about the name and wondering whether it might pay homage to the duo's nocturnal activities- In fact, the album title takes its name from the their club night at the Telegraph Hill Pub in Brixton, which was named after a Japanese gig where the Basement Jaxx sound was described as "earthy and rooty."

With simple enough beginnings, within a year Rooty has grown and has attracted luminous faces such as Roger Sanchez and Eric Morillo who have been known to ask for gigs at the club. Despite its reputation, Rooty has now been placed on the back burner. "It was getting really, really busy as well," Simon laments. "It was getting a bit too much like work. It was never meant to be any kind of business or promotional exercise. It was just a place for us to relax and enjoy music. And when it gets really busy and you've got huge queues outside, that spontaneous pleasure goes a bit. But I mean, it's wicked. We're really lucky it got popular, we shouldn't be complaining really but we're not club promoters."

For Simon, Rooty was a place where he and Felix could test new sounds and focus on the music with fellow DJs Tayo and Frank Tope in a synthesis of breaks, house, reggae and hip hop acetates and bootlegs. "With both albums, the club's been really important just in giving us a connection with reality," Simon explains. "It's sometimes very frightening to lock yourself away for a year or two or longer in some cases and suddenly come out and DJ your stuff. And there are tracks that we probably would never have carried on with if we hadn't played it at the club. Like 'Romeo' was a track that neither of us was particularly sure about but we played a demo version at the club and it got a good response."

Simon and Felix met in 1993 and in what can only be described as a very British symptom, began holding the odd illegal party in Brixton. The following year, they released the classic 'Fly Life' and its follow-up summer anthem, 'Samba Magic' soon after. They signed to XL Records, the home of the Prodigy, in 1998 and their first commercial success came in the form of 'Red Alert' giving them a Top 5 in the UK charts with its eclectic blend of Latin sounds, jazz and electro. "I think we both like music full stop, admits Simon, "and I think that dance music is a bit limited and a bit constrained and we're keen to break away from that. I get touched just as much by rock music or reggae music as I do soul or dance music."

Two years in the making, the pressure to create an even more successful follow-up to their debut release must have been considerable. Although Simon disagrees. "We probably felt a lot more pressure with Remedy really because we'd reached a level in the underground, we had a reputation and that was great. Then suddenly we were being launched into this other world which was a bit more mainstream and marketed as a band and there was talk of videos, of live shows and all of these things we'd never done before. And XL are these major players so we were very excited to be doing an album because this was our chance to be doing something new and fresh but how far can we go- We shouldn't abandon the kind of format that we'd been following completely. We should be