“The Crazy Itch of life is the thing that inspires and motivates you to act,” explains Felix Buxton about Basement Jaxx’s new long-player, Crazy Itch Radio.
For Buxton and production partner Simon Ratcliffe, it’s a different itch they’re interested in scratching these days. Twelve years since they met at a Thames riverboat party, the dynamic dance duo now write songs rather than tracks and are just as likely to perform on-stage in front of 50,000 people – as a 12-piece, no less – as they are in a club.
Their watershed moment came last year when they were asked to fill in for an ill Kylie Minogue on the main Pyramid Stage at the Glastonbury festival. With 60,000+ people in the throes of ‘Where’s Your Head At?’, they were hailed as the highlight of the festival.
“It’s a bigger world for us now. When you’re asked to headline on a main stage it’s a lot more interesting than being with a couple of hundred people in a little room.”
There’s also other advantages. “The gigs finish earlier,” he jokes. “That’s the main incentive – you’re not up all night!”
With three UK Top 5 albums already under their belt, the evolution from Basement Jaxx to Arena Jaxx was always going to be inevitable. Especially since, for Buxton, getting their music heard is as innate as making it in the first place.
“Some people don’t care if they hear their music or not, but for me if no one listened to my music or everyone hated it I’d probably give up. It’d seem pointless.”
Thankfully with ‘Crazy Itch Radio’, the lads won’t be flying the white flag anytime soon. Featuring a congo line of collaborators including Vula Malinga (who sang on last year’s ‘Oh My Gosh’), grime MC Lady Marga and Swedish popstar Robyn, it’s a heady, joyous triumph of luscious pop, exotic rhythms and Baz Luhrmann-like theatrics.
“It’s probably a bit sweeter than what we’ve done before,” Buxton explains about the new material, which is more Sunday morning remedy than Saturday night banger. “We wanted to be more groovy and less punky and abrasive than our last album, ‘Kish Kash’. Although I’m proud of it, I just felt that it could have done with a bit more oxygen – a chance to breathe and space to think.”
Now with new album in hand, Basement Jaxx are plunging into the deep end of the mainstream – supporting Robbie Williams’ European summer tour. Unbelievably it’s their first ever support slot, although Buxton admits they’re not exactly fans of the headliner.
“I can’t believe he’s so popular really. He’s very charming and a really entertainer. I don’t think he pretends to be a really amazing singer or anything, which is why people like him I think.”
Far more important for the lads is the opportunity to spread their itch to new – and old – territory, starting with Germany.
“We’ve given them a wide berth in the past because when we first went there to do interviews they said ‘is your music a joke?’ They never seemed to understand our music.”
Given the country has certified David Hasselhoff as a platinum-selling artist, it’s a strange observation, but Buxton has the solution if they don’t get the punchline this time around. “We’re never coming back,” he laughs.