IT’S been five long years since the last official Basement Jaxx album, but the English EDM duo are coming back strongly with new effort Junto.
While being free of his record contract and releasing new material means DJ and song-writer Felix Burton should be feeling on top of the world, it’s something altogether more other-worldly he most wants to talk about.
“We’d just moved into a new studio; its windows look over London,” he says. “I saw something sitting right in the middle of the sky that looked a flying saucer. Well, it looked like a Ford Fiesta; the way a car shimmers in the sunshine – it was definitely metallic. [A friend was] with me, having a cup of tea, and we were watching this thing in the sky. We realised it wasn’t a helicopter or a hot air balloon or anything like that; whether it was a military device or arable farming technology we’ve never heard about, who knows? Some other people saw it on that day, but what was most interesting was how small-minded some people were when I told them. An unidentified flying object means I don’t know what it is, but people would get angry and say it doesn’t exist or there isn’t such a thing, and I thought it was amazing how closed-minded people are to new possibilities and ideas. I did a lot of research into all this as I was doing a talk at Oxford University, and I was trying to make sense of it, so I was trawling through conspiracy theories and all the stuff out there. I was seeing a girl at the time, and we were out at some exhibition. She had actually seen something when she was eight years old in Scotland; something had hovered over the car, and she had always talked about it. I was with her in this public exhibition and was talking about the UFO, and said ‘my girlfriend here also saw something’. It was a Judas moment because she said she hadn’t seen anything, and when I asked her about it afterwards she said it was because people think you’re crazy if you say you’ve seen a UFO. I just thought it was awful that people walk off on you and get angry if you say you’ve seen a UFO, but she was blatantly disproving it just because she was embarrassed. People can’t say what they think or be honest. So many people are living a charade and getting whipped up in all this bullshit of celebrity culture that has no effect on their lives and makes them feel dissatisfied and envious. I believe in angels, UFOs, ghosts and all those kinds of things, and I don’t have a problem with it. I’ve looked a lot into religions and what my spiritual path is; maybe because my dad was a vicar. But people are scared of even thinking about all these things, which is such a shame. People just jump on something and use these things to feel superior. They don’t like the idea of something they don’t understand, but the fact is nearly all of life and reality we don’t understand; it’s arrogant to think we do.”
Interplanetary interruptions aside, Basement Jaxx are back with an album brimming over with their signature electronic-pop anthems and plenty of vocal collaborators. After over ten years with XL, Burton is happy to be embracing independence on the new record.
“We’ve always felt free in how we write,” he says. “It’s just you might not hear a lot of the stuff that was very free [laughs]. There were people who thought it might be a bit too tangential or might not fit into the idea of what was appropriate. With this album, we were very clear that we wanted to have stuff we could DJ, so we wanted to make sure it could be useful in our live show and connect to Jaxx fans, as well as fitting in with the current resurgence in house and deep house; now that’s kind of like pop music here. A lot of those people are inspired by us, so actually we might as well do our version of ourselves anyway.”
One of the guest vocalists was transgender rapper Mykki Blanco, who didn’t exactly finish the job, Burton says.
“That was the one vocal where we weren’t actually with the singer. It was done in a very modern way, where we e-mailed stuff. I sent him a couple of things and said it’d be great to work on ‘Buffalo’ and get some Native American spirit. We were back-and-forthing, and Mykki was really into it, then we started getting random e-mails and things weren’t quite connecting. Then [someone said] ‘Mykki’s gone’. We thought it was all sounding great, and told them we need the second verse to finish it, but they told us he’d gone to the desert. I thought it sounded all quite biblical, but that was it. We were mastering the album the next day, so ran out of time, but it’s amazing what you can do when you’ve got to reshape something and make it work.”
Having been a major player in the EDM scene since the ’90s, Burton is unconcerned about how the music industry is evolving of late.
“It’s been changing so much in the past ten years,” he says. “I think people who work in the music industry now have no idea what’s happening with it or where it’s going, which I really like. Rather than resting on their laurels, people need to understand life is about change and embracing change. Everything is temporary, and if a tune is good, you’ll be whistling it in a few years and everything else will get left behind. At a time when there’s so much corporate entertainment dross, it’s good that things keep moving forward and we don’t know where they’re heading. Everyone says it’s all about streaming and nobody will own any music any more, but who knows? There are always going to be enthusiasts who pile up vinyl, but I don’t really worry about these things I guess.”
A heaving touring schedule is already locked in for the end of the year, with Burton hoping to add Australian dates.
“I’m really hoping we can come in February or maybe January; around that time,” he says. “We just did the Fuji Rock Festival in Japan and a festival here in the UK. They went amazingly and I feel very happy with our live show at the moment. We have a lot of people, so it’s quite expensive, but I’d love to bring everyone. Also, the album is called Junto, which is about togetherness. It’s not about me or Simon, it’s about the audience and ideally all the people on stage as well. But yeah, fingers crossed. If Australia shows some interest in the record, then hopefully we can come. At the moment, we’re slightly in that limbo time where we’re waiting on responses to the album, but in my mind I’ve got it to go to Australia and Japan in February next year.”
JUNTO BY BASEMENT JAXX IS OUT AUG 22.