X-Press 2 interview
Ahead of their A Night With… this weekend we caught up with Rock and Diesel aka the legends that are X-Press 2.
Long time gone… been quite a ride. To the very, very un-initiated amongst the A Night With… readers – of which there really should be none! – tell us about Rocky and Diesel's background and how X-Press 2 came about.
Rocky and Diesel are a DJ duo that started spinning together in 1988. We'd both been DJs for a few years before that but hooked up in the second summer of love. Terry Farley and Steve Hall were running a label, Junior Boys Own and suggested we do something for them, so we joined foces with Ashley Beedle in 1992 and X-Press 2 was born. Had some critical success with our early releases on the label, with one of them even making it to number 32 in the pop charts. By 1998 other projects were taking over and XP2 was mothballed for a while. We all went off and did different projects. By 2000 we were ready to pick up where we'd left off, with a little coaxing from Terry Farley. We got back together and started writing again, signing an album deal with Skint records in the meantime. We made our first album, 'Muzikizum' that featured our usual brand of dancefloor tracks plus several vocal collaborations, most notably, 'Lazy' with David Byrne, which reached number 2 in the pop charts (Gareth Gates kept us from the top spot) and earned us an Ivor Novello song writing award. We continued on after that making a further 2 more albums, 'Makeshift Feelgood' and 'Raise Your Hands' before Ashley's departure in 2009. Rocky and Diesel have carried the torch forward and have recently released the fourth XP2 album, 'The House of X-Press 2.' Again it features some straight up dancefloor house tracks and a handfull of vocal collabs. We're still constantly writing tracks and busy DJing all over the world.
It's 20 years since Music Xpress came out this year!! I remember that record as if it was only yesterday… had a massive effect across the whole scene. Did you realise it'd have the influence it did when you were making it?
Absolutely not. I can remember us having a conversation in the studio at the time, along the lines of, 'wouldn't it be great if we could do something that still sounds good in a year's time' and here we are 20 years later still discussing it. I can remember when it came out that it seemed to cross a few boundaries, with DJs as diverse as Andrew Weatherall and Tony Humphries playing it. It was when we started hearing about Junior Vasquez at the Sound Factory in New York, spinning 2 copies for 20 minutes, that we thought we'd done something good!
In your more than 20 year journey in electronic music you've had a number one single with a Talking Head, worked with the legendary Dieter Meier of Yello, probably played in nearly every city in the world, produced 3 massive albums. Hard to pick a highlight from it all isn't it?!
You're not wrong there!!! That's a ridiculously hard question to answer. In all honesty, we could probably fill a book with all the high points from the past 20 years. Just a few off the top of my head. Lazy and everything that happened around that, Top of The Pops, Ivor Novello etc etc. DJing at Glastonbury to around 10000 people in around 2001. Playing 'live' at the Big Chill. Japan in general. Meeting some incredible people along the way. Working with some of our musical heroes and loving every minute of it. Travelling and seeing the world and performing for 100s of thousands of dancers.
Why did it take you 10 years to produce an album? Don't get me wrong, it was a belter… too busy playing records and having fun?! 🙂
If you mean the first album, 'Muzikizum' then we were never really fussed about doing an album. We were just happy making tracks and putting them out. It was only when our manager, Chris came on board that he suggested writing one.Since 'Muzikizum', as I said , there have been 3 further albums, 'Makeshift Feelgood' in 2006 'Raise Your Hands' in 2008 and 'The House of X-Press 2' this year.
What effect did Ashley leaving X-Press 2. You still good friends?
None really, I think the most difficult part of Ash leaving was getting all the business side of everything worked out. Not something that any of us 3 are any good with! Lot's of toing and froing between lawyers and managers but we got there in the end, and yes we are all still good mates and support each other with whatever we do.
Tell us about your relationship with JBO. That whole scene and movement is the stuff of myth and legend these days. Can you talk us through those heady times… if you can remember them!
Yes it was a lot of fun. It was really just a bunch of mates putting out music and hanging out at an office just off Ladbroke Grove. We never really thought too much about it all at the time, as I said, we were just making and playing each other's tunes. there were the parties as well. We would DJ at these or just go along and support even if we weren't. We originally met Terry and Andrew when they were the DJs upstairs at the Astoria for Nicky Holloway's night, 'The Trip.' Terry eventually asked us to play at one of their Boys Own parties. I think it was called 'Double Egg, Bacon, Bubble and A Fried Slice' and was in some arches round Vauxhall way. It was a kind of natural progression that we would make some music for them when the label started.
Have you abandoned the 12 decks with all this new fangled technology available. How the hell did you keep 12 decks going at once?!
Well it was only 12 when Ash was with us as well and to be honest I think we only ever had 4 things going at once. 12 at once would have been ridiculous. It's just 2 of us now so we just use 4 CDJs and the occasional vinyl deck for the older bits.
You trod the boards during the reign of the 'super-club' as residents at some of the biggest clubs in the world. It must've been a pretty mad time to .
It was great fun. It did get pretty hectic at times though, constantly driving up and down motorways. We wouldn't change those times for the world though, we made some life long friends all over the country and further afield.
What I've always loved and what sets you apart from the pack in your productions is the element of playfulness you add to even the biggest of big room monsters. Like that great little breakdown/interlude in AC/DC. What or who inspires this production element… or it just a reflection of your personalities?
I think it's just a reflection of our personalities really. It's not something that we sit down and consciously think about. A lot of the time, those kind of things generally come about as happy accidents.
You've worked with some incredibly diverse vocalists over the years, obviously David Byrne's a massive hero of mine but working with the incredible Roland Clark must have been pretty special too. Anyone you still want to work with but your worlds haven't quite collided just yet?
Patti Smith would be pretty special. She has an amazing voice and spirit. She would definitely fit the X-Press 2 bill for interesting collaborators.
House music is in one of its most exciting times it's been at for years – for me anyway! – the cross pollination of bass strands permeating it which your music has always contained from the off plus this small room underground house resurgence going on up and down Kingsland Road – and beyond obviously. Who's floating your boat and shaking your tree in 2012?
Gerry Read, Actress, Fritz Kalkbrenner, Lone, JuJu & Jordash, Hype Williams, STL, Omar S, Daphni, Pepe Bradock, Daniel Bortz, Kowton, Julio Bashmore, Reggie Dokes, the SUOL label, &Me, Tuccillo, Mr G, Trus'me, Leon Vynehall, Huxley, Shiver, Maya Jane Coles, Pearson Sound, Nicolas Jaar, John Tallabot, Debruit, Four Tet, Basic Soul Unit, Legowelt, MMM, Kyle Hall, Vakula, Nyra, Iori, Magic Mountain High, Rocket Juice & The Moon, Burial. Etc etc etc.
You mentioned a love the Spanish scene in recent interview. Do you play out there a lot?
Sadly no. We'd love to though. We played a tiny little club in Barcelona last summer. Called Macarena, it was on a Wednesday night and was absolutely amazing. Proper inspirational stuff.
Basing House is such a great intimate venue for something like this A Night With… concept – what to look forward to from our 8 hours with your good selves? Outside of what you've already given us with the 8 tracks?
Lots and lots of great modern house music plus a bunch of classics and some forgotten nuggets.
"Maybe we are black gay guys in the body of white west London geezers." Discuss.
We can't take all the glory for that. We robbed it off Farley. We were at an after after after session years ago and a lot of techno was getting played. Terry wanted vocals and the techno boys were questioning this. His reply was that he was "a gay black man in a white gas fitter's body."
A radio show all to yourselves… been loving and enjoying on both MoS and your 6mix. Little bit different to tearing apart a main room?!
Absolutely. You don't have to worry about losing a dancefloor! It's nice doing the live 6Mix as well, as you do get a little more instant feedback. Ministry show is just ace for us as we get to play exactly what we want.
Is this 8 hour solo marathon something you've attempted before – how do you go about preparing for it?
Yes we've done long sets a fair bit over the years. It's a question of going through music and kind of sketching the night out in sections.
Tokyo. See above.
Cats or Dogs.
Anything else we should've talked about but haven't?
X-Press 2 give us their A Night With… at Basing House this Saturday. Full info and tickets here.