20 Years of Muzik X-Press?!!
Yes we've chatted to them already this year but you never pass up an opportunity to interview these legends… catch them playing for 6 hours at The Date this weekend at Loft Studios.
Hello gents. It’s been twenty years since you first came into the public eye with the release of Muzik Express on Junior Boy’s Own in 1992. Obviously a lot has gone on since then and we’ll get to that later in the interview, but it’d be interesting to find out a bit about the time before you started out. Were you both intent on having a career in music from an early age, and how did you initially meet?
We first met when we were both working at Thorn EMI in Hayes, through mutual friends. We started going to a few of the same clubs/parties and got friendly through that. It was things like Nicky Holloway’s Special Branch events and the things that Simon Dunmore was promoting in West London. A little later on we started going to Shoom, Spectrum, Future and the Boys Own parties, getting to play at one of the early ones.
Music was just a hobby for us back at the start, it was only with the event of acid house that we realized we could make a living at it.
What were the key, seminal moments in your own discovery of house music?
I think the main one would have to be the opening of Shoom. We’d both been into house since the first releases started turning up in the record shops, around a year or so before and a few of the DJs were starting to play a little of this new sound in amongst the rare grooves, soul, funk and hip hop that was big at the time. What Shoom did was take the sound but kind of mixed it with the other elements that Danny and co had discovered in Ibiza and formed it into this whole other ‘new’ thing. It was like a eureka moment in a club. From that point, you knew that everything was going to change. It did, and here we are 25 years later!
You hooked up as a DJ duo in 1988 but had been djing for a few years before that, what kind of stuff were you playing before you joined up?
Pretty much the sort of sounds that I described in the previous question really. Lots of soul, funk, jazz, hip hop, disco, go-go, and the odd house track. Just a mix of everything. It was the thing that I loved about clubs and DJing back then, you’d hear a load of different sounds in one night. Something that is sadly lacking these days. I love DJs like Ross Allen, who still champions that anything goes attitude.
Terry Farley had a big impact on your careers right at the start, I read in a previous interview with Ransom Note that you played a night of his called ‘ 'Double Egg, Bacon, Bubble and A Fried Slice' (we need more nights with names like this now) and of course you went on to release through JBO, do you still get to see much of each other now – is there an old boys network of UK house music?!
Yes there’s definitely an old Balearic boys network. =)
I see Terry all the time as he only lives up the road. We were out on Friday night as it happens.
How important was Balearica and the early club scene of Ibiza in the development of your own musical taste?
I think it was everything to us back in the early days. As stated already, Shoom was like a starting point and we looked at what Danny was doing for inspiration. We hadn’t been to Ibiza at that point so we were getting it all second hand from what we were hearing in the London clubs. It didn’t stop us idolizing Alfredo any less though. When we started as Rocky and Diesel we considered ourselves Balearic DJs with only a few house tracks featured in those early sets. That changed as time went on, but I think that whole Balearic thing defined what we were and what we were to become.
And while we’re at it, how exactly would you define the sound of ‘Balearica’?!
I wouldn’t. I would describe the term ‘Balearic Music’ as anything that got played by Alfredo and Leo Mass at Amnesia between around 85-89.
Obviously there’s been many a highlight throughout your careers, have there also been times when you’ve been close to jacking it all in?
No I can honestly say there hasn’t. There are times when things don’t go as you’d like or hoped they would but you just have to remind yourself that you’re doing something that you’ve loved all your life and are still doing it 25 years after you started out. We are blessed really.
And are there any standout comedy moments where it all went a bit spinal tap?!
There have been loads, but it’s a struggle to remember them. 25 years of music and clubs takes it’s toll!!
As with most things that start as underground, outsider movements, dance music culture went mainstream long ago. The recent Channel 4 programme ‘How Clubbing Changed the World’ (a case in point) concluded that the biggest factor in the rave scene going on to become so huge had been the introduction of E to the masses. Having been there yourselves for the second summer of love in 1988, whats your own take on this?
All the other issues aside with that programme, I think they got it right with that one point. No matter what anyone says, that was the one enormous difference over anything that had gone before. It added to the whole acid house package, of the sound, the look, the dance and the attitude. It was why it went on to be such a huge movement. You had the whole thing in one convenient parcel.
Do you think that the political and economic climate of the late eighties, with REgan in the US and Thatcher here, fed directly into the formation and success of house music, and do you think that something similar is going on now in the midst of this economic depression?
I guess so yes. To be honest I never really look at the wider angle. I just live for the moment and enjoy it while it’s there.
In terms of production, have your musical processes changed over the last couple of decades, do you still use some of the same gear or is the production process now entirely different ?
We still work in pretty much the same way we always have done. We’ll turn up at the studio with a load of ideas and samples, stick them all together and form a new piece of music from that. This process is now a lot easier than it was 20 years ago, when we made Muzik Xpress. Back than it was a room full of samplers, mixing desk and various other kit. Now we do everything on a mac in a room not much bigger than a spare bedroom.
It must be nice to be playing at Loft Studios, going back to your West London roots, which I imagine (due to licensing laws and lack of venues) has been quite rare throughout your careers – are you still based in West London?
Yes we’re both still West London. Diesel is near Maida Vale and I’ve moved a little further out, to Teddington. It’s always nice playing over this side, especially as now the whole thing is very East London centric.
Could you give us a few highlights to expect from your six hour set at Loft Studios?
We’ll try and capture some of that early spirit and try to mix it up a bit. Taking in some of our influences and older tunes that we loved as well as the bang up to date more underground sounds that we champion on the radio show.
Finally, what are your plans for the rest of the year and beyond?
Well we’re working on another album for Skint which should be ready for the new year. Also doing lots of dates to celebrate 20 years of Muzik Xpress. Other than that, we’ll just keep on making music.
Thanks very much!
X-Press 2 play for 6 hours at The Date this weekend at Loft Studios alongside Timmy Regisford and Ashley Beedle.Full details here