HigherFrequency  DJ Interview


X-Press 2 Interview

Four years since their acclaimed collaboration with Talking Heads' David Byrne on the pop anthem triumph "Lazy", it was beginning to look like generation-spanning, veteran DJs Rocky, Diesel and Ashley Beedle had become just that. Where were they? The household DJ trio, who for the last fifteen years, from their early outings as The Ballistic Brothers to their later endeavours signed to Skint, have been a furniture feature of the dancefloor, did a categorical disappearing act.

But one that might just be worth the wait. The four-year hiatus was devoted to working on their new album, no short order given the recognition afforded them by the success of "Lazy". Raising the bar on the vocal collaborations, the results are the vast, eclectic soundscapes of "Makeshift Feelgood", chalked for release on 25th September. Last autumn's sneak preview "Give It", to which Lambchop's Kurt Wagner lent his prodigious gospel vocals, gave us a taste of things to come. Other signs that they were four years well spent are the mesmerizing darkness of "Kill 100", vocals by The Music's Robert Harvey, and the deliriously Balearic "Witchi Tai To", featuring Tim DeLaughter from the Polyphonic Spree. Higher Frequency caught up with the X-Press 2 boys during their recent trip to Japan.

* If you would like to view the video interview...Click here !

> Interview & Introduction : Matt Cotterill


HigherFrequency (HRFQ) : You've got "Kill 100", and Rob Harvey is on the vocals, from The Music. Can you tell us how that came about?

Ashley : He did a track for us, completely different from "Kill 100".

Rocky: Chris [Butler] our manager, coz we were trying to come up with vocalists to do collaborations with anyway, and Chris had heard The Music's album and said to us "oh, try and get hold of this album", and I took it on holiday to Thailand last year, listened to it a lot there, came back, and thought, yea, the guy's got an amazing voice, if we could get in touch with him that would be brilliant! So fortunately our manager did get hold of him, he's quite a young guy, I think about 24, but he was just so, "Ah, brilliant, I'd love to do something!" So that was it, and Ash took over from there.

Ashley: What was the tune called, the other one?

Rocky & Diesel: "Shine Through"...

Ashley: ..which didn't fit in with the album, as it was said a bit earlier, it was a bit Duran Duran-ish! (loads of laughter) Not in a bad way, but it sounded like.. it was kind of a little bit too poppy, for what we were looking for.. we're not saying it wasn't a great song..

Diesel: He is actually using it for The Music..

Ashley: ..But it just didn't sit alongside the other stuff that we had at that point, so then it was just a question of being... "Right, what you've done there is amazing, right, that's amazing, best thing we've ever heard, but... could you just do something more amazing?!" (laughter)

Rocky: It's funny really because he came in and I mean, this guy, he's like a little showman. We had this minimal backing track that we'd kind of quickly knocked together, and he's come in the studio, gone in the DJ booth, right, and completely off the top of his head, no lyrics written, did "Kill 100". Just a couple of little edits on certain things but, he did it in the booth, and we went, "..wha, what was that you just sung?", and he was just, "Oh, I did that off the top of my head.."

Ashley: Coz basically "Kill 100", the title is based on a Chinese saying, that if you kill one person, you kill one hundred.

Diesel: Because of the amount of people it affects..

Ashley: The knock-on effect basically. So that was quite, you know...

HRFQ : Has a kind of philosophical edge to it. Well we think he is a bit like that, we saw them last year at Fuji Rock, and he did come out with some sound bites during his set, you know, like, "This is about you people.." We didn't really understand it..

Rocky: He actually means that.. (loads of laughter)

HRFQ : We're sure he does! There's a litany of big names that you gentlemen have worked with, obviously David Byrne, that's going back a few years. Dieter Mieier from Yello, and on this album, the "Give It" track, Kurt Wagner from Lambchop. We understand that Diesel, you've been a big fan of his..

Diesel : We all are! In fact Rocky got me onto him.

Rocky : There's a song of theirs called "Up With People" that I can remember hearing a lot on a station back home, Radio London, like a BBC local radio station, and some of the DJs used to play on there, and I found out what it was through Ashley and then I went to a concert that they'd put on at the Albert Hall with Ashley as well, and from there, I was like messing about with the song at home, and DJing with it, and I started mixing it in with techno tracks that we were playing at the time. We were doing a sort of semi-residency at Fabric in London, and we used to play this techno track and mix in "Up With People", coz it's kind of like a slow, folky sound. The techno stuff was like double the tempo, so you had the beats coming.. so I played "Up With People" and then mixed in a techno track, and the place used to go insane! It was a real sort of emotive song, but then you get like this pounding beat! Ashley had it when he got married!

X-Press 2 Interview

HRFQ : Congratulations!

Ashley : It was the wedding song. The fact he says, in a beautiful way, "We are screwing up our lives today" - fantastic! Rather than like, luvvy-duvvy, you know; screwing up your lives!

Rocky : So from playing it there it was a natural progression later on. Again we were trying to think of people to collaborate with, and that was still fresh in our minds, we thought why don't we get in touch, and our manager again did a bit of groundwork, and managed to find someone who knew someone else, got in touch, and Kurt was like, "Yeah, great!", he was so keen, and they were on tour a couple of months after this, and he came into the studio and spent about an hour with us. We played him a load of tracks, and he was like, "yea yea I'll do it!", took one away and just went home and wrote the song. He came back and there was a spoken bit, so we were like, "could you do the chorus part?", then sent it back, and he did the chorus and right after he said "Hey, I can get the gospel choir from the church!" (laughs) so we were, "great, OK!", so he got this gospel choir in to back him up on the chorus, and sent it back. Then it was just a question of different arrangements, because for ages there were no beats in it at all, we just couldn't get it, we tried drums, again, it's weird it sort of went full circle, from me messing about with it indoors playing it, and playing some other German house track underneath it that fitted perfectly, it was in key. The first time I played that out was at The Big Chill a couple of years ago, and I played our version, the beatless version of "Give It" and dropped the beats in half way through, and the place just erupted! So we thought "That's it, we gotta go into the studio now", so we had the German track in our minds but then did our own track underneath it for the beats, so it took quite a while to get it but it worked quite nice.

HRFQ : The three of you, when you work in the studio, you've got a lot of ideas, a lot of combined experience and talent... do you ever squabble?

Ashley : Yeah! (laughs)

HRFQ : Who wins the fights?

Ashley : No one wins, we each just bow down to our own inside you know, it's like, "you know what, we've each had our squabble, we've let it out, let's just crack on." From what I read about a lot of other bands, I think we squabble less.

Diesel : It's part of the process, everyone just kind of does their thing, and you don't really specifically have a role. On certain tracks you can have a role, but it's more a track by track or even a day by day basis, where one day someone will take the lead almost and the other two will kind of follow along, going "how about this?", it's just kind of organic.

Ashley : I was saying earlier as well, but you've gotta leave your egos at the door.

Diesel : Now with the years of working together we've now got a system of trust.

Rocky: It's the way we do things, If someone's got a good idea you go with that. And there'll be times when you just leave one of us in the studio and crack on, and then you'll come in the next day and put something else in. It's taken a while for us to get to that point! But it works well now.

Ashley: Like a happy Massive Attack! (laughs)

HRFQ : We're more or less done with the questions, but something we like to do at HigherFrequency is invite you to give a message to your Japanese fans?

Ashley: Please can you invite us back at least once a year because we love you!

Diesel: Please can you invite us back twice a year, because we love you!

Rocky: ..I'm not doing that! (laughs) "Makeshift Feelgood" is out soon, please buy it!

HRFQ : Excellent. Gentlemen, it's been great talking to you, and we wish you all the best for the future and your careers!

Ashley, Diesel & Rocky : Thank you!!

End of the interview

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