Rewind one day. I’m sitting in a hotel courtyard looking over a pool and the blue Atlantic ocean, drinking strawberry milkshakes with Simon Ratcliff and Felix Buxton, aka the Basement Jaxx.
Simon is the quiet almost reticent one, on the level, the straight shooter, stillwatersrundeep. Simon is definitely ‘the Basement’. Underground.
Felix on the other hand is gregarious, funny and slightly camp, without doubt he’s ‘the Jaxx’ in this relationship. ‘Aww c’mon…’ he protests. ‘Now you’re making me sound like a complete twat!’
The hotel patio scene is surreal as only Cape Town can create. At the same time as my interview with the Basement Jaxx, there is a Harley Davidson convention, but gone are the Hell’s Angels and Black Sabbath, to be replaced by ageing accountants in the throes of midlife crises and strange Latino pop blaring in the background, like the Gypsy Kings playing with a synthesiser on Acid, just worse.
Having just come from Johannesburg and visiting Soweto, the Jaxx are a little taken back by their hyper-luxurious surroundings.
‘It’s strange.’ Says Simon. ‘But this right here is the image I had of Cape Town. We were in Soweto yesterday and that seemed quite familiar from seeing the news. That was very exciting, I felt like I was in another place there… a historical place.’
‘Yeah everybody was very friendly.’ Says Felix. ‘The big shock about Johannesburg was all the walling off and the barbed wire and electric fences.’
‘I expected that from what I had heard.’ Simon says.
‘I didn’t think it would be absolutely everywhere, like the whole city.’ Adds Felix
‘It’s not.’ I argue. ’Like in Soweto and other poor areas there’s no barbed wire.‘
‘It’s just the wealthy.’ Says Simon.
‘It’s interesting. Cape Town feels a lot slicker.’ Says Felix nodding appreciatively at the Atlantic. ‘It’s like coming to Sydney as opposed to Melbourne. Johannesburg was more like Sao Paulo. Here, you got the lights, the roads are really clean, the whole place has a slickness to it.’
‘It’s all a façade, I guess.’ He continues. ‘But for us it’s cool to go around and figure it all out. I just went down to the beach, down to Clifton, and definitely there all the guys and girls are looking cool. I was like, oh my god, I felt like a right tramp. They all seemed fit and sexy and it was like yeah, that’s one South Africa. And we saw another South Africa in Soweto yesterday, so it’s like we’re seeing all the bits and how it all fits together.’
Suddenly out of the blue one of the Harley girls saunters across and between a thick Afrikaans accent, asks for an autograph. Her name is Hildegardt.
‘You guys are playing by Belville tonight?’ She asks.
‘Yes, at the Velodrome!’ Says Felix with way too much enthusiasm on the word VELODROME.
‘Nice area.’ She says, as she reaches to take the autograph Felix has just signed and turns away.
‘Yeah, its me too.’ Protests Simon. The poppie smiles, and offers her autographed tissue back to the other half of the Basement Jaxx.
After that we all laugh.
‘She really didn’t know who we are?’ Reckons Simon. ‘We could have got you to sign too.’
If there was one track that you wish you had created, what would that be?
‘Well actually, being in South Africa, the national anthem [Nkosi sikelel’ iAfrika], I think is one of my favourite pieces of music, ever.’ [Felix hums the tune, dropping in the word Afrika at the appropriate times]
‘I just think that is amazing, it absolutely kills me. I saw it first in that movie Cry Freedom, at Steve Biko’s funeral everyone is singing it a cappella, and it just killed me.’
Ever thought about sampling those old protest songs?
‘I always feel funny taking a sample of a freedom song, or something. There are things that are so “of the people” that you should just leave well alone. Especially to put “shake that booty on top of it” [he laughs] Shake that booty… iAfrika. That’s just not right!’
Back at the concert Felix has just done a massive, impromptu stage dive, head first onto the floor, during the anthemic jump up number, ‘Where’s Your Head At’. The irony is not lost on the crowd. Unlike any other act I have ever seen, the music does not grind to a halt just because the star has fallen off the stage and split his head open. Not the Basement Jaxx, nuh-uh. Thirty seconds later Felix is back on stage, blood soaking the front of his shirt from a gnarly split above his right eye that definitely needs stitches. True blue rah rah rah pommie grit on stage for everyone to see. He looks like a maniac, murder on the dancefloor. The crowd is on the verge of a full-on fucking thrombosis. Screaming, gesticulating and ululating their appreciation, watching the legend. Local musos are taking stock, rubbing their chins and going, so that’s what that old lark, ‘the show must go on’ means. And Felix is still jumping up and down pushing the beat home, blood pissing from his eye. ‘WHERE’S YOUR HEAD AT? Where’s your head at? Where’s your head at?’