Filed under: Interview
Set up with 6 turntables and 3 mixers, X-Press 2 dazzled a packed crowd at club Air last summer. After 9 months, the guys were back in Tokyo to once again fill club air’s floors with groove filled house music. X-Press 2 made an explosive debut in the early 90’s as Muzik Express. Despite a blank in the latter 90’s, they made an impressive come-back in 2000 through Skint Records, the label led by Fat Boy Slim. Since then, they have released hits such as “AC/DC” and “Smoke Machine” as well as having great success as a DJ unit, securing a residency at Fabric. Right before their set, X-Press 2 member, Ashley Beedle answered a few questions for HigherFrequency.
Interview by Laura Brown (ArcTokyo)
HigherFrequency (HRFQ) : It’s been 9 months since you visited Japan last time, how do you feel now?
Ashley Beedle (Ashley) : I feel really good. We’ve been really working hard as X-Press 2 on the new album, so the fact that we’ve come over here is just because we’ve nearly finished the album, so we’ve been allowed out.
HRFQ : I think this is your 2nd appearance at Club Air. How do you describe your impression of this venue?
Ashley : Definitely I would say, hand on heart one of our favorite clubs. Last time we played here we had such a fantastic time – really enjoyed it. In general, I don’t think – for the years that I’ve been coming to Japan I don’t think that there has been a bad gig I’ve ever done in Japan. The people are really receptive, they are into their music, they are knowledgeable and out to party which is good.
HRFQ : Is this a part of your world tour or just a regular weekend trip?
Ashley : Not yet. But, just two weeks ago we were in South America where we did Brazil, Buenos Aires, and Chile. Now Japan for a couple of days, and then we’ve got a long one in Australia and the rest of South East Asia, on June 10th for about three weeks, so that ‘s going to be tough.
HRFQ : I think you just started a new residency called “Muzik X-Press” at the Cross in London. How many resident parties are you currently running? Are you still doing the resident party at other venues like Crash?
Ashley : Just that one. Plus, you know, individually as well, we DJ out, in London. Lots of smaller parties now I think which is kind of the vibe in London, now. More so than the big – it’s small now – is gone back small again which is nice. And Crash we only did – it was meant to be two one-off parties at Crash, so that was the vibe for that really. Then obviously before that we did Fabric which was only a 6-month residency. I think with us we tend not to try to make it something where people get bored. It is about the moment and then we’ll stop it and change and move somewhere else.
HRFQ : When you played at Club Air last time, you used 6 turntables and 3 mixers, and this time, too. Do you keep this style when you play at those resident parties, too?
Ashley : Yes, plus we use a CDJ1000, samplers, etc.
HRFQ : Can you tell us how three of you work in this DJ style? Do you have any particular roles among the three of you, like who plays the tracks, and who plays samples and effects?
Ashley : Painfully. HA. We don’t actually rehearse. It is off the top of the head, but runs in a sequence where it starts off, Rocky’s in the middle, I’m here and Diesel’s there, and we DJ that way, so I suppose, from my point of view, that’s clockwise. So we DJ like that, and at any one time, it is one DJ playing and then the other two will be acapellas, beats, noises, and you know, plus I use the microphone a lot and put it through an effects unit, you know. So it keeps the crowd interested. I think it is boring just looking at three guys playing records to a certain degree. So there is a lot of motion and stuff going on there, for me anyway.
HRFQ : Have you ever plugged the PC into the decks to generate those sampling voices and effects? If not, are you interested in doing that, maybe by using the software like Ableton Live?
Ashley : No, no no. We use a thing called a Cyclopes which is a mini-sampler. It’s funny actually because the laptop thing it did occur to us to maybe use the Final Scratch, have you heard of that, and we were thinking about that, but isn’t not sexy you know. And I think when kids are looking, they want to see some action, they want to see some black vinyl. CDs we play lots of you know, but they want to see something going on. When you have a laptop, it doesn’t look like a DJ really. I think it takes the fun away.
HRFQ : I think your next single ‘Strobelight Silhouette’ is coming out soon. We know when you produced the tune “Smoke Machine” a couple of years ago, you were inspired by the smoke machine used at Danny Tenaglia’s party at the Winter Music Conference. Did you get any inspiration like that when you produced this track, too?
Ashley : I can’t remember what happened with ‘Strobelight Silhouette’. The vocals are me and Rocky. I think actually we were in the studio and we were having a laugh you know, and playing around with words. And that’s exactly how that just came about. I think it was I said ‘Strobelight Silhouette’, and then Rocky said it, and we put the two voices together and then we kind of twisted them, so it doesn’t actually sound like us, and that was the vibe. But ‘Strobelight Silhouette’ isn’t a real proper single. It’s just gonna be something to fill up the space before the album comes. And the real marketing campaign comes. It’s kind of like a little thing just to say to people to say ‘look, we’re still around.
HRFQ : We’re now trying to complete your biography in Japanese, so let us ask a couple of things about your career… Some of your profiles in Japanese say you teamed up the Ballistic Brothers first and then teamed up X-Press 2 later, but from the discography point of view, it seems to be a bit strange… Can you tell us the story behind how the three of you met, and how you teamed up X-press 2?
Ashley : It was the X-Press 2 first, and then the Ballistic Brothers was a side project from that. And sadly no more because we don’t have the time for all the Ballistic Brothers to get together. Rocky and Diesel knew each other from before because they used to work together I think and then I met Rocky and Diesel around this club called Queens which was a club that was in the suburbs kind of Acid House and then I met those two there and a friend of ours, a mutual friend, Terry Farley from Boy’s Own got us to work together in the studio, so that is how X-Press 2 was born. And X-Press 2 is a really weird name because a lot of people go, oh there is three of you there is three of you, why is it X-Press 2? Originally it was meant to be Rocky and Diesel. But we ended up making this record together which was Music X-Press. Terry Farley, he was the one who came up with the name because we wanted it to sound a little bit like S-Express, or something. So X-Press 2 was born and we kept the name, but instead of X-Press 3, it was always X-Press 2.
HRFQ : In the middle of the 90s, you stopped the activity as X-press 2, and started focusing on solo work. Can you tell us what was the biggest reason behind that decision?
Ashley : I think it was mainly because, for me personally, because I was kind of the one who split it, purely because we were running out of ideas and X-Press 2 wasn’t really an album band and it was a lot of momentum into trying to keep that big singles happening, you know? And it kind of really drained me I think, and plus I wanted to do my Black Science Orchestra stuff. And I think all of us needed a break really. Rocky went off and did Problem Kids, Diesel went off and made a few singles on his own, you know and I think it did us well. I mean I think it was a bit strange at first because we’d been together so long, but it was a good thing to do it at the time, definitely.
HRFQ : What made you get back together then?
Ashley : House music, no, it was just kind of generally. Terry Farley again was working in my studio at the time and he found a sample on one of my records which I didn’t know about and he rang me up and he said look I found this sample and it really sounds like an X-Press 2 record. So I went to the studio and heard it and then I rang Rocky and Diesel up and said look, do you fancy making another X-Press 2 record, which was AC/DC.
HRFQ : About your relation with Skint, can you tell us how it started?
Ashley : We had a really good relationship with Junior Boys Own. And then Skint basically, there was no contract with Junior Boys Own, it was always a friendship thing you know. And Skint approached us and said ‘look, why don’t you guys make an album – about time you made an album’, and we were like ‘yeah, OK’ you know because we had done albums as Ballistic Brothers and this and that. So they offered us a really good deal so we said ‘yeah, cool, let’s do it.
HRFQ : Did you get direct contact from Fatboy Slim?
Ashley : (Laugh) Oh, he was nothing to do with it. It’s on his label, but he’s nothing to do with it. I mean Norman is a good friend of ours but he was absolutely nothing to do with it – whatsoever. He’s just an artist on Skint as well. He’s got to tally the line as well, you know.
HRFQ : About your collaboration with David Byrne… your bio says David once mis-understood that the Ballistic Brothers were the band, and tried to put you in the opening act slot, What happened after David realized the fact?
Ashley : Yeah yeah, he thought we were a live band and we had to explain to him that we weren’t. And he couldn’t believe it , we were like it was like just the studio thing – so funny man. We could never do a live band – I don’t think we could – we’d have to hire a band in to pretend to be us.
HRFQ : Are you planning to have any more collaborations with David?
Ashley : No that was only ever going to be a one-off collaboration. Because David is a guy who does that — who likes to do things bang-bang, and then he moves on to something else. But we are still in touch with him, and he’s done a new version of Lazy on his new album which is kind of very orchestral and very Brazilian it’s nice.
HRFQ : How are your solo projects going?
Ashley : Well at the moment once this X-Press 2 album is done, we have got a lot of work to do – promotional work and stuff but I’m probably going to give myself maybe a month, couple of months off from the studio and then I’ve got some producing to do for other people, who I can’t say yet, because I haven’t signed. Then I’ll be starting work on my own personal album probably end of the year I’ll start.
HRFQ : How do you describe the recent situation of the European dance market? We’ve heard a lot of bad news recently, but do you think it’s moving ahead to more positive side now?
Ashley : I think for me, I’ve said this to quite a few journalists, it’s a real situation now. I always thought that the dance scene was over-inflated, you know. It was too much hype for what it was. So we had a lot of bad records, a lot of people making records for maybe for the wrong reasons, and what’s happening now is the true reality of what dance music should be about. So that those who are in it for the long haul, and are interested in making music, great, but what we are seeing now, people are going ‘oh, the death of dance music’ – it isn’t at all, it is just how it should be now. That’s how I think – it’s a positive thing.
HRFQ : I think you get a lot of demo CDRs. Do you include those unreleased demo tracks in your play list if they are potential enough?
Ashley : Yeah, we play a lot of stuff, edits, stuff that hasn’t seen the light of day, you know when we DJ we always do that – try to keep it fresh, definitely.
HRFQ : Have you found any potential materials from Japanese producers?
Ashley : Not yet, but I’m sure there will be.
HRFQ : What is the best way to send you demos?
Ashley : The best way really is to either send it either through our management, White Noise Management or through Skint and you know they pass them on to us. Honestly we get so much stuff sent. You know what I mean? Sometimes we’ll have kids come up to us and they give us a CD and address. I’ll make sure I take it and reply and try to help them out and say it is good.
HRFQ : Any messages to Asian fans?
Ashley : Keep the dance flag flying mate, because someone’s got to. There is a lot of potential here. I think, to me, it’s still growing here.
End of the interview
Leave a Comment so far
Leave a comment