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The three DJs, all from unfashionable suburbs of London, had each played leading roles in the capital’s cooler, more influential club scenes: Flying; Slough’s famous Sunday afternoon club Full Circle; Soho record shop Black Market, where Ashley was the manager. Rocky and Diesel had been mates since 1986. They knew Ashley because they bought records from him. Their first studio session left them cold - they’d intended to sample an old Cloud One track but that typewriter percussion noise was all that survived. Everyone else disagreed. Muzik X-Press’ was an instant worldwide club hit. DJs as influential as Pete Tong and New York’s Junior Vasquez - then in his Sound Factory prime - loved it.
Clubbers around the world declared it an instant anthem. Its follow up, the juddering, funky London X-Press’ with its exhortation to "raise your hands!" was just as monstrously successful, as was the daft dancefloor smash, ‘Say What’, that came next. It was also endearingly clear that X-press 2 didn’t take themselves too seriously. They parodied the Beatles by doing a silly walk across a zebra crossing for an early photo shoot and took the piss out of themselves constantly. But they took their music to heart ” so when their records began to get, as Ashley puts it, "more oblique", the three were content to put X-Press 2 aside and move onto other projects. Beedle had his Black Science Orchestra alias, Rocky his Problem Kids alter ego; and the three moved effortlessly into jazzier, funkier, more downbeat arenas with their internationally respected Ballistic Brothers team-up. It was this that first caught the attention of David Byrne. "I had contacted Beedle and co some five years ago after hearing Ballistic Brothers, which I loved," says Byrne, who offered them a slot on his European tour, thinking they were a live band. He’s glad this collaboration has finally happened. "I love the contradiction of a pumping dance track that is called Lazy’," he says. X-Press 2 are overjoyed ” and not just because ‘Lazy’ is memorable enough to become their biggest hit yet. Ashley Beedle met Byrne once in New York. "He’s very focused on art and how it integrates with society. He’s into painting, he’s into books, he’s into music," says Beedle, clearly impressed.
It’s about the art and the magic, Ashley says.Dieter Meier, the eccentric and brilliant leader of Swiss electro-pop experimentalists Yello was equally amenable to a team-up. His unmistakably mustachioed growl sends threatening shards of kitsch vocal through the percussive groove of ‘I Want You Back’ ” a fascinating track that jerks between weird synth pop and pounding house. "We’re huge Yello fans and his voice is so eerie," says Diesel. "We thought, wouldn’t it be great to hear him on a house tune?’’ YELLO’S sense of the theatrical, it emerges, has always been a key influence on X-Press 2. "Their grooves are amazing. The drama in those records as well," says Diesel. "That’s what we try and do in our records. We try and arrange them so they have some kind of story. We’re trying to do make them more than just groove tracks. We enjoy doing arrangements where there’s a beginning, a middle, and an end." 2001’s vinyl-only club smash ‘AC/DC’, with its horror-house chorus, is a neat example. It’s one of three fabulous club instrumentals that also shine on ‘Muzikizum’ ” and it’s a sign of how rounded a house album this is that they don’t pale next to the celebrity collaborations. The merciless ‘Smoke Machine’ was inspired by the machines used at Danny Tenaglia’s Winter Music Conference, set at Miami’s Club Space, and it simmers with brooding, late night menace. The title track combines the raw funk of American house with the futuristic power of European techno and it will fog any dancefloor with the confusion of a battlefield.
Over the past year, X-Press 2 have been putting the drama back into DJing with six deck DJ performances that used effects-ridden mic performances from Ashley, CD-players and basic samplers to send crowds at London’s Fabric and Ibiza’s Pacha wild. "We like a bit of a challenge and it certainly creates something of a potent atmosphere," says Rocky. "It’s like a jam, really, it’s not rehearsed, we’re inspired continually by the shenanigans on the dancefloor. We play two records each and we go round like a tag thing. Whoever’s playing the tune coming out the speakers, the other two can cut in effects, beats, acappellas. It becomes like a wall of sound." These sets incorporate everything from deep house grooves to hard percussion to uproarious vocal tracks. This album does the same - threading innovation and originality amongst the rich rhythms. Exactly what house music, done right, is all about. Thinking and feeling on your feet. Marrying a schizophrenic’s range of moods to one relentlessly funky groove. Sometimes the simplest things are the hardest. Just ask David Byrne.Last time round, they gave us Lazy. Who can forget? David Byrne on vocals. Awarded an Ivor Novello for their efforts. It’s a benchmark. There hasn’t been a credible crossover dance record with that kind of impact since. X-Press 2 showed the world that dance music could still excite, invigorate and delight….Now after some time in the studio, working on the follow up to Muzikizum, X-Press 2 are ready to Give It. Their first collaboration since the sessions with David Byrne, Give It features the great Kurt Wagner from Lambchop on vocals. X-Press 2 have been fans of Lambchop for years. Rocky was known to drop Lambchop’s classic ‘Up With People’ into their six deck marathon X-Press 2 DJ sessions and collaborating with Kurt seemed the natural next step. The results speak for themselves. Another sublime moment from X-Press 2 who have turned ‘end of night’ anthem into something of an artform. It’s special – that word again!
Check the ‘album version’ if you want an early insight into the direction of things. Give It is released in limited quantities on vinyl in June. Work meanwhile continues in earnest on the new album. Released January 2006, it’s almost there…………