X-Press 2 make music for the dance floor. Pure and simple. So many nights and days and 25 years of being in and DJing at amazing clubs and parties are what inspires us to keep doing what we do. It was the dance floor that told us to be DJs in the first place and the dance floor that inspired the early tracks that we made. We loved that whole going out and hearing all sorts of music in one night thing. DJs like Alfredo and Larry Levan were champions of this style of DJing and it was thanks to people like them that we were able to do what we've done over the years. The old guard are still an inspiration for our music, both as DJs and producers but we are constantly checking for new names who always come along and give things a slightly different slant on what's gone before. I think it's a combination of the old and the new that truly underpins our music nowadays. we can listen to and old jazz album from the 60s next to a hot new track from someone like Feygin and feel totally blown away. This is what keeps us going into the studio and making the music that we do. All that we've ever wanted to do out of our music is to see people dance and get that empathy with the dance floor, knowing how a track makes us feel and seeing it have the same effect on 2000 people dancing as you play it." (Rocky - X-Press 2011)
Such is their swashbuckling sense of adventure, it’s hard to believe that X-Press 2 have been at the vanguard of British electronic music for two decades now. Whether its as musicians, DJs or remixers, the London duo share the same sense of musical discovery that first united them on the acid-house dance floors of Shoom and Spectrum and the Balearic playgrounds of Ibiza. A pioneering spirit that fuelled early Nineties underground anthems such as the percussive, US-influenced Muzik Express and London X Press. A why not? Chutzpah that helped them create languid deep house classics like Lazy and Give It with vocalists as unlikely - yet inspired - as David Byrne of Talking Heads and Kurt Wagner of Lambchop. A DJ bravado that led to them thinking, two decks are for wimps. Why not six or seven? Why not twelve?
The Three Musketeers have recently become two, with the departure of Ashley Beedle, but its full steam ahead for remaining members Rocky and Diesel. We shouldn’t read anything into Beedle's absence beyond the pressures of combining his solo and production work with X-Press 2, insists Rocky. It just got to the stage where Ash was trying to do too much. He’s the kind of guy who, if he could please everyone, he would, but it just wasn’t conducive to producing good music on either side. Its absolutely cool between us - we're still good mates and the doors always open if he ever wants to get involved again.
So, now X-Press 2 are two, what does the future hold? In short - loads. Lazy is currently to be heard at a cinema near you, as part of the soundtrack Byrne and Brian Eno contributed to Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. Then there are the two EPs they’ve recorded with Tim Deluxe, a kindred spirit whom they got to know well when they shared DJ bills at the Ministry of Sound. Small-hours monsters such as Tonehead Chemistry and Siren Track combine the heads-down grooves with which they made their name (Classic X-Press 2, says Rocky) with spacious, action-packed breakdowns They’re the most visceral, dance floor-geared productions Rocky and Diesel have been involved with for years.
Obviously, with Ashley leaving, the dynamic has changed, says Diesel. But were carrying on the X-Press 2 sound and developing it. The key is that the pair are as excited about music as they were when they first met in Hayes, Middlesex in the mid Eighties. In their DJ sets - now on a relatively restrained four decks and CDJs - and on their Thursday evening show for Ministry Radio they steer away from the Lazy era and chart a new course through 21st century house of every hue, from the lush and stately to the sparse and jacking. Were just overwhelmed by how much great stuff there is smile's Diesel. We just can’t get everything in.
The pair see strong parallels between their Balearic formative years and the irreverent eclecticism of 2010. Our earliest influences were pre-house warehouse parties where you had rare groove, soul, jazz, go-go music, all different sorts of stuff being played, says Diesel. In Ibiza in the late Eighties, wed be dancing to Acid Trax, then a Rolling Stones record, or the Woodentops. And 20 years later, says Rocky, there’s a bit of that going on again. Clubs like the Social have an anything-goes ethos - King Tubby one minute, a dubstep record the next and then a house thing.
When things get sectioned off you just lose all sense of progression or creativity, says Diesel. So when it came to working on their untitled forthcoming album, it was time to scale back the club dates and retreat to the studio armed with a spectrum of music old and new. With us, its always records, because we're DJs and record collectors, says Rocky. Lately, their ears have been filled with everything from Fifties rockabilly, Sixties gospel and Eighties boogie through to up-to-the-minute gems by leftfield electronic voyager Caribou and Brooklyn house wunderkind Felix Feygin.
As that colourful selection suggests, Rocky and Diesel retain their taste for the unexpected, especially when it comes to selecting guest vocalists. We always try and go for someone whose not associated with dance music, says Rocky. For the new album, that means people like Rob Harvey, former frontman of Leeds alt-rockers the Music, who previously collaborated with X-Press 2 on Kill 100 and co-wrote a new track called The Blast. The lyrics are quite cryptic, says Diesel. I haven’t asked him what they mean yet. It’s got a double chorus and its bit Lennon-ist that’s Lennon, not Lenin.
Things get fiercer on another album track, this is War, which features Hannah Scanlon of Brighton’s incendiary indie outfit Doll and the Kicks. “She’s got a really powerful voice and the song is fucking nuts,” says Diesel. “What really appealed to us is the fact that it’s about war rather than throwing your hands in the air and loving everyone, “ says Rocky. “We want war, we want shit to happen!”
Indeed, in X-Press 2s world of limitless possibilities, only one thing is certain. We will never make a song that says; Take me higher, insists Diesel. That’s just never gonna happen. Rest assured - Rocky and Diesel are as restless and averse to predictability as ever. Long may the adventure continue.