In the ever-evolving landscape of electronic music, few entities have weathered the sonic tides as gracefully as UK dance institution X-Press 2. The dynamic duo, consisting of Rocky and Diesel, known for their groundbreaking contributions since the '90s, has recently embarked on a new chapter with their fifth release, "Thee," marking their inaugural collaboration with the legendary Acid Jazz Records.
"Thee" culminates years spent refining their craft, blending powerhouse club anthems with irresistibly catchy tunes. Their groundbreaking journey includes the iconic 'Lazy ft David Byrne,' a track that earned them the prestigious Ivor Novello Award.
As the influential duo steps into a fresh sonic realm with Acid Jazz Records, The DJ Cookbook had the privilege of catching up with Rocky, one-half of X-Press 2. We delve into the intricacies of their new album, the ever-evolving landscape of electronic music, and the secrets behind their enduring relevance. Beyond the beats and rhythms, Rocky shares his perspectives on culinary delights, offering a glimpse into the palates that fuel the creative fire of X-Press 2.
Q: Where are you right now, and what have you eaten today?
A: At home. It's 9 am, and I've had my porridge. I have it every day. Always with bananas, prunes, and blueberries.
Q: Who is the best cook between the two of you?
A: Tough one. I can't ever remember us eating each other's food. From our conversations, I'd say we are pretty well-matched.
Q: What do you think makes your food taste delicious?
A: I'm a recipe man. I always follow it to the letter. I like to try all sorts of food/recipes. I love spiced food, like Indian. So the spicing would be a winner.
Q: Can you describe a typical meal you ate as a child?
A: Ham, egg, and chips. Absolutely nothing about this meal that I didn't love.
Q: What is the secret to a successful Sunday roast?
A: Yorkshires and roast spuds, oh, and the gravy.
Q: Do you have any food rituals?
A: Proper coffee every morning. I have a grinder and coffee machine, so that's my ritual. Usually, my partner gets up first, and she switches the machine on, then I'll get up after it's up to temperature (usually around 30 minutes) and make the coffee. I also weigh the dose to get it exactly the same every time.
Q: Do you think certain types of foods enhance your musical creativity?
A: Definitely. There's a fantastic food court near the studio we use. Lots of spicy options in there always make for spicy results on the tracks we're working on!
Q: Do your eating habits change in the studio vs. touring?
A: We always eat very well when we're in the studio. there are some fabulous options nearby. See above. When we're away, the diets go awry.
Q: In your opinion, how does British culture relate to food?
A: British culture, as far as food, has always been looked down upon by the rest of the world, but these days, our food culture is incredible. I celebrated a big birthday a few years back by dining at Simon Rogan’s L’enclume. It was the greatest food experience of my life. Just incredible.
Q: When did your love for house music begin? Was it a song, a night out on the dancefloor, a feeling?
A: It was a gradual thing for me. I can remember hearing early house tunes on the pirate stations like Jazzy M's show on LWR and the odd track mixed into the soundtrack of a night out. When Shoom started, that really changed everything for me.
Q: Speaking of culture, you’ve been significant players in the evolution of dance music. How does your sound stay relevant in a sea full of fish?
A: I'm not sure, to be honest. We just do what we do and try to remain true to ourselves and what we consider decent house music.
Q: Did you ever think electronic dance music would become a billion-dollar industry?
A: No, not at all. I can remember us having a conversation along the lines of: “Wouldn't it be great if we could still be doing this next year?” This was 1989.
Q: What made you decide to sign with Acid Jazz Records?
A: Dean and Eddie's enthusiasm for the project mainly influenced our decision. They are passionate about their music, and we felt that Acid Jazz was the perfect home for us.
Q: Now that your back catalog is available on streaming platforms, how does it feel to have a new generation discover your music and older generations revisit it?
A: It's brilliant. It always has been. Someone posted a clip from Convenanza the other day, and Sean Johnston was playing Muzik Express. Ashley, Diesel, and I made this 31 years ago, and it's still making people go nuts.
Q: When did production on "Thee" begin?
A: Some tracks we started around 10 or so years ago. So, around half the album had its roots back then. We pretty much ripped everything apart and updated it.
Q: Did you have a concept in mind as to how you wanted the record to sound and feel?
A: Not really a concept as such. We just start with the embryo of an idea and develop the track from there. Some are quite deep, some electro, and some big dancefloor fillers.
Q: Each track on this album tells a different story, and there’s a track for every taste, whether it's sensual, sexy, dark, moody, or bright and hopeful to straight-up dancefloor smashers. Which tracks flowed easily right from the start, and which ones took longer?
A: The instrumental ones flow a lot easier. The vocals always take longer. You have a responsibility to the 3rd party involved, and we want to get it right.
Q: How did the collaboration with Kele Okereke on "Phasing You Out" come about? Tell us about the idea of reworking the lyrics.
A: You know what, I'm struggling to remember. Diesel might have a better recollection. It may have been through someone at Skint or our old manager, Chris.
Q: On "Thee", Tones on Tail's "Rain" also gets its due. How did Daniel Ash react to your rework?
A: Covering Rain was Diesel's idea, so he'd be best placed to answer this one.
Q: Who is the artist behind "Thee’s" artwork? Can you explain how the album sleeve design came together?
A: Another question for Diesel. Acid Jazz uses a chap called Jaffa for many of their covers, and he did ours.
Q: Are you going to go on tour? If so, when and where?
A: No plans at the moment, but watch this space.
Q: Will "Thee" have more remixes?
A: Hopefully, yes. There's a cracking David Holmes one of "Phasing You Out!"
Q: What’s next for X-Press 2?
A: More of the same, really. We've got many ideas for a follow-up album, so we must get back in the studio and get cracking!
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