With their headline stint due at the Cream Reunion on Saturday February 1st we spoke with iconic house duo X-Press 2, read the interview here.
Date published: 27th Jan 2014
Since the late eighties the name X-Press 2 has been synonymous with the better strains of electronic music. The duo of Rocky and Diesel, joined for sixteen years by Ashley Beedle between 1992 and 2008, have been responsible for a slew of tunnelling tech driven house music, from the iconic warehouse anthem ‘Muzik X-Press’ to the tribal workout ‘Smoke Machine’ (below) a tribute to the ice cannon in Ibizan superclub Amnesia.
They’re probably best known for their 2002 single ‘Lazy’, which set the laconic drawl of Talking Heads frontman David Byrne against a chugging early twenty first century deep house track, but for clubland acolytes their DJing prowess, famously spread across four or six decks, is legendary.
They will be bringing that command of groove to Nation on Saturday February 1st for the Cream Reunion, headlining a celebration of the Liverpool’s club’s first decade between 1992 and 2002 alongside trance king Guy Ornadel, Quivver and Charlie May. We got on the phone to Rocky to discuss their role during the heady days of Cream, their relationship with iconic labels Junior Boy's Own (JBO) and Skint and the method behind the madness on their Top of the Pops performance in 2002.
You both started DJing together in 1988 and then teamed up with Ashley Beedle in 1992 through Terry Farley at JBO. Was this a decision to give another dimension to your DJing or was it initially to work together in the studio?
No it was just to work together in the studio. I heard Ashley playing a Patrick Adams track one night and spoke to him about doing a kind of cut up version of it. That was how the studio session came about. Terry paid for the session so he got the record. It turned into 'Muzik Express' (below).
Who came up with the name X-Press 2?
That was down to Terry again. We were originally going to call ourselves Rock 2 House, but he wasn't really into that. So he renamed us X-Press 2. He basically liked the S'Express so kind of adapted that.
You've released pretty much all of your back catalogue on initially JBO and then later Skint. Tell us about the role these two legendary labels have played in your career?
Well they both allowed us to make the music that we wanted to. They just let us get on with things really, but were there when we needed them.
Having DJ'd at Cream so many times over the years, including a residency, what made it such a special club? What would be your three classic records form that time?
I think the people that came week in week out were what made it to be honest. So many characters. Three records would probably be De'Lacy's 'Hideaway', George Morel 'Let's Groove' and of course 'Muzik Express'.
Any funny tales from Cream's booths?
There was one time that Derrick Carter was so wasted he could barely stand, but he was playing the most amazing four hour set and not missing a mix. As soon as he finished, he literally collapsed! Junior Vasquez asking for a cookie at around three in the morning. He needed sugar. And there's loads concerning our mate Miami Mick.
How did the London clubs to the North differ in the early to mid 90's?
They didn't really. Everyone was up for it and atmosphere's were amazing pretty much everywhere we went.
You recently done a BBC Radio 6Mix and host your own Ministry Of Sound radio show? Tell us about that and your affinity to the wireless?
It's just another thing to do I guess. We like to push new music with our radio shows and that's what we do weekly. It's rare to hear the same track twice in our shows. We want to move things forward constantly and don't want to be just known as a heritage act.
We noticed in a recent interview that your debut 'Music X-Press' is Terry Farley's favourite track of yours. What's you favourite X-Press 2 production?
I think as X-Press 2 I'd agree with Terry on that. But we also made a track called 'House Music Machine' by Darksyde. It was made as an XP2 record and was totally influenced by a visit to the Sound Factory in New York. Terry and Steve thought it was too dark though, hence the name change. I also love 'Tuning Up' that we did as Ballistic Brothers.
'Lazy' with Talking Head's David Byrne gained the most success reaching no.2 in the charts, was it always intended to be a commercial hit or was it initially made for the dancefloor? And what about that TOTP performance (below)?
It was made for the dancefloor, all our music is. We just set out to make a deep house track with DB singing on it. The fact that it did what it did was a happy accident. As far as TOTP goes, they wanted us to pretend to play keyboards but we felt that wasn't being truthful, so we came up with the idea of us just sitting there being lazy. They were pretty insistent that we do it their way and it was only the day before recording that they gave in and let us have our bunk beds and computer terminals.
You've worked with some diverse and interesting vocalists through the years, what's been your favourite collaboration and why?
They've all been absolutely brilliant for many different reasons. Every single one of them has given 100% and to be honest we were always going to be happy with that.
When you started out did you straight away use four decks or was it more back to back and then you thought how can we make this more exciting?
The four deck thing came about when we hooked up with Ashley really. As Rocky and Diesel it was always back to back, but even then it was a pain having to wait 10 minutes till you could play your next tune. I guess the four decks just came out of boredom really.
Finally, are you looking forward to a trip down memory lane and digging out the classics for Cream Reunion on 1st Feb?