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X-Press 2

It’s hard to believe that X-Press 2 have been at the vanguard of British electronic music for two decades now. Whether it’s as musicians, DJs or remixers, the London duo share the same sense of musical discovery that first united them on the dance floors of Shoom and Spectrum and the Balearic playground of Ibiza. A pioneering spirit that fuelled early Nineties underground anthems such as the percussive, US-influenced Muzik Express and London X Press. 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.

The departure of Ashley Beedle a few years ago changed the dynamic, but also enabled Rocky and Diesel to develop the X-press 2 sound further, with some explosive productions such as the two EPs 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 combined the heads-down grooves with which they made their name (Classic X-Press 2, says Rocky) with spacious, action-packed breakdowns They were the most visceral, dance floor-geared productions Rocky and Diesel have been involved with for years.

Rocky and Diesel began working on their first album as a duo, and drew on their earliest influences of pre-house warehouse parties. Rare groove, soul, jazz, go-go music, all different sorts of stuff being played, says Diesel. In Ibiza in the late Eighties, we’d 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 the ‘House Of Xpress 2’ album, the club dates were scaled back and they retreated to the studio armed with a spectrum of music old and new. With us, it’s always records, because we're DJs and record collectors, says Rocky. Their choice of vocalists was equally eclectic. We always try and go for someone whose not associated with dance music, says Rocky. Such as Rob Harvey, one half of the D.O.T with Mike Skinner (The Streets) and 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 never asked him what they meant. It’s got a double chorus and its bit Lennon-ist that’s Lennon, not Lenin.

Even fiercer was another album track, “This is War”, with 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!”

‘The House Of X-Press 2’ album was released in 2012 to critical acclaim and led to new opportunities such as their Ministry Radio Show (for which they received a DJ Mag Award) and playing to new audiences all over the world. But X-Press 2 as ever don’t like to stand still and 2013 will see the next chapter unfold. A residency at Pacha in Ibiza and a series of club singles will be released which will see Rocky and Diesel going back to exploring the raw energy of their early productions. In Rocky’s own words…

“We really enjoyed working with vocalists on the last album but these days we are focusing on getting back to our roots, straight up tracky House music aimed solely at the dancers in the club”

The key is that the pair are as excited about music as they were when they first met. In their DJ sets 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. We are just overwhelmed by how much great stuff there is, smiles Diesel. We just can’t get everything in.

Indeed, in X-Press 2’s 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…

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