Xpress-2 are Darren House (Diesel) and Darren Rock (Rocky). Formed in 1992 with Ashley Beedle, the group have been igniting dancefloors ever since. In 2002, their collaboration with David Byrne on Lazy reached No.2 in theUK pop charts and became the sound of summer. The song has now been optioned for the forthcoming Oliver Stone movie Wall Street 2. M magazine caught up with the group’s Darren House.
What were your early influences?
My earlier influences were of going to soul weekenders in the 1980s with the Soul Mafia DJs like Robbie Vincent, Chris Hill etc, where there were an array of DJs playing soul, jazz, funk, latin music which had a big impact on me. Following on from that were the early warehouse parties with DJs such as Jay Strongman and Jonathan Moore playing hip hop, go-go and rare groove, but probably the biggest influence in terms of X-press 2 would be Danny Rampling at Shoom Club and Colin Favor.
How did you begin to make music?
I began through DJing which basically started in suburban wine bars. I teamed up with Rocky before moving onto what were seen as the cooler clubs in London. I met Rocky while clubbing and we realised we both came from the same area, we started DJing together when a club in Greenford needed a DJ and we got the gig as a duo. At that time we were buying our records from Ashley (Beedle) in Soho and were then asked to make a record by Terry Farley, the label boss of Junior Boys Own who Ashley had previously recorded the first Black Science Orchestra single for. They suggested we all work together. Our first release was Muzik Xpress which became a big club hit on both sides of the Atlantic and we just went from there.
How did Lazy come about?
Lazy came about by pure chance. We had just been signed to Skint records for an album deal and were working on backing tracks. We made this instrumental track that sounded a bit 80s and our engineer commented that it was ‘very Talking Heads-ish’. A few years previously we’d made a record under the guise of the Ballistic Brothers that David Byrne had loved so much. He asked if we would support him on his European tour. Sadly, that project was only studio-based and we were unable to take him up on his offer. However, our manager knew David’s manager, phone calls were made and David agreed to do the vocal. We road-tested Lazy at Fabric and we were blown away by the reaction – on the second chorus the crowd were singing along. That was really when we knew we had something a bit special.
Did that massive pop success change the way you make music?
Not really in terms of how we work in the studio but we did become more concious of working in a more song based way as oppossed to instrumental club tracks. It’s a strange thing because you become known for ‘that’ record and you’d like to exceed it but you have to be honest and say that it’s possibly a once in a lifetime thing – excuse the pun – but you want to continue to achieve at that level. I think we’ve done some other great songs – we are particulary pleased with the Kurt Wagner collaboration Give It and also a track we did with Rob Harvey from The Music called Kill 100.
Has working with David Byrne attracted other collaborators to you do you think?
It did open doors. At one point we were contacted by Kylie’s management!! We nearly worked with Frank Black from The Pixies and did end up working with Tim DeLaughter from Polyphonic Spree – which was fun.
How do you put your music together?
Coming from a DJ/record collecting background, we research and source all our sounds ourselves. We bring in our samples and thrash about and see what works, sampling fragments and twisting them up to create new sounds. We then start to work on riffs and start adding basslines. The beauty of dance music is in it’s simplicity. The sounds go in and we see what’s working, often if it’s a mistake that wasn’t meant to happen but sounds great, we’ll keep it. It’s a very organic process. We don’t have assigned roles and never have.
You’ve worked with a lot of people, who would you liked to work with?
Patti Smith would definitely be up there. We like to work with people who are true to their art. It would be amazing for her to recite poetry over a dark deep brooding house beat.
What’s coming next for X-Press 2?
we have a couple of new projects that are forthcoming which include a collaboration with Analogue People in a Digital World called Playmates in the supermarket which is getting plays from Pete Tong on BBC Radio One . We also have a new collaborative project with Tim Deluxe plus a new X-Press 2 single in September called Get On You all forthcoming on Skint Records. Out at the moment we have remixes by Hakan Lidbo and Tony Senghore and there’s a new hush hush vocal project but can’t reveal as yet!