Just how exactly did legendary Talking Heads front man David Byrne end up on a house record at the top of the charts in 2002? X-Press 2’s Rocky recalls the making of their once in a lifetime classic.
How much of an influence did Talking Heads have on X-Press2?
I can remember first hearing them back in the 80s and just loved their whole sound, look, everything. We were listening to a lot of their stuff when we were first making X-Press 2 and Ballistic Brothers [the original trio’s 1990s chill out project] records back in the early 90s. I can remember ‘Born Under Punches being a huge tune for us then, both as a DJing record and just as something to revert to for inspiration in the studio. It was around this time that we first made contact with David [Byrne].
He was looking for a band to support him on a tour that he was doing, and he'd somehow heard some of our Ballistic Brothers tracks and got in touch via the record label. He asked if we'd be interested in supporting him. We explained that we were DJs and not a band in the traditional sense. He was cool but really wanted a band. Sadly that didn't come to anything, but the contact had been made.
What was going on with X-Press 2 at the time?
We'd had a bit of a hiatus from X-Press 2 for around three to four years, each going off and working on various other projects from around '96. Terry Farley was the catalyst for us getting back in the studio and making records again. He'd found this sample that he thought would make a great tune, so we went in and made AC/DC. The vibe was excellent so with the help of a new manager, Chris Butler, we started working towards making an album. It was one of these album tracks that subsequently lead us to David.
Where did the idea begin?
We had this deep, tracky house groove with Ash and me doing some little vocal bits on. It had a bit of an 80s feel to it. I thought it sounded like Prince, but our engineer at the time, James Brown (not that one), thought it reminded him of Talking Heads. We’d had the contact with David four or five years previously, so we thought we'd chance it and see if he remembered us.
Fortunately, our manager knew his manager, so he put in the call, and happily, David was into the idea. We sent over our backing track idea and a few weeks late, we received what David had done. I can remember all four of us sat in the studio listening through it for the first time and thinking, “this is exactly what we'd hoped for.”
We soloed David's vocals and just sat there, blown away. It took us around a month to get to the finished arrangement and mix and we took it to Fabric, where we were playing regularly that summer, on a Saturday night. We played it fairly early on in the evening then again at about six 6 o'clock in the morning. This time, everyone was singing the chorus.
What was he like to work with?
It was all done remotely. It was so much easier for us to send stuff and get it back in the post (yes it was prior to digital file sharing). We didn't properly meet him until we went to New York to do press for the single. What a lovely person he was. We met up at a gallery in Brooklyn, and within five minutes he was cracking jokes and telling us funny stories.
How successful was it?
It was an insanely busy time for us, but a lot of fun. We went from little club gigs to playing festivals in Brazil in front of 40000 people. ‘Lazy’ was big in the clubs but also got to number two in the UK pop charts, kept off the top slot by Gareth Gates. We also received an Ivor Novello award for Lazy. This, for me was probably the biggest accolade we could have received for the song. My award now sits proudly on my mantelpiece.
How do you look back on it?
I think for all of us, it will probably be our greatest single achievement in life. It still sounds great now and people still connect with it. When making music, that's all you can hope for. Our work here is done.
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