"Until about two months ago, the band was a full-time concern," says Felix Buxton, one half of Basement Jaxx. We're at the Balham flat of Simon Ratcliffe, the other half. Both are happy to be back in London, taking a break from a hectic schedule, and this week's release of their single Get Me Off concludes a long run of full-time work. "You're in a bubble when you're on tour - it's like being a child again: you have no responsibilities. After a while it's nice to be able to talk about what's on telly, like normal people."
Simon and Felix seem like normal people. They started off DJing in Brixton pubs, and they still do the odd local slot in between festivals. "We're now doing these big headlining slots, and that can be dangerous," says Felix. "So after one of those we'll play the community centre and see how that goes. It keeps our feet on the ground."
The band was born of the idea that you can do anything with a computer and a sampler. "Our view is that anything can be an instrument, which is possible in electronic music," says Felix. "You can have salt and pepper pots, a table, and the sea as instruments."
"But now that you can make any sound you like, what's interesting is the way songs are arranged, what time signatures are used and so on," says Simon. "The best modern R&B is innovative because of the spaces between the sounds, rather than the sounds themselves."
Felix was mugged outside his home in Brixton the day before our interview, and the silky southern R&B of Tweet's debut album Hummingbird has had a restorative effect on his battered nerves. "It's like bubble bath," he says. "I put it straight on as soon as I came in after being mugged. It's perfect for taking a bath to - you can close your eyes and imagine that she's in there with you."
He has also been getting into Lauryn Hill's acoustic album. "It's nice hearing someone talking about their music and their struggles. She's been a huge success, she's absolutely loaded, and the whole album is her asking herself what she is doing and why she is doing it. She goes on about reality a bit too much, though - she says that she was a bit of a pseudo-realist before, so I suppose now she's a postmodern pseudo-realist."
Simon, meanwhile, has been checking out the rather less sweet sounds of Throbbing Gristle, the scary 70s/80s industrial band led by Genesis P Orridge and Cosey Fanni Tutti. "Their first album, The First Annual Report, wasn't released at the time because it was seen as too unpleasant. It's noise, really. Apparently it was all recorded on a Sony tape machine, and it's very uncomfortable. It sounds exciting and fresh to me. They were doing this before the Sex Pistols, and it's far more confrontational."
There was nothing packaged about Throbbing Gristle's rebellion. Band member Chris Carter could have passed for a geography teacher, while Cosey Fanni Tutti looked like a page-three glamour model. "On one track Genesis P Orridge is talking about breaking into a house and killing a couple, but he's saying it in this rather silly, weedy English voice, and that's even more unnerving. After hearing Throbbing Gristle, I can't imagine anything that can go further. The early synthesisers they used sound like pure electricity, and you feel that, creatively, the band were completely free."
"I like cosmic tonal music like Sun Ra and Pharoah Sanders," comments Simon, "but I can't go to Throbbing Gristle. It's not what I need to help me go on after I've been mugged. Tweet was a lot more soothing." The band's songs about murder bring back unpleasant childhood fears, too. "I grew up in a vicarage in the countryside, and I remember listening to Killer in the Home by Adam and the Ants and finding that really scary. Sometimes there were people in our garden, or a radio in the bushes, and when it was pitch black I didn't want to hear about killers in the home. Maybe in the city you can fantasise about that sort of thing, but for me it was reality."
For Simon, music does not have to have a point. "I like music that's a bit woolly, and it doesn't bother me if I can't understand the lyrics. One of my favourite albums of all time is Diamond Dogs by David Bowie. When I was 11 I saw Gary Numan on TV, and I went to the record shop the next day, saw Diamond Dogs, thought it was by him and bought it. But I listened to it anyway because it was all I had. I could never understand what he was saying. Recently I went and bought the CD which had the lyrics on it. And I still don't know what he was on about."
Both feel that Mike Skinner's The Streets project is the best thing that has come out of England for years. "He's singing about things that everyone knows about, like going down the pub," concludes Felix. "Unlike most British hip-hop guys who are trying to 'keep it real' and be cool at the same time, it's a bit of genuine reality. So Lauryn Hill will be pleased."