This largely instrumental banger was released as the first single from The Pet Shop Boys' twelfth album, Electric. It was debuted on March 22, 2013 at the Cumbre Tajín festival in Veracruz, Mexico and released digitally on May 1, 2013.
An extremely negative review of the Pet Shop Boys previous album, Elysium, had an incalculable effect on Electric. "They said they wanted more banging and more strobes," Chris Lowe told Q magazine. So we thought, 'Well, that's what you're going to get, then.'"
The Pet Shop duo employed Stuart Price, best known for his work with Madonna and The Killers, to produce Electric. "It was a quick, instinctive record to make," Price said. "But I think that's because a record normally sounds like the time you have making it and we had a lot of fun doing it."
The song was inspired by an Italian disco night in Berlin the Pet Shop duo attended. Chris Lowe told Electronic Beats magazine that the pair, "got back and felt inspired by the music we'd been listening to—nothing specific, but just the feeling of it all."
Tennant added "I think it was this track that might have made us decide to do a separate dance album — 'cause this was never going to go on Elysium. There was no option of that at all."
This song was inspired by Madonna. Neil Tennant laughed to The Sun: "Axis had a rubbish vocal at first. Then I pretended to be Madonna on 'Erotica' and said it in an American accent. Now when I hear the voice at the start of the show, I don't think of it as me but my alter-ego, 'The Electric voice'."
This was titled various times "Electric" and "Turn it On", before the Pet Shop Boys settled on "Axis."
Producer Stuart Price told Electronic Beats magazine: "The demo always had the direction and the atmosphere. I sort of always thought it had this sort of futuristic, sort of mystical 'City in the Skies' feel to it, and that's what I loved about it. It was sort of like where techno met disco… and that's always what it felt like, so when we were working on it in the studio I think it was just putting it into a place where it could be played in a DJ set now."
"The BCS-3 is that box you always see Eno with in a Roxy Music video, or on a Bowie record," he continued. "And there's not really anyone alive that can play it, but anyone can sort of stand there and just push it and it will do something. So all this, it's just the sound of those boxes - plus disco bells, equals 'Axis.'"