Many of us will never forget the first time we discovered the Mo’Wax label.

Personally, it came at a crucial time and provided a link between the many genres of music I was listening to at that time. The stacks of records that spanned the endless genres seemed to be absorbed into the downtempo and instrumental hip-hop releases that label head James Lavelle was uncovering at that time and releasing on his Mo’Wax label. He wanted to model Mo’Wax after Gilles Peterson’s Talkin’ Loud label and as a result of his efforts and this open minded approach to music, James Lavelle became a major force in the direction of downtempo music to come. In 1996 he released DJ Shadow’s ‘Entroducing’ album. Shortly after, Lavelle formed UNKLE with DJ Shadow and took the role as creative director and brought together guest such as Thom Yorke of Radiohead, Mike D, Richard Ashcroft, Ian Brown and Badly Drawn Boy and to create an album that sounds like a music critic’s wet dream and James Lavelle and cohorts quickly gained a storm of media attention. He started all of this around the age of 19...

The artists featured on the Mo’Wax label deserve much of the credit for this widely influential direction as well, but it was Lavelle’s vision, DJ philosophy, and marketing that gave an outlet to a wide roster of deserving artists. I’d hate to use the taste maker term, but Lavelle knew the best tracks when he found them and by combining the releases with art work featuring acclaimed visual artists such as Futura 2000, he steered a worldwide focus onto this brand of contemporary urban music.

Musical times have changed plenty since then, artists have come and gone, Mo’Wax has had it’s ups and downs and James Lavelle has taken on new projects. In addition to his production work with bands like South and composing the score to Jonathan Glazer’s Sexy Beast, Lavelle once again returns to his DJ roots becoming the founding and current resident DJ at London’s Fabric Friday nights.

Taking into consideration the live Fabric album he did last year, no one would have imagined placing a progressive label like Global Underground and James Lavelle together but here we have it, James Lavelle’s is releasing “Barcelona” on Global Underground this month.

Was James Lavelle going to be doing marathon Ibiza sets with Digweed? Is Global Underground just switching directions on us? I caught up with him on groggy Saturday morning after he closed out a Friday night Fabric set around 4 A.M.

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So I was a bit shocked to hear that you were doing the next mix in the Global Underground series since you aren't exactly the first person that comes to mind when I think of the series. How did this come about?

It was probably a combo- some social reasons- I know the guys who do Global Underground and there was definitely a desire from their end to sort of try and change things a bit and open their scope a little bit wider and things have been going well here for me with Fabric so I’m sure their has been a little bit of influence on that level as well. I think it was an opportunity for me to be seen in more of a DJ context which is what I really wanted to do- something separate from Mo’Wax or anything that I’ve kind of done before. You know Fridays here (Fabric) is probably one of the most successful nights in the country at the moment so you kind of want to take what you’ve been doing there and take it to a wider audience. I think it was kind of an opportunity for Global Underground to sort of open their direction out a bit-there are so many compilations out sort of doing what Global has done in the past so I’m sure they’re maybe look at different avenues.

Do you think they’ll want to branch out even more?

I haven’t really had a big conversation with them about it - I think its inevitable really.

Yeah It seems like they would have to at some point...

You know the thing is..things are changing anyways. The superstar DJ thing is not necessarily as influential as it was a few years ago with that style of music and if you look around you dance music is a pretty open book and the clubs that are happening at the moment, especially here, are more alternative DJ’s in context to what you’d think of big DJ’s and the kind of style they may have. So yeah I think they’re going to have to.

Was there anything specific you were trying to accomplish with this mix, it really seems to cover a lot of different styles and is similar to the live Fabric disc.

Yeah, I’m definitely trying to take that theme on. That (Fabric album) was a year ago and was a way of introducing what I’ve been doing for people as far as Fabric goes but it was an hour long and quite difficult to cram in a lot of different things to really represent what you do as a DJ in a hour- so the Global one was great because you get two hours to show and it’s much more representational of a normal DJ set and that’s how I play. There is a little studio shit in there as well just to kind of spice it up a bit like the Daft Punk track at the beginning- I sped that up because I needed to try and link between the slow and fast and into the breakbeat sort of stuff so here is a couple of bits of studio stuff and some effects and there is editing on there because generally a lot of DJ records tend to go on for a long time and I think as a listener I’d rather have fourteen tracks then eight tracks.

Tell me about this trip to Barcelona..I hear that there was a film that was made?

Yeah, they’ve done this thing with channel four here. It’s a wednesday night show here where they do four hours of music programming and they do a fifteen minute documentary with the DJ and that will be on the DVD release as well. It’s cool like Ian Brown is in there which is really nice and did an interview for us. I think it just gives a little bit more personal background on me and shows what happened at night in the city and that sort of thing.

What is it that interests you in DJ work as opposed to projects like UNKLE?

I think it’s (DJing) is the basic for everything I’ve ever done. The reason why any of the work I’ve done exists is because of DJ culture and it’s something I feel the most close to and the thing I enjoy the most really. I think it’s the instantaneous satisfaction of it and other then the crowd and those who’s opinions really matter, nobody can really fuck with you on it. I haven’t got industry telling me what to do. When you have a record company, you’ve got a manager-you’ve got a lawyer- a publicist-production- blah blah- so the time it takes to see something through is such a long period of time and I’ve had quite a lot of ups and downs in the last few years at the label as far as business relationships go so I just needed some time out so I subconsciously sort of threw myself into Fabric in that way.

What's happening with Mo'Wax. It seems as if the label doesn't get as much attention these days...

I’m just taking some time out really at the moment. I just needed a bit of a break and the label is with Beggars Banquet and there is a few things coming out and there is a new album coming out. I’ve been working with Shadow and Island here to do the Shadow album and that came out on Mo’Wax/Island so that has taken quite a lot of my time and I’ve been working on my new album as well so that is going to come out on Mo’Wax as well so there is things happening but I’ve just been working on other things really.

Is that a solo album you’re working on?

No it’s going to be a new Unkle album.

I liked the work you did on the Sexy Beast soundtrack. How did you get involved with it?

Because Jonathan Glazer who did the film also did the Rabbit In the Headlights video so it kind of came out of that relationship.

You've been involved in the industry for a good while now and have made it through a lot of media attention and hype and had your hands in a lot of different projects. How have you been able to survive the fickle dance and electronic music industry?

I haven’t really got anything else- that’s all I got. I think at the end of the day if you’re rooted in a community of people that are working or whatever, wether the industry cares or not, you’re still going to be doing your shit. For me, in many ways, for the industry - I haven’t been around that much but as far as my own personal satisfaction with what I’m doing, there is loads of stuff that has been going on an it’s been great. From DJing- I just did a video that is a slight anti-war statement- it’s about globaliztion- a thing I’ve done with Shynola who are brilliant animators here. It’s like eight minutes with 3-D from Massive Attack and these graphics. It’s like an Unkle song but it’s a short film basically and we just won a film festival with that. So on that level there are things happening. My partner and myself do a thing called Unkle sounds where we DJ together in Fabric and we play other places as well and do that once a month and we sort of do re-edits and we do stuff live off the MPC with effects and that sort of stuff and we were just nominated for Best Essential mix which Pete Tong does here so there is loads of things happening but it is much more grass roots and that is kind of where I wanted to take it. You know, from the Unkle thing you sort of need to just disappear for a while sometimes.

 

 
 
 
 
 

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