Many of us will never forget the first time we discovered the MoWax
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 MoWax label. He wanted to model MoWax after Gilles
Petersons 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 Shadows 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 critics 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 MoWax label deserve much of the
credit for this widely influential direction as well, but it was
Lavelles vision, DJ philosophy, and marketing that gave an
outlet to a wide roster of deserving artists. Id 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, MoWax has had its 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 Glazers
Sexy Beast, Lavelle once again returns to his DJ roots becoming
the founding and current resident DJ at Londons Fabric Friday
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
Lavelles is releasing Barcelona on Global Underground
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.
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 Im 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 MoWax or anything that Ive 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 youve 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 Im sure theyre maybe look at different avenues.
Do you think theyll want to branch
out even more?
I havent 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 DJs in context to what
youd think of big DJs and the kind of style they may
have. So yeah I think theyre 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, Im definitely trying to take that theme on. That (Fabric
album) was a year ago and was a way of introducing what Ive
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 its much more representational
of a normal DJ set and thats 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
Id 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, theyve done this thing with channel four here. Its
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. Its 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 its (DJing) is the basic for everything Ive
ever done. The reason why any of the work Ive done exists
is because of DJ culture and its something I feel the most
close to and the thing I enjoy the most really. I think its
the instantaneous satisfaction of it and other then the crowd and
those whos opinions really matter, nobody can really fuck
with you on it. I havent got industry telling me what to do.
When you have a record company, youve got a manager-youve
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
Ive 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...
Im 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. Ive been working with Shadow and Island here to do the
Shadow album and that came out on MoWax/Island so that has
taken quite a lot of my time and Ive been working on my new
album as well so that is going to come out on MoWax as well
so there is things happening but Ive just been working on
other things really.
Is that a solo album youre working
No its 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
I havent really got anything else- thats all I got.
I think at the end of the day if youre rooted in a community
of people that are working or whatever, wether the industry cares
or not, youre still going to be doing your shit. For me, in
many ways, for the industry - I havent been around that much
but as far as my own personal satisfaction with what Im doing,
there is loads of stuff that has been going on an its been
great. From DJing- I just did a video that is a slight anti-war
statement- its about globaliztion- a thing Ive done
with Shynola who are brilliant animators here. Its like eight
minutes with 3-D from Massive Attack and these graphics. Its
like an Unkle song but its 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.