Lavelle finds it impossible to sit still. Even during a phone
conversation you can hear him pacing, moving, doing.
He ducks in and out of reception as quickly as he considers and
physical traits reflect his work: from writer to label owner to DJ to
producer to film scorer to exhibition and festival curator. Most of
his recent press pictures show him in a wide-brimmed Stetson, but in
reality he wears many hats. Often several in one day.
been this way - professionally - for over 25 years. If anything, this
behaviour is invigorating: fresh off the back of curating London's
Meltdown Festival and scoring Paul Bettany's movie Shelter, the
Mo'Wax founder has stepped up to the freshly reincarnated Global
Underground city series.
classic Lavelle form, it's far more than a straight-up DJ mix. Across
two CDs it features a wealth of reconstructions of acts such as
Queens Of The Stone Age, Mark Lanegan, London Grammar, Noel Gallagher
and Elliott Power, a brand new artist who Lavelle has temporarily
reignited Mo'Wax to support. It also features a whole stack of of
revised and revived UNKLE classics and a
brand new track: a bold UNKLE take on Rui Da Silva's perennial
pop-dance classic Touch
Oh, and it marks the start of a brand new UNKLE album which he hopes
to complete and release by the end of next year.
before we talk future, let's rewind.
2009, Bangkok, and your last Global Underground appearance.
then, we've seen the biggest shift in dance music, technology and DJ
culture I've experienced since I set up Mo'Wax 25 years ago! The
influence of everything digital has caused a massive change, and
there's been a huge shift in youth culture, especially in America.
The main faces of dance music are young now, as they should be. The
guys who were on top for 20 to 25 years are no longer quite as
relevant and it's a new generation at the forefront.
some of the original guys are still huge, but for years the DJ
demographic was very different and now the whole perception of DJing
has changed. Ostensibly nothing has changed - we still play music -
but now you are a recording artist before you're a DJ. Before now
there was a clear demarcation between producer and the people who
played records. Giles Peterson or Normal Jay are great examples of
this. Obviously some people have done both very successfully - Carl
Craig, Richie Hawtin, Andrew Weatherall."
guess. My point is that DJs didn't become DJs just
because they'd made records. They did it if they had something to say
as a DJ. But now, to be a DJ you have
to make tracks. I think what will be really interesting is who will
survive this new cultural explosion and still be around in 20 or 30
years time. Will any of these new guys be like your Tenaglias or
Garniers or Kevorkians and those legendary tastemakers now?"
time will tell. Garnier has publically dissed EDM DJs for not drawing
so deep and only be playing hits. Is the role of tastemaker is being
lost in the midst of hits?
But people like Tenaglia and all those DJs I mentioned spent years on
their craft before they became that big. So I wouldn't look to those
big DJs as tastemakers."
you consider your role as a tastemaker while creating your Global
really. I just picked the music that I love. One thing I've noticed
lately is that people are making songs again. We're less track-based
now and have a lot more properly constructed songs to draw from. But
me with this mix it that it was a physical release. This excited me
because once something is released digitally it just exists or
lingers in cyberspace. Having a physical product gave me the
opportunity to put together things I've worked on, things I've loved
and things I wanted to for a long time but not had the chance.
Something like Sasha's Involver;
a body of work that's more than just another mix."
also a nice reminder that UNKLE never really went away.
go through waves, don't you? I had a very productive five years as
UNKLE, then I spent a few years doing lots of other projects. This is
the start of me getting my head back into that space, slowly getting
back into that world and working on a new album."
cover of Touch
is an interesting choice.
been playing it out recently and it's from a great era in dance
music. It's one of those records that was massively populist but also
cool. I wanted to do something on it for a long time and this was the
Moss's vocals make it special.
been working on and off for the last decade. I've always loved her
voice and the way she works, her unique enunciation and delivery.
Mecould be really cheesy if it's not done the right way. She made it
actually in UNKLE right now?
me at the moment. UNKLE has always been a creative collective that's
changed over the years. It's very fluid. So right now I'm just
writing and opportunities and creative ideas arise from that. There
are a lot of different ideas and directions flying around at the
moment. I'm hoping to have something out by the end of the next
Back from the future, why Naples as a city for your Global
a beautiful city. I've always loved performing there and spending
time there personally. There's a certain element of chaos and beauty
which I know I could capture. Especially with a physical release, it
was great to put out music, do something on a club level and
do something visually. I highly recommend anyone spends time in
me about Elliot Power. He features twice on the mix.
incredible, isn't he? I met him through Phillipe Ascoli, who was
founder of Source Records back in the day and now runs Marathon
Records. I've known him since my days working at Honest Jons. He told
me about Elliot, who was a fan of Mo'Wax, so we met up. I loved his
vibe and what he's about. I'd been toying with the idea of doing some
Mo'Wax collaborative projects and Elliot and Marathon were the ideal
people to do this and help build Elliot's universe."
this is a one-off or is Mo'Wax back for good?
been doing collaborations for a while with clothing and books and
Meltdown and brands like Saachi. I wouldn't want to go back to
running a fully-fledged label again but I'm interesting in creative
collaborations and opportunities when they arise. Elliot is a unique
case that works: his style and personality remind me of the people I
hung out with when I started the label."
community sense of a label is really important. I remember a quote of
yours saying that, at its height, Mo'Wax felt like a band and you
were the lead singer. Do you think labels can still develop that type
of culture now?
are many great underground labels who put out amazing records. But as
far as labels having their own culture and community, you don't see
that very much now. Maybe Young Turks? I don't collect labels in the
way I did back in the day. Back at the time labels were a very social
experience. It had an impact on your day-to-day life - how you
communicated, how you made friends."
It probably is still now, but I'm not hanging out in Peckham or East
London every night any more. During the Mo'Wax days it was very
different: the internet was only starting, mobile phones didn't
invade our lives in the way they do now. But I'm not in the pocket of
hardcore youth culture like I was back then. Maybe it isn't quite so
tribal but you would know
about other scenes and little crews doing their thing. With or
without hyper-connection, we still know about other subcultures but
choose how we define ourselves.
like the shift with younger DJs taking over, the impact of technology
will have on the future is really interesting. How will people value
creativity, music and culture in the future? I'm working with a lot
of younger people who are now turning their back on the smart
revolution and social media. They're being bombarded, so they're
taking it back and finding space for themselves amid the constant
barrage. It would be interesting to have this discussion in 10 years'
time. We're in a perpetual change and flux right now, which can only
Underground 42: James Lavelle Presents Unkle Sounds - Naples
is out now