March 27, 2023

James Lavelle (UNKLE) interview

DJ giant JAMES LAVELLE steps up to the big pink plate to talk art, DIY record labels and unmasking himself from the UNKLE outfit. With a whole host of records under his belt, and a phone book stretching from Ian Brown and Beck to Lupe Fiasco, Lavelle reflects wisely as a veteran of music. A year since his last album Where the Night Falls, and a staggering fourteen years since the phenomenal and emblematic trip-hop classic Psyence Fiction, it’s clear to see the music that made the man… but what about the man that made the music?

Posters have been springing up in scores ahead of Lavelle’s O2 academy gig on February 17th. Bido Lito’s! Si Finnerty get’s all cosy with trip-hop’s very own poster boy.

Bido Lito!:  Your playing under your actual name rather than UNKLE for the gig. Is the UNKLE project finished now, or is this perhaps a new extension of that?

James Lavelle: well it’s always the way, DJ’ing… I just tend to offer different elements or remixes whether it’s me or UNKLE, or anything else for that matter. It’s always different when you’re playing that live environment. It’s always a big mixture of stuff.

BL!: Awesome, so is that project still running? Or are you James Lavelle now?

Well yeah, we’re just having a little bit of a time out. We released a record last year, but I think it’s good to have that time out really just to focus on what we’re doing.

BL!: Running on from that, your certainly one of the most prolific artists I know. You’ve released literally hundreds of records over the past few years under a variety of names. Do you ever get a chance to just sit down and listen to the music? Being a sample DJ, is music always this ongoing creative process?

JL: Well it comes in waves, but you know new music always coming out so it’s hard not to be inspired to do something creative with it.

BL!: In terms of the gig next week, I know you spent a lot of your time organising art exhibitions, in particular “Daydreaming Of”, which involves a multitude of things, art, graffiti art and light spectacles… will we get a chance to see any of that introduced into the gig at all?

JL: No, no it’s just a DJ gig I think, just me coming straight up and playing some records, having a bit of fun.  It’s like with the UNKLE sounds, it’s always with me but this is just a little bit separate from all that sort of stuff you know.

BL!: If you had your perfect gig, what would you like to see introduced?

JL: Well UNKLE sound sort of represents that as we have created visual installations in the past, and that’s something I always really like to do if given the opportunity.

BL!: Mo’ Wax is something you’ve created in the past. Can you tell me a little about that?

JL: It was a record Label I started twenty years ago, and creating it was really were it all started for me, we had DJ Shadow, and UNKLE. It was a great platform for contemporary new and young musicians to come out of it.

BL!: And do the ideas still stick with you throughout, we’re the ideas behind Mo’ Wax perhaps a little different then, than from what you want now?

JL: No I think I’ll always have and keep that with me, maybe. I still have that same objective to create music… and if anything it’s just grew more and more over time.

BL!: What are your views on the music scenes changing since the Mo’ Wax days, in particular the massive hold digitalisation has had on music?

JL: Things have changed in different ways… so what went on twenty; even ten years ago music has changed a lot. There’s been so many good and exciting things to come out of the digitalization of music, but there’s also been a lot of shit and destructive things too.

BL!: Do you think because of this digital era we’ve seen a greater influx in imported music? Or do you still believe Britain is still one of the greatest exporters of music?

JL: I think Britain in a way has that language and culture, that is always in a way be very forward thinking. I think we will always create some of the most important music, but we still retain that island mentality. America seems to have this idea that they make music which is big and larger than life… but our music scene is perhaps the most important. I don’t really think that will be replaced.

BL!: You’ve worked with some massive artists over the years, but music is always evolving. Are there any artists that are grabbing your attention at the minute?

JL: Not really, I think that on my last record… where I worked with BAND OF SKULLS, I really liked that, maybe to work with them again.

BL!: Band of Skulls, awesome. Is that the sort of music you like to listen to in your spare time, what takes up your iPod space?

JL: Absolutely depends. I’m really across the board with what I listen to. Anything can offer inspiration.

BL!: So where do you see yourself in the next few years?

JL: Hopefully in a similar position, I’m always aiming to grow… and try and get to new places. I’m quite content with what I do, and it’s what I’d like to do for the rest of my life.

BL!: Do you have any festivals or major gigs lined up in 2012 that you’re really looking forward to?

JL: Well, I’m off to New York tomorrow, then Australia at the end of the month… Japan too. So yeah, it’s going to be a pretty good year I guess!

James Lavelle plays the o2 Academy, Friday 17th, tickets available through

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