James Lavelle: A new dream team for the king of collaborations

Famed for his work with stars such as Thom Yorke, UNKLE's James Lavelle has now curated a major exhibition of art inspired by his music. Charlotte Cripps meets him - Download three free tracks below!

UNKLE's James Lavelle, 36, is the master collaborator, who has recorded songs with Ian Brown, Thom Yorke, Josh Homme and Jarvis Cocker for his musical outfit. So it is no surprise that he is about to stage his first major pop-up music and art show, at London's Haunch of Venison gallery.

Daydreaming with... James Lavelle is a three-day, festival-like event, in partnership with The Independent, in which artists from the fields of music, art, film, fashion and design have created new artwork inspired by UNKLE's atmospheric electronic and rock music.



A highlight will be UNKLE's new musical collaboration with Nick Cave, which will be played at the gallery, along with a new short film by Jonathan Glazer, who directed Sexy Beast, and a new light installation by the Turner Prize nominee Nathan Coley. The exhibition will also showcase some retrospective pieces from long-term UNKLE collaborators including Robert Del Naja (Massive Attack's 3D) and Futura.



But a down-to-earth Lavelle, who is sitting on a bench in the open-plan downstairs gallery space ahead of the show, is blown away by his latest challenge. "I will be honest with you. Sometimes I feel that I am out of my depth. It's like I have these crazy ideas and suddenly this gallery and all these amazing people have said yes to me. It's a bit like making records, too. The collaborative link seems to be that everybody seems to connect emotionally. Strangely, there's a melancholic and cinematic darkness to the work, whether the artist is from my own community or just somebody I've met while developing this show, over the last three years."



Lavelle has just released UNKLE's fourth studio album, Where Did the Night Fall, with his UNKLE partner Pablo Clements. It features collaborations with Mark Lanegan, formerly of Queens of the Stone Age and Screaming Trees, as well as more leftfield and up-and-coming acts, including the psychedelic California band Sleepy Sun, Katrina Ford of the cabaret-punk trio Celebration, Los Angeles art-noise-pop band Autolux and the Texas-based drone rockers The Black Angels. The anthemic "The Answer", featuring the Baltimore band Big in Japan, will be released as a single next month; John Hillcoat, director of The Road, made the video, which features Ray Winstone talking about being struck by lightning.



But now Lavelle has moved out of his comfort zone to embrace the art world, in a move that brings him and his collaborators to an established gallery space owned by Christie's. "I've always been obsessed with the combination of packaging, design and the image together with the sonic and how those things interact. To be able to go into a gallery and try to piece that puzzle together, in a different environment, is for me about learning and growing," says Lavelle. "The idea is to be able to take yourself on a journey through different experiences in the exhibition, which is the same idea with our music."



Lavelle's life has been eventful, if not turbulent, since he established himself as a DJ at the age of 19. He started Mo'Wax Records in 1993, which propelled Air and DJ Shadow into the mainstream. The same year, he formed UNKLE with an old school pal, Tim Goldsworthy, and they were joined by Kudo from the Japanese hip-hop band Major Force. At 21 years old, Lavelle was the youngest record label boss at A&M Records, after it offered Mo'Wax a licensing deal, with UNKLE under the same umbrella.



By 1998, with Goldsworthy and Kudo out of the picture, Lavelle, now working with DJ Shadow, released UNKLE's debut album, Psyence Fiction, which reached number 4 in the UK album charts. It featured collaborations with Radiohead's Thom Yorke, Metallica's Jason Newsted and The Verve's Richard Ashcroft. A new joint deal was then struck between Mo'Wax and XL Recordings; a few years later, Mo'Wax returned to Universal's Island records and Lavelle quit as the label's boss.



Lavelle continued to DJ all over the world, joined forces with his now long-term collaborator Richard File and released an electronic DJ mix set, Do Androids Dream of Electric Beats?, under the name UNKLEsounds. Two years later in 2003, after releasing the second UNKLE album, Never, Never, Land, UNKLE were dropped by Universal, despite having had Top 40 albums and two Top 20 singles. Lavelle then set up a new record label, Surrender All, and set out on a path of self-sufficiency. He describes his troubles as "heartbreaking" but seems to have worked things out.



UNKLE's 2007 album, War Stories, which fused techno and rock, was darker than previous albums, as he tried to deal with the aftermath of having had the rug being pulled from beneath his feet. More change happened when File departed UNKLE in 2008, making room for Lavelle's old friend Pablo Clements of The Psychonauts to join him in UNKLE.



Highlights on the latest UNKLE album, Where Did the Night Fall, which was released in May, include howling vocals from Sleepy Sun's frontwoman Rachel Williams on the album's first single, "Follow Me Down". It is complemented by a video starring the supermodel Liberty Ross – writhing semi-naked around on the floor – and directed by the long-term UNKLE collaborators Warren du Preez and Nick Thornton Jones, who did the visuals for the Alexander McQueen Spring/ Summer 2008 show. Gavin Clark, another long-term UNKLE collaborator whose music regularly features in Shane Meadows's films, collaborated on the album tracks "The Healing" and the euphoric electronic hymn "Falling Stars". Lavelle adds vocals to the song "Ablivion" on the album, which largely took a year to record and complete. "The latest record has been described as psych-hop. It makes us laugh! We were originally seen as coming out of trip-hop, a term which we all loathe," says Lavelle. "Our music draws on such an eclectic mix of genres, it is hard to classify it."



But with plenty of extra material left over, UNKLE is now recording another album. "Collaborating is not easy," says Lavelle. "You are constantly trying to make everybody happy and make yourself happy. People can be artistically temperamental, including myself. You end up feeling like a parent using reverse psychology. You want to do it your way. But if you tell them it's your way, then they are never going to do it. You have to make that person believe they have come up with that idea. But I thrive on being able to work with other people. I'm not very good at being on my own. The difficulty I had with this last album was that half the time we weren't in the studio with people, which hadn't been the case before. It's a bit like rolling a dice – what is going to come in this time."



Lavelle has also scored the music for films including Sexy Beast and Danny Cannon's football film Goal!, as well as Alex Grazioli's documentary about Abel Ferrara, Odyssey in Rome, which will screen at the Prince Charles Cinema as part of the exhibition on Tuesday 31 August, along with a selection of UNKLE music videos.



For now, Lavelle, who lives in north London with a large collection of street art from the 1980s and 1990s, is at the centre of a new environment. Despite having curated shows before – including War Paint at London's Lazarides Gallery in 2008, which featured Robert Del Naja's artwork from UNKLE's War Stories album – he has never been given free rein to do what he likes with so big a show. "They have a blank canvas," he says of his collaborators. "Everybody has come back with exactly what I'd hoped for."

'Independent' readers can download three tracks by UNKLE, including an exclusive 'Independent' track and two preview tracks from their latest album, 'Where Did the Night Fall': "Natural Selection", "Follow Me Down" and "Heavy Drug" (exclusive track for 'The Independent').

Follow Me Down



Right-click here and click "Save target/link as..." to download

Heavy Drug



Right-click here and click "Save target/link as..." to download

Natural Selection



Right-click here and click "Save target/link as..." to download



Daydreaming with... James Lavelle, Haunch of Venison, London W1, 27 to 30 August. 'Where Did the Night Fall' is out now on All Surrender (020 7495 5050; Daydreamingwith.com)

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.

Edinburgh
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Seoul singer G-Dragon could lead the invasion as South Korea has its sights set on Western markets
music
Arts and Entertainment
Gary Lineker at the UK Premiere of 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Bale as Batman in a scene from
film
Arts and Entertainment
Johhny Cash in 1969
musicDyess Colony, where singer grew up in Depression-era Arkansas, opens to the public
Arts and Entertainment
Army dreamers: Randy Couture, Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren and Jason Statham
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off 2014 contestants
tvReview: It's not going to set the comedy world alight but it's a gentle evening watch
Arts and Entertainment
Umar Ahmed and Kiran Sonia Sawar in ‘My Name Is...’
Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
This year's Big Brother champion Helen Wood
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Full company in Ustinov's Studio's Bad Jews
Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Harari Guido photographed Kate Bush over the course of 11 years
Music
Arts and Entertainment
Reviews have not been good for Jonathan Liebesman’s take on the much loved eighties cartoon
Film

A The film has amassed an estimated $28.7 million in its opening weekend

Arts and Entertainment
Untwitterably yours: Singer Morrissey has said he doesn't have a twitter account
Music

A statement was published on his fansite, True To You, following release of new album

Arts and Entertainment
Full throttle: Philip Seymour Hoffman and John Turturro in God's Pocket
film
Arts and Entertainment
Kylie Minogue is expected to return to Neighbours for thirtieth anniversary special
tv
Arts and Entertainment
The new film will be Lonely Island's second Hollywood venture following their 2007 film Hot Rod
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off contestants line-up behind Sue and Mel in the Bake Off tent
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Day-Lewis stars in the movie There Will Be Blood
music
Arts and Entertainment
Brush with greatness: the artist Norman Cornish in 1999
art
Life and Style
Stress less: relaxation techniques can help focus the mind and put problems in context
art
Arts and Entertainment

film
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

    A descent into madness in America's heartlands

    David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
    BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

    BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

    Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
    Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

    Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

    Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
    Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

    Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

    But could his predictions of war do the same?
    Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

    'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

    Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
    Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

    Young at hort

    Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
    Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

    Beyond a joke

    Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
    The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

    The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

    Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
    Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

    A wild night out

    Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
    Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

    Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

    It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
    Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

    Besiktas vs Arsenal

    Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
    Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

    Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

    As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
    Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

    Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

    The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
    Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

    Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

    But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
    Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

    Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

    Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment