James Lavelle

Fraser Cooke
David Burton

James Lavelle will forever hold the dubious honor of being one of the fathers—if not the father—of the musical genre that came to be known as trip-hop. Muscling his way into the music industry at thetender age of 16, Lavelle founded the Mo’ Wax label in the early ’90s in London. He put out records by the likes of DJ Shadow, DJ Krush, and his own ongoing project UNKLE—a musical collective with a rotating cast of contributors—that stirred interest as much for the ambitious quality of the artwork, packaging, and videos, as it did for the music itself.

After the label was acquired by Universal in 1996, Lavelle went on to found another one, Surrender All, and make other records, including a brand-new album with UNKLE, Where Did the Night Fall? (Surrender All), released earlier this year—his first proper record under the UNKLE moniker in three years. Lavelle also recently turned to curating, overseeing an audio-visual art exhibition unveiled at London’s Haunch of Venison gallery on August 27. Continuing on a theme that’s been a constant throughout Lavelle’s career, the art show, titled Daydreaming . . . with James Lavelle, features an innovative fusion of music and mixed media. Lavelle commissioned a number of musical pieces to be composed specifically for the project, each of which were then assigned to a major contemporary artist, who created an original artwork based on it. Warren du Preez & Nick Thornton Jones, Futura, Nathan Coley, Ben Drury, Jonas Burgert, Azzi Glasser, Jamie Shovlin, and Boudicca are just a few of the participants Lavelle drafted for the exhibition.

“This show isn’t intended to be based on anything but emotional connection—just like the recent album,” says the 36-year-old Lavelle. “It’s about growing and learning, because unlike when I started with Mo’ Wax and UNKLE, there is no cohesive movement to pull it all together, so you are actually freer in some respects.” For Lavelle, the move to curating was a natural one. “The visual side of the art of music is always what I’ve loved,” he says. “I’m never going to be a typical musician, front man, or DJ in that sense. I’ve always been good at collaborating and bringing people together from different areas to achieve some kind of emotional context that connects the dots. I’m just excited to work with a host of talents and not get caught in any one bubble. It’s always been about trying to move forward.”

Photo: James Lavelle in London, May 2010. All clothing: artist’s own.

Listen to tracks on James Lavelle's MySpace page.

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September 2014

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