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James Lavelle - Gear And Loathing

Author: Carlisle Rogers
Friday, 31 August 2007
UNKLE’s James Lavelle doesn’t like festivals. In fact, he hates them. Thank Christ then that his latest Australian tour sees him playing intimate venues. He let loose on 3D’s Carlisle Rogers.

Why is James Lavelle called the “Hunter S Thompson of dance music” I’m asking myself as he picks up the phone. By the end of the conversation, I’m like, oh, that’s why.

Because it’s all about the music with Lavelle, and everybody else can get fucked, and that’s pretty refreshing. And thank god the dates here are intimate DJ gigs, because he has a certain pathological hatred of DJ festivals.

“It’s been a couple of years since I was in Australia,” he says. “I think last time I played, I was there on my thirtieth three years ago. Oh, I went and did that fucking god-awful tour, one of the big DJ festival tours. It was fucking terrible. I don’t like DJ festivals.  I think most of them are pretty terrible. In my experience, they all suck. DJing clubs is always better. It’s what it is designed for, and everybody is trying to recreate that whole acid house feeling of doing festivals, but it’s not the same, it never really works.

“I like big clubs, I like playing places like Zook or Fabric or Womb in Tokyo, and I also love playing small clubs like Back to Basics in Leeds where it’s just really intense and very direct energy.”

Lavelle says that on the decks he is still focusing on techno down the line, with occasional excursions into minimal techno and techno-inspired records.

“Quite dark, quite druggy,” he explains of his choices. “I play mainly people like Bushwacka and James Holden, Radioslave, people like that.”

His Surrender All label is still kicking along, but the Brit says he isn’t interested in signing anyone at this stage, that he’s content to just use it as a platform for his own releases. But there isn’t much happening in the studio of late because he says he is focusing on developing his live persona for the European festival circuit. So did he always want to do the band thing-

“No,” he replies. “I have always come from more of a club/DJ perspective. The live thing isn’t what led me into making records. I wanted to go live on the last record, but it didn’t really work out for various reasons. It just felt right to do it now, and we’ll see what happens.

“I like it, it’s been really good fun. It’s great going on the road with so many people. The first gig was nerve-wracking, but good – I closed my eyes the whole way through.”

Lavelle says that writing on the road, for him, is impossible.

“I get pieces of songs, but I find it hard to write a whole song on the road, I just get lots of ideas. It’s chaotic on the road. We’re in hotels and aeroplanes most of the time, but I’ve been on the road since I was 16 years old. More and more, I just want a bit of time and space. I’m used to living in hotels. I’m doing the bus thing at the moment, that’s a whole different ballgame. I don’t think I could do that too much. When you’re old and taking a lot of drugs, it’s hard.”

WHO: James Lavelle
WHAT: Plays Oxford Art Factory
WHEN: Saturday 8 September