James Lavelle, more widely known for his electronic work as UNKLE, his unfathomably established record label Mo’ Wax and his militant genre-flouting approach, collaborating with contemporaries such as Thom Yorke, DJ Shadow and Joshua Homme, has been asked this year to programme a line-up for the Southbank’s festival to fit all ages, Meltdown.
Unsurprisingly, Lavelle has drafted a line-up of talent including DJ Shadow, Homme, Chrissie Hynde, Grandmaster Flash, Jeremy Deller, Glass Animals and Neneh Cherry, a sensory cultural, eclectic and provocative mingling.
Having produced some seminal artworks, DJ Shadow’s Entroducing, tracks for films such as 21 and Sexy Beast, and tracks that have impinged my youth, Rabbit in Your Headlights namely, GIITTV had a chat with James about the weighty pressure he sensed culminating a programme of events that would appeal to a vast range of creative individuals and music aficionados, age aside:
How do you feel about being asked to curate this year’s Meltdown festival, succeeding the likes of Patti Smith, David Bowie and Yoko Ono?
JL: I feel all sense of pride, amazement, honour. I mean you are talking about a bunch of people who are hugely influential on my life and many others on a much larger scale. I cannot put myself in the same light in my own head as David Bowie, Morrissey, John Peel, Massive Attack, Patti Smith and am incredibly thrilled and flattered to be asked to do it.
Having collaborated with a well-respected mix of artists, was part of you not tempted to culminate a group of people that you had worked and collaborated with previously?
JL: No, I wanted to find a balance but of course it’s about my influence, your relationships which is part of why you are asked, and your history. And people like Josh Homme are incredibly contemporary and relevant with what they are doing so I just wanted to find a balance in the best way that I could y’know.
I think you definitely succeeded in achieving that. So I noted that you have tried to keep this festival as stimulating for the youth of today as old music revellers such as ourselves.
JL: I tried to curate the festival in a way that would appeal to a younger audience. Having a sixteen year old daughter I wanted to keep elements of the festival fairly educational, as well as get music that would appeal to a more youthful crowd, as well as to me. Whether it be by having new bands like Glass Animals on, but also by having talks, talks about making records that will give them the knowledge to move forward.
Obviously the music industry has changed massively from whenyou first entered it. Do you think that an eighteen year old like yourself at the time would be able to do what you did, establishing Mo’ Wax?
JL: Back then Mo’ Wax was a pretty mad thing but then lots of other people were pretty young when they started out like Giles Peterson and Massive Attack. I think it was a lot smaller and harder back then. There are a lot of young successful people now when you especially look at technology there are young billionaires. There are kids that have created computer game companies; it may not be so much in the music industry but it’s creative. It’s such a different world, such a different thing as technology dictates success more than anything else now. Social media, that didn’t exist when we were kids. Thinking about it, a lot of what I did was really when I was being a child, and unfortunately I did not necessarily know how to deal with that responsibility as I do now. There is a lot more awareness from young people of what they getting into in the business than there was when I was that age.
You are certainly aiding that by programming talks on the industry throughout Meltdown.
JL: I really would’ve like to and expected to do more. It’s a giant puzzle and with these things some things happen and some things don’t. Having been here (the Southbank) for a lot of concerts, I have to be mindful of how the music works in the venue. Certain things work and certain things don’t. I really tried to do something eclectic physically and in age and style but it has been a learning process for me. I did feel slightly under pressure as I don’t feel myself to be the most amazing singer, guitarist or musician. The people here at the Southbank are really lovely but it’s a totally different way of working than I am necessarily used to. I have tried to join the dots of things that I love with things that are new that will hopefully appeal.
Going back to what you know best, being a non-conformist collaborative artist, who is the most surreal and eccentric artist that you have worked with?
JL: Oh man, all of them! I think Mo’ Wax and UNKLE have a habit of working with the eccentric; most of them we have worked with have been so in their own way. When I think of Brian Eno, doing a seesion with him, in terms of how talented he is, and how in tune he is with the music, we simply work with people that have extreme ideas. Collaborative wise, they are all so unique in their own way from Thom Yorke through to Ian Brown.
Ridiculous question I know, but who would be your long-life dream collaborator?
JL: Endless, endless, endless, it’s endless! I would love to do something with Robert Plant and we have talked about it for years. I really wanted him to do Meltdown but unfortunately it did not happen. I would also love to do something mad with Kanye or someone younger like that. There are a lot of contemporary things I would love to do. It’s kind of endless.
As much of your work has ended up in films, such as Jonathan Glazer’s Sexy Beast, if there is a film you would love to score what would it be?
JL: Most of the films I would love to score I admire for the score like 2001: A Space Odyssey, Apocalypse Now. One thing I regret not happening was that Darren Aronofsky and I were going to work on The Fountain and do a remix of the score, like a redux of the movie. However, I should point out that I have just scored a film for the first time which is an original film score, Shelter, Paul Bettany’s directorial debut. It’s a kind of indie film about a relationship between two homeless people; she’s a heroin addict and it’s very heavy. It was great to score and very beautiful.
Not only do we have UNKLE redux and a slot alongside DJ Shadow to look forward to, integral to Meltdown 2014, from boundary-pusher Mr Lavelle, there is an OST for new film released in the US later this year, Shelter.
For more on the culturally astute and finely tuned June programme of events at London’s Southbank Centre click on the link for details: http://www.southbankcentre.co.uk/whatson/festivals-series/james-lavelles-meltdown-2014