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- Posted on Apr 22nd 2011 11:00AM by Jenny Charlesworth
A driving force in UK during the heyday of '90s rave culture, the respected Brit helped to set up iconic clubs like Fabric and founded the revered trip-hop label Mo' Wax, before establishing himself as UNKLE, an electronic project with mate Tim Goldsworthy, which once boasted DJ Shadow and star collaborators like Radiohead's Thom Yorke and Massive Attack.
In honour of UNKLE's new EP, 'Only the Lonely' (which is paired with their 2010 full-length under the title 'Where Did the Night Fall -- Another Night Out'), Spinner spoke with Lavelle to hear his thoughts on teaming with Nick Cave for the EP, coming up in the UK party scene and why he's anxious to "step the f--- back" and return to DJing.
At Blue Bird Records you were meeting heavy-hitters like Paul Oakenfold and Pete Tong. What sort of impression does that leave on a teenager?
Pretty amazing, you know? To experience a scene that's very small like that at the time, and working at a record shop that's in the middle of that -- it was very amazing. At the time, it didn't register, you didn't think of it too much. But now I can see how lucky I was.
Do you think your age gave you an advantage as far as coming up in that scene?
It was good and bad. It definitely helped at times. The interest in what you were doing always had this slight edge [because] you were this young kid and never quite fit into what was going on. In retrospect, I have a really historical view of it but at the time, it was really hard because people never really took you that seriously. You never really felt like you were part of any group -- I was always just in this weird vacuum. But it was all quite exciting, and then the mood changed very quickly.
The UK during the '80s wasn't the most inspiring place. What was it like for you growing up?
I always felt like the UK was very black and white whereas America was very technicolor. So for me, it was this massive, 'I have to get out and discover the rest of the world.' It was all about getting out, which created a real desire and drive. I remember when I said to my teacher at the school that I went to that I wanted to be a DJ, he was like, 'Oh, you're f---ing crazy.' It's like being a footballer now. In those days that was not something you aspired to be, you're either going to be a banker or you're going to be a teacher, maybe [being] an artist was slightly more accepted but being a DJ? I think especially up until the '90s everything was a very different environment; it was a very different time.
How does the rave/electronic scene you helped foster in the '90s compare to the subculture of today?
It was an amazing and very important period of my life. But now we're in a very different world -- all the information that is available. In the '90s, it was all about discovery and the whole idea was very based on this insular environment. It was a really special time, a cultural coming together and a musical coming together. Now everything is so available, it's there and you can find it.
With each new record, UNKLE has stretched its legs sonically. Your latest EP, 'Only the Lonely,' has been described as "UNKLE does rock," why swing in that direction?
We're just doing what we do. The whole thing of "UNKLE does whatever" -- well, we just try to do something new. But we just try to make music, really, and not really think about what it's meant to be or how it fits in the industry.
Over the course of your career, you've collaborated with some amazing people, including Jarvis Cocker, Queens of the Stone Age's Josh Homme and Duke Spirit's Liela Moss. Nick Cave guests on 'Money and Run' off the new EP, what was it like to have him on board?
He's a really amazing and very unique individual, and it's great to work with him -- and he's great on it. As far as other people, these sort of things just sort of happen. We're really fortunate to work with some really amazing people.
How did the idea for 'Where Did the Night Fall -- Another Night' come about?
We had a lot of stuff from the last record, that we hadn't finished that we wanted to finish off, or stuff that we'd recorded for a few soundtracks and other things. So when we did the 'Night' album we always thought of doing a double album and it hadn't happened. So we said, 'This next batch of recordings are saying let's kind of put an end to that era.'
And next time around, we'll be doing something really different. I think we'll work on some soundtracks, just get in the studio and write for awhile. But I think first we need to step the f--- back.
Given your impressive career and how much you've accomplished, it doesn't seem like you find it very easy to "step the f--- back."
[Laughs]. I've been working on a lot of art and getting back into DJing -- other projects. I haven't DJed much for the last few years, and I want to get back into that. Ultimately, Djing is the fabric of what I've always done. I helped start Fabric and Bar Rumba and all these clubs, and I feel like I need to get back to that, and bring it back into what we do -- go back to the basics.