"Every other time we've done a
record, we've had, like, 10!"
"It was the first time we've gone into a studio with no
demos," continues Lavelle. "The first day we got there was when we
started with the record - juggling organic songwriting on keyboards, guitars,
and organs with samples etc, and loads of people dropping by. Then I wanted to
go to Joshua Tree, so we packed up and went over to [recording studio] Rancho
De La Luna. We hired a 16-track, nothing lavish. In fact, there's been nothing
lavish about recording this album at all. One of Rancho De La Luna's live rooms
is in the bathroom. No big studios! It was a life-affirming and mad experience.
Waking up in the National Park - very eerie and beautiful - and then going to
the studio to make music all day."
Back in the UK, War Stories was further refined throughout 2006 with
additional input from former-Psychonauts beat-guru Pablo Clements and mixing
from Chris Allen.
Fans of Psyence Fiction and Never, Never, Land will immediately
recognise this as an UNKLE record, but War Stories represents another stage in
the band's evolution. Although it is dark it comes from a positive place, with
Lavelle bouncing back from a certain personal and creative turmoil that
surrounded the aftermath of the last UNKLE project.
"Chris Goss is a real good song person," he explains. "In
the past I've gone for people that are maybe sonically-oriented: he's just a
great songwriter. The first day he was talking about a range of influences from
Larry Levan to Broadway plays. I was, like, ‘Alright, then - he gets it'."
Significantly, it's the first UNKLE album on which Lavelle contributes
vocals, to standout tracks Hold My Hand and Morning Rage.
"That was really
liberating. To have Josh [Homme] come in, hear it and go ‘What the fuck's this?
I'm playing on this..."
2007 also opens an exciting new chapter in the working life of UNKLE and
James Lavelle - someone who has already crammed countless careers into barely
three decades. War Stories will be the first album on James' new label
Surrender All. For the first time Lavelle will have management, record label
and recording studio under one roof - new West London base Surrender Sounds.
Here, ever the able multi-tasker, he'll juggle increasingly far-flung DJ
bookings, film projects and remixes while overseeing the immaculate packaging
and artwork specifications for which UNKLE is justly famous.
"The feeling I have now is the feeling that I had when I first
started Mo' Wax," he explains, of the label that broke dozens of acts
including DJ Shadow, Air and Blackalicious, spread the word about David Axlerod
and Bathing Ape's Nigo and defined a whole era. "It's totally positive.
From the music to the packaging to the artwork to the videos, I am able to work
with the people I want to work with."
From long-time collaborators like artists Will Bankhead and Bill Drury,
photographers Warren de Prez and Nick Thornton-Jones to 3D - who provides the
amazing artwork to all War Stories releases - to new names, Surrender Sounds is
a thoroughly non-corporate "artist-friendly" HQ, somewhere
"where we can all feel comfortable".
Lavelle is also overseeing his own clothing label - called, simply,
Surrender - initially a collaboration with a friend and sold out of Singapore
it is now destined for its own London retail space.
Taken all together, Lavelle sees things thus: "We'll be a boutique
industry - constantly putting out records, soundtracks and videos; bits and
pieces with interesting packaging. And we'll always be on the look out to work
with truly creative people. I don't see a lot of that around at the
In a world where music has never been cheaper, with albums literally
given away for a few quid in supermarkets, it's surely a stand for the better.
"Everything has become so disposable now," he says. "I want to
be involved in creating music and art that has a timeless quality."
2007 will also see UNKLE take to the road as a band for the first time, with a typically
mind-bending extravaganza that promises to be an "end-of-the-night
"I've spent a lot of my time in the thick of the madness,"
concludes Lavelle. "But it's not just about rock ‘n' roll and drugs any
more. It's about the creative process and where that leads me."
To be in with a chance of winning a pair of tickets, enter the competition bellow:
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Thursday 28th February
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0114 276 2676
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