James Lavelle (UNKLE) – What’s In My Bag?

James Lavelle (UNKLE) – What’s In My Bag?


Hey I’m James Lavelle from Mo’wax and UNKLE and I’m in Amoeba, one of the best record shops in the world. Wow, where would I like to start. I’ll start with a film that I love very much and I love the director and I think his cinematography sums up how I look at Los Angeles in many ways and that’s Michael Mann. So, ‘Heat,’ probably his finest film. I used to come to LA a lot. LA was the first place I came to in America. One of the big things for me was being inspired by film. Growing up in England was always very black and white and America always felt like Technicolor. It’s not around anymore so it doesn’t matter, but I’d always go to the DVD section of Virgin Records as kind of my first thing to do when I got to the hotel I’d go there and find whatever DVDs that hadn’t been released. I do what I do best, I take scores. You do what you do best, trying to stop guys like me. I was staying downtown. I was with my friend who’d come on the trip with me. And we looked out at the light and we both were just like, oh we’re in a Michael Mann movie. So there you go. If you get a chance to go to a tall rooftop bar or pool or whatever and at that sort of golden hour, you will see the legacy of Michael Mann. This is a film that I love, ‘THX1138.’ It’s the first George Lucas film. It was probably his best ever film, as far as being director, not as a concept. Star Wars is amazing. Did you hear that? As a piece of cinema, this film is incredibly important. My time is yours. It was made when he was working with American Zoetrope, which was Francis Ford Coppola. The two men who founded American Zoetrope shared a common vision. I was very inspired by George Lucas and he had a massive influence on Mo’Wax. But this film is an incredibly interesting film for anybody that hasn’t seen it because it’s very apt in the world we live in now. Stay calm. Here’s a doorway. There’s a new edition of ‘The Tree of Life’ which has a director’s cut, which I haven’t seen. And one of my favorite artists of all-time and this is a really good documentary that I’ve only seen once because it was only broadcast in America. So I’m taking that home. The word got out in the art world very quickly that there was a genius working in a Annina’s basement. If anybody has never read the original ‘Watchmen,’ they need to. It’s probably one of the greatest novels ever written. It’s a graphic novel, but it is the greatest graphic novel ever written. It’s been attempted, in many occasions, to be turned into a film. There was a film that came out. It’s now being made into an HBO TV show, which I think is very interesting. For all those that don’t know, it’s about the psychology of why somebody would want to become a superhero. It’s quite extraordinary but dealing with a lot of politics that we’re dealing with now. And Alan Moore who wrote it, who I think is one of the most prophet-like writers of his generation has been, like George Orwell, was very ahead of the curve in the context of how we live our lives now. He was very much one of the first people to talk about, there’s gonna be surveillance that’s gonna follow us throughout our lives and how we’re gonna be in a much more controlled global system. Go and read the original if you haven’t. It’s extraordinary. Wherever you go, you sort of find different compilations and I don’t know if they are bootlegs, but they do sort of come across… they’re not with their official old labels anyway. But I love finding compilations of artists that a lot of their lost tracks and whatever would be put together. So I just found, there was a Rakim, who I think is one of the greatest rappers of all time. And a De La Soul. I’ve got a pretty good knowledge of the beginning of hip hop in sort of the early-2000s. And so there’s a few things on here that I don’t know, so I’m kind of intrigued to know what they are. Neneh Cherry’s new record came out, which I thought sounded really good and is produced by one of the best electronic producers in the world right now, Four Tet. She also has collaborations with 3D from Massive Attack, who is one of my heroes. And she was one of the reasons I got into music. She was the first person to engage with a DJ crew called the Wild Bunch. They went on to start Massive Attack and Soul II Soul which was pretty much the basis of everything that I loved about British… I don’t know what kind of… urban music. The beginning of sound system DJ culture in the UK. Her single ‘Manchild’ was written by 3D from Massive Attack. And ‘Buffalo Stance’ was originally, I think called ‘Hanging With The Wild Bunch’ and it was the b-side of a single by her husband. A photographer, he was a very famous photographer in London in the late 80s called Jamie Morgan. Jamie Morgan always part of starting a fashion scene called ‘Buffalo.’ ‘Buffalo’ was very much sort of taking quite tailored, smart clothing but in a street aesthetic. Vivienne Westwood had quite an influence in it. If you’ve ever see the Buffalo with Vivienne Westwood’s sheepskin jacket. It’s like the ultimate sheepskin piece. As a kid, these were the people you saw in magazines. They were the sort of O.G.’s for me growing up. I picked this single up randomly. Not because of the artist, unfortunately, because of the shape. When I first came here, me and Shadow would jump in his car and drive for days throughout California, going to sort of vintage record stores. One of the things that I loved, which was very prevalent in America, was strange records and packaging. You’d have incredible sort of National Geographic box sets and die-cut records. In the 50s, they had cereal packet records. They’d have these cardboard records that you cut-out. Inside the cereal packet you’d have a mirror ball that you put on top of the record and just these incredible gimmicky formats. It just reminds me of collecting records, y’know back in the day here. We were just walking down Fairfax and went to Tyler, The Creator’s store. He’s somebody in LA that I think is really interesting, really cool. That whole Odd Future crew and where it’s spread out to I think is been one of the most interesting sort of groups of artists to come out for me, in the last few years in America. This artist is an artist called James Mason, and it’s a jazz funk disco record. It’s one of my favorite records of all time. One of the reasons being it’s one of the first records I ever heard Charles Pearson play. I then read in a magazine that there was this record shop called Honest Jon’s and they were getting all these records in and they were gonna get James Mason in. So I went down to the store, that’s how I got a job there, and I bought the album. This brings me back right to the beginning when I first started DJing. Maze, ‘Twilight’ was kind of one of these massive sound system records where you’d hear where blues is and underground sort of soul parties. I just saw it on the wall and I thought of Goldie, because he put this in his top five favorite records of all time and it just reminded me of being a kid and the kind of records you’d hear in that scene. It’s a b-side track, it’s an instrumental kind of, but it’s just a lot of memories. Maybe I can leave it with this actually. It’s probably the best record I ever released. It’s not from LA but it’s a West Coast record. But it’s got a lot of LA in its heart and a lot of London. So I think this record sums up my relationship with the West Coast in many ways and many amazing times. This record kind of defined and changed everything for me as an A&R man and as a record label. So I’m very proud of it. Thank you so much for talking with us. My pleasure. Cool.

100 thoughts on “James Lavelle (UNKLE) – What’s In My Bag?

  1. Unkle 'Psyence Fiction' is hands down one of the greatest albums of all time, Period ( and it's in my personal Top 5 favs )

  2. James please allow US dollars for The Road: Part II / LOST HIGHWAY Vinyl when the album comes since I'm from the US

  3. He just blew my mind. I never knew "Buffalo Stance" was a redo or that her Neneh Cherry's husband put out a record.

  4. this may be one of best episodes i've seen of this…..i'm not even a huge fan of Lavelle but have always respected the guy!! even more so now.

  5. I like unkle up to when he did album with Thom York (rabbit in the headlights?) and Ian brown , however, after that it was law of diminishing returns regarding creativity and quality.
    Nice guy though.

  6. A telling (see also; warts’n’all) doco was released about James a while back called ‘The Man From MoWax’. Seek it out. Well worth your time. Fascinating geeza.

  7. Could this guy be the coolest man on earth ? Mann and the golden hour, Basquiat, Vivienne Westwood, The Watchmen, Neneh Cherry, De La Soul, Massive Attack, now c'mon !!!

  8. He seemed really relaxed and able to talk , reference shadow with respect and pride, totally cool with it all and happy with where he is at the moment, sure, he had it all , but he paid the price and reinvented himself.man from mo wax!!

  9. Not sure when that piece was recorded ….Basquiat – Rage To Riches on DVD can be bought in England . Also its been on TV a few times on the BBC .

  10. James Lavelle is one of the greats. Genius is an understatement. Listen to Unklesounds: Edit music for a film, or Do androids dream of electric beats. Call me back when your mind gets un-blown.

  11. Ending with Endtroducing. Perfect. You rock James. I Miss Mo'Wax! So glad I have original pressings of Endtroduing and Preemptive Strike. Which I bought from Amoeba Berkeley I might add.

  12. Yikes, this has got to be the worst "what's in my bag" ever. Nearly everything he chooses are just little self-promotion picks. And if he loves these films and records so much, why doesn't he already own them? He doesn't own "Endtroducing"? A record on his own label? Gimme a break. I've been buying Mowax records since the beginning, so I've been a supporter of his for 25 years now. But please. Yawn…

  13. Not a huge fan of most his music picks, but most of the movies are top-notch picks! 😀
    Heat is one of my very favorite movies ever.

  14. I'm in the middle of an UNKLE retrospective and came across this.
    Lavelle is so eloquent about his influences and loves. Brilliant episode.

  15. I love the production and storytelling of this video. I knew of Lavelle mostly from UNKLE, but how vividly he describes both music and film is equally lovely.

  16. English folks romanticize Los Angeles through Michael Mann films…that Psyence Fiction record was fire back in the day.

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