For the past 30 years, James Lavelle has been at the forefront of global club culture. Known as much for his eclectic DJ sets as for his production work with UNKLE, Lavelle has been lauded as a highly influential tastemaker and musical curator.
He began DJing in Oxford aged only 15, where he started his first night, ‘Mo’Wax Please’. Relocating to London to start the record label of the same name, Lavelle took up a residency at The Fridge for Gilles Peterson’s ‘Talkin’ Loud’. The pair went on to start their own night together, ‘That’s How It Is’, a legendary Monday night session at Bar Rumba on Shaftesbury Avenue that saw Lavelle become a major fixture of London’s burgeoning club scene. This period saw his influence expand as he DJ’d across London and the UK, playing clubs from The Blue Note and Plastic People to Ministry of Sound and Cream. The opening of Fabric in 1999 was a major turning point in his career and saw him take up a residency and starting the iconic Friday night FABRICLIVE that lasted for five years.
Alongside his time at Fabric, Lavelle has also served as resident at several of the world’s top nightclubs including amongst others, Zouk, Womb, Watergate, and Space. He was one of the first DJs to play China and Eastern Europe and has played in all six inhabited continents. The development of his UNKLESounds project saw him traversing the globe, headlining festivals and clubs everywhere from Tokyo to Mexico City, with one of the first audio-visual DJ setups.
Lavelle’s ability to craft genre-spanning mixes translated from to the club to the studio, where he created contributions to several iconic mix series. After releasing mixes for Tribal Gathering and Cream, he produced the inaugural FABRICLIVE CD, and has gone on to release four critically acclaimed mixes for Global Underground, the most recent of which went to the top of the Electronic charts on iTunes. Pete Tong lauded him as ‘one of the most gifted minds in music’ when introducing his ‘mind blowing’ Essential Mix on BBC Radio 1.
Lavelle continues to tour as a DJ, playing a major role in Fabric’s 20th anniversary celebrations, curating two nights at the club and playing alongside Laurent Garnier. He also reunited with Gilles Peterson for a ‘That’s How It Is’ reunion show at We Out Here festival. Away from the dancefloor, Lavelle has recently contributed DJ mixes for Keinemusik, Crosstown Rebels and Mary Anne Hobbs, as well as the soundtrack for Virgil Abloh’s final Off-White show at Paris Fashion Week. His monthly Living In My Headphones shows on Soho Radio serve as a showcase for the more eclectic reaches of his record collection.
He also produces albums under his UNKLE moniker, working with a myriad cast of musical collaborators including Thom Yorke, Michael Kiwanuka, Mark Lanegan, Massive Attack, Brian Eno and Josh Homme. Lavelle also curates multi-sensory art exhibitions, with his highly innovative and hugely successful series ‘Daydreaming With…’ and ‘Beyond the Road’ the latter of which NME described as an ‘album you can walk around’.