by the sound systems put together by the likes of Afrikaa Bambaata in
the states and by the Wild Bunch over in Bristol, James started buying
records by the bucketload and providing the soundtracks to his home
town Oxford's own blockparty scene. The first party he put on, at 15,
made him enough money to get a pair of decks and with Oxford starting
to run out of vinyl, London beckoned. There's probably no better example
of right place, right time.
Even during his work experience, at Bluebird records in West London,
James Lavelle was selling tunes to the founding fathers of modern British
dance. Pete Tong, Dave Dorrell, Norman Jay, Tim Simenon- the list is
as long as it is distinguished. It also included Gilles Peterson, whose
new Talkin' Loud label, with its fusion of different sounds, had given
James an idea for a label of his own.
Taking its name from the night he'd started promoting, Mo' Wax Please,
Mo' Wax was set up in 1993 with a £1,000 from Honest Jon's Records
where James (still only 19) now worked. At Honest Jon's, James had started
putting hip-hop tracks alongside the classic breaks that had inspired
them; from the outset Mo' Wax worked along similar lines.
Out on the floor, James was again looking to do something different.
He was playing Saturdays at the Fridge in Brixton and with Patrick Forge
at the Gardening Club but was looking to take the anything goes eclecticism
of Mo' Wax Please to a bigger audience- which made starting a club on
a Monday night seem a bit odd. But That's How It Is, founded with Gilles
Peterson at Bar Rumba was an instant classic and eight years down the
line is still at the same time and in the same place. How many clubs
can you say that about?
Meanwhile, Mo' Wax was taking the Lavelle musical approach to even greater
heights with the release in 1996 of DJ Shadow's seminal 'Entroducing',
a record that turned music on its head and catapulted Mo' Wax into the
spotlight as never before. James says simply 'It changed everything'
and for a while things did go a bit mad with both him and his label
in ever increasing demand. With his laconic DIY approach to music overtaken
by business and celebrity James chose this time to decamp to Los Angeles
to spend three months working on a new brainchild, an album of his own,
to be called UNKLE. It took five years.
With contributions from Ian Brown, Richard Ashcroft and Thom Yorke,
UNKLE was an immense piece of work, the Britsh alternative dance record
that James had always envisaged making. But the sheer length of time
spent in the studio inspired James primarily to get back into clubs
and to start DJing again. A DJ support slot for the Verve followed,
as did a season in Ibiza and opening night sets at London superclubs
Scala and Fabric, where he started his now famous Friday night residency.