Billboard 28 July 2007
July 28 2007
James Lavelle featured across two pages in the July 28 2007 issue of Billboard.
From Reuters, by Molly Brown.
In a dark, underground bar on New York’s Lower East Side, James Lavelle politely, yet wearily, greets industry folk at a listening party. The mastermind behind the DJ/rock collective UNKLE seems withdrawn — and exhausted — after shaking hands all day.
It’s no surprise the spotlight doesn’t appear to suit Lavelle. As UNKLE, he’s pulled together three albums behind the scenes, “Oz” style, integrating the sounds of some of the decade’s most fascinating artists into his work.
Now, Lavelle is revving up interest for UNKLE’s third album, “War Stories,” out July 24 in North America via his new label, Surrender All. After years with majors, most recently Island in the United Kingdom, the founder of the now-defunct Mo’ Wax label is glad to be back on his own. “I wanted complete control,” Lavelle says. “I had seeming disasters working with majors over the last 20 years. I have the best time working on my own.”
Recorded in the Joshua Tree desert of Southern California, “War Stories” had production help from Richard File and Queens of the Stone Age producer Chris Goss. They started from scratch and left the desert with 35 songs. Fourteen made the album, which features QOTSA’s Josh Homme, Massive Attack’s 3D and the Cult’s Ian Astbury on vocals.
Setting it apart from its predecessors, the instrumentals on “War Stories” are mostly live, a change that delivers an expansive psychedelic charge. “The goal was to set out a different record, which was more organic,” Lavelle says. “I wanted to do something completely different from the beginning.”
Lavelle is hoping to recapture the fans who bought UNKLE’s 1998 debut, “Psyence Fiction,” which has sold 154,000 copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Its follow-up, “Never, Never, Land,” (2003) moved only 29,000.
“War Stories” will include a 32-page book of original artwork; a limited-edition package will have a 50-page book plus two CDs (including an instrumental version).
Licensing the album’s music for commercial use and working it into other projects under the Surrender umbrella will help to create awareness. Lavelle has a clothing line, with a store in Singapore and retail space planned for a to-be-named U.K. retailer. And a Johnny Walker virtual billboard, with sound and visuals, is planned for New York.
In another first for the collective, Lavelle will take “War” on the road with a full band. UNKLE will tour Japan and Europe this summer, with North American dates likely starting in October.
“It’s going to be a very mad time,” Lavelle says. “We’re going serious now. Finally, after 15 years.”