James Lavelle trades in high concepts and low frequencies, an alchemist in the studio who's about to hit the stage.
As the founder of UNKLE, the fluid British electronica ensemble, Lavelle has formed a full-fledged touring band for the first time to spread his sprawling digital psychedelia up close and in person.
"It was pretty nerve-racking in the beginning, we just kind of went out and put ourselves on the line and I think it's paid us back," Lavelle says of forming a band. "I think it's changed a lot of the perception for people, it's given them a much more rooted context to be able to see, touch and feel it rather than it just being conceptual. It's really benefitted what we've done."
It makes sense that Lavelle's taken this step with the release of UNKLE's latest disc, "War Stories," a concussive mix of skybound guitars, throbbing beats and myriad vocal guest turns from the likes of The Cult's Ian Astbury and Queens of the Stone Age frontman Josh Homme, making the disc UNKLE's most rock-centric effort.
"We just wanted to be as free as we could and learn to write better," Lavelle says. "For me, it was referencing things like (the Beastie Boys') 'Check Your Head' and (Massive Attack's) 'Mezzanine,' records where it felt like those acts had thrown all their inspirations out there and felt very open about what we're doing. We just really let go."
And that's always been Lavelle's preferred methodology, crashing disparate sounds together impulsively like he was allergic to the linear.
"I wouldn't want to make a straight rock record or a straight house record," he says. "I don't find that interesting. You've got to try and change. You've got to push the envelope."