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UNKLE's James Lavelle deconstructed

It's not often that a research and development project comes with collaboration from a major contemporary art house like Saatchi Gallery but perhaps that's what we should expect from Punchdrunk creatives Colin Nightingale and Stephen Dobbie. The duo have teamed up with Saatchi Gallery for their project that looks to explore new forms of immersive audience experiences.

Their research is being presented as part of a fully immersive exhibition called 'Beyond The Road' featuring artists inclduing Oscar winning director Alfonso Cuaron, perfume designer Azzi Glasser, artist and taxidermist Polly Morgan, and visual designer and multimedia artist Tupac Martirto to name just a few. Visual arts, music and film are set to come together for an experience that promises a chance for people to "lose themselves in a multi-sensory world led by sound".

And it's the sound where things get even more interesting. Artists have been set the task of deconstructing an exclusive soundtrack by experimental music legend James Lavelle to create what they say will be a "new and multi-disciplinary sound experience". Lavelle, who for many will have come to prominence with the music outfit UNKLE, has worked with many artists across multiple disciplines spanning everyone from Scratch Perverts to Danny Boyle and Alfonso Cuaron. As the exhibition nears I asked about a recurring theme in his work, the idea of making, breaking and reworking or, in the language of Beyond The Road: "reconstruction", "reconstructed" and "deconstructed". 

Jayson Mansaray: How do the Punchdrunk crew plan to deconstruct your soundtrack for Beyond The Road?

James Lavelle: Colin and Stephen, who have been part of the creative team behind Punchdrunk have taken recent recordings from the first two The Road albums, and a collaboration for Alfonso Cuarón's 'Roma' and have separated out the stems over 75 speakers positioned throughout the space, as well as using elements within the environment such as televisions and telephones, to interact with the sound.

Jayson: How did you end up collaborating with the Punchdrunk crew?

James: I met Colin and Stephen at a playback of The Road: Part I a couple of years ago. They presented an idea where they wanted to try to something unique with tracks from the album. They experimented with it at the Punchdrunk space in Tottenham and we developed it from there.

Jayson: You’ve worked with some amazing people, sorry to fan out on you but, how did your work with Alfonso Cuaron come about?

James: Alfonso asked me to contribute to 'Music Inspired by the Film Roma' as the film wasn't music heavy. I collaborated with Michael Kiwanuka and Will Malone on a track called On My Knees.

Jayson: Is that the work that is being “deconstructed” for Beyond The Road?

James: Yes! And we've collaborated with Alfonso visually on the show too.


Jayson: Words like “reconstructed” and “reconstruction” have appeared in your work and now this project - what attracts to this theme?

James: Essentially it comes from the culture of DJing and remixing. It's very much part of the language of that world. The idea that you can constantly change and adapt music to suit different settings. Very much a DJ thing.

Jayson: I’m travelling right now (Morocco) and a fellow traveller I met (Sandy), and myself, wanted to know what is this idea of “remixing and curating culture itself”?

James: I think that life is a remix. We're constantly taking themes and adapting them as technology and time evolves.

Jayson: Beyond the Road is multi disciplinary - can we look at the idea of visual arts, music and film separately anymore?

James: Of course, I think it depends on the work and the environment, and what you're trying to say. This show is very much about trying to create a new way to experience an album, but I think it purely depends on the artist and their work.

Jayson: Taking that into account what does the future experience look like?

James: I think that things are always a reaction, and a lot of that is to do with technology, and a reaction to technology, and the environment in which we live. Right now, we are trying to create an environment which reacts to the overload of information in the world today. This is about how to find calm in that environment, and essentially how we react to music, which has become a very disposable experience.

Jayson: I’ve had some lacklustre experiences, among brilliant ones too, what are the ingredients for a genuine immersive experience?

James: Curation, and the subject matter involved.

Jayson: I always love rapid fire questions in an interview, can you describe each of the below in 3 words:
Beyond The Road
Your work
Your next project

Beyond The Road: Unique sound experience
Your work: Joining the dots
Your next project: Road Part Three!

Beyond The Road
Saatchi Gallery
12 June - 24 July 2019
Info and tickets: beyondtheroad.saatchigallery.com