On the sofa: The Man from Mo’Wax

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The documentary The Man from Mo’Wax was something that I’d been looking forward to watching for a while. James Lavelle made his name as the guy at Honest Johns who was the go to guy for Major Force Records releases. Major Force was a Japanese hip hop label that featured the likes of

  • Hiroshi Fujiwara
  • Takagi Kan
  • Masayuki Kudo
  • Milo Johnson (who was part of the pre-Massive Attack group The Wild Bunch)
  • “Tycoon” Toshio Nakanishi
  • Scha Dara Parr
  • Ishida Yoshinori

These were the people who influenced 

  • Bomb The Bass’s first album Into The Dragon
  • The subsequent trip hop movement
  • Japan’s streetwear scene (Goodenough, Fragment) which has a continuing impact on the global streetwear scene

Lavelle’s impact before Mo’Wax was huge. His column that had the Mo’Wax name and identity was huge. Mo’Wax the record label in its tunes and championing the designs of Swifty and Futura’s art have been hugely influential. Lavelle was the tastemaker that drove BAPE before the Americans like Pharrell Williams got hold of it. He did things in collectable figures and fashion that other labels still haven’t done. Surrender was a great streetwear label. The first UNKLE album was brilliant. 

But he lost it; drugs and self indulgent projects that burned money and credibility. He was sufficiently narcissistic to document his life two decades before social media, which is the reason why you have a lot of warts and all material that has elements of Spinal Tap. Lavelle lacked the introspection and self examination in the documentary to make a real turn around. It ends up coming across as a two-hour pitch video for James to take part in a pop star re-invention on VH-1 a la Remaking Taylor Dane. The Guardian’s review summed up Lavelle and The Man From Mo’Wax really well. 

…from superstar DJ to rock bore

Cath Clarke, The Guardian (August 30, 2018)