On a stormy night at the Union Chapel in north London, Relentless Energy Drink premiered Lives of the Artists, Follow Me Down, the epic second installment of their landmark documentary series, exploring true artistry within sport and music. Breathtaking footage taken from a life or death free ride adventure to the hardcore glacial environment of Antarctica with Jeremy Jones and Xavier de le Rue runs parallel to James Lavelle and UNKLE’s story of independent musical revolution. Lavelle speaks candidly about the Mo Wax glory days and ultimate 90s crash, whilst his band troops magnificently on, with the release of Where Did The Night Fall, marking their fine return to form. With the end credits rolling, the brilliant Heritage Orchestra took to the stage, and with members of UNKLE (including Joel Cadbury, Gavin Clark and James Lavelle) performed an epic, orchestral set of new and old material, all guns blazing. Dazed Digital spoke with Lives... director Ross Cairns about the movie.
Dazed Digital: I know you wanted to approach the Lives of the Artists documentary with a different direction to the majority of snowboard films.
Ross Cairns: First of all story, there’s no point if there’s no story with a tale to tell with really interesting characters. Sometimes people think it’s enough to just shoot what’s going on, but you have to draw the real story out of it alongside bringing a cinematic production value.
DD: That’s something that Lives of the Artists films have been getting a ton of praise for.
Ross Cairns: It’s the aesthetic, I get really excited by things that are shot beautifully, and that’s why I shoot with Dan Trapp, I’m just as interested in great directors of photography as I am with great directors.
DD: How do you see the link between James and UNKLE and Jeremy Jones and Xavier de le Rue?
Ross Cairns: There’s a connective tissue between people who operate at the margins of capability, people at the extremes of obsession who push the boundaries. They’re very special people - irrespective of whether they are snowboarders, skateboarders, musicians or painters. And these guys deserve to be portrayed in this way. There’s an unwillingness to compromise, both emotionally and physically. It’s about personal fulfillment and overcoming fear. Although the environments are different, the risks they take are the same.
DD: When did you first meet James Lavelle?
Ross Cairns: I actually used to be a tour manager in the 90s for James and DJ Shadow and lost contact for about eight years. James was someone that to me really represents the traits of artistry. He’s had this amazing character arc, had his ups and downs, the rapid rise, the equally as rapid crash and the bollocks and gumption to build himself back up again. It’s a real evolution and so gratifying to see him release a career defining album. A mature, grown up album. He’s had to graft and I totally respect that. I think we both recognise what’s important in life.
DD: In closing, what are the most important messages you want audiences to take away from Lives of the Artists.
Ross Cairns: That the film honours both the snowboarders and musicians and shows the parallels that exist. For every hundred films that are made about the action, there’s less than one made about the people. The skill involved has become a commodity, to me it’s about being inspired by the people. I just want to hear the stories.
Lives of the Artists: Follow Me Down from Relentless Energy, along with the film soundtrack, scored by UNKLE, will be available to watch and download for free. UNKLE are remixing the original film soundtrack to create six redux tracks, also available for members of The Order - Relentless’ online community, to download for free from late September.