Remembering Psyence Fiction

James Gaunt
6 min readAug 24, 2020

22 years ago today on August 24 1998, UNKLE’s debut album Psyence Fiction was released. Here’s a look back at one of the most important albums in James Lavelle’s career.

Psyence Fiction (1998)

In 1992 James Lavelle started Mo’ Wax records. It was initially an Acid Jazz style label similar to music being released by Gilles Peterson, but Lavelle soon found his own sound, and by 1994 he had brought together the ingredients for his next project: UNKLE.

Since 1992 James Lavelle and Tim Goldsworthy had been creating remixes under the name Men From U.N.K.L.E., a nod to the television program The Men From U.N.C.L.E. from the 1960’s. But it wasn’t until a chance encounter with two of his heroes that Lavelle pushed UNKLE to release something of their own.

While running Mo’ Wax, James Lavelle was also working in the record store Honest Jon’s where one day he met Nakanishi Toshio and Masayuki Kudo of the Japanese Hip Hop production group Major Force. Lavelle was already a huge fan of their work and so he invited them to set up a studio with Mo’ Wax, and Major Force West was born.

Mo Wax Vs. Major Force : Time Has Come (1994) — Artwork by Swifty

Mo Wax Vs. Major Force : Time Has Come was one of a handful of records released by Mo’ Wax and Major Force West in 1994, but it’s notable for including Time Has Come, a song credited to Lavelle, Goldsworthy, Kudo, and Toshio. This was followed by The Times Has Come EP later in the year which featured a new remix of the track by UNKLE, alongside remixes by Portishead, Howie B, and Plaid.

Time Has Come EP (1994) — Artwork by Futura2000

The Time Has Come EP entered the UK Albums Chart in 1995, while the earlier Mo Wax Vs. Major Force version just missed out on the Top 100 Singles Chart. This chart success meant that plans for an album by UNKLE began taking shape, and in September 1995 a recording session was organised in LA featuring James Lavelle, Tim Goldsworthy, Masayuki Kudo, and DJ Shadow.

Shadow had first released In Flux on Mo’ Wax in 1993, and at the start of 1995 his What Does Your Soul Look Like EP spent two weeks…

James Gaunt

An Australian writer with a passion for research. James edits music fanzine The Shadow Knows and writes regularly about Mo’ Wax Records.