Goldie

BPM magazine

Goldie, it must be said, is an interviewer’s dream. He speaks at a million miles an hour, only pausing for breath to satisfy his 40-a-day habit. A torrent of words gushes forth, soundbites looped together, making a warped kind of sense. In the first ten minutes of our interview I’ve asked just one innocuous question and he’s already riffed on the future of drum & bass, the art of film-making, suicide, Star Wars, notions of time and space, growing up in poverty, breaking in New York, hanging with graffiti crews in Miami and his album-in-progress, Sonic Terrorism. Gesticulating wildly, he goes off at weird tangents, extrapolating themes to their absolute limits, stretching the boundaries of conversational logic before somehow making the most bizarre connections and bringing it all back to where he started. Much like one of his records really.

Then he stops, fixing you with those intense pale green eyes, touching you lightly on the shoulder and asking, “Do you know what I mean?” I tell him yes although deep down I’m so shell-shocked I’m not so sure. Sixty minutes in the head of Goldie. It’s a mad mad world.

Obstensibly BPM magazine is here in central London to quiz Goldie about his new double CD mix album, Trust The DJ: Goldie. But there are many things he wants to talk about before we even touch on the 35-track mix. The first is his film project, due to start shooting next Spring. He’s already had roles in front of the camera – as a baddie in the James Bond flick The World Is Not Enough and as a debt collector in Eastenders, the UK’s top-rated TV soap – and he’s appeared in a slew of documentaries. But this is the first time he’s been in control of the whole project. And he’s relishing it.

“There aren’t enough hours in the day for it,” he confesses. “I’ll have the first draft finished by October and we’ll be in production by next year. The critics will be asking why I’m not doing music but the bottom line is that I’m an artist and I just express myself in lots of different ways.”

Goldie is big on ideas, somewhat vague when it comes to detail. Trying to pin him down to what the film is precisely all about is difficult. But what we have worked out is that it’s called Cine Tempus (Latin for “Without Time”, a play on the title of his ground-breaking debut album, Timeless); is written and co-directed by the man himself; is largely autobiographical and features a boy on some sort of mythical quest; and has a soundtrack which will actually be his third album, Sonic Terrorism.

“I had to put a story to the myth really – about the kid. I didn’t know who I was for a really long time. The film has helped me realise that bigtime. It’s about real life with love, hope, fear but also has a non-reality within the story which is important for me,” he says. “It’s very easy for me to go to the bottom of the deep blue sea and pick pearls all day long but people around me drown within that madness because you surface and say ‘Look at this, this is what I’ve found’ and people haven’t got their breath back yet.

“People become compressed at the depth you’ve gone to,” he continues, without pausing for breath. “This film will encourage people to think differently. Timeless broke a mould about conventional records and is probably the best drum & bass album ever made. I’m doing the same thing with film, breaking the rules of what film is all about. The film is about making people believe in something. I just have the balls to say to people ‘this film will change things’ just like when I did Timeless.”

He had half of Sonic Terrorism finished before work started on the film but admits the real motivation wasn’t there – after all, Goldie is hardly a man who needs to churn out tunes just to satisfy the record company. But the film has reinvigorated him and injected him with a sense of artistic purpose again. He’s booked studio time to finish the opus off over the next six months, the concluding part of the trilogy started by Timeless and continued by the sweeping and intense (yet critically-panned) Saturnz Return.

“Timeless was about the search, Saturnz… was about the internal search. Sonic Terrorism will complete the triangle, give me balance. You can make a record and commit to the world and become an autopsy for everyone and lay your fucking soul to the grindstone but even after all that’s done you still have to go through your Saturnz Return physically. People have this perception of me but Goldie – the whole teeth and ‘bad boy’ image thing – was created by the boy to protect the boy. There’s a boy lurking behind Goldie. I’ll always be the boy fighting to get out. For years I felt guilty because I was abandoned, that somehow I was not right. But I’m proud of the boy now. I’ve taken all that negativity and turned it into positive matter.”

He reached his lowest point before the Goldie persona was even born, when he was plain old Clifford Chance, breaking and graffing in Walsall, central England. Trapped in a doomed relationship with a future that looked equally bleak, he hung a noose around his neck and was one step from ending it all.

“I cried for about an hour. I thought about how sad I was because I knew that I still had much to do on this planet. If I’d left the planet then it would selfish to my children and the people around me. It would have been tragic. It’s what “Letter Of Fate” [from Saturnz…] is all about. It’s about me ripping up the suicide note. All I had was my art. Art saved me from tragedy.”

He says his strong point has been that musically he’s always appreciated his place in the scheme of things. He’s done his research, acutely aware of the importance of drum & bass. Trust The DJ: Goldie is a case in point. Rather than lay down a bunch of obscure upfront dubplates that won’t see the light of day for another 12 months, he mixes up bona fide anthems with future classics with aplomb. His haunting “Beachdrifta” (recorded as Rufige Kru), new skool vocal cool like Future Cut’s “Midnite” and the ambient rave stylings of Sci Clone’s “Everywhere I Go” all get a look in. Eschewing the tendency of drum & bass DJs to plough woefully narrow musical furrows, Goldie mashes it up like a drunken kung fu master doing a little water boxing.  

“We [Metalheadz] opened the doors for people to walk through. When I got on the train there were carriages before me but I managed to do one thing when I got involved with this music – I walked up the fucking train and down the train and saw who was sitting there before me. I looked at Derrick May and said thank you for “Strings Of Life”. And at Detroit techno artists and said thank you for bring us techno. And to Europeans for bastardising it and making it four-to-the-floor. And then becoming rave music and becoming breakbeat-orientated and taking Joey Beltram and mixing it up with hip hop and getting the fusion and drum & bass getting born.”
 
Goldie’s flowing now, saying he feels part of a continuum, a tradition of innovative, boundary-pushing music. But strangely he doesn’t feel pressure, like he has anything to live up to.

“I’ve already lived up to it, I’ve done it. What is there to live up to when I’ve lived?”

He says he’s accomplished everything he wants to do in life. So isn’t that a frightening thought?

“I have a compelling tragedy of wanting to get things done in case something happens,” he shrugs. “I would not like to live in New York right now or Washington or London for that matter. That’s why I live in the country. We are living in severe times but somehow everyone is thinking and clicking again. As an artist I feel more in tune with the fact that everyone else is more in tune. You become dysfunctional when you realise how far forward you are. You have to slow down for people to understand it. That’s why you have to do normal things like a mix and say these are the records I like and respect. This isn’t DJ Goldie: this is Goldie being a DJ and he’s trying very hard at it.”

Goldie – chronically misunderstood or not misunderstood enough? It’s a mad mad world.

MOMENTS IN TIME – THE TUNES THAT INSPIRED GOLDIE

1 Kool G Rap & DJ Polo – “I’m Fly”    
“The accent on Kool G Rap’s voice was an inspiration for me. It’s like when Redman and Method Man get together, for me that’s it, it’s all over. Kool and Polo were the first for me.”

2 Loose Endz – “Hanging On A String”    
“British soul at its best. The production was unbelievable. I remember hearing it five minutes before we went on in a breaking competition. A beautiful moment in my youth.”

3 Cold Crush Brothers & The Fantastic Five – “MC Battle”    
“I’d be breaking over and again to this. It was street raw attitude.”

4 Miles Davis – Decoy
“It was on the b-side of a tape given to me by 3-D from Massive Attack. On one side it had the soundtrack to Taxi Driver and the other side it had Decoy. I never knew what it was for years. I listened to it out of curiosity. An album you discover. Davis really pushed the envelope.”

5 Talking Heads – Once In A Lifetime
“An unbelievable album. The way David Byrne looks at African beats and sounds is inspirational.”

6 Peach Boys – “Don’t Make Me Wait”
“A whole generation at the hydrid of house and hip hop – drum machines coming together with the soulful stuff.”

7 Tom Scott – Flash Point
“A great record – just one white guy blowing.”

8 Pat Metheny – Still Life Talking
“I must have bought this album about seven times. It sums up me living in America, being on a beach in Miami and drawing my name in big letters. ‘Sea Of Tears’ on Timeless is Pat Metheny through and through.”

9 The Police – “Walking On The Moon”
“The space in their music blows me away. That taught me about reverbs and echo. Sting is an unbelievable human being.”

10 Nirvana – “Smells Like Teen Spirit”    
“I think Kurt Cobain got to the point that many of us get to – is it really worth being here any more? He had enough of the planet and his life. Like Jimi [Hendrix] he just went too far with his trip.”

GOLDENMOUTH – THE MAN SPEAKS

“Is drum and bass dying? That’s what they said about skateboarding – until you go visit the skatepark…”

“In America I’m a myth, whether I like it or not. The label’s a myth. It’s great. You either have a successful label run by buereaucrats and the music ain’t all that good or you have music that leaves a bit of a legacy and people don’t really know what’s behind it all. I never wanted to sell Metalheadz. I could have had 15 label deals by now. But I never wanted to sell Metalheadz as an ideal because it just wasn’t worth it.”

“The studio process can be hard but it’s very quick – you have an idea, a loop and can get it onto vinyl quickly. When you make a film it’s a very slow loop. You have to recondition yourself.”

“The mix album is about how I see the scene. There are tracks on there which are four years old and others which are brand new. It’s an artist compilation of what he believes in.”

“People today can buy into a myth or a genre of music and not make the journey we made. B-boyism is something that comes to you – no money can buy it.”

“I’m inspired by the youth culture so severely. I listen to Future Cut, Digital, Total Science, really listen to their music. Total Science are remixers of remixers. I’m giving “Terminator” [his darkcore D&B anthem] to them next month to remix cos they’re the only guys who could do it.”

“For me taking drugs was about replacing emotions you either never had or you buried. Love gets misconstrued with lust, rage with violence, frustration with anger. I’m a lot more settled. That ‘bad boy image’ was just the little kid in me lashing out, trying to cover a real emotion.” 

© Kieran Wyatt

Goldie