‘I grew up on Emerson, Lake and fucking Palmer!’ D’n’b icon Goldie gives us the skinny on 20 years in the game

Jim Ottewill
  • By Jim Ottewill
  • 29 Aug 2014
  • min read
‘We started a fucking riot with this shit didn’t we? We’ve now got to get out of the war zone to see what the fuck is going on.’

Goldie - DJ, drum’n’bass (d’n’b) legend, graffiti artist, actor - is discussing (at break neck pace) the importance of his 1995 debut LP Timeless.

Speaking with him down the phone is a breathless, head spinning experience. Not only is he a right chatterbox but he veers seamlessly from referencing classical composers to railing against what he describes as the latest trend of laptop producers and ‘candy music’.

His recent run of activity leaves you pondering how he manages to find time to breath, never mind sleep.

He’s compiled the latest in the Ministry of Sound Masterpiece mix series, helped arrange an orchestral rendition of his now 20-year old album Timeless, given lectures on graffiti and trod the boards at the Theatre Royal in Roy Williams’ Kingston 14. It’s the tip of a creative iceberg which appears to go deeper than anyone else. The future holds more Timeless orchestral shows planned, DJing at Fabric’s 15th birthday weekend and ongoing work on a new album. M tried to keep up with Goldie for 20 minutes below…

Why re-imagine Timeless for an orchestra?

With d’n’b we were trying to do something totally different. Now there is a lot of candy music about - happy hardcore with a break beat. It’s gentrified.

After coming up through the music I have, why would I regress after 30 years of learning? I’m not going to start painting bubble letters for the sake of it.

We’re doing what Radiohead did with conventional rock bands. They just changed the way music was heard. Although I use d’n’b as a vehicle, there’s still a lot of songwriting and definite dynamics.

How did you find the festival hall gig with the orchesta?

That show was just phenomenal and we’ve been given three nights next year. We’re going to work a tour backwards with Chris Wheeler and the Heritage across the country. To have that kind of energy in that room, plus hear a blue print become realised in the way we imagined it 20 years ago was amazing.

I don’t think any adults should make candy for the sake of it. Let the kids make the kids music right? I see new guys now copping out. I’m like 'come on mate'. You wouldn’t even feed that to your own kids. What you doing shopping in fucking Iceland? The genre deserves a lot more than that.

So obviously the project has been a great success?

Yeah it was fucking rocking mate. I’ve got three drummers on the fucking stage going at it. I’m really enjoying that aspect, particularly as a lot of the stuff you see now, it's just open the laptop and press play.

I want notation and integration with an orchestra. The Heritage are so far ahead of anyone else too. Security had trouble getting people to sit down to the point where they just gave up. It was brilliant to watch!

What’s next for the project?

We’re doing 12-15 shows in the UK, adding a whole visual aspect and a few tracks like Dragonfly, You and Me. Why not?

What were the biggest challenges with the project?

Making sure it didn’t sound tin pan and wasn’t going to be off a fucking laptop. I come from a different era. A pre-internet era where it was all about fucking arranging man. I wanted to make sure it had meat and potatoes and a dynamic spread across an orchestra. It sounded fierce.

Are you surprised jungle has endured?

I find it fascinating that everyone wants to go back and celebrate jungle. It’s brilliant because we worked hard for it. We’ve seen hip hop go the way it has but people still believe in what we do. Our label hasn’t been this strong for years.

How is Metalheadz doing?

We’ve got five LPs to drop. Ulterior Motive have made an outstanding album. Om Unit is doing his record and I’m going back to the studio. I’ve got a studio and house in Thailand and I’m going to record an album out there to be released in the autumn of next year. It’s took me a while but to be fair, we started a fucking riot didn’t we, with this shit and we’ve got to get out of the war zone to see what the fuck is going on.

Did you expect 20 years later to be still making music?

Yep - I can say it - yep. I knew Timeless was gonna change everything. It was the same with graffiti. I knew as soon as I made it - it’s gonna change it all.

Now everyone wants a breakbeat. If you look at the era of Portishead and Tricky, everyone wanted a breakbeat version back then too. It comes with it doesn’t it? I think we ended up remixing [the band] Garbage at the time. It’s come a long way and quite proud of that. We’ve created a monster really.

Do you think the recent changes to the music industry are for the better?

It’s separated the wheat from the chaff. People are signing talent now as opposed to stifling artists, tripping over cassettes, having long lunches and scoring at the weekend. I remember seeing Ed Sheeran at the Jazz Festival and thought he was gonna go. You look at him – it’s songwriting man – he’s fucking smashed it. He’s as big as Elton John right now. Even though there is saturation you can spot the ones who are going to make waves.

At the same time, there's all this EDM shit. But there’s a funny quote from Paul from Pendulum Paul; ‘if you can copy and paste and use Twitter you are an EDM specialist’ - which sums it up really.

For me, it’s the basics of good songwriting and arrangements. As opposed to just taking the Fresh Prince of Bel Air soundtrack and putting a break beat underneath it. That’s Iceland shopping! I don’t feed my kids Iceland food. I eat good. You know what I mean. If you keep eating bad food you become obese. On that level, that’s what happened to the industry. But the stuff that does survive is stronger for it.

Have you read that book Kill Your Friends? God knows who is going to play me as I know I am apparently DJ Rage in the book. I called up [author] John Niven ‘cos I wanted to give him a round of applause. What a fucking book. It’s brilliant because the A&R man is now a historical creature we should stick in a museum.

What are the highlights of Masterpiece?

Lazarus Man by Terry Callier and Radiohead's Just. Those songs are a real part of my life. The head stuff is what I’d play at 4am in the morning in a dark club. You couldn’t play them at a festival and have the same affect. Something like Lazarus Man is beautifully written and powerfully strong. I’ve always cited Radiohead as the greatest band in the world for me. Thom Yorke is not really on this fucking planet is he? Those songs have been with me for a long time and will continue to be with me for a really long time.

Visit the Ministry of Sound website to find out more about Masterpiece.

Visit Goldie's website to find out more about his latest projects.