After twenty years raising hell in the music industry, surely it’s time for Goldie to chill out? Think again. Attack editor Greg Scarth has a tense encounter with the drum and bass legend…
Within seconds of meeting him for the first time, Goldie’s got me pinned against the wall, grasping my t-shirt in his clenched fists. “How the fuck did you know that?!” he shouts in my face. We’re backstage at London Electronic Music Event, where he’s due to go on stage immediately for an intimate live interview and Q&A session. The room falls silent. Behind Goldie I see anxious faces surrounding me. Everyone in the room is terrified that I’ve just offended the headline star of the day’s proceedings.
What provoked this dramatic scene? Nothing more than the fact I commented on his necklace, made by an obscure Japanese jeweller. “You’re the only fucking person who’s ever known what the fuck this is! I used to beg the Stüssy crew to tell me who made these. If you want one I’ll hook you up!” And with that he releases his grip and runs on stage. This was just his idea of a friendly introduction.
Two hours later, after a session in which Goldie regales the crowd with tales of his career highlights and creative process – and offers a uniquely honest take on the music industry – we’re backstage again, shut in Goldie’s dressing room for a one-on-one interview. Once again I’m on the receiving end of a verbal assault; I’ve suggested that he might be going soft, now that he’s swapped the drugs and booze for Bikram yoga and started making classical music following his involvement with the BBC’s Maestro series and the Proms.
When Goldie sits two feet away from you, fixes you with a razor sharp glare, grits his gold teeth and offers to meet you in the car park for a fight if you want to find out whether he’s gone soft, the answer to that question becomes obvious. Has Goldie mellowed in his middle age? No chance.
You can’t credit the invention of drum and bass to any one individual, but Goldie was there from the start. This is a man whose name, label, artwork and face remain synonymous with drum and bass two decades after his first visit to Rage. As he puts it, he was around before there were even words to describe what drum and bass was. Is he still passionate about music, art and the entire culture in which he’s made his name? What do you think?
Attack: Goldie, that Q&A session was really special. You could see how inspiring people found it to be able to ask you questions about your music. Thanks for coming down and taking part. I didn’t know I was going to be interviewing you so I don’t really have any proper questions to ask. Is it OK if we just have a chat?
Goldie: Yeah. Course, man.
Cool. Do you think your music and your art all comes from the same place? Is there one single root?
The single root of my entire fucking existence is just alchemy, being able to change form. In my head I hear the finished song. That’s the bottom line. I don’t go in there like, ‘Let’s play around and something good might come out of this.’ Some people make music like that and that’s great. People like Harmonic 313 can press presets and it creates the loops for you. That’s great, if that’s what you want, but I was kind of brought up in a musically different way, I guess. Everyone’s brought up in their own way and I like to be the white noise in the music or the ghost in the machine. That’s the bottom line. You can argue the facts like, ‘Was you even there when he was engineering?’ You go and ask any engineer – go and ask Playford, go and ask anyone.
Nobody really questions whether you make your own tracks any more, do they?
I know. I just find that it’s a blessing and curse, because I make music soundsically. I put it together in my head and then I say, ‘Right, if we can get it to sound like this then we’re OK. If I can get it to that point.’ When I worked with different engineers the thing that people always said to me was: ‘You’ve worked with different engineers but your sound remains the same…’
“King of the egos? What can I say? Fine, yeah, I’ll have that one. But to be honest I backed it up.”
There’s a reason for that.
There’s a reason for that. When you’re clear with where the inspiration comes from and it’s not just your ego blowing smoke up your arse, which is kind of what the Goldie persona is.
That’s probably what people would say about you. I can’t bullshit you on that one – maybe you’re not like that any more but in the late 90s you were the king of the egos.
What can I say? I mean, fine, yeah, I’ll have that one. But to be honest I backed it up. Because I had what I had.
And for what we were dealing with, for what electronic music was at the time…
But it’s not like electronic music’s separate from the rest of music, or from other art or other forms of culture…
No, not at all. I think that it just so happens that the music I make is drum and bass. It’s still from a genre, but people criticised me and said it wasn’t drum and bass any more. Why? Cause it’s got fucking strings in it? Cause it’s got a guitar in it?