A lot has been said over the years, in the press and throughout the media, about Goldie since he burst onto the scene in the mid-nineties. But the truth is… he just keeps coming back, time and time again, appearing in many different guises whilst continually experimenting within genres and he continues to excel in whichever field he happens to be fighting his corner. Be it DJ, Producer, Record Company boss, Artist or most recently, trying his hand at orchestration on the BBC’s ‘Maestro’ where he came runner up in the Grande Finale. All of which I find quite inspiring, plus his honesty and articulation always makes for a great interview. On his way to the Royal Albert Hall to continue his understanding of Classical music and the workings of a live orchestra he gave Outline half an hour to ask whatever the hell we want…
Getting back to your roots, have you a lot going on with Metalheadz at the moment?
Yeah, we’re pretty busy. In fact this year has probably been a bit busier than most, purely because we’ve been more productive in getting things out. I suppose the Commix thing was the biggest as far as the album is concerned. As a label we had to adjust to an album being out there in the field; as far as a real artist album is concerned, we could of kept putting out 12”s, but it would have saturated everything and I think there is already enough saturation going on. We have to realize quality over quantity. I think the market has generally changed now and has become more commercial. I don’t think these changes have been a good thing in terms of the integrity of the music – there has to be an even balance. Commix has proved that, with an album that can cross over and be quite underground at the same time. Most people now seem to tend to gear themselves up towards commerciality, which can be dangerous in a sense. If we try to entertain the youth market, then half that entertainment needs to include education. Just because we get older in the scene as people it doesn’t mean you say to a 22 year old ‘you need to listen more carefully’. I tend to play things that would not normally be in their top ten of what they would assume the scene is about. I mean if Grooverider & Fabio would have played really commercial sets ack in the old days of Rage for example, I don’t think any of us would have pushed the music as far as we did. We would have got off very quickly and it would have been very disposable; a lot of what they were playing was very cutting edge and had more of a dynamic for one thing. From Leo Anibaldi, which was a mad Italian record Grooverider used to play, all the way through to Kick Man Records’ ‘Snowman’ and those kinda tracks. There tended to be more of a dynamic then, whereas now as I said, things are more geared up to commerciality. Which I understand is here, but all don’t have to slave to it. I just really feel that. I mean call me old fashioned, or call me B-Boy or whatever, but I just think that was one of the things we managed to do.
‘Metalheadz’ started at a time when the internet wasn’t a mass market commodity. I wondered if you think it has been a positive thing in terms of both the music and the business side of Drum ‘n’ Bass?
To be really honest with you I think the internet has crushed the music. We all see it as a big advantage and a fantastic savior of everything, but it’s not. It might well get some kid in Venezuela listening to our music, but it has a false sense of social network which does in fact take from our social skills of actually getting out there more. It’s telling us what people are saying when we are not there (laughs). From a detailed point perspective, let’s say you download the new Batman movie, which has already grossed something like 233 million quid. Fine, not a problem, because these people have been paid vast amounts of money and have had vast movie budgets. You look at the film industry and so called piracy and they complain about it. Well let’s look at independents who have been stripped in the same way. The independents don’t have a thousandth of the outgoing, and the money and the capitol to be able to finance a lot of these things. I think when we look at the internet in terms of downloading – if you are downloading a band which has already grossed 36 fucking million, then I don’t really see there being a problem with that, in the sense of something which has already had its time. But when you look at independent record labels which have already been stripped of their music, we’ve allowed ourselves to become very disposable. The long and short of it all is, when people think of MySpace, or Facebook or Twitter, it’s all owned by the government – candidly. It’s subsidized by the government; it’s the back door of the government. It’s just another way of an Aldous Huxley if you like, of a Brave New World in that sense. Now I’m not putting it out there as it being a conspiracy theory – ‘cause it’s just fucking fact. The real obvious test would be, switch the fucking internet off for a month and let’s see who’s fucking smiling now. I know that I can survive without it by just being able to go out there and play music to people, come back home and then go out there and play music to people. Before we had to make the effort to go and see someone’s set. I’m not saying that I fucking hate the internet; it’s just a velvet claw. We have to understand it as a transparent model as opposed to it being the be all and end all of social skills. Now I think most independents have been crushed by that situation, and yes with Metalheadz, we do use the internet, we do have a website and yes to all of the above, but I’ll look at the sales from the digital world and it doesn’t out sell the situation as far as vinyl sales are concerned. That’s purely because we don’t have the huge budgets to reach out there with marketing campaigns. It’s not like internet companies come to you and say, “great we are going to give you thirty grand’s worth of advertising and we want an exclusive blah, blah, blah.” The companies that are running like this, their angle is also very commercial, but yet they want to provide all this cutting edge music. They are grossing lots of money from the commercial market so if they only invest in independents from a more advanced point of view and to be able to help people model themselves more, it would build a structure and that’s just not happening. As far as we are concerned, if you are in this Drum ‘n’ Bass model for long enough, you are always going to see people come up, surface, fade away, and there are seasons within this music, that move and change no different to say the demographic of that in the states. Like Boston used to be the fucking place to go, like Washington used to be fucking nuts, then that moved away to New York & Philly, and then when they were kind of done with it, it moved over to LA and the West Coast. It moves around the states like a virus, and why? Because new people go there, new colleges come along; new people are growing up through the music and then going out. You have to understand that when you look at music, it’s culture at the end of the day, which forgive me if I’m wrong, is something that if you look up in a dictionary is which will keep growing & mutating, and it’s always going to do that. When people don’t think it’s popular, it doesn’t mean it’s not popular in China or Russia or somewhere else. As far as a genre is concerned my only real purpose in it is to push the boundaries and open doors, which is what I’ve always done. I mean Timeless wasn’t new when it came out, there were six tracks on there which were already five years old. Just because it got presented in that situation with the record company, it’s about how commercially viable it is to put it out there. We could literally get any Drum ‘n’ Bass label and pump a lot of money into it with advertising and could probably do pretty fucking well, if you could see it on your train journey to work by getting bombarded by loads of posters. We, as independents, have really suffered at the bottom end of it, we fall a victim to things like MCPS, because we didn’t really know how to run this business in the beginning. A lot of people now are getting hit with MCPS. If we press 5000 records and we only sell 2000 we still pay the mechanicals on those 3000. The artist doesn’t give a fuck, neither does the independent record company owner, but for the people in between it’s just another part of taxation which has killed a lot of us, it’s closed down a lot of distribution companies. If you kill the growth, you are helping to kill the culture in a big way. I think the longevity of me is not just through one demographic, people don’t know me just through the music. If I didn’t pain and do all these other things, I don’t know how we’d fucking survive out there. And I keep that up because I still have a love and passion for the music as I did ten years ago and that’s just how it is…
Your second UK art exhibition ‘The kids are all Riot’ is currently on show in Shoreditch – can we talk about how that’s been going?
It’s been brilliant. I mean it’s moved on again; it’s evolved again. The amount of press coverage we’ve had on this has been massive. It’s had a phenomenal response. Regarding the subject matter, it’s just a reflection of what I see out there. The space between youth culture and governments could never be as far apart as it is now. I think that the policing that’s happening at the minute is ridiculous. I think the inner urban city funding as far as the youth clubs are concerned is… and we talk about knife crime?! We need to get young people beyond that and look at where it starts. I think the government has really abandoned that culture. Ultimately Art & Music are probably the two only things which are really like a safe haven for creativity in that sense. Music has been raped by the government by allowing us to download it. People forget that they allow this to happen. And the sad thing is that music has been compromised by us downloading it for fuck all, which has made it completely worthless. People like me can survive, I can go out and play other peoples music for the next how many years, but for the little people who are really trying to get by, and suffering to get their music out there…the only reason they make music is so they can go out and play it and get known so then they can go and become DJs, which is fucking sad. I mean we never made music to become DJ’s. I only started DJing because I was asked by the Bluenote. Secondly art is the only fucking thing that you can’t download. If you have canvas you can take photos of it which you can download, but that doesn’t do the same thing as standing in a gallery and looking at a painting. If I download a tune it’s no fucking different than listening to it in a club and that’s a sad scenario with the two big brothers, one of them has fucking been maimed. Next question…
Does your inspiration for art and music and come from the same place?
My art comes from an amalgamation of twenty five years of learning different styles of graffiti and pushing them in another direction all the time. If I put every tune I’ve ever made in a time line and played them one after the other, there’s a thread from the previous that leads to the next one, and it’s the same with my painting, I could line them all up and go right, I see where I got the idea for that. Now I have so much music to listen to which can inspire me to paint a load of canvases, or I can look at paintings and get inspired to make music. It’s an alchemy that exchanges itself, d’you know what I mean?
I guess you are used to your music being critiqued, but I wondered how you feel when people get critical about your Artwork?
My art has been critiqued since I was nineteen and out there painting walls. So it’s no big deal. I’ve always been criticized, but if I listened to it, then I wouldn’t even be here. The fact is I can take this shit on the chin, because the people who are usually writing it haven’t even lived quarter the life I can. I live for that. I like to fuel people’s imaginations, but I know what I’m capable of as a person, and I know I’m capable of doing a lot of strong and positive stuff. Britain’s great at being critical; we’re the best at it. Although, I don’t think that we would be the country that we are from an urban development point of view, if we weren’t that critical. Even with fashion, we’ve always mixed things up and pushed the boundaries. For me, it’s just the kind of person you are, and I’ve been always able to deal with that. When you’re in a Children’s Home and you’re fourteen years old, and there’s twenty eight other kids who don’t know who the fuck they are, then that’s critique for me and I’ve lived that real fucking life, so this, ‘Show-Business’, is fucking easy for me…
Ok Maestro… tell us who most surprised you and your thoughts on the show as a whole. Did you learn anything?
I think I always knew that Sue Perkins was going to be good, because she grew up in the music; she was always going to be technically minded. It shows me that when people are technically minded they start to paint by the numbers. It’s a bit like people who make D‘n’B by the numbers – and you can hear that. It tends to not have the same dynamic or soul if you like, and the thing I leant about conducting is that anybody can do the numbers, and the thing with D‘n’B people is that we are very photographic, we can’t read a fucking note, but we have a great perception or good ear for sound. That was the interesting thing though; it’s a different discipline, ‘cause when you’ve got an eighty piece orchestra coming at you as a wall of sound it’s a different dynamic altogether, because you literally have to push it back and create a pocket between you and the orchestra and that pocket is literally almost silent, you listen to the music, but you can’t get into it, you have to push it back from yourself and it’s fucking difficult to do that. You’ve got to really step back from it. Because it’s live, you are actually in control of it. You’ve got to move constantly to be able to wrap sounds around, for a DJ that’s easy, because we know what BPM is, but when you are controlling an orchestra and the speed of it, continually…I’d challenge anyone to try that, and find out how hard it is. If you think it’s easy, it’s not.
Those performances seemed very intense, did you find them emotionally draining?
Absolutely, if I’m going to commit myself to something, then I’m going to do it. There’s a difference between a piece of music becoming alive in a room than it just being played. My fascination with Maestro is (for someone who has made these mad synthetic ballsey pieces of music – Mother being one of them), people don’t realise how hard it is to that form an electronic perspective, ‘cause after all we are creating slight of hand magic, creating this fast sound, that is still only coming out of the two speakers – normal D‘n’B will come out of a speaker and its one tone, but when you’ve got an orchestra in a room, it’s coming at you from so many fucking angles, its quite an overwhelming thing to be able to deal with.
Did this experience make you re-think how you approach music?
Yeah, it just helped, it really, really helped. At the minute now I’m on my way to the Royal Albert Hall ‘cause I’m composing a seven minute piece. It’s about what I see as creation. What I see as a flower or life, then the animal kingdom then mankinds kingdom, but to take it from a different perspective, ‘cause that’s the script I’ve been given. Because of how I approach it, it’s probably going to come out completely differently and that’s really interesting. It’s tricky because I’m out of my comfort zone because for one, I’m not allowed to add anything electronically, and two, I’m working with a completely different engineer who works with completely different method than someone like Strider would work it, like using space and looking at things microscopically. If we are having an artillery of sound within one of those sounds, there’s probably around twelve notes and you have to literally write all of the twelve notes, which is a different fucking business.
So your film ‘Sine Tempus’, it’s been in the pipeline for a long time now, plus the soundtrack is out now, can I ask if its close to completion?
Well we’re there. Ninety eight scenes are written. The scenes have been laid out for a while, but I’ve been shuffling them around for probably the last year. I haven’t been able to get into it for the last three months, but Nick and I promised ourselves that come August and going into winter, we are going to give it its final push as far as dialogue is concerned. Most of the dialogue is done, but with film it’s a different dynamic. If the scene is already written it’s a matter of pacing it. How do we pace it to get the best out of the scene? It’s a diamond in the rough, but we are nearly there, I think with my impatience as a producer…(which is how I work), I’ve had to really learn patience, which has learned me the lot about how you pace a film. The last hurdle is always the hardest. It’s like having a great tune but the EQ is shit on it. It’s about getting all those sound bites right. It’s not what is said, but how it’s said.
As you know we are living in a world of come backs, so are both the nation and yourself ready for ‘Angel Hudson’ to make a return to Albert Square?
(Laughs) Who knows? Its really funny though – what makes this fucking country so funny is, and it really makes me laugh, is when you are walking down the street after fourteen weeks in Eastenders, even though you’ve been involved in music for fourteen years, you get stopped more times walking down the street being called ‘Angel’ rather than by your name. You just think ‘Wow, is this how many people sit in front of the TV a night?’, you think fucking hell, but who knows, it may happen (laughs).
I read a really cool article about you, regarding a memory you carry of Bjork on Christmas Eve in Helsenki and listening to Gorecki… I wondered if there’s other music that emotes you to a previous time or memory?
Yeah there’s a phenomenal album, which is quite a prolific album I think. It was one of those albums that always made me think of Kemi, because when I found out Kemi died, I was Heli-boarding in Alaska with my mates from DC Shoes, and I was on the mountain and it was an unbelievable day, it really was the most God given day in the world. I’d come down this mountain and gone back to my shack and I remember my brother Stuart calling me and saying you need to sit down, and he told me this news of Kemi dying. My world just fucking collapsed in a moment, and I always remember having to arrange with the DC guys to get back from Alaska on a Cessna Airplane, which is a four-seater, going over the same glacier that I had just skied down… and it’s an album called the ‘The C and the Cake’ and the whole album just reminds me of Kemi. It literally carried me home that album. It’s a phenomenal album, it’s new age jazz. It stuck with me and it’s been with me ever since.
Finally Norwich, you haven’t been here in a while, have you forgotten all about us?
I can’t wait to get back there. I remember it’s a bit of a fucking knees up, the last time I drank two bottles of vodka and got completely shit faced. Also there’s Matty (South), who by chance I got to meet. He’s got a great company and he’s just a great fucking lad… a really cool guy. I think it could be the beginning of a good relationship over there because Norwich has been robbed of that side of it for a long time; we need to get back there a bit more often really. It’s alright people barking about change, but if we are not willing to get out there… d’you know what I’m sayin?!