After-dark inquiry: Goldie
The drum 'n' bass boffin releases a new mix-CD.
Mon Aug 15 2011
Photograph: Jimmy Mould
The British drum 'n' bass bigwig, actor, graffiti artist, onetime NYC resident and stream-of-consciousness interview subject takes a call from TONY, as his contribution to the FabricLive mix-CD series gets its U.S. release.
Hello—is this Goldie?
New York, New York, New York, what's up? How are you, my man?
I'm good, thanks, and I'm loving the new FabricLive mix.
That's great! I love New York City, man. My boys are up on the Bronx River. The Tats Cru in the Bronx, they've got some ridiculous murals, man. Up in Hunts Point—they're my boys. Give 'em a shout for me!
I will. Now about the mix...
You know what? Someone's gotta celebrate the music and it might as well be me, you know? And I'm having the best summer of my life. It's all about rebirth. I'm doing Bikram yoga five days a week. My wife's about to drop a new baby daughter, so life is good. And you know what else? Someone told me many years ago that drum 'n' bass wouldn't last. Now it's 18 years later, and this mix is a testament to how wrong he was.
It's been 18 years since you started the Metalheadz label, right?
Yeah! I knew the music would last, but I never would have thought the label would last this long. I'm a great lover of old labels like Motown. Not having understood business or how the structure of the music business works, being an artist, I'm kind of surprised we lasted even a few years. Actually, a more apt word than artist would be alchemist. Anyway, looking back, it was the music that kept Metalheadz going. We're looking at our 100th release coming up soon, which is probably gonna be a bunch of remixes of different things. I just love to think about how far we've come, and I'm as passionate now as ever. I think that 18 years ago, I was like a fucking meteorite entering Earth's orbit completely out of control. It was complete chaos. I had a lot of energy around me. Harnessing that energy and that chaos is what the last 18 have been for me.
And now you're one of the scene's elder statesmen. You even performed at Buckingham Palace last year, with a band of young musicians from all over Britain.
Yeah, that's how far we've come. Taking those kids to Buckingham Palace and performing for Prince Harry was an amazing thing. I was wondering if that model would work in America—taking musicians from all over America, from New Orleans to Orange County to some bloody place in Alabama, putting a band together and playing in the fucking White House. I mean, there are a lot of lost souls out there, and turning to music and art could really help at least some of them out.
Is that something you can relate to? You had a pretty nomadic life as a kid, right?
Yeah, when I look at the kids in the band, I'm looking at myself, you know? There are a lot of lost souls out there, but a lot of them just need some guidance. And music, through the fucking ages, has been that guidance for a lot of people. I interviewed Pat Metheny a few weeks ago. I've always cited Pat as the guy who taught me arrangement, even though—being a synthetic, electronic kind of kid—I was always his complete opposite archetype. But it's all music, it's all the same thing. That's why my song "Still Life" was called "Still Life"; that's why things like "Dragonfly" have such resonance. That's Pat's influence. It doesn't matter where the influence comes from, and that's where the lesson lies. I can see that 18 years later. A lot of DJs today, it's all about them; it's all about the ego. But no one who makes music is bigger than the music. That's something that's always resonated in my head. I've always wondered what got me into music. When did the lightbulb come on?
And did you figure that out?
Well, I had issues of abandonment and being misunderstood. And I chose graffiti and drum 'n' bass music—the two bottom-of-the-barrel fucking things that people do not understand—as my answer? It was my choice, right? I'm not really sure why I went that way, even now. But when I look at far how far graffiti has come—I was just talking to (artist and graffiti chronicler) Henry Chalfant about that graffiti thing they just had at MOCA in L.A., for instance—I realize that when people experience something long enough, something's gotta give. Something's gotta change. If you stay with something long enough, it changes you. It stays with you.
And drum 'n' bass has stayed with you as much as graffiti has, right?
Here's your answer: I started working on my new artist album seven weeks ago. And I am having the best fucking time of my life. I know this album is gonna be amazing. But even for those at the top of their game, it sometimes takes one simple thing to remind you of what you have and why you do it. After working with those musicians for the Buckingham Palace thing, I was like, You know what? I should start working with musicians again! Why did I stop doing that? You have to look outside of yourself. The danger with electronic artists that have some vision is that the music becomes so internalized. And you need to externalize it. When I was conducting those kids and hearing that sound coming at me, realizing I'm in control of everything...that's fucking power. It's not sleight-of-hand magic where it's coming out of a machine and through two speakers. It's inspiring. And we all have a responsibility to pass that inspiration on to others. There are so many great people in art and music that have left legacies that I would die to even leave a fraction of.
I suspect your legacy is pretty secure.
Coming out of the '90s and being this synthesizer kid that started out knowing nothing...well, I still can't read music or anything, but it's amazing thing to understand the power that music can have. Sorry for the ranting!
Nah, go for it.
Ha! You know what? I got over answering interview questions one through 15 a long time ago. This is what you get when you talk to me now!
You still have a lot of passion for someone who's been at this for almost two decades.
Yeah, I still love to do this stuff. You know, the kids that grew up on "Timeless" have 2.2 kids now. I see people nowadays who are breaking the mold musically, people like Skrillex, and I hear people from my generation go, "What the fuck is this?" And I'm like, "Remember when we would take an amen break and put Phil Collins's voice over it? Hello?" You have to understand that culture changes and grows; that's practically what culture exists for. I support all the kids like Skrillex and Benga and Skream, and kids doing music in any genre, really. They still follow this dream and they still have this hope, you know?
FabricLive 58: Goldie (Fabric) is out now.