Goldie has announced a new album entitled The Journey Man, coming out June 16 via Cooking Vinyl and Goldie’s Metalheadz label, which he set up in 1993 along with Kemistry and Storm. There is much anticipation that it might be right up there with Timeless, his debut album of 1995 that set the world of music and drum'n'bass alight with its near-perfect combination of innovative production techniques and spacious, expansive musicality that could loosely be defined as orchestral drum’n’bass jazz. A groundbreaking release in the history of drum and bass music, Timeless blended the complex, chopped and layered breakbeats and deep basslines of jungle and drum and bass with expansive, symphonic strings and atmospherics and female vocals, creating a crossover hit. For Timeless Goldie was joined in the studio by engineer/producer Rob Playford, founder of the Moving Shadow label, who did most of the programming and production, with Goldie generating the musical ideas, rhythms and arrangements. It's this directorial system that Goldie has employed on the eagerly awaited The Journey Man, set for release in June, accompanied by Goldie & The Heritage Orchestra Ensemble headlining the Funk The Format Festival on Saturday 17th June in Hove Park.
The Journey Man is his first album since 1998, a five-years-in-the making, 16-track, two-part personal odyssey that includes contributions from vocalists Natalie Duncan, Terri Walker, Tyler Lee Daly, Natalie Williams, José James, Naomi Pryor and Goldie’s wife Mika Wassenaar-Price. Not that the drum and bass legend has been sitting on his arse all these intervening years. Since the late 90s he's dabbled in the world of acting, including credits for the Bond film The World Is Not Enough, Guy Ritchie's Snatch, EastEnders and the barely seen and much derided Everybody Loves Sunshine, where Goldie had a lead role along with David Bowie, no less.
Then Clifford Joseph Price (his real name) took a detour and became a relatively early participant of celebrity status TV show cash-ins, appearing in such light entertainment fodder as Celebrity Big Brother 2, Come Dine With Me and Strictly Come Dancing. However, he didn't set the world alight in this area of entertainment either, being the first contestant to be booted out of both Celebrity and Strictly. However, he did markedly better with Maestro, where he learnt to conduct a concert orchestra, finishing second in the end to comedian Sue Perkins.
That experience, of actually conducting a real live orchestra, brought him properly back into the world of music, including reworking the Timeless album as a live orchestral experience. Moreover, the two-part Classic Goldie TV show was broadcast in 2009, showing him learn to write a score for a large orchestra and choir. The resulting composition, commissioned by the BBC and entitled Sine Tempore (Timeless), was performed at two children's Promenade concerts in the Royal Albert Hall and which featured music connected with Charles Darwin and the creation and evolution of the world.
After an initial hiccup when the Thailand-based Goldie abruptly demanded I call an hour later than planned, I finally got through to the legend with an elongated scream to greet me, followed by an almost invariably one way conversation about The Journey Man and being Goldie. I asked him how he was and what he was up to that day. "Apart from you interrupting a really fucking great game of fucking backgammon, fuck knows," he replies in no uncertain fashion. I tell him I love backgammon. "I always play backgammon on a fucking Friday night. It's backgammon night, do you know what I mean? It's the game of gods, that is."
Ahem. OK. So. looking forward to seeing you play here in Brighton in June! "Yeah, I'll be with the ensemble. We'll do the full 47 piece orchestra at Henley Festival (where he'll be rubbing shoulders with the likes of All Saints, Jess Glynne, Chaka Khan and Pet Shop Boys). We did two nights at Ronnie Scott's with the ensemble. Pretty fucking intense. There's seven in the ensemble including the singers. I'm on percussion and backing vocals, Adam Betts on drums, Matt Calvert on guitar and keys, Sam on keys.”
I sense that Goldie is loosening up now and I am not quite so intimidated. So, I tell him that the last time I saw him was at the infamous Zap Club (now Mono) back in '94, give or take a year. I was a photographer then and have the snaps to prove it. I think I may well have been the only one with a camera in that club that night. "Zap Club in Brighton. Bloody hell." You can almost hear the cogs and the sparks in Goldie's hyperactive brain shifting several gears now and it's really only a matter of seconds before he'll let rip. And take me, as it were, on a byzantine journey to the inner thinkings of this incredible character; graffiti artist, musical director, actor, MBE.
Tell me about the new album. "Firstly, it's a piece of cinematography. It's the best work I've even done. I felt that Timeless was never surpassed. It was a big thing as an album. It's one of those albums that put me on the map and put drum'n'bass on the map, for sure. I always felt there was a lot of potential, with drum'n'bass artists generally. Let's face it, the heyday was the 90s. It was a mess, it was crazy. It was mad, it was good. Timeless has stood the test of time. It's still cited. That is subjective, but we're talking about a body of work, a long player. We're not talking compilations. It wasn't about getting a hit single, then three tracks on an album and the rest fillers. That's not what I do. Conceptually, I've always done concept pieces. It's a dirty fucking job, but someone's got to do it. I'm a kid that has grown up with electronic music. I'm 51, I'm performing with kids half my age and I'm playing Metalheadz stuff and it's like playing Motown now. That was the 90s, 20 years ago now. It was like our 70s. You can't keep jungle down, the love. especially in the UK. It's a sub-culture. And no matter how many times they try and keep it down, it rears its ugly fucking head. Like that kid under the stairs. People try and put it down but can't keep it down. It's like graffiti. Because of my graffiti background the whole crew mentality with Metalheadz was the camp. It was about getting artists to build a label. And while that was being done in first and second gear I was the one always wanting to go fifth and sixth and fucking overdrive in terms of conceptual pieces."
He pauses, then shifts to another higher gear.
"I was always brought up with very good mentors in music. I'm talking about people who turned me onto jazz musicians – Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins – and also Steel Pulse, new age jazz, The Stranglers, Public Image Limited. I'm part of British culture, whether I like it or not. I've grown up on really good, strong, underground music in general, outside of the box. Timeless for me was a coming of age album that reflected on ten years of funk and soul that influenced me in the 80s. But I think The Journey Man surpasses that in so many ways. One, it isn't built on hype because those who have heard the album, people who are my mentors. musicians who I have worked with and people who I think can't wait to criticise it and then they listen to it and say they can't fuck with it. I like my critics in that sense. I've thrived on people who write for magazines who said drum'n'bass would never last five years and it's a fucking fad. And they are out of a job now. I've always had an axe to grind. Everyone got fucking signed, albums came out and I always felt Timeless wasn't surpassed.
"Of course, I'm going to be biased but I'm always one to be honest about something. I think there's a truthfulness in music, that if you apply the truth as an artist in the music, nothing can be a failure. Not even 'Mother' (the sixty minute piece that appeared on his 1998 album Saturn Returnz), a sixty minute piece that no one can get their head around. For me, it served a purpose. When my mother passed away four years ago she said she always wanted to hear it when she died and I played it in a chapel of fucking rest. So, for me, I make music for the art. I don't make it for any other reason. The money is secondary. That comes with good music. It doesn't matter if you're Ed Sheeran or Adele, good songwriting generally will stand the test of time.
"I know people who couldn’t get their head around Timeless and look back at 'Inner City Life', for example; this is a record that we couldn't get fucking played on the radio, because it was outrageous. It's a fucking pop record when you listen to it now. But, it's good pop. So, I think being ahead of the curve there's always a big danger."
At several points in the interview, Goldie mentally sits back, quickly glances in his rearview mirror and notices he's left us behind. Abruptly applying the brakes he gets back to the question in hand.
"Let me get back to the point. The Journey Man, hands down, is the big brother to the little sister, which is Timeless. And, it's 16 tracks. It's full on. There's nine d'n'b tracks, seven musical pieces that are far out, further than I could have ever thrown the ball at any point in my life. In terms of the Pat Metheny song on there, which is a cover version, which I re-invented and re-made – 35 years ago Pat Metheny dropped my favourite track of all time ('Minuano'). In terms of Mad Mike from Underground Resistance, where I sampled 'High Tech Jazz' which is a classic fucking techno record. And I played the album to Mad Mike and he said it was the best techno record he had heard in a very long time. He came on a spaceship to Detroit, got out, did a fucking techno record, got back in his spaceship and fucked off. For him and Pat Metheny to say it is the best, this is the greatest guitarist in the fucking world. And arranger. Who's done, you know, probably 30 albums and he says it's the best take on his music.
“I wrote most of it here on beaches in Thailand. I wrote ‘Mountains’ up in Krabi. I wrote ‘Horizons’ right here in Kamala (where he lives) I wrote ‘I Think of You’ thinking about Blue Note (the legendary London club), what that club really meant.”
Goldie is the musical equivalent of a film director. He doesn’t engineer, he doesn’t really play any instruments bar some percussion. Instead, he comes up with the ideas and gets others to translate his thoughts and directions. He cites Stanley Kubrick and Paul Thomas Anderson as big inspirations, directors who very carefully and meticulous work out what they want beforehand and were relentless widescreen, dramatical perfectionists. “If you’re going to make a three hour film, you got to make sure that you pull that off. If you are going to go for that double album, that kind of velocity, it's got to be impeccable. I wouldn’t let the singer hear the string arrangement and I wouldn’t let Tommy Evans (doing the strings) hear the vocalist, because it always spins people out. In their subconscious, singers start to act differently. And there’s only one way I can give you the theory of that; as a director you say ‘action’ and there's two people running through a room and one of them, this guy, grabs a girl, throws her on to the bed and the director says 'cut'. ‘That was a really great performance. What was wrong with that’? And then there's the technical thing we've got to do, we've got to move some lighting for example. And then the actor leans over to the director and says, 'Do you want me to leave the door open or closed when I come in' and the director turns around to the actor and says 'You just do the acting, the words I'm telling you and I'll take care of the fucking door'. Do you know what I mean? I think that's always been a part of directing. I've chosen, my choice has never been to engineer. But if the engineer is prolific I just take it up a level and they can deal with what is in my head. And, believe me, there are 12 people who live in my head," he laughs.
“This is a piece of cinematography. Every scene, which is every track, has to be played exactly. Perfectly. The album is very eclectic, but it flows in a really beautiful way. But I don't know if people give a fuck about albums in that sense anymore. Maybe I'm the only one who looks at it like that. But I have to. I see in a lot of detail and because I'm older and more experienced I have to get it just right. The one thing, the main thing is storytelling. The album is a complete story and that is what cinematography is.”
You have to admire the braggadocio, the chutzpah of Goldie, the constant dissing of naysayers. But if you don’t believe, where are you exactly? And Goldie has decided now is not the time to sit on your laurels.
“Living on your old fucking Blue Peter badge doesn't do anything,” he says about his past work. “You'll get the respect from it, but I'm insatiable as an artist. I live in Thailand. I've my painting studio, recording studio. I set the studio up. I spent five years putting this album together in my head. I spent two years drawing the album out, in a black book, in terms of the design. I did the drum sessions three years ago, with Adam Betts and John Blease and Hugh Wilkinson. I did the session over three days, then put the drums away for a year, came back, finished building the house, then listened to the drums again and last year did the album over a three month period. I had 97 fucking drum pieces – takes if you like – then whittled that down to just 20. These are the 20 pieces of drums I was going to use for the album and then just designed it. Production comes into it, but I don't look at it like that. The Journey Man is a Goldie album. It's a big title, it's 16 tracks and it's my magnum opus. This is a bigger album. It just is. If I can't get my craft right after 20 fucking years then there is something seriously wrong with me. And because I've not been jaded by all the bullshit, post-internet, for example, there's a lot of people who have come off the back of that. Where would those people be if they had never had the internet? They don't have the backbone, if you like, or the structure we've had, because we've been in the trenches cutting dub plate after dub plate, spending money we never fucking had,” he says referring to the 90s when making a drum’n’bass record was a painstaking, hands-on process that required a different mindset to that offered by modern software.
“People can take it as arrogance, but it's not. It's just fucking passion. I'm passionate about this music because I fucking live and breathe it. I don't hear sound, I see it. I see an abstract, dyslexic version of synaesthesia. I see the colours and I know where they are going. 'Prism' was the first track we did on the album and the first thing to be baffled by it is, ‘What the fuck, I can't mix it’! You can't, because the intro is in 3/3, then switches to 4/4, switches back to 3/3 and then back to 4/4 again. It's applying stuff that people aren't doing with the music. That's what I've got to do. That's my job. Imagine me going to Brighton and playing some house music or some other bullshit, copping out for the genre I love. It's a choice I made because I love this genre of music. What I hate about this music is the gentrification by grown up adults that should know fucking better. Your purpose is to educate young people. I think it's a fucking cop out. They know who they are.”
Phew! But there’s more.
“With this album, there's a vendetta that comes with it. I make music for the art, so I can do no wrong. You don't make mistakes when you do it for the art. All you do is you go another way and a track becomes a moody track, or it becomes a heartfelt track. But, it's never a mistake. A lot of people who set themselves up to make a pop record with d'n'b, they fake it by not being genuine in the first place. And when the record fails, which is usually miserably, because you can't put a square peg in a round hole, they have twice the mountain to fucking climb. They've got to find the next fucking hit. What's a fucking hit? Being an adult in this music, I think we need to understand that there was a lot of older people listening to drum'n'bass music first time around. As soon as you start making pots and pans music, for kids, then it becomes drum'n'bass for kids.
“The other thing is, if you want to make a pop record with a drum'n'bass beat behind it, go ahead. Knock yourself out. Great. But the reasons you do it and the reasons I do are two completely opposite reasons. But the one thing you cannot do is call that music drum'n'bass music, because it is not. It's a gentrified pop version of a watered down drum'n'bass record. And people's excuses, 'Well, we just want to make a pop record, we want to make the young kids dance. OK, cool. That's like Pinocchio shit, man. I want to take Pinocchio to the circus. I get it. If it's to make money, then fine. But don't sit down behind a bed of fucking lies and say that mutton is fucking lamb, ‘cause it ain't. All the d'n'b lot, are still trying to make the music for the kids. They're not progressing. That's a trap. Once you get that hit, you want another one. Unless you're fucking Calvin Harris. I'm sorry, he's already filled the space, love. DJ Fresh did it really well and the rest are trying to follow what he did five years ago.
“You'll never play at a 30,000 people festival’, they say. I don't want to play at a 30,000 people festival with 17-year-olds for the rest of my fucking life. I'm 51! We did what people were were doing 20 years ago. But now Pete Tong has got his head around Goldie and the orchestra thing. 'You're absolutely right'. People are finally realising that you can take electronic music really live, from bar zero. For me now it's jazz. That's what it's supposed to be. Now it's five past genres all into one genre, presented in a way which is for adults.
“People go, 'Why are so you so passionate about it? Why are you so fucking outright outrageous with it?' Well because I'm here to protect, I'm the gatekeeper. I believe people can do better with an unbelievable genre. Now, I can't knock Rudimental. They grew up on their dad's music, which was jungle. So there's a natural progression, they're inspired by it. But when you get the Sigma's of this world, I can't deal with all that bullshit. It's fucking bollocks and they know it's bollocks.
“I’ll wait for the enemies to come out, the ones that hate on you. They hate you because they are projecting themselves onto you and they are not doing it. And they’ll go, ‘Fuck!' 'Fuck!!’ He's done it again! That fucker’s done it again! I know that's coming. It's beautiful.”
Goldie seems to be happy with his work. He says he is happy with his life too, after a period in the 2000s when things weren’t going quite so well and he was indulging in some pretty vapid celebrity nonsense. But, moving to Thailand, properly getting back into the music again, including a re-invigorated Metalheadz label, is paying off, spiritually if nothing else. “Anthony (label boss), with the Metalheadz label, we signed a distribution deal, we're stronger than we've ever been, man. You got DLR and the OneMind album coming out. Lenzman is working on his next album. Dubay is working on his new album. Debt Boy, D-Bridge, Skeptical, Om Unit, SP 81. These are the guys, man. That's the alliance right there. It's relentless for us. We're becoming this new sound, with this new set of heads. We've finally made the changing of the guard. That period between 2001 and 2008 we had to go away. It wasn't there and I wasn't in a good place. We came back around. Jungle was back in and then suddenly, Metalheadz. Yes, as old as your socks," he laughs. “We've been here a long time and we've stuck to our guns and it's paying off now, man!”
“Time is precious. I realise that more and more. I wake up and get in the sea. I send my kids to school, I go to yoga, I go to sleep. I'm blessed. I think, ‘You know what? I go to sleep and it could be my last night on the planet’. So when I wake up in the morning this is the first day of the rest of my life and I'm going to make the fucking most of it. That's what I'm doing. I'm really enjoying it now. I never made a record until I was 27. I never started yoga until I was 44. For me now, at this moment in time, this is probably the best version of myself that I could possibly be and the most powerful.
“Have a good day and god bless,” he says, before he puts the phone down. Before I can reciprocate.
The man is on a mission. God bless him.
Goldie & The Heritage Orchestra Ensemble will be playing at Funk The Format on Saturday 17th June in Hove Park: funktheformat.co.uk
Read our interview with Lucy ‘Elle J’ Small the director of Funk the Format & Funk the Family Festival here: brightonsfinest.com/html/index.php/19-making-waves/2260-lucy-elle-j-small-director-funk-the-format-funk-the-family-festival