Goldie – Meditations on the power of yoga, David Bowie, death and Jeremy Corbyn – a “good lad”
An encounter with the drum and bass pioneer, now into his fifties, is a high-energy, spiritual, political whirlwind
An encounter with the drum and bass pioneer, now into his fifties, is a high-energy, spiritual, political whirlwind
Arriving at least seven minutes early for my meeting with Goldie, I’m greeted with the sight and unmistakable sound of the man himself. Back to the door, he’s loudly cursing journalists for being late. The worst ones, he booms, are the ones with beards. I, if you must know, sport a well-groomed collection of bristles, of which I am very proud. As Clifford Joseph Price MBE turns in mock surprise, letting out a belly laugh that makes the floorboards of Bloomsbury’s October Gallery vibrate, I know that this isn’t going to be an average conversation.
Indeed, an encounter with Goldie involves more than just words: it is a distinctly physical experience. He gets in my face, staring deep into my skull, seemingly to see if I can hold eye contact. He bounds around the room, he lies back and he sits up, over and over again. He hitches down his waistband showing the massive scar left after a reality TV water-ski jump went wrong. He slips into a David Bowie impression without any pre-warning whatsoever. He namedrops classical composers.
It’s a disorientating experience and it’s pure theatre, with Goldie at the centre; playwright, director and leading man all in one. As we cover everything from the gentrification of British electronic music to his own alcohol and drug addictions, and his most recent salvation, yoga, the limitless passion and energy of a man now in his 50s is never in doubt. His emotions, as he says himself, are pinned firmly to his sleeve and it’s the only way he knows how to live, even if it does mean he gets only three or four hours of sleep a night. His doctors fret about the extra, abnormal heartbeats he experiences periodically, but Goldie himself just gets on with it.
Returning after a decade-long hiatus, his new album, ‘The Journey Man’, goes back further, picking up where his 1998 epic ‘Saturnz Return’ left off. An odyssey through classic 90s drum and bass, house, jazz and trip hop, he says that he wouldn’t have had to make it if anyone else had been able to match his previous work – particularly his 1995 debut album ‘Timeless’. Reenergised, he is enjoying making music again, with the promise of much more to come. As my own Goldie journey climaxes with a sneak preview of new music in the back of his Range Rover, I’m feeling fairly knackered. The man himself, though, is ready for his next appointment.
I thought losing Kemi [DJ Kemistry, Metalheadz co-founder] was bad but this is bad for so many other reasons. He’s probably the most real person you can talk to. He can talk to me like it’s me as opposed to some fuckin’ thing that people assume you are. Marcus was straight. You think about the impact of his music; that’s the only way you can live on in this life. With the drum and bass thing, it was a very family-oriented thing because it was pre-Internet.
Or in the evening before I go to sleep. It’s been like that for years. It’s so close to the bone. Just as I’m falling asleep I wake up and think, ‘Fuck, I’m not going to be here.’ It’s the fact I haven’t done enough. It just drives me, I think. I just think there’s more to do. I’m just an insatiable fucking twat! Everything is constantly a stream for me. It’s everything for me – that deep web, the power of that and the power of it all, the power of the heart. I really do enjoy life and I’m trying to work out some way of shifting that energy to something far greater after this, but who knows? There’s no God, in that sense. I’m not an atheist but there’s no God. I’ve made peace with the fact that it’s just a shifting of energy.
You’ll listen to the new album but then you’ll start to really hear it, and it’ll unravel. Like, ‘the boy’s really hanging out the bus window going like that [sticks up his middle finger]!’ There’s a lot of people in bus shelters who shouldn’t even be involved in music. It’s a dirty job making real music but someone’s got to do it. I just love the journey of doing it. And people ask, ‘Why is your new album called ‘The Journey Man?’ if it means someone who doesn’t quite make it?’ Well, that’s kind of the story of my life. It’s two tiered: the man and the journey. It’s the baker; the footballer who never quite made it; the gun for hire. That’s always been me and I prefer the underdog. So arias in Hyde Park? Being number one? Nah.
It’s a really lovely piece of music. I get it. But this one’s a better album – it’s a bigger album. I actually went back and listened to it when I was making ‘The Journey Man’. And I wouldn’t have made it if anyone had surpassed ‘Timeless’, to be honest, but no one did. And I thought, there’s a lot of shite being made from the gentrification of this music. I don’t mind when you move someone from the railway arches and you rehouse them so their infrastructure stays here, but I see a lot of people taking out but not putting back in. Kiddy fiddlers, I call them. You’re making music for kids and you’re grown-ass people. ‘Timeless’ is a very adolescent album, because it’s my youth – a misspent youth on a really beautiful diagram of a great blueprint. ‘The Journey Man’ is the building; the architecture.
It comes in waves of creativity. The other project is a serious project. By no means is this project anything you could even quantify to get your head around. It’s fucking weird. I thought, ‘Alright, OK. You can have the concept of ‘The Journey Man’, but let me just do what I never did. What have I not done before?’ There’s something really, really, really powerful going on. I like it because it’s not me. It’s not me making it, oh God no. She’s always fucking about – that universe, she just keeps coming at me, man. Dropping these fucking things in my head. It’s not me; please leave me alone! She won’t leave me alone!
I’ve come back from three festivals and I’ve had this loss and I haven’t had time to grieve. I’ve come back from Paddington and I was so tired. And I thought, ‘I’m going to make that 3 o’clock yoga session.’ I got there at five to, got out at Great Portland Street station, got off the rucksack and got in that room. And I thought, ‘This is where it’s at.’ I love bringing people to the mat. They always go, ‘Why don’t you teach it?’ and I’ll tell you why I don’t teach it, because I don’t want to get complacent. I see a lot of teachers who are complacent and I don’t want to be that. I’m in the trenches and I love being in the trenches. The music’s secondary. It’s like yoga. Listen; yoga’s not about losing weight. It’s about losing the mind. It’s the mindset you get from yoga. The tuning of this machine.
I wanted her to do the vocal [from 1998’s ‘Saturnz Return’], but she didn’t want to do it. And then I get the call from David Bowie’s manager and David wanted to do it. They’re the two people who I threw it out there for. It’s all preordained. Like David said, when I wrote that track for him – and I’m one of the blessed people in the world to have done something for such a great man – ‘Did you know, Michelangelo said that if you blow the dust off the marble, inside is the sculpture already.’ That will never leave me because that was the driving force. That was at the peak of my drug use, that was. I was doing 3-day, 4-day benders, man. I was in and out of acid; in and out of everything. If I could lick frogs I would go to a fucking pond if I could. And at that point the only salvation that was ever going to happen was going to be the music.
I was literally on a tenterhook of leaving life or not leaving here. It was definitely a point where I was going to leave. It was definitely on that line of, ‘He’s going to go, that kid.’ I was definitely going to go. It was ‘Saturnz Return’, in my early 30s. A real heavy time. But I celebrate that on this longplayer. It’s a happy album. Thank fuck for yoga, eh?
It’s a residential course on the South Coast [a psychological detox]. I was never going to cross a road when I saw a pub, was I? Let’s face it. I shouldn’t knock the 12 Steps [the Alcoholics Anonymous recovery program] because it works for some people. I think the new generation has so many diversions and so many distractions that I think the Hoffman is a really beautiful thing. I nearly OD’d and I was out of it until my friend said, ‘You’ve got to try it, you’ve got nothing left.’
I got PVC (Premature ventricular contractions). The doctor said, ‘You’re not gonna die but, you know, you could either take sleeping tablets to sleep or we can catheter you.’ And I’m not having that. The alternative is knowing when to pick my battles, knowing when to sleep. So I only get four hours – I can’t help it. Like last night, I was up from 3.00 until 4.30. I just get up like an old biddy – it’s weird shit, man. My mind switches on and goes elsewhere. So I’m just trying to calm it down.
[Goldie hitches down his jeans to show me a scar]. That’s a fucker, isn’t it? It was one reality TV show too many. I did The Games. I was in practice on the last day and was smashing it to bits and the skis took my leg under the water and snapped the femur two inches from the top of the ball joint. Work that one out. So you can’t talk to me about the clubbed hand on the left side and all the damage from the stabbings and everything that happened to me on my left-hand side. And that’s what the Hoffman told me. The left side is the effeminate, the mother. Everything I’ve ever experienced is this left pain. And the numbness is always the right. Whenever you bang yourself on the right, it’s always something to do with your dad. I wouldn’t bet against me on that. As an artist I’m left and I’ve got a lot of pain in my heart because of that.
I think burying mum, and going to the chapel of rest and sitting there playing ‘Mother’ [Goldie’s 60-minute track from ‘Saturnz Return’] was what it was designed for. You can’t wear your heart on your sleeve any more than that, can you? I’m playing this hour-long record to this white monkey with skin stretched over a marble corpse. I’ll never forget the face. I sat there and the guys made me a cup of tea and I sat there and listened to ‘Mother’. It would’ve bored them all to fucking death at the funeral but it was the chapel of rest where it needed to happen. That walk into the room and sliding the two doors open – it’s just a shifting of energy, man.
It’s sometimes a very painful thing being an artist, but you get the best joy out of it. And I’m hoping now I can just calm the fuck down. I’m hoping that all this energy… the yoga’s been the most important thing. I’ve got a 46 BPM heart rate; how did that happen? Seven years of yoga, that’s how that happened.
I was at a thing where this fucking kid was on stage at a festival, saying, ‘Corbyn!’ and all these grime kids are jumping up and down for Corbyn. The system’s fucked and it’s bound to fail and we love Corbyn. I’d love to give him a try. He ain’t Ed Balls, put it that way. I did a social worker campaign – went and addressed 200 social workers around the corner from Number fucking 10. Went into 10 Downing Street and slipped a Metalheadz sticker in the toilet. Have that in the cistern; have that lads. Number 10, Buckingham Palace and the House of Lords have Metalheadz stickers in there. Fucking love it. That’s me having my thing.
And Gordon Brown, thank you for selling the gold from this country, you twat – at the lowest point gold could ever have been sold for. He sold the country’s soul there, mate. That’s why I left this country. So you go to dinner with Ed Balls and as a thank you, you think the fucker would put his hand in his pocket, wouldn’t you? You go and do a thing, I paid the bill and he’s sitting there drinking my wine. And he gets a little bit pissed. I’ve got this great booking come up, and it’s got this chapter in it called ‘Ed Balls’. It’s brilliant. I’m waiting for it. ‘So why politics, then, Ed?’ He leans over and he goes, ‘The power.’ And as soon as he said that, there he is, that’s the devil you know. When he said that, I fucking knew. Corbyn ain’t like that and Paxman got dealt with [in the debates]. Paxman fell on his own sword and he’s supposed to be neutral. He looks like a cunt now. I’m all about political change and when ‘Timeless’ came out there was political unrest. And this new album is coming at the right time. I’m standing up to be counted.
It’s been a long time coming, but you can now buy your pal/lover/offended party a subscription to Loud And Quiet, for any occasion or no occasion at all.
Gift them a month or a full year. And get yourself one too.
Whoever it’s for, subscriptions allow us to keep producing Loud And Quiet and supporting independent new artists, labels and journalism.