For issue one with decided to approach an artist that’s a true icon of ours and a pioneer of the culture of which we represent. Goldie, British electronic music artist, disc jockey, visual artist and hero of underground culture. Goldie has found himself on the 2016 New Year’s honours list for his services to music and young people.
Our conversation is accompanied by a series of photos by Martin Jones that document the birth of hip hop subcultures, from the high rises of Heath Town to the skyscrapers of New York City.
Congratulations on your MBE.
Was that a Metalheadz base empire?
It’s good, you know! Some people don’t really understand the worth in it, to be honest, but where I come from it stands for a lot.
An appreciation for what you’ve been doing over the years.
I think so unless you are Benjamin Zephaniah you’d disagree with it, do you know what I mean? If you disagree with it that much, why are you in this country?
I think change starts from the inside out really, to be honest. I mean, Idris Elba, summed it up you know it’s the same thing in Hollywood, “I went to Hollywood to make myself an actor, what am I supposed to do? The fact that they don’t let us in, keep fighting the war?” It’s a great example. He’s one of those guys, he’s been there, he’s played the main role, Nelson Mandela, the whole thing, the guy still DJs, he goes out there and does what he’s doing, he understands what it’s like to fight from the inside out.
Last year they still got Lenny Henry wrong, isn’t that normal? That’s the normal thing, but if we change it from inside out. Yes, we are recognised to a certain degree, but there’s someone pointing the right fingers, for what it’s worth at the end of the day, better fingers the ones that were pointing before. It ain’t Freddy star getting it, it’s us, That means something for us to be fair.
30 years now in the game, what keeps you hungry? What keeps you fighting for it?
Look, even my wife said yesterday “You know what, why are you always fighting the creativity?” You know, if I was making Banksy money, do you think I’d still be doing this? Those kids were the people who were sitting, watching us doing graffiti, sitting there cross-legged, watching us doing graffiti workshops in Bristol, we were all very young chrome angels me MODE 3D.
I love Robin Banks and I love the work that he’s done, but you think about it, they’ve started as graffiti writers, trying to make it right, they found something else, that’s something else, is a different version to what we are doing with graffiti. Graffiti is still the bastard child, like drum n bass music. Drum n bass music and graffiti will still be the bastard child in this thing, if you think that Rudimental are the answer to us all, that they are the answer to me and Andy C dream then they are not really, they are just gentrification to what we do. Is it a populous to what we do? Yes, Is it what we would play? There is a big difference. I really respect writers that can actually write it as it is. I’ve got no disrespect or any harmful words towards Rudimental or what they’ve done, they’ve taken something which is essentially the “stuff there dad listened to.” Would I play a rudimental record? No, I’ll leave it up to the people in pop, pop hipsters. Would I play a good remix by an artist that I rate? Probably yes. No disrespect to what they are doing, it’s a fact of what they’ve actually grown up on. What we’ve grown up on is Photec, Dillanager, groove rider and Fabio
I’m not going to knock fresh for making a number one tune with Rita Ora, he was here with me a week ago in the studio downstairs, fucking rolling one out, he understands the difference between the cross over and what making real music is.
Does real music make us any money? Ask Miles Davis, ask Dandridge, ask Charles Mingus, ask Basement Jaxx, why I mentioned Basement Jaxx, they spent a long time making underground music finally to go on tour and actually do all right. The MC was from Birmingham, they crossed over with that tune in their artillery that was the tune Red Alert that crossed them over, do they still do a great live show? Yes, and they are learning as artists in their own right.
If I wanted to be laid back and lazy about what I’ve contributed to music, I could sit here and start shouting MBE. MBE means nothing to me except Metalheadz base empire, nothing else. What it does mean is recognition for something that I was pulled out of people’s offices for, I sat there with Pete Tong, he made a bet, he missed out on Soul II Soul and he thought I’m not going to do it again, he missed out on Jazzy B and Soul II Soul thing. He went “I’ll sign Goldie for two albums firm.” He and I both knew and everyone else in his office. The film “Kill your friends” I love that fella, John Niven is a great writer. “Kill your friends” is based on a meltdown of PolyGram records. Niven signed All Saints, it’s a true story, he signed All Saints on a cassette tape from his drug dealer, he had to call this guy every week right to get whatever he was scoring, every week this guy got a cassette tape from this group he knew was hanging around, and he went “Just fucking listen to this cassette.” And the cassette was All Saints. He signed All Saints on the back of this guy who was sorting him out. That film is based on All Saints, based on the meltdown. In the book it’s DJ Rage, it’s like this guy and on my second album Pete Tong, all the guys the big wigs, when Pete Tong had to sit back, there were all the big boys, he went “Not familiar with this kid, what’s he got for us? Let’s pay him for his second album because he’s got two albums firm.” Back then he couldn’t sign an album for two albums firm, it was unheard of. When you sign an album, especially as an electronic artist, two albums firm with your lawyer that means that whatever he makes after this could be a pile of shit.
Tell us about working with the legend David Bowie?
I always remember what David Bowie said: “No matter what you do after you’ve had this album, even if you make a pile of shit, you are going to have to swallow it.” And I was like “You’ve got a point there.” Now, that second album was about Mother, right? No one could even get their head around Mother, furthermore, no one could get their head around the Bowie track. Bowie’s own words “Listen, people will expect us to do a drum and bass record.” I went to the studio, I made this record with him and it was a ballad. He went “Mate, I thought we were going to make a drum and bass, but do you know what? I love the lyrics, I get it, that’s what you want to do, I want to back you.” And he backed me and no one, no one would have even thought about that. Even after I made that album, Bowie’s own personal album was very inspired by drum and bass, everyone knows that. But the fact we never did a drum and bass record. Truth is a very big statement, the point that I’m making is that this guy does Lazarus, does his Blackstar album, he knows he’s on his way out and he is an artist who is doing all these albums, his final masterstroke, he actually knows he is on his way out, swears everyone to secrecy and does Lazarus, if he does that, he knows he is on his way out and Bowie for me, the biggest thing that Bowie always said to me is “Listen, when I was in my pop years I hated it, they made me into a commercial monster, I absolutely hated it.” But he came back and did a Low album, eventually, he actually bought all his publishing back, so he went back to old record companies and he said to me “The best time that I ever had was with the whole Iggy thing in Berlin.” He had the best time doing what he believed in and those words to me reiterate: whatever you do, just do what you believe in. So, we are doing this track, I wrote that track for him, there’s not a lot of artists that I know, if you can name five on your hand, apart from band members at the time that actually wrote for Bowie, especially post Bowie, the Bowie that we know. The post-Bowie that was searching for artists, searching for inspiration. There is not a lot of people that wrote for him, they might have done a piece of backing music, but not lyrically, so for me to do that thing for me was a massive…at my lowest point like a massive wake up call for me, it was almost a very spiritual moment. It’s a bit like, back then it would have been hot right now with Rihanna, you would have a great album out and you are well known and he is a great signer, let’s make it like it is and do a really big cross over track, but we never did that. I don’t think anyone actually on that saturnz return, has actually even realised that we did that track together. It was a track that somebody would play for 30 bars and just went “Fast forward, what is this crap?” 20 years later Mary Anne Hobbs is saying “I can’t believe that you wrote this track for him and I’m going to play it on this show.” That’s all that matters to me. When he turned around to me and said “What’s that line, sunshine?” and I said sorrow lies in sculpture? Leonardo Da Vinci did sculpture…” The main thing that he said “Do you know that a sculpture already exists inside the marble, all you’ve got to do as an artist is to blow the dust off. Just keep the water clean that you are using at the time with a mallet.
Sounds like he had a big impact on you
What (other) artist could tell me that? I can’t say the same…I can tell an artist like DepBoy (who we just signed) a few anecdotes or can tell him something to believe in, but as far as Bowie is concerned, it has an impact in your life, this is a guy we all grew up with, not everyone grew up on my music, but this is a guy, the consensus of British music is all grown up on. And for him to say that to me was a massive thing. Going back to your point, what does it really mean to me. What matters to me is the label.
Yeah, definitely. Tell us more about Metalheadz, how do you keep the label current?
we are in the golden age and Anthony is a label manager and he is doing some really, really good moves. I would say from 2001 to 2006 wasn’t the greatest time for Metalheadz because people forget that we actually have to wait for a generation to grow up, because our generation went away and had kids, the new generation hadn’t found dubstep yet. So when that finally starts happening, you’ve got all these kids growing up on music thinking “My dad used to listen to this.” Are you listening to your dad’s iPod or your dad’s record collection? There is a big difference.
Anthony is a very, very, very…he’s probably the strongest label manager I’ve ever had, I’ll be fair with it. Anthony came in, his old label Dispatch is based on a Metalheadz label release, I’d employed various people before to look after it while I was away and I made some wrong choices. My wife said the same thing to me, “You always choose people that you have massive expectations for any kind of fall short a little bit”, but it’s my process, that’s the way that I grew up. You give people opportunities. In a modern world of business that doesn’t really translate. When somebody throws a ball over the next door garden, if you break a window, when you are a kid, you’ve got to fix it, when you are adults, you’ve got to refit it yourself, so there were too many times where it overlapped. We are the same way as Ninja Tune and Warped, we are that kind of label, we’ve been there for a long time. So the publishing house side of it wasn’t really in order, the mechanism for what makes a label money was not really in order, it’s certainly not based on a DJ, it’s based on people playing your product, whether it’s in film or video game or anything else. And it was a learning curve for me because that was my own doing, but Anthony came and said: “Look, this is a business for you, I know you are passionate about it, but there are better ways for your label to be productive in a really respectful way.” And since he’s been here, he changed the whole perception of how people look at us as a label. I would generally say that we are in a kind of Mo-Town era now because people respect us for how we’ve been hearing and what we’ve been doing. And I think that the output in the last three years has been phenomenal from my point of view, because like I said, 2001 to 20016 was like a desert. Now new artists have come about: DLR, Michelle, Hologenix, you look at Lenzman spearheaded the new movement, new kids recognise their music more than they recognise mine to be fair. I think the drum n bass community spurs new champions and those guys were recognised on the underground and Anthony said “These guys are doing shit and they respect you for what you are doing. Let’s sign them, let’s get them, what you are good at is making a project for these guys, give them a theme and let’s see what they come back with.” And before we knew it they all have themes now, they were doing 3 or 4 track EP’s and redelivering an actual storyline as opposed to just rollers.
There are some big names you’ve mentioned, David Bowie Dillanger Fabio and Icons like that, back in the 80s when you were cutting your teeth in the industry, who would you pinpoint as your inspiration?
Well the 80s for me was about…I think for me, growing up at that particular time, of course, Wild Style came about, hip hop thing is movement, but before that, pre-when I finally got that kind of attributes via Betamax videotape, Rock Steady Crew, Malcolm Mclaren, the usual, before that, for me my world was The Stranglers, it was the Stranglers’ Rattus Norvegicus, it was Public Image limited, you know the pistols, where the pistols were like…when I was growing up, the pistols were like…the uncle that shouted and you can’t quite understand what he’s saying, but you grew up on the kid that was listening to the Public Image limited, Buzzcocks, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Ian Dury, Human League. Those were the kind of fall out for that, Adam Ant came later, The Jam came just about in between, when you think about that, when you think about Paul Weller, they were reflecting the stuff that was happening in the late sixties. For me, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Public Image Limited, the Buzzcocks, and then came the Specials, Madness, that was kinda the British fall out of the music, whereas we were looking at a way of generating music from Europe, like Sven Vath or whatever else he brought from New York. In the UK we were looking at groove like that: Fabio Colin Dale, Carl Cox and they were playing those different types of music. Does that make any sense?
Yeah. Different sounds and cultures being integrated into UK dance floors.
Because no one really translates this the right way, when you think about it like that, we were going out on the back of the European sound that’s being played by these guys, but European music sounded much better amongst British breakbeat music that was being championed by the likes of Groove, Trevor Fung and those kinda’ guys and that’s the difference. So in terms of heroes, what decade are you talking about for me? Because at the beginning it was from Ian Dury and the Blockheads, all way through to Eric Clapton, Elvis Costello a little bit and then you fast-forward it by about seven years and you get Heaven 17, you get the crossover to what was happening ten years later. Lisa Stansfield stood out because she was like the funk, she had that midriff, that was turning into funk. Duran Duran was on the edge of it, there was a few ABC started coming out, there was the new romantic thing was probably the bridge between the two, but I never knew it because of the age that I was. And then as soon as you heard Blondie Breaking glass, you saw the needle connection, you saw that whole thing, and even later on, I didn’t hear Step into my world with KRS and the whole Blondie thing way later, so you think “Shit, when did they collaborate?” So I think the timeline was very misleading, but the main thing for me was that those guys were on the edge of something, Malcolm Maclaren obviously looked at that stuff.
Yeah, if we get back on to modern music, it’s in a bit of sorry state at a minute and certain aspects of it, like the God Like status for EDM artists, and the rise of the laptop Dj, Do you think DJs and producers are in it for the wrong reasons now?
Yeah, but I’m going to play devil’s advocate, is that just a generation from old on old equipment saying that or is it an old generation that’s lamenting for the past? I’m going to play a real devil’s advocate. There is a big difference here, in the last ten years technology has completely quadrupled, so when you look at what techno has built on for a long time, it was built on sample technology was MPC, so it’s a different thing and hip hop was built on MPC from the beginning, like the drum machine 808 and then we had the MPC, so the MPC started moving into southern and Detroit and it went north America into Detroit, so it was a little bit different, so we fast forward, it’s in a sorry state, is that purely because of technology? There is nothing really changed apart from Ableton, record box, Serato, so there is a point to what I’m saying. It’s moved towards the cuteness of the DJ syndrome, so it’s moved from the production lab into the DJs who are playing and they are the huge superstar. So I’m going to play the devil’s advocate. So why would I choose record box over Serato? Because record box, if you are a DJ and you’ve got a tune in your head and you are making a transition, you know your music, record box allowed you to remember your music for what you’ve got it for, whereas Serato allows you to see the encyclopedia of it and puts it together in BPM and F sharp, D minor, in terms of tuning, both programs retune stuff, but record box doesn’t necessarily base itself on tuning, whereas Serato, Traktor is kind of like that, but I think the DJ aspect has taken a massive chunk out of that, because the producer is now taking a back seat. Because my daughter’s attention span is probably most definitely very rapid. I’ve been in a car with her on a journey for half an hour and she played me like 12 to 15 different tunes and she stops the tune halfway through and plays another one. So there is almost like Serotonin release that needs to be fed, whereas what we grew up on, we were kind of playing the drops of a tune to listen to it, maybe not the entirety but we get the points of what you are playing, so there was a different reward in what we were playing. We were listening to two tunes in the mix and we’ve got tune A, we are listening to it for a little bit and then tune B is coming in, but we were about what A and B mixing to make C, so we were listening to the mix of those two tunes with a DJ and the artistry of that, because you just changed A and you changed B into something different.
So maybe we fell on our swords with that, but I do think the DJ culture gave us a lot of ideas, but it also gave us too many fucking DJs.
We spoke a lot about music, but id like to touch on art. Would one overshadow the other, did they come hand in hand or was it always music comes first?
Well, they are the same, the way that I work is in layers, I mean my music is layered. So, that’s down to the attributes of painting, if I never painted graff, I would never make music that I make, no fucking way. Because they are all pretty elaborate compositions really, so let’s forget about terminator, let’s forget about Inner City think about things like Dragonfly or things like Sometimes that day or things like…when you think about things like Sensual its built in a different way, I mean Mother is a composition, 60 minutes, it’s a different fucking beast, because it’s built on layering and layering. And that’s down to outline the concepts you have, in the beginning, they were completed, they are hand in hand, what I will say is that if I never painted, if I wasn’t a graff writer, there is no way I’d make the music I’m making. No way.
Do you still follow the graffiti scene or is it pass time now?
Yeah, I was 6 months ago in New York on Garrison Ave, we do a wall there every year, me, CRASH DAZE BIO we do a fucking wall there every year, I go there, when we go there we paint, that’s what we do, we arrange it, we go and we paint. The next question is it legal or is it illegal? Does it fucking matter now? If you go “Yeah, but it’s not illegal anymore.” Excuse me, you are the person that was fucking talking about shit when you were still fucking sucking breasts. There is a lot of people that are really anti…it’s not illegal anymore, when we were illegal, where the fuck were you? If we were to knock on your door, would you have come with us? No. I think that most things in street art are kind of semi-legal, to begin with, Shoreditch is covered. Are most of those walls are legal? It’s probably people who own the leasehold for the building that allow you to paint on, does the council allow you to do that? What are the council properties now? And most of those places that council own are hoarding, they are temporary and it’s making the city look good. And furthermore, in answer to your question, if you were to remove the graffiti on your way to work, no matter how mundane or fucking awful you think it looks, when you get to work and if you were to erase it from your memory and you go to work, somewhere in your daytime you think “Something is missing today, I don’t know what it is, but there’s something missing.” Because that’s the whole point of a graffiti, it’s fleeting, you know about the app, right?
Yeah, I’ve seen few things about it, what’s the deal with that’s?
So we built the app, we built ARTA and people have said to me “Well, yeah, but it’s very digital” I’m like “Guys, it’s the fucking digital world.” I go on there, upload a few pictures on there, upload a few things that I’ve done, it’s a fucking hobby, it’s not like the be all and end all of the graff scene, the graff scene is a very, very intense scene out there already and Flickr exists and so does Instagram, so all we are doing is saying here is another platform for you guys to upload your work to that you’ve got out there anyway. And it was built by graffiti writers, for graffiti writers, it’s not like saying this is…I know a hundred websites for graffiti that I could name that most people wouldn’t go and look for because they haven’t got the fucking time to go and look for it. Whereas ARTA is something you put on your desktop, all you are looking at is current work that people are uploading, fleeting, going by you, you haven’t even got a flick, it’s not Flickr, you haven’t got a flick, it’s going by you, because we are allowing it to go by you on a very good device. Every good film that you know is built on a very good device and the device…if you’ve got a good story, it’s built on a great device. All we have is a great device, ARTA is built on the nostalgia of New York graffiti. So it’s moving subway trains that are going by you and on an iPad screen, you look at the image, it’s gone, you press rolling stock and you get a dropdown of like 50 trains that’s gone by you, you can look at them, you can press your finger and you can get it back and look at it and go “What’s this piece? Okay, it was KOYO it was done in Brazil.” And it takes you to their website. So it’s kind of like a Pinterest of graff writers, that’s what it is, really. It’s nothing more, nothing less.
How do you think the internet has changed graffiti? Obviously, it had a big impact on it from back in the day where it was never there to now.
Man, I hate it, to be honest, it’s fucking like a double edge sword, I mean it found me certain artists via the internet. And we signed an artist from the internet. so I think to a certain degree the internet is really, really quite powerful, but on the other hand, I think that’s why…We designed ARTA not to be…It’s like someone saying “I’m so anti-internet.” The reason why we designed ARTA was because if we don’t do it in the present climate, somebody else is going to do it and they are going to do it poorly and what I mean by that is I’d rather you see it for yourself and just come back to me and tell me the flaws, tell me if you think it’s not right or it’s a little bit slow, if you’ve got a high-speed connection and you’ve got a bit of ability with your finger and a fucking screen, it’s a fucking good app. Because most apps really when you look at apps, in the app world it’s all about taking money from your pocket, it’s like the crazy bird or whatever. You buy the app, do you buy any fucking upgrades? Pretty unlikely, you get the app because you heard about it or you get the app because it’s a great game. Some apps are good games, you get a great game, like Sniper, where it tells you to buy guns all the time, we are not trying to tell you to buy a gun, we are trying to tell you, you can actually…the more trains you paint, the more attributes you can gain and that’s the difference, because I’ve 675 trains running, that means that because I’ve reached 350 in my data, 350 trains, it means that I can take out 5% of any other trains that I see, that means that if you’ve got a 1000 trains that pass you that you are looking at, a 1000 trains, both end 100, it means that 100 trains are going to be red spotted. That means that if I see a red spotted train, I can stop it, double tap it, take it to my lab and go over it, I can take the train out
So you know what I’m going to do? Because I feel you are on a level, let me send you ARTA, I’m going to get Richard to send you ARTA and if you want to continue the conversation, if you want to call me in a couple of days and say, you know what G, I’ve looked at ARTA, I get it or I don’t get it. Criticise the fuck out of it, I’d love you to do that.