Goldie was the headlining Saturday night act on the famous Floating Stage at Henley Festival this year, where he performed an orchestral version of his seminal 1995 album Timeless with The Heritage Orchestra. The classical reworking of one of the most influential albums of the last 20 years was performed against Henley’s stunning riverbank setting.
Goldie is known as the father of UK Drum & Bass and for revolutionising the genre into the mainstream. The multi-MOBO award-winning pioneer is one of only a handful of artists to have co-written a song with the late David Bowie, and he was awarded an MBE by Prince Charles last year for his contribution to the British Music Industry. He has just released his latest album The Journey Man. Goldie’s acting credits include the 1999 James Bond film The World Is Not Enough, Guy Ritchie’s Snatch (2000) and EastEnders. I caught up with him just before he took to the stage to talk players, politics and how to be a musician if you can’t read music….
You are playing the orchestral version of Timeless tonight – tell me what this album means to you, and the impact it had on music culture at the time?
You have this record that they said would never last, that they said was outrageous but I knew that it was insightful and would break English culture, taking American break beat – as in American drummers drumming – and adding sounds and resonance from rave culture at the time. Timeless has stood the test of time – it’s still cited. But I love the challenges that I have had. Muhammad Ali said that if you get to 50 and you are thinking the same thing that you were thinking at 30 then you haven’t learnt very much about life. What I have learnt is that it is good for me to go the hard way round and to understand that opportunity and choice is what makes your luck. People say to me, you are very lucky, but that’s not the case. I took the right choices although I also made some bad ones, but I created opportunities and so I have never looked back. I think trauma can make people run, but it’s knowing when to stop. A lot of kids today, you can’t keep them still. Technology is not helping them. It’s making them vibrate too quickly, but you have to tell them to get out from behind their computers. I am very happy that music can be healing and the new album, The Journey Man, has been a real healing process. I think there’s a truthfulness in music, that if you apply the truth as an artist, nothing can be a failure, and good song-writing generally will stand the test of time. I challenge anyone because Timeless was a ground-breaking album but The Journey Man is a better album – it’s a newer me. I couldn’t have made it any earlier. It’s a beautiful widescreen sound, like Dr. Zhivago; it’s what David Lean was good at. Wide space and really challenging the jazz musician. This is a kid who can’t read music, man, and I am challenging players! I am actually an electronic artist that can’t notate because I am dyslexic, so I will sing all these songs you will hear tonight but they were sung into an iPhone or a recorder at one time. I don’t know an F Sharp, I don’t know what G minor is but I would give these recordings to people that can help me notate. So with Saturnz Return, the second album that I did, that was a 60-minute orchestration. But I was berated – I was nailed to the cross for this piece. With Timeless, that 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. It’s my magnum opus. It just is. And if I can’t get my craft right after 20 fucking years, then there is something seriously wrong with me!
What about the country today – what is your thinking on the political turmoil in the UK?
This is nothing new – we were in turmoil before with the miners’ strikes and Scargill, we were in turmoil when the punks went mad, so it’s not a new story. It’s just the worst in a story because of a latency of geographical growth. You know what graphs are – we all learnt them at school, so you should know whom you are letting into the country but everyone is questioning it. My father came into the country on a banana boat, as they say. He worked in Dagenham, Leeds; he worked hard. So, people are helping the growth of the country that you are building, only to be put in hives or whatever it may be, and it’s not right. We are very lucky with what we have and I think there is a disparity with that to be addressed. I am all about people making wealth but there are certain people who are too rich and I think there is something about wealth and respect and being due diligent with what we have.
You do a lot of work with kids – what are their frustrations and how do we help them?
I have been in the position where kids stop me all the time – I see both the happy and the sad ones, and see their attention spans change very quickly. I see it all at a molecular level, so that’s where the change is. The whole thing about fabric and nightclubs – why don’t we sound proof them, why don’t we get safe transport to these places? The Arts is not going away. In the 70s, they stopped kids trying to go and see The Beatles, didn’t they? I want readers of this interview to remember one thing – you were a young girl or boy once, and if you take away the layers of that – let’s not chastise them for doing the same things that we did. In some way, I think we have almost become jealous of what they do and the freedom they have. Let’s guide them a little bit more. I practise yoga, I have been a practioner for 7 years, and I think it should be taught in prisons and schools – we need that.
What’s the future for Goldie? You’ve done most things – such as acting, art, graffiti, composing, DJ-ing – but what’s next?
I am working on the movie of Timeless doing the cinematography – something that I have always wanted to make. I am directing, and I have lovely partner who is going to help me write it. I always wanted to make Timeless somewhat about the issues that we are dealing with now, which I knew was coming. It’s about a kid’s illness, his struggle with temporal lobe dysfunction, a type of epilepsy, and he’s had his share of troubles living in an inner-city estate. It’s about the art, about knowing where you fit in and a lot of these kids have seen the world in a different way. We are all going mad and when the adults lose the plot, what hope is there for the young ones?
Goldie’s new album, The Journey Man, is out on 16th June. For more information, visit the website at: www.goldie.co.uk. For more information about Henley Festival, visit the website at: www.henley-festival.co.uk.