Celebrating Old Skool Music, Culture and Legacy
In May this year Goldie – real name Clifford Joseph Price – was a guest at the Hay Festival of Literature, speaking to Gemma Cairney about his new book “All Things Remembered”. Prior to going on stage he made time to meet with me for an interview and I found him to be warm, friendly, generous with his time and thoroughly engaging as we touched on his early career, the hedonistic days of rave and his view of the old skool scene.
My conversation with Goldie was nothing short of entertaining as he frequently spoke in metaphors, strayed off topic and became physically animated (at one point pressing his face into my phone screen in an attempt to demonstrate some people’s attitudes to narrowly categorising musical genres). The striking visuals of his famous gold grills combined with an intense enthusiasm when he speaks made him a captivating interviewee; it’s abundantly clear why reality TV execs are so drawn to him.
So, sat in the glorious sun on a beautiful May Bank Holiday weekend in the heart of Wales, I spent an entertaining half hour with the man responsible for some of my favourite music of the last twenty five years or more.
What prompted you to write this particular book?
Well, the first book was more of a pundits look at things. I think that when anybody writes a book and they say it’s not ego-driven it’s a lie. The first one was very hedonistic in terms of there being money involved and everything else, and it’s kind of like who you shagged and how hard your dick is! I think the second book is really about reinvention and about the journey of where I’ve been and where I’ve arrived to y’know? It’s a very nice piece of literature in terms of how it’s gone about. I don’t really have to name drop about anything, I’m just me, I’ve done a lot of stuff. To be honest I’m very alone with a lot of that stuff because when you’re making tracks like Terminator, Mother or Timeless believe me there’s no-one gonna be with you at five in the morning.
And it’s not about how long the record is but how long it took me to put it together in my head. And if you’re as fucked up as my head has been over the years, with all the fucking trauma that I’ve had… I was a person that ran to rave. I ran to rave and street culture because it was the only mother and father that I really had. Then along came the nineties and it was about freedom to party, and it was a really big thing pre-internet. Probably one of the biggest things before it became a gentrified business…
Like Keysor Soze said in The Usual Suspects, the biggest trick the devil ever did was make you believe he never existed. Well, the biggest trick the Americans ever did was take the rave culture we had and sold it back to us for a thousand million quid more! Mind boggling! But, y’know, back then with all the people that got dragged out of parties by police, or dragged around and thrown in jail after illegal parties and all of that, they were ballsy with it. You won’t get that now unless you’ve got a bar code to get in, do you know what I mean? The whole idea of what that was is very far away.
Is that a result of the Criminal Justice Act?
What, capitalism? No man, it was destined, it was destined.
You wrote this book while also producing the Journey Man album. To what extent did the album inform the book or vice versa?
I don’t think about it. I spin plates like that regularly, it’s just art for me. The thing that people really forget about rave music is – whether it’s Baby D or whatever – as much as the idea of repetition, and sampling, and everything else was powered a lot by the E culture, underneath that stuff, is using voice as a resonance as opposed to being a full-blown song if you like. Inner City Life wasn’t really a song it was a statement. “Let Me Be Your Fantasy” is a statement… it’s a fucking statement of hedonism almost, do you know what I mean? And I think that it was a totally unconventional way of making music.
We knew there was something disturbing but we we didn’t quite know what it was, but we did it through sound and you felt it. You felt the discord. Now, when you go get a program like Mixed in Key, which is a program that people use for mixing, it’s all in key… completely… and I’m not quite sure that I want it all in key. I like salt in my fucking biscuits y’know? I know that you can’t just live in the past y’know – if da Vinci had an iPad he’d probably use it – but it was a quantum of time and how it was done. We schooled out through this technology and we pushed it to accelerate the emotions that we had. If all that technology had existed at the same time when we started we probably wouldn’t have done what we did because we were trying to find ways to break it.
It’s like, there’s that classic scene of a raver going “I’m off my fucking tits” or “it’s too much”, and then two minutes later he takes another hit… what?! Why? I thought you said you were off your tits! The idea of wanting to completely push yourself too much and almost topple the fuck over, that’s primal. That’s not to do with anything else – it’s really primal. It’s why people throw themselves off rocks with satchels on, it’s why they throw themselves into high speed.
I’m kind of glad it was pre-internet because to a certain degree, as with footballers in the eighties compared to how they now get paid a lot more, people in this scene now get paid a ridiculous sum of money and that’s what it’s become. It doesn’t mean it’s any better. Our experience is what really counts. That’s the most important thing because all the money really got a lot of people – myself included – was a load of fast cars – Rolls Royce’s, Bentleys, Ferraris. I used to sit in the driveway with five cars thinking “what the fuck am I doing on a waterbed?!” “What the fuck am I doing with silk fucking pyjamas?” “You fucking idiot!” Do you know what I mean? A complete regression to my father’s genes y’know? My dad was a big pimp in Miami and that’s what I’d become – what the fuck was I doing? And so really the second book is about none of that. I actually know very little about the world now and that’s great, that’s important.
You say the discord was attractive – was that why you were attracted to the darker side when the scene split?
Rave is so rooted in our culture and I think the discord is where you find the real emotion. I get the idea of being euphoric, don’t get me wrong, that’s what chords do for me. I like to do a euphoric chord, and that’s important, but it’s the in-between where there’s a sound that’s happening that you might not clock straight away… I was lambasted for tracks like “Adrift” – people hit me up all the time about “Adrift”. They’d go “that’s an absolutely off your face tune right?” Well yeah, when you come home once the rave’s finished and you’re sticking flyers on the wall with saliva and you’re gurning, thinking about where your next E is coming from, that’s the tune that would help with your come down. It would be the medicine that you might need because it doesn’t all go 170bpm.
In the book you say you were confident that Terminator was going to be a hit…
I knew it was going to be.
How were you so sure?
I just knew because I made it with technology that no one was fucking with, I knew that the concept was perfect and I also had the beautiful accident – I use the term “beautiful accident” in the book a few times. There was the idea of fucking with an HF harmonizer and putting a digital sound into that thing when it’d only ever really been used for real instruments. You have to break the stuff to make it work.
The new album features a variety of genres…
It’s exactly the same as timeless – it’s a bigger album but it’s the same blueprint. My music has always been Goldie music. It’s my land, it’s my music and you can hear it’s my music because I have ownership of my music. No matter the style of the tune it has an engine block which is Drum and Bass – it’s always been there. “State of Mind” outraged people in rave culture but now they’re the people who love it the most, but it was the tune that they hated, along with “Adrift”. People were trying to pick holes in it – all they wanted at that point was “Saint Angel” and then they realised that it’s a bigger fish. I will always use the genre that we created along with a handful of people… There’s a ship which we hold fast if you like and the people rowing in the engine room of that ship are the breakbeat people that I’ve grown up with – that’s what I do. When I strip that out I can put that engine block in a fucking lawn mower or I can put it in a caravan if I want – it’s still the same engine block. “Adrift” wouldn’t be “Adrift” unless I’d made drum and bass music do you know what I mean? I don’t want to separate what my art form is, it’s my art, all of it.
Speaking of art you’ve described making music as similar to painting…
It’s all painting. I see it all – the colours are easy to see. But for me it’s what’s in my head isn’t it? There’s a great tune I made called “We Are The Core” – it’s a great tune with a really old school vocal in it and it was just proving the point that you can make something sound ridiculously old. It’s like 140bpm – it’s a ridiculous tune. I gave it away about four years ago I think. But if you listen to that tune you go “what a tune”, it’s got mad piano stabs, but that’s just one of those things, that’s where I come from in that sense. It’s the same as Total Science who’ve got an EP coming out with a tune called “Universe 92” – it’s fucking unbelievable. It’s probably the most old skool tune of the year and everyone I’ve played it to has gone “oh my God was I so off my head I missed this tune?” But no, it’s actually a new tune. It’s not like where you’ve got the likes of Om Unit trying to make an old tune that doesn’t sound quite right – good try, I like it, it’s nice, but it’s like a glove that doesn’t quite fit. There’s just something about the flavour of it, something about people trying to get back to that. You can’t have it in the same way we have it because it’s designer DNA it’s hard to get at.
Is it too polished?
It just misses this sound… this film between the snare and the kick somewhere. There’s a film of some sort and it’s not just white noise, it’s something else, do you know what I mean? There are only a handful of people alive now who can recognise that really. It’s like I said to Sigma – the only time you’ll be relevant is when I’m fucking dead!
In recent years there’s been a real resurgence of interest in the old skool scene…
There’s always going to be because people can’t have it. There’s no photographs, there’s no Instagram of it. If we’d had this technology too early and we’d have been the generation that had Instagram and all these fucking phones we wouldn’t be here.
There’d have been no underground scene?
No. Because you can’t buy that. You can’t download it. There won’t be a repeat, it’s had its time, it’s gone. It’s good when Slipmatt plays a great set and you think “that’s fantastic” but you have to let go and move forward.
No-one can ever question my loyalty is to drum and bass music because my music has complete autonomy and complete integrity. I didn’t sell out and do a really fucking cheesy tune. You can’t say “he was in a chart band with a nice singer” – it never happened. I could have gone down that road but I never wanted to, it didn’t interest me at all and I don’t think there’s anyone that’s done that. Name me one person that’s come from it and hasn’t done that – they’ve all done it. Fresh has done it, Adam F tried it, they all tried it and it failed. They all tried doing something then ended up cursing out Dogs On Acid. Do you know what I mean?
It’s like you created the mess in the first place – keep your mouth shut and get on with your work!
On that note I get a signal from his manager that we need to wrap things up. As we shake hands and get up to leave Goldie takes my phone from the table and makes moves to pocket it. As he realises his mistake he laughs and hands it back.
“The old boy doesn’t change” he says with a huge gold grin!
Both All Things Remembered and The Journey Man are available now.