By Tim Barr
“I just want to change things.” As a 17-year-old being interviewed for the first time in the early 1980s, DJ Goldie’s manifesto was ambitious but straightforward.
Three decades on, he’s one of a handful of musicians on the planet who can claim to have shaken things up so radically that he’s effected a permanent shift in the cultural fabric. Now a father, husband, record label executive, celebrated visual artist, DJ and still, of course, active music producer, he’s also a much-loved celebrity in the UK. There he’s known, by people who’ve never heard a note of his music, as the larger-than-life star of family-friendly TV programmes such as Classic Goldie, Goldie’s Band: By Royal Appointment and even Strictly Come Dancing.
To anyone with even a passing interest in electronic dance music, however, he’s the don – an innovator who has delivered some of the genre’s most thrilling milestones and pushed the dancefloor soundtrack into new and hitherto uncharted territory.
Goldie speaks from his home in Hertfordshire, England, in the midst of a typically hectic 24 hours. The night before our interview, he tore the roof off a club in Nottingham with a spectacular DJ set, a drum & bass masterclass that spilled into the wee small hours (“I was having the granny off it,” he grins, “the place was euphoric”). He was up again before dawn for a breakfast television appearance in Manchester before travelling on to Birmingham for business meetings. We catch him back with his family, dressed down in tracksuit bottoms and a plain white T-shirt, but to say he’s relaxing might be overstating the case. “I’m buzzing,” he admits. “I feel like a teenager again.” Family life, he says, agrees with him. But he also credits Bikram Yoga – a kind of yoga on steroids also favoured by Jeff Bridges, Lady Gaga and his old friend Madonna - for helping him achieve the kind of physical fitness and stamina that most men half his age would envy.
As always, his conversation is rapid fire, those Midlands tones – softened only a little by the years he’s spent in Miami, London and most recently England’s stockbroker belt – zipping through a series of inspired and inspiring topics at the speed of light. Visual art, philosophy spirituality and anecdotes from his extraordinary career tumble out but, at the heart of it all, his passion for family and friends shines through. When it comes to interview subjects, only John Lydon comes close in terms of delivering the kind of extraordinary imaginative leaps that turn a chat into something – part rollercoaster ride, part masterclass – that inhabits an altogether higher plane.
But throughout it all, it’s music that he returns to again and again. Warming to the theme, he touches on Captain Beefheart, jazz trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, the classical tradition of Rachmaninov or Beethoven and the raw junglist sound of General Levy.
But today we’re here to talk about his own music. From 1993’s game-changing “Terminator” single – which re-imagined new possibilities for the production technique of time-stretching – through 1995’s jawdroppingly ambitious Timeless album to his collaborations with David Bowie, KRS-One and Noel Gallagher on 1998’s Saturnz Return, Goldie has consistently redrawn and reshaped the boundaries of what’s possible both within the confines of a recording studio and in dance music itself.
“I’m an alchemist,” he insists. “I practice the dark arts of messing with the form of something structurally solid.”
But as he meshed his early fascination with hip-hop and electro into, first, house music and hardcore techno then breakbeat, jungle and, finally, drum & bass, he created a template that’s still influencing dance music producers today. Without Goldie there’d be no Skrillex, no Excision, no Diplo. Remove everything that bears the traces of his influence from the equation and Deadmau5 wouldn’t be within a whisker of where he is now, Holy Ship would be sunk and the Electric Daisy wouldn’t have blossomed.