Goldie: 'You've got to leave your ego at the door'
As his new album is released the music icon talks Virgil Abloh's legacy, David Bowie's advice and his own reinvention
Friday 10 June 2022 By Tilly Pearman Photography by Sophie Jones Videography by Jonangelo Molinari and Kyle Macfadzean Styling by Luci Ellis Set design by Y Lan Lucas
Unexpectedly calm, I’m quick to feel at ease in the somewhat grounded presence of a man – a British music icon – who despite living on the edge of continual cultural change is starting to really feel what it’s like to live in his body.
‘Here, give me your pen’, says Goldie, as he reaches for my notepad. He sketches out my name in bold, bubble letters. They’re simple, easy to understand, but by no means faint. The analogy he makes explains how he wants his new album, The Start Of No Regret, to be received. Yet I can’t help but see these simple forms that bulge and shape-shift to explore the empty page as an interesting metaphor for his personality and approach to life.
Goldie – born Clifford Joseph Price – is a voluble maverick with a truly unforgettable face. Those 24 gold teeth are iconic and a stark contrast to the Zen-like surroundings of our meeting space in the 180 Health Club on London’s Strand. Reclining in his chair, I’m reminded that Goldie’s image is consistent, yet his many talents have earnt him the reputation of a true renaissance man. Graffiti artist, B-Boy, 1990s jungle pioneer, drum and bass icon, actor, producer and celebrity – his skills are far-reaching and multi-faceted.
Jacket, Off-white; jewellery, all Goldie's own
Barber cape, stylist's own
Today he feels just as relevant, serving originality with an enviable nod to 1990s nostalgia for new and former generations alike. Releasing his ninth album at the respectable age of 56, Goldie represents a space in the music industry that is rarely conquered with such success. Noted by the late Virgil Abloh, the album’s lead single, ‘Dassai Menace (The Virgil)’ was picked up and used to soundtrack the Louis Vuitton SS22 film, Amen Break. It was a proud moment for Goldie, who describes Abloh as the most ego-less person he’s ever worked with. ‘He just wanted to serve culture’, he says, acknowledging a mutual understanding and respect for the visionary leader who was similarly never afraid to break into new territories.
Well-known for his genre-defining moments in the industry, Goldie has also written songs for David Bowie, co-founded his own record label, Metalheadz, and popularised drum and bass as a form of musical expression with his first studio album, Timeless. The much-anticipated follow-up, Saturnz Return, was, at the time, the unsung hero, waiting 20 years to receive its ‘avant-garde’ critique. An emotionally brave and raw masterpiece, it was this album that allowed Goldie to move through the trauma and pain he experienced from a difficult childhood and time spent in care.
As an artist, it’s clear that Goldie can’t, and won’t, make anything he doesn’t believe in. He leads from the heart, and as such his work has become a true mirror for where he is in his life. For The Start Of No Regret he just wants to have some fun. ‘I want to leave something really good, musically, that you can go wow. It doesn’t get old, it doesn’t age. It’s timeless.’
T-shirt and shorts, Stüssy; sunglasses, Retrosuperfuture
Spanning the past, present and future, in both musical genres and some top-flite vocal collaborators, this second album with mentee and acclaimed engineer, James Davidson, is ‘like a set of polaroids’, explains Goldie. ‘It’s like snapshots of time.’ At that moment he bounces out from his seat. In less than 30 seconds, he’s journeyed me through a cross-genre medley, blending era-defining moments from drum and bass to acid house, rave and even jazz. ‘I want it to be fun, I want it to be enjoyable. I don’t want to make a wild album that you won’t get for another 20 years.’
Goldie and Davidson have drawn upon a pool of creative talent to collaborate with, finding connections that demonstrate their ability to work with forward-thinking artists. Nu-jazz musician, Tom Misch; British blues vocalist, Natalie Duncan; and American jazz and soul vocalist, Lady Blackbird, all feature – as does neo soul singer, Greentea Peng, who serendipitously found her way to Goldie via her godfather, the infamous graffiti writer, Drax. The output is a cohesive yet progressive arrangement, reflecting the synergy of this great duo.
‘Part of my Freudian self means I have no fear of controlling a player. You could be the greatest engineer in the world, but I’m going to bend you out of shape,’ he explains. Right here is the key to Goldie’s appeal. He confidently takes sound, melts it down and pours it into a brand new mould every time. The result? An original body of work that effortlessly reaches a flow state.
Goldie flows in every sense, from his ability to compose beautiful sounds through the lens of his synaesthesia to the movement of his body in his yoga practice. Today he woke at 4am to take a Bikram class, but it wasn’t always like that. In the beginning it took Goldie three attempts to stay on the mat; now he gets annoyed if he misses just one day out of the week. The turning point was a man called Paul Dobson, a principal teacher at Sohot Yoga in London’s Soho. ‘Paul told me: “you’ve got to leave your ego at the door. If you leave your ego at the door, it will be there when you come out. Don’t worry, it will be in a suitcase. It will be a pretty big one for you, Goldie”,’ he explains with a wry smile.
Those words stuck and the ego has progressively been replaced with a welcomed feeling of freedom. ‘I can climb a mountain most days, and be on the top of it and hear nothing. And that’s alright with me, I’m good with that. Do you know what it’s like to float in a lake for hours and do nothing? It’s brilliant… yeah, I really enjoy being me now.’
As far as advice goes, Dobson’s came high on the list, but it was Bowie’s words that have been the most profound for Goldie. ‘You’ve got to be able to reinvent. Bowie would say, it doesn’t matter what the f**k you do, you’ve got to be able to reinvent. If they think you’re this, be something else.’
Robe, Bottega Veneta
Jacket, Off-White; t-shirt, Stüssy; trousers, Goldie's own
Ever the chameleon, Goldie has always embraced the idea of being someone else. Be that as a Miami Funki Dredd, a producer time-stretching sound, or as the Brit mobster expert in Guy Ritchie’s Snatch. For him, reinvention is everything.
Honest, funny, raw and forever changing, Goldie is everything, nothing and all that’s in between. As he reaches across and autographs the bubble letters on my page, I realise that he is the outlines he creates, colouring the spaces in between with the richness of a life he’s finally starting to feel comfortable in.
Jacket, Louis Vuitton; sunglasses, Off-White