When Goldie went to Buckingham Palace

TV personality, painter, drum'n'bass star Goldie can seemingly do anything – even meet the Queen. He talks to Andy Brassell on the eve of his latest release
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The Independent Culture

Ostensibly, Goldie hasn't changed much from the larger-than-life figure of his 1990s heyday as tabloid gossip fodder. He buzzes with hyperactive energy: miming the phonecall with Pete Tong agreeing the record deal for his 1994 debut Timeless, jabbing a point home with his index finger on the Fabric boardroom desk. Then he's on his feet, pulling back his chic tracksuit trousers to reveal the savage three-foot scar that's the legacy of a 2006 water-skiing accident – "one reality TV show too many," he laments. Goldie is always on the move.

Yet amid the animation, there's a relative sense of calm in a man who says the last year has seen him master "self-discipline". Goldie looks lean, having lost almost two stone since he began practising bikram yoga 18 months ago. "This is bit of an Independent reader one, right? I'm 45," he shrugs beneath eyebrows raised in mock-horror. "There's no fight anymore for me. My biggest enemy was always myself."

Goldie's Band – By Royal Appointment, the reality TV project with disadvantaged young musicians, culminating in a concert at Buckingham Palace in front of an audience including Prince Harry, took Goldie full circle. A key tenet of Goldie's sometimes dizzying swerve through graffiti art, sculpting gold, recording music, DJing and painting has been his eagerness to learn at every juncture. Now it is Goldie who has become the mentor.

"The whole Buckingham Palace gig was....phenomenal. I went back there four weeks ago and met the Queen...it's just mental," he enthuses, barely containing his wonder. "Going to the Palace through kids, with music, is probably the best way you can go there. I've actually gone there through what it says on my own tin – believing in young people and music."

The sense of how much Goldie has taken from this constantly emerges through the conversation, like the end-of-lesson bell punctuating the school day. "I had a guitar session with Louie yesterday, one of the mentors on the programme from the band," he says. "Probably one of the most prolific studio days I've ever had."

His involvement in Goldie's Band, perhaps, shouldn't be a surprise, given the well-documented difficulties of Goldie's own background. Born Clifford Joseph Price, he was put up for adoption as a toddler and spent his youth being passed around a succession of children's homes and foster parents. What some saw as a fantasy-fulfilling detour into Bond villainy and reality TV regularity was in fact a natural enough progression, he says. "My whole life's been a reality show since the age of three. Someone, somewhere has a document saying 'Clifford Price is a bit angry today and is smashing up his room because he doesn't know where his old man is or his old dear...' I've been moved around my whole life and it's been documented, so if you get paid loads of money to go on TV and act like a right idiot....great stuff!"

Timeless, the watershed album that saw the world sit up and take notice of Goldie the recording artist, was also about picking up a thread from his troubled youth. "It's just about taking an inspiration and going with it. This is what (being) adolescent and growing up on an estate means to me. It wasn't trying to make people play it, but it got played.

"Timeless was about being on the estates," he continues, "and [album track] 'This Is A Bad' is about driving through an estate and I've got my shotgun loaded and I'm thinking 'I'm gonna do this guy', probably going through what my son's gone through." Goldie's eldest child, Jamie, was sentenced to life last year for killing a rival gang member.

There is little optional about Goldie's art, which he surmises to be part of a typically "addictive" Virgo personality. "I made it because I was compelled to make it, like I was compelled to make 'Mother'." This last was the hour-long track on his relationship with his mother, that opened his second album, Saturnz Return. "I don't give a fuck if you turned it off after 40 minutes."

As much as his altruism is admirable, youth culture seems to be something that he still needs at least as much as it needs him. He pauses. "Maybe I just see myself in everyone," he muses. "I think because I never grew up....if I see somebody struggling with something, I have to go, 'Look mate, can I show you how easy that is?' When some kid from Argentina says 'this music changed my life, thank you', what am I supposed to say to that? I'm inspired by that. I just go 'thank you' and they send an e-mail back saying 'I didn't think you'd reply'. But I've been that person, I've stood in the queue, with a dubplate in the rain waiting for Fabio and Grooverider [fellow drum'n'bass DJs and now good friends] and they never turned up," he grins ruefully.

Though he says he hasn't been tempted to dabble himself ("it's too simple for me"), he relates strongly to dubstep's break into mainstream consciousness, recalling drum'n'bass's own step into the light almost two decades ago. "We were the bastard child of rave music," he says.

"A very famous critic called Joseph Rykwert, in 1972, said about graffiti, "the barbarians from within will take over," and that's what happened with this music. We were punk-esque. I came from punk. So we were the bastard child of rave, and dubstep is the legitimate child of drum'n'bass, whether you like it or not. Young people are coming out, and it's important to understand that they're having their time. It's their little scene, but that scene's come from ours."

The constant linking old Goldie and the new, improved version is Metalheadz, the record label he founded in 1994 with female DJing duo Kemistry (his then-girlfriend) and Storm. Having shunned multiple offers to sell it in the late 1990s, it remains his basecamp, his artistic family, and he feels comfortable as the elder statesman at the head of the table. Just as with Goldie's Band, he delights in guiding the next generation on the label.

"I spoke to Jubei [one of his Metalheadz artists] last night, sent him eight samples and said 'try that for size,'" he smiles. "He sent me a beautiful track, and I just went [he mimes marking in a professorial way], sent it back, said 'try that' and I'll find out at 4 o'clock if he's done it or not."

Goldie feels he's earned his respect, but accepts that music has moved on since he blazed his own trail and he doesn't wish to preach, even when enthusiastically wielding a copy of FabricLive 58, his first mix CD in three years. "It's not everyone's cup of tea. If you don't want to listen to it, jog on. Don't care. Go and listen to something else – because there's something else for young kids, maybe."

Whether he would have reacted with such insouciance in the 1990s is highly doubtful – he acknowledges as such, telling one story of being escorted from the premises at Kiss FM by then-head of music Lindsay Wesker's "henchmen" after challenging Wesker on his refusal to playlist him.

If the famous temper has been quelled, the fire is still there, even when searching for the motivation behind mentoring. "Saying it's just the next generation and you're getting older, I don't believe that," he snorts. "Because I'll go toe-to-toe with anyone. This is what I do. But you have to be humble and say it's time for the kids to enjoy themselves."

So who was Goldie's own mentor? He puffs out his cheeks. "Miles Davis, Charlie Mingus, Pat Metheny. Metheny taught me arrangement, period. If you listen to The Way Up... [Metheny's 2005 album]. But that main inspiration has to be the boy," he says, prodding a finger into his own chest. "That 12-year-old boy, who I stopped listening to for a long time. There are 300,000 Clifford Prices out there. I created Goldie as a defence mechanism, but forgot about the kid that it was there to protect."

FabricLive 58, mixed by Goldie, is out on July 18 on Fabric Records