Mother's little golden boy
Nick Hasted has been a film journalist since 1986. He writes about film, music, books and comics for The Independent, Sight & Sound, Uncut and Little White Lies. He has published two books: The Dark Story of Eminem (2002), and You Really Got Me: The Story of The Kinks (2011), both from Omnibus Press.
Tuesday 27 January 1998
In the past year, he has reunited the mother who left him when he was eight with the father who abandoned them the same year; he has seen his brother go to jail after being attacked by racists, and he has split from Bjork.
It's all on the album. It's as ambitious, as deaf to what its creator was meant to record, as any music this decade. It's awkward, ungainly, its shape semi-submerged in its strange rush onwards. Listening to it is like listening to Goldie, sitting across from me in his hotel suite.
At first, he hardly bothers to hide his boredom. But once his interest is caught, it's self-sustaining. He alters his voice, invents phantom audiences, seems to spin out answers as speculations, not definitions. He scribbles graffiti art on my notepad, draws diagrams, invents a word then decides how to spell it. His intelligence is too frenetic, too unique, to track easily. But a trail is being laid. Like his records, Goldie is a mixture of revelation and evasion, a man who believes he can't be pinned down. He sees Saturnz Return as a husk he's outgrown. But its schizoid, sculpted sounds are the best clue to his mind there is.
"Mother" is the track at the heart of the album - the statement of its theme. Musically, its sources range from Gershwin to Gorecki and his Holocaust- haunted 3rd Symphony, mournful string-orchestrations only briefly broken by breakbeats.
Goldie starts to talk of being conscious in the womb and not wanting to come out, of taking on physical form as a test, of building a gear- box to power his consciousness away from petty limitations. It's a hard concept to grasp, I say, astonished.
"People try to keep you down with their rights and wrongs," he says more solidly, impatient, "their guilts and their concepts, `half-breed' or whatever. And then when you're alone, you say, `I should have forgiven my mother.' `Mother' faces those demons. And Mr Charisma here, Mr Goldie, Mr I'm-doing-quite-nicely-thank-very-much-and-my-car's-gold, having only made two albums in my life, really stands for nothing, to be quite frank, because you still have to wake up in the morning and completely feel exonerated in yourself."
In one of "Mother's" later phases, Goldie talks blissfully of his mother surrounding him, despite the fact that she left him so young. "She was around me in the womb," he says. "She was with me then, and that was the safest place there was. And then I was born."
He goes into deeper territory. He says the fears, the pains, that went into his album were removed and solidified in his music, so he can learn from them. But as he speaks, a contradiction grows. He seems to have exposed himself in this album, put his most personal emotions on display. And yet his turtleshell seems intact. How can that be?
"It's designed through seeing a lot of other car crashes. Crash-test dummy," he chuckles to himself. "D'you know what I mean? Two crash-test dummies sitting down in a Volvo going, `We lost Bernie last week 'cos they just found out that Bernie's seat-belt wasn't quite right.' " Is that how he sees his life - as that hard dummy? "Yeah! And dumb I was."
It's like the phrase Goldie uses for his sound now - inner city ghetto music - thinking "jungle" is exhausted. As if, wherever he goes, he'll always have that place in his head. "I came from that environment. Whether or not I have a nice house in the country, I still have a flat in Camden, and my kid lives in the estate where I spent my adolescence."
Saturnz Return ends with a track called "Demonz". What does Goldie mean by the word? "The art of waking demons is to deceive them. That's what life's like, you face your fears, your biggest demons. You play them at their own game. Life's deceived me for many years. Now it's time for my own deception.
So are the stark shifts on his new album just to distract people, just throwing shapes? Aren't they also showing the world that he's more than it thought he could be? "Both, because you say to me, how can you have that shell, and yet have those emotions on the inside? I have both, I can shape-shift. Throw you into audible confusion."
Doesn't he want to be found? This record leaves a trail of clues - but to a person who's already gone. "Yeah," he says. "I was in a very full room, and it got congested. I had this ideal for the room, and it got too smokey, and I slipped out of it. I started another fire somewhere else."
Saturnz Return (London) is out Feb 2.
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