Goldie: Mellow yes, but he's still in a rush

As a new career 'best-of' provokes retrospection, the newly chilled musician-artist-actor-whatever insists he still has his best work ahead of him. Nick Duerden meets Goldie

Goldie hides when he first catches sight of me walking into a central London greasy spoon at the appointed hour on a bright March afternoon. I wave, and he ducks down in his seat, bringing his coat up over his head. A second later, he re-emerges, grinning, his gold teeth glinting in the sun that streams in through the windows. He is up on his feet now, shaking my hand, and encouraging me to sit, to pull my chair in closer, to get comfortable.

"Good to meet you," I say, and he responds by quoting Winston Churchill, but he does this before I've got my tape machine out and recording, and I quickly forget the quote, and besides, he is saying now, he's not sure it was Churchill at all. "Maybe it was somebody else?"

Half an hour previously, Goldie was silent; not his natural state, you sense. He was in the building over the road doing Bikram yoga, a major passion in his life. "You face your demons doing Bikram," he says. "You challenge them, beat them."

Does he, I ask, have many demons? His response is quick, almost impatient. "Of course! But that's already publicly known, right? They're all wrapped up in abandonment and anger issues." I suggest that he has seemed happy, settled, comparatively at peace, for years now. "Yeah, but I'm like a clown. That's the analogy I use. Happy on the outside, crying underneath." He quickly qualifies this. "At least, that's how I used to be, until the universe was kind enough to put me together, seven years ago, with Mika, my wife, my best friend. So you're right, I've never been happier, really."

He looks dreamy, a smile spreading across his face like butter, but suddenly he frowns. The 47-year-old has a fantastic face for frowning, the thick worry lines on his forehead pushing down against his brow, a look of distaste creeping across his mouth. "Anyway," he says. "Why are you here? When you said you wanted to interview me – me! – I'll be honest with you, I couldn't work out why."

This is a strange thing for someone who has spent 20 years in the music industry to say; someone who has spent 20 years doing promotion. I remind him that he is about to release a "Best of...", The Alchemist: 1992-2012. What better reason?

He smiles, brow unknotting. "Okay, okay. Got you."

We order coffee.

There can be few British musicians who have had a more idiosyncratic career than his. "A crazy life," he calls it. At the dawn of the 1990s, Goldie, born Clifford Price to a Scottish mother and Jamaican father but raised mostly in a children's home in Walsall, was a graffiti artist and DJ, and was fast becoming a pioneer of the then emergent drum'n'bass scene. His 1994 hit single "Inner City Life" was one of its defining soundtracks. In an era of mannered popstars riding the wave of Britpop, Goldie was the carefree anomaly who went along for the ride. He dated Björk, Naomi Campbell, Stella Tennant. He enjoyed himself

"It was a blur, the Nineties," he says, nodding. "The technology had just arrived and we were making the most of it, hanging out the car door going 'wooo!' The Nineties were brilliant. The Noughties, though? I'm still scratching my head at them."

Having grown up poor, he revelled in the opportunities which fame brought, all the while never fully believing it. The money, he says, just kept coming in, and he kept spending it. "I must have gone through £2m in one year. Or maybe less, maybe a million. Either way, a lot." He recalls looking out of his bedroom window one bleary morning, and seeing all these cars.... "Bentleys, Ferraris, and I just thought: 'Who needs five cars in the driveway?' But I suppose they were affirmations for me, of how far I'd come."

But the "clown", to use his description, was in increasing disarray. His deep-rooted anger issues, a hangover from childhood, were spiralling, and hardly helped by his rapacious appetite for drugs. "Some people bought into the whole fame thing more than others, but I never did. I never felt I belonged; I wasn't confident. Any confidence I did summon up came from cocaine. It was a joy ride, and I knew it wasn't going to last; that it was all going to be fleeting. I was fine with that. Impermanence, man! Impermanence is the greatest gift anyone can have."

If he stopped having hit singles, it's largely because he never set out to have hit singles in the first place. His music was becoming increasingly challenging, and albums such as 1998's Saturnz Return were dense and wrought, and complicated in a way not normally associated with music that is essentially created to be enjoyed in clubs. He delved further into his artwork – less graffiti now and more Pop Art-ish portraiture – and enjoyed an unlikely segue into film and TV: he is possibly the only man to appear in both a James Bond film (The World Is Not Enough) and ITV's All-Star Mr and Mrs.

In 2008, he took part in BBC2's reality talent contest Maestro, learning to conduct a classical orchestra, and he took to it so instinctively that he went on to compose a piece of music, "Sine Tempore", for the Proms. He had come a long way. Then, in 2010, he fronted his own BBC2 documentary, Goldie's Band: By Royal Appointment, in which he mentored young musicians, and got them an audience with Prince Harry at the Palace. It made for terrific TV, moving and inspirational. People started calling Goldie a national treasure.

"National what?" His cheeks flush. "No, no. I never pondered those kind of things, not at all. When I look in the mirror, I'm still looking at a kid who hasn't learnt enough yet."

He does this a lot; deflects his achievements, preferring to focus on whatever comes next. He's like a shark, he never stops moving. This makes him a fascinating, if bewildering, conversationalist, his words flung like ribbons. It's as if he is constantly assailed by wild thoughts that drop from the sky into his head and come hurtling out of his mouth, unedited. He tells me that he sleeps for no more than four hours each night and is up before dawn most mornings, painting. He is working on a forthcoming exhibition, a new album, a film script. "I have to multi-task," he says, "because everything is happening to me at the same time, and I'm aware of it all."

He gives me an example of this. While staring at me full in the face, and gripping to my hands with his, he tells me that the man at the next table is eating fried rice, that a young woman has just entered the café and taken a seat by the window, and that the waitress, two mugs of coffee in hand, is behind him. I look around me. He's right. "People tell me I should turn the power off from time to time, but I'm still buzzing at the socket. Can't help it."

We talk about his family, his five children from five women. He says that he never really understood fatherhood before, and made many mistakes. "But I visit my son Jamie [Price, 24, currently serving a life sentence in prison for murder], and we probably have a better relationship now than we've ever had. Sad, but true." Then he shows me a photo of Coco, his 18-month-old daughter. "My greatest achievement."

He's beaming. "This is the first time in my life I've had a real family, and it feels right. I feel inspired because of it. My wife inspires me. She says I'm insatiable. I am. You know, I don't think I've done my best work yet. Grrr. It's frustrating, because it's difficult to get things done on the scale I want to do them. People don't take risks in this country anymore, do they? Not creatively. Everyone plays it safe. I hate that. I want to take risks."

'The Alchemist: The Best of Goldie 1992-2012' (Rhino) is out now

Curriculum vitae

1965 Born Clifford Joseph Price in Walsall. His mother was a pub singer from Scotland, his father was a Jamaican factory worker.

1968 Put up for adoption. Spends childhood in care and foster homes.

1985 After spending time as part of a breakdance crew and as a graffiti artist in the West Midlands, he gains recognition when his artwork is featured in a Channel 4 documentary.

1990 Moves to London from the US, where he sold "grills" (gold teeth). Develops a passion for drum'n'bass and jungle music.

1992 Makes musical debut as a lyricist on the track "Rufige" by Ajax Project. Goes on to release seven albums as a DJ and producer.

1999 Appears opposite Pierce Brosnan in the James Bond film The World Is Not Enough – one of many acting credits, including a stint as the gangster Angel Hudson on EastEnders.

2002 Takes part in Celebrity Big Brother, the first of several reality television appearances over the next decade, including Strictly Come Dancing and Come Dine With Me.

2007 Returns to the art world with an exhibition Love Over Gold at London's Leonard Street Gallery.

2010 Goldie's son, James Price, is sentenced to life in prison for murder.

2011 His wife, Mika, gives birth to their first and Goldie's fifth child, Coco.

2013 Releases a greatest hits collection.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Geography Teacher

£24000 - £33600 per annum + pre 12 week AWR : Randstad Education Manchester Se...

E150/2014 - English Language Checker (Grade B3)

On Application: Council of Europe: The European Court of Human Rights’s judgme...

Marketing Executive

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Charter Selection: A professional services company ...

Project Manager - Bristol South West

£400 - £450 per day: Orgtel: Project Manager (PM), Key Banking Client, Retail ...

Day In a Page

Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

The Open 2014

Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?