Goldie: lookin' back

Goldie tells Rahul Verma why he turned his back on fame - and why he's ready to return from the creative wilderness

Friday 13 January 2006 01:00
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"It's good to see a fellow ethnic brother working for such a prestigious publication as The Independent," says Goldie, as he sweeps into the living-room of his mansion. A sturdy handshake and a broad, sparkling grin completes the welcome. Goldie's home is in a sleepy Hertfordshire village surrounded by mock-Tudor houses, woods, stables and a golf course. The living-room's off-white colour scheme, plasma-screen TV, photos of children and ethnic objet d'art adorning the walls suggest a humdrum suburban normality - unlike its owner.

The adjacent den better reflects Goldie's multiple talents and hyperactive personality: ten canvases lean against a wall, a drawing desk overlooks the garden and a zebra print rug clashes with a burnt orange sofa. It's also home to a ten-foot python, an iguana, a customised gold Ducati Monster motorbike and a pair of turntables and studio speakers.

"I've got some self-worth back in my life, which is a really good thing, and I just have to understand that the self-destruct button I have doesn't have to be that way any more," Goldie says, unprompted. " I've been trying to get peace again, the last few years have been a sabbatical - it really is a situation of seven year cycles for me. Everything comes in cycles, and it's seven years since my last album, Saturnz Return."

Saturnz Return signalled the beginning of the decline of Goldie as a contemporary renaissance man. This was a boy from the wrong side of the tracks, raised up in a Walsall children's home, who just about managed to stay the right side of the law and made his mark as as a multi-faceted creative entity. Originally a breakdancer, Goldie first found fame as a graffiti writer, also designing artwork for Soul II Soul and making jewellery. He spent much of the 1980s, bouncing between Britain and America, riding the crest of the burgeoning interest in hip-hop culture.

A decade later and Goldie, with his diamond-encrusted gold teeth and blond hair, was the world-renowned face of drum'n'bass/jungle; a British-born genre fusing the ethics of bass-heavy reggae soundsystems with the breakneck pace of early 1990s rave music and hard-hitting, aggressive breakbeat. Goldie's debut album, Timeless (1995), revealed far more about Britain than Brit-pop, humanising computer-constructed music and distilling the hope, paranoia, frustration and intensity of inner-city life hurtling into the 21st century. Despite respectable sales, 1999's Saturnz Return was critically damned, in particular the hour-long track "Mother". Goldie became a fixture on London's celebrity scene, dating Björk, Naomi Campbell and Stella Tenant and partying hard.

"Timeless dealt with the integrity of what drum'n'bass was about, but Saturnz Return was the mischievous kid in me doing something completely the opposite," he explains. "Saturnz Return proves how important the mother issue was for me in my life. Now we have a great relationship, and having that peace is important to how I carry on. I couldn't carry on straight after doing 'Mother', it was really hard. Getting my anger out was a catharsis but it was also selfish and indulgent."

In Saturnz Return's aftermath Goldie turned to acting, playing the villain in the Bond film The World Is Not Enough (1999), appearing in Snatch (2000) and landing a stint as a gangster in EastEnders. The roles seemed to suit his hard-partying, bad-tempered roughneck public persona. Goldie's strong character failed to capture the public's imagination in 2002's Celebrity Big Brother, but it appeared he had settled down as he married Sonjia Ashby. However, he is now divorced. "The wedding was the best experience anyone could ever have, I went the whole nine yards - it cost £180,000," he recalls.

Sitting with Goldie on his sofa as he talks about the on-going struggle between his "intellectual self", "inner child" and " spiritual self", I feel like a fly on the arm of a therapist's couch. At 40 Goldie realises that focusing on less can mean more. "There are five personae of me out there over the last 20 years - the breakdancer, graffiti writer, the guy that makes music, semi-actor wannabe and an overall persona," he notes. "I was never very good at marketing myself, I was very good at being explosive and making sense of something in the chaos around me.

"I got told a great quote which I wish I heard ten years ago: 'If you walk with a half glass of water nobody can knock anything out of it'. Well, I filled that glass to the brim and tried to walk through a very busy place with it."

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David Bowie, a long-time friend, helped Goldie emerge from creative exile. "Bowie said, 'If you make a pile of crap tomorrow, the one thing you have to understand is that you've made Timeless and nobody can take that away from you. So do what you do, carry on and reinvent yourself.'

"I realised after so many years what reinvention is," says Goldie. "I spent my own wilderness of going away from what I had done musically so I sat on my arse for three or four years: fame came and I did nothing.

"But I had to get better myself and to do that I had to do nothing," he continues. "After that the problem for me was finding out what my inner child wanted and that was what really inspired me to write my screenplay."

Goldie certainly seems "better". He's bright-eyed and when he's talking about his film, Sine Tempus, there's no stopping him. "It's a coming-of-age film about a kid and his journey, he becomes a really well-known paintbrush artist - does it sound familiar?" he asks, flashing a cheeky smile. "It's a story of tragedy and hope and how you can create and find light in dark scenarios.

"This is going to be a British urban film done through a classic approach, film noir. I'm at an age now where I think I have the power to pull this off and direct it. I'm priming the mechanism of where I want to go and getting myself back together."

Goldie then pulls out a CD of his new album, which doubles as the soundtrack to Sine Tempus. He plays it from start to finish: eyes shut, his head bobs in time to the music, arms gesturing. He looks up to point out the hairs on his arms standing on end. "You can't make that happen," he says, excitedly. "Goldie's back."

It's trademark Goldie - classical in scale with beautiful melodies and haunting songs, stirring emotion and building tension that's released in a cascade of pounding beats and guttural bass. Goldie hopes that it will be released this summer, though he's yet to find a label for it. He explains the album's genesis by revealing his internal thought process. "You make a film because it's something you've always wanted to do," he says, referring to himself in the third person. "Why don't you make a track based on each character. So, you're making a soundtrack?

"Yes I am," he replies to his question. "I am going to make a soundtrack for the most unbelievable underground British film that's shot in such a beautiful way. The film is 180 minutes long and will blow everyone's mind.

"This is the last part of my trilogy," he says. "I've finally completed that big circle."

'Drum & Bass Arena - The Classics', mixed by Goldie, is out on Monday

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