"WIDE open." Goldie uses this phrase, again and again, throughout our conversation: "It's wide open." It's a phrase that indicates a feeling of possibility, of visions that could yet be made real, of ambitions to be fulfilled. And it's the answer to the only question that's worth anything when you're talking to this bloke, here, now, today - the question, what's it like to be Goldie now? "What's going on for me now is powerful shit - I'm able to tap into and manipulate things that I could never do before. My sixth sense is on. I think I'm peaking." We know a lot, so much, about Goldie: how he was estranged from his parents and brought up in children's homes in the West Midlands; became a graffiti artist and a breakdancer; drifted in and out of crime; discovered the rave scene and ecstasy; began making records to impress his heroes Fabio and Grooverider; became the first jungle artist to be signed by a major label and debuted with a double-album epic, 'Timeless'; dated Bjork, split with Bjork; was transformed into a celebrity whose public image has a far wider reach than his records. But what matters above and beyond all of these specifics - the long struggle and the ultimate pay-off - is his fearlessness, his daring. Goldie dares to challenge the notions of what 'jungle' should be, dares to be called pretentious or self-indulgent or extreme: dares to try, dares to fail. He dares to imagine the times we live in and the lives we lead and to lay it all down on wax and be praised or damned or whatever. Which is why Goldie the character has greater resonance than just a set of recordings: his mission is to dramatise the hopes and fears of the generation that has lived through rave culture, hip hop and the recession years; to bring them into the light, to stand naked before his reflection. He is a compulsive storyteller whose life itself is a parable: the tale of a young man growing up in Britain today, attempting to puzzle out his world and what it means. "Inside I'm still the normal geezer I've always been."
Goldie is his own invention, a myth made from experience and desire; a real person, yes, but also a cipher, a piece of code, a set of clues. And look at him - you can't miss him - the way he springs from his big BMW, his crisp Stussy threads fresh out of the box, furrowing up his deeply lined brow and talking, ranting, yelling in riddles and metaphors that you have to chase hard to follow. Switching personas and masks from sentence to sentence - one minute the street hustler, the next minute the high roller, the flamboyant preening peacock, the elder statesman, the lost boy, the wily blagger, the hyperactive raver, the scary mofo with the obdurate glint in his hazel-green eyes who locks into your line of vision and gives you a look that says: "I don't give a fuck, and don't you forget it." He acts out his endless contradictions - arrogant/ charming, flash/humble, over-the-top/subtle, devil/angel - like he was swaggering across a stage. "I'm a chameleon. I can change shape any time I want. I'm a complicated character. Shapeshifting all the time." And people want to be part of that, to vibe off the mad buzz that he puts out, because it's infectious and inclusive: when he's around, you're in his world; no choice about it. This evening, standing ten feet behind him as he concludes his set at the Phoenix Festival, a svelte black goddess sways gently to the groove, her hand intertwined with the fingers of a lanky white cove who drags hard on a fag and pumps his skinny limbs back and forth. It's Iman and David Bowie: they know who's hooked into the primal powerline tonight.
'TIMELESS' was an aural diary of Goldie's life from his infancy to the age of 29. When we met three years ago, he stated: "In there is everything I've learned, everyone I've met, everything I've experienced." Listening to the album again now, 'Timeless' is also an attempt to map the fallout from the rave dream of the early 90s and the psychic detritus of the mass hallucination that was ecstasy culture; an endeavour to reconcile the conflicting emotions that arose from that whole deranged period: the euphoria and the psychosis, the unconditional love and the rage of alienation. "That's exactly what it is," he responds now, "because I opened you up emotionally to cut you down. I opened you up to start questioning yourself. I tapped into you. I was bringing your fears to you - bringing them on top." Is the second album, 'Saturnz Return' - due later this year - another grand statement? "This album is a fucking massive statement - it's just saying, 'Fuck off!' I was skimming the surface with the first album. This one is a personal vendetta. It's bigger than the first one. I'm destroying the myth that if your first album is good, the second one can't be. That myth is knocking on my door and I'm dragging it in and kicking its head in. I've gone deep on everything, I've got every fucking crisis in my life and gone WALLOP! and nailed them all. I've screwed them down tight." What exactly is a 'Saturn's return'? "Saturn's return is when you get from anywhere from 29 to 31, and you just stop and go, 'What the fuck has happened for the last 12 years of my life? I'm 30 and I don't know what I'm doing.' It comes from when the planets are in line with the same day when you were born, exactly the same day, so you get deja vu, everything comes back. It just connects. Instead of just going forward, I stopped and turned around and went, 'Right, let me sample my life,' and I did that and went really deep on that. It's a very emotional time, massively emotional, you get to this real crossroads and think, 'Which way do I go?'" A proposed collaboration with Kate Bush didn't come off, but Goldie did work on one track ('Digital') with rapper KRS-One, and with Noel Gallagher of Oasis on 'Temper Temper', a cacophony of distorted guitars, screaming feedback, raucous punkoid yelling and thrash breaks which Goldie describes as "a right old ruck, violent all the way down the line". How did he hook up with Noel? "He's a mate of mine, he's a good fucking mate. From an outsider's point of view, he's God, he's larger than life - and he is - but he's a normal geezer, he's the most down-to-earth geezer that ever walked the fucking planet. The geezer goes to Safeways and does his shopping." It appears, on the surface at least, a strange mismatch - the intrepid futurist explorer teaming up with the nostalgic archaeologist of Beatles melodies. Goldie disagrees.
"Noel's songs are wicked. Have you heard the songs he's written? His songs are the best in the world. Oasis just went, 'Let's make some music and be rock n' roll stars', and that's what they did. Noel does what he does and he does it damn well. I don't expect Noel to change what he does because that's what he stands for. He can be what he wants to be and no one can take that away from him. He's out there living it. Things like the Beatles were what we grew up on. Noel's making tunes that kids of nine or ten will remember in the same way." Goldie suggests that making 'Temper Temper' was a way of rationalising his anger, which has often boiled over into bust-ups with his peers (most notably, an altercation with former Metalheadz colleague Alex Reece). Is his temper really as bad as all the rumours suggest? "I think it's worse, actually. I've got a really bad temper. I'm trying to curb it, it's fucking stupid sometimes. The track with Noel is me just trying to say to myself, 'Be a little patient.' Because it could fuck me. It happens, it just goes, and afterwards I think, 'For fuck's sake, what happened there?'" If 'Saturnz Return' is an autobiography about Goldie's crises and mental turmoils, 'Letter Of Fate' - a song based on a suicide note he wrote in his teens - may be one of its most intimate and revealing moments. "It was a long time ago, in my adolescent stage, just after being Goldie the graffiti writer, and I was just fucked because I realised I didn't have a family and it fucked me up and I didn't want to be here - I wanted to commit suicide, to leave the planet. It was a real mad period, a real bad period. I wrote it all down and I never threw the letter away, I kept it and made it into a song. It was a reminder to me about what an idiot I was, and how people can get so closed off from normal life." The singer on 'Letter Of Fate' is Bjork. Was it difficult working with an ex-girlfriend? "No, not at all, because we get on well, she's excellent, she's a genius, we have a good relationship and she actually understands what 'Letter Of Fate' is about so she can put herself into it so much. To have her doing something which was my whole trip of leaving the planet is excellent, it's a saviour in itself. She learned me a lot."
Bjork introduced Goldie to avant-garde composer Henryk Górecki, whose brooding, exquisite Third Symphony illuminates the desperate prayers and scrawled cell-wall graffiti of people imprisoned in ghettos, Gestapo prisons and concentration camps during Hitler's occupation of Poland. It's one of the most harrowing, yet emotionally rewarding, of contemporary classical works. "Bjork showed me Górecki, and Górecki showed me something else. Don't fuck with Górecki. I love him so much. I just went and smashed his head with a sledgehammer and pulled out his whole brain, and that's what 'Mother' is." 'Mother', with a 30-piece orchestral backing inspired by Górecki, is what the 22-minute sprawl of 'Timeless' was to the first album - monstrously long, desperately ambitious. It's a voyage through Goldie's tangled feelings for his mother. "It's an hour long, six-zero minutes. Do you think I can sum up everything that me and my mum went through in five minutes? I can't do that. All I can do is start and finish - however long it takes. I still love my mum and I hope she loves me. I go through all the pain in that one song, and it takes that long to get it off my chest. It's worth sitting down for an hour and hearing all we've gone through, and I think people will follow me. "It killed me, that track. Afterwards I just fell to pieces, I was crying for two days. It tapped into things I never thought I was capable of doing." Have you reconciled with your mother now? "No. We did and then we didn't. It's really sad. I respect my mum, and I was never with her enough to love her the way I was supposed to love her. That's not my fucking problem, but it's something I have to understand." This is music as exorcism, as emotional catharsis: confronting the fears and, if not defeating them, at least accepting them. "A lot of people want to escape," he remarks, "but when they go home and they're alone, they still have to face things, and get through it - so I try to bring those things to the surface."
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