‘I wanted to be bad but wasn’t cut out for it’

The Daily Telegraph - Review - - Music -

In the Nineties, Goldie achieved the edgi­est kind of fame as the face of a new mu­si­cal form called drum ’n’ bass. Soon af­ter, he gained a rep­u­ta­tion as a wom­an­iser and drug-taker, be­came friends with David Bowie, Rob­bie Wil­liams and the Gal­lagher brothers, dated Naomi Campbell, and was en­gaged, briefly, to Björk. On my way to meet him in Lon­don, it oc­curs to me that per­haps I could lob him the fa­mous ques­tion asked of George Best by the ho­tel em­ployee who found him in bed with Miss World and his casino win­nings: “Mr Goldie, where did it all go wrong?”

I don’t, though, partly be­cause it did all go wrong for Goldie: by the end of the Noughties, his ap­pear­ances on Celebrity Big Brother, The Games (in which he broke a fe­mur) and Strictly Come Danc­ing had seen his hard-earned mu­si­cal fame lapse into a lesser, re­al­ity-TV-in­spired kind of celebrity. (“I’d be­come a par­ody, man.”) And partly be­cause all that he­do­nism never made Goldie happy. He re­mained the cut-up kid whose mother had put him into a chil­dren’s home at the age of three, when she started a re­la­tion­ship with a new part­ner who didn’t want him around.

But as a mu­si­cian, he was un­com­pro­mis­ing: his 1995 de­but al­bum Time­less still has a place in the hearts of many for its per­cus­sive marvels and sweet ur­ban soul; his se­cond al­bum Saturnz Re­turn, with its 1hr 11min open­ing track, dis­played the kind of hubris that can send a ca­reer into the strato­sphere – or obliv­ion. The al­bum didn’t sell and Goldie’s con­tract was not re­newed. Now, at the age of 52, he’s back, with his first proper solo al­bum in two decades, The Jour­ney Man – 16 tracks long, with a mu­si­cal pal­ette that shows just how much time has passed since Noel Gal­lagher heard his ground-break­ing early sin­gle Ter­mi­na­tor and thought: “Who­ever made that track has got se­ri­ous prob­lems. That track is not right! It’s too fast and it’s too mad and he’ll never get any­where.”

Goldie says he couldn’t have cre­ated those early record­ings if he hadn’t been on drugs, but – oh my gosh – even wiser and sober, he is still out there, man, a long way out there. He riffs, free as­so­ci­ates, throws out provoca­tive lines and spir­i­tual mus­ings, his gold teeth shin­ing, en­ergy flow­ing through to his fingers, which can end up point­ing cen­time­tres from your face. He in­vokes Proust, alchemy, old fish­er­men, David Lean. He de­scribes Bowie as a “glass hexagonoid – ev­ery time you looked at one side, it mul­ti­plied in an­other way”. He talks about his mu­si­cal synaes­the­sia – “I see the sound very clearly, not only in colour, but as a 3D ob­ject” – and, two hours later, he puts his hand on my neck and his fore­head close to mine and says, “Re­mem­ber, man, this al­bum is yoga-pow­ered.” Goldie is happy.

When he moved to Thai­land two-and-a-half years ago with his wife, de­signer Mika Wasse­naar, and their daugh­ter Koko, now five, he was, he says, “done with mu­sic”. He was go­ing to do yoga, swim, take Koko to school on his mo­tor­bike, and paint. That was the plan. “I shipped my stu­dio with me, just in case…” he adds.

Now here he is talk­ing about what emerged from that stu­dio, an al­bum whose in­flu­ences are broad, rich and sur­pris­ing. There’s drum ’n’ bass, yes, with drums sam­pled from 97 sep­a­rate tracks, but there are also nods to Eight­ies Bri­tish soul, to the ana­logue synths of Gary Nu­man and John Car­pen­ter, to Górecki’s Sym­phony of Sor­row­ful Songs, and the jazz-fu­sion of Pat Metheny. There are even echoes of the days when the chil­dren in the home in Wal­sall were al­lowed 15 min­utes each on the record player, be­fore it was the next kid’s turn. In one new track, Prism, “I can hear the Stran­glers”, says Goldie, as he feasts on steak in the el­e­gant sur­rounds of the St Pan­cras Ho­tel.

It could all have been very dif­fer­ent. Nine years ago, his son Jamie from a re­la­tion­ship he had as a trou­bled youth in Wolverhampton, killed a ri­val gang mem­ber, and was sen­tenced to 21 years in prison. “De­stroyed his mother, de­stroyed the mother who lost the kid, de­stroyed his fam­ily,” says Goldie, “I blame my­self. I have failed as a fa­ther.”

Goldie is no stranger to wrong­do­ing. At 21, in the grip of a pas­sion for an­other man’s girl­friend, he took a shot­gun and waited for the man in his car – “I was def­i­nitely go­ing to can­cel him out,” he wrote in his 2002 au­to­bi­og­ra­phy Nine Lives (he has a se­cond, All Things Re­mem­bered, com­ing out in Novem­ber). But the ac­tion jammed, the gun wouldn’t cock, and “he just strolls by”. A fluke, not fate, he says now. “I was in a re­ally bad place.”

By then he’d com­mit­ted crimes – ram-raid­ing, shoplift­ing, bur­glary; he’d done com­mu­nity ser­vice for a job on a sheep­skin ware­house, but some of the crowd he ran with had been into mug­gings and he was ex­pected to do that, too. When he balked at tar­get­ing an old lady, he re­alised some­thing: “Much as I wanted to be bad, I wasn’t cut out for it,” he says. “It was a feel­ing that it’s just so ----ing wrong. I felt guilty enough about tak­ing £2 out of my foster grandma’s drawer.”

He es­caped into a dif­fer­ent kind of subcul­ture, with a Wolverhampton break-dance crew called the B-Boys, then fo­cused his ob­ses­sive na­ture on cre­at­ing graf­fiti art, be­com­ing one of the most no­table tal­ents in the coun­try. It led to an un­likely re­la­tion­ship that would be­come per­haps the most in­flu­en­tial of his life, with Gus Co­ral, a film-maker and pho­tog­ra­pher 20 years his se­nior.

Co­ral made the doc­u­men­tary Bom­bin’ for Chan­nel 4 in 1987, in which he brought New York graf­fiti artist Brim Fuentes to Birm­ing­ham to meet some of the UK’s home­grown artists, among them Goldie. Co­ral then took Goldie’s crew back to the Bronx, a trip that would change ev­ery­thing for him.

Af­ter New York, Goldie went to Mi­ami, Florida, to find the fa­ther who had aban­doned him as a tod­dler, Cle­ment Price (now 94), a Ja­maican who had been liv­ing in Leeds when he met Goldie’s mother, then em­i­grated to the US, and given an­other son the same name as Goldie’s, Clif­ford Price. The rec­on­cil­i­a­tion was not ev­ery­thing he had hoped for. He slips into his fa­ther’s Ja­maican ac­cent. “‘ Well, ya mama love dif­fer­ent man’ – well just dis­own [me] then, Dad. That’s what he did.” He reels at the mem­ory.

He stayed in Mi­ami, though, mak­ing a liv­ing sell­ing T-shirts, while learn­ing how to make the gold caps that he even­tu­ally had fit­ted to 24 of his teeth. At the end of the Eight­ies, he re­turned to the UK at his mother’s re­quest (he had re­con­nected with her at the age of 17 af­ter run­ning away from a chil­dren’s home in Wal­sall) fell back into crime and, in 1989, at­tempted sui­cide (“A cry for help,” he says). Af­ter that, he de­cided to leave the Mid­lands for good, and pitched up at Co­ral’s flat, on the 15th floor of a north Lon­don tower block. He asked if he could stay for a cou­ple of nights. Ten years later, he was still there. “New York, Mi­ami, Dor­ney Tower,” he laughs. “That’s the T-shirt, right there.”

He was in care and into crime. Now he’s a Bri­tish icon and an MBE. Goldie tells Chris Har­vey about his highs and lows Even wiser and sober, Goldie is still out there – a long way out there

He last saw Co­ral a few days ago. He calls him Dad. “Gus has been my men­tor. He al­ways said to me, ‘Be who­ever you want to be’. It was like uni­ver­sity for me, that flat. I had enough paints to blow the side of the build­ing out, oxy-acety­lene, aerosol paint, I was do­ing gold in there, too. I al­ways thank him… he’s get­ting on now, he’s 72.” Goldie is tear­ful now. Emo­tions run very close to the sur­face for him.

Lon­don is where Goldie met and be­gan dat­ing make-up artist Kemi “Kem­istry” Olu­sanya, who was

Edgy: Goldie with Mas­sive At­tack’s Robert Del Naja in Wolver­hamp­ton, c 1985

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