It’ 1991 and a bona fide B-boy by the name of Goldie finds himself caught up in the heaving mass of Londons Rage Club at Heaven on a Thursday night.
DJ’ Fabio and Grooverider take to the decks once again captivating the crowd with their frenzied assault on the senses. A relative newcomer to the scene, Goldie pesters the duo for names of tracks and becomes an immediate convert to the hardcore breakbeat aesthetic. That many an outsider is choosing to pronounce the hardcore scene dead seems slightly ironic – a breakbeat specialist of the highest order has only just been born.
Today there are few more influential and charismatic figures on the hardcore / jungle scene than Goldie. Schooled like so many of his peers on hip-hops B-boy ethos of the early 1980’. Goldie’ influences on the breakbeat culture of hardcore can go with the B-boy flavour. He explains “but you can go even further. Messing around with sound real bad”.
Goldie would initially make his mark as a graffiti writer in his Midlands hometown of Walsall. Spraying walls quickly got serious as the commissions started to flood in. “I’d paint my estate because I couldnt be a thief”, he recalls. "At night I’d go out to blues, but in the morning I’d come home in the morning and change straight into my painting clothes. Then it took off. I’d be doing paintings for the community, for the council. I’d be asked to appear on TV shows like Pebble Mill where I could say whatever I wanted.
Alongside the likes of 3D from Bristol’ Wild Bunch Crew, Goldie emerged as one of Britains leading graffers. He began moving back and forth from New York, living the hip-hop lifestyle for real. In 1986 he’d star alongside Afrika Bambaata in the seminal graffiti art movie “Bombing” – filmed partly in Bristol and most notably in New Yorks South Bronx, where for a time Goldie would choose to reside.
Early 1998, Goldie returns to London from a spell in Miami. Jazzie B asks him to help out on Soul II Soul’ artwork. Still painting and still getting commissions, Goldie finally gets tied down. For a couple of years he’ a player on the West End club scene. But then the inspiration dries up. “Hip-Hop wasnt happening for me over here anymore because I’d been away living it”, recalls Goldie. “It was like I just had to do something”.
1991 and London’ hardcore scene proves to be Goldie’ salvation. Initially, he just listens and learns from the sidelines, helping out on the artwork for the hugely influential label Reinforced. But slow and surely, the face of hardcore begins to change. Where once the domineering sound had been termed “Happy” – a mix of Pinky & Perky sounding vocal madcap oscillator riffs – by late 1992 a new darker edge creeps into the music. It was here that Goldie came into his own.
His first entrance into the world of recording artists had been “Kellermuffin” – a semi successful ep for Reinforced that contained an early sample of ragga artist “Cutty Ranks” – later to figure so predominantly on many a jungle release. But most significantly, early in 1993 under the pseudonym of “Metalheadz”, Goldie would release “Terminator” on the Synthetic label, a track that would have a dramatic impact on every hardcore release that followed.
With its eerie metallic breakbeats, “Terminator” pioneered the use of a process known as time-stretching in hardcore. It was now possible to stretch a vocal sample over any pitch range without altering the B.P.M. Although classic “dark tunes” like Terminator and Terminator II had pioneered the emergence of what became widely termed jungle. Goldie is somewhat disparaging of this legacy.
“Dark to me was just a representation of the way people were feeling at the time”, he says, “there was a recession, winter and the country was in decline. Dark was like the blues music”. And as subsequent release were to prove, Goldie was set to stay one step ahead of the rash imitators who arrived to cash in on the growing popularity of jungle. By late 1993 “Angel”, again released on the synthetic label, fused Urban Cookie Collective Dianne Charlemagne’ jazzy vocal with eerie sythn. Elsewhere on a series of remix projects for Reinforced’ Enforcers series – on the 4 track ep “Internal Affairs” – on “Fury” for the Moving Shadow label – and on a remix of the massive Helicopter Tune (to name but a few). Goldie showed just how far he’ mastered his art.
“Timeless”, Goldie’ (AKA Metalheadz) first release for London Records no doubt shocked and suprised once more upon it’ release on November 1994. Twenty-Two minutes long, it plays on the very concept of time, dealing with the inner city struggle for survival. While also fooling the listener into believing the track is much shorter than its actual running length.
Again, the soaring vocal of Diane Charlemagne captures the very essence – “Timeless” survivalist spirit, as the haunting strings and fearsome breakbeats dig deep into the listeners mind. I dont even know if I’d call what I record jungle anymore", reasons Goldie, fully aware that at its narrowest definition jungle has become little more than a reggae sample overlaid on a breakbeat. “I’d prefer to call this inner-city ghetto music, because I’m not just going to come up with what most people would envisage to be jungle. I make my music to have integrity and if you can still play it at 6’ Oclock in the morning in a club, then its bona fide”.
With almost no national radio airplay at all the double album shot straight into the national charts at no.7, which reflected a huge groundswell of record buyers that up until now were supposedly non-existent.
Demand for Goldies drum & bass was such that a live tour took his eight-piece band to Europe and the U.S.A supporting Bjork. Upon returning to the U.K Goldie headlined his own sell-out tour. Whenever time allowed, Goldie would return to London to run his Metalheadz club every Sunday at London’ Blue Note.
The UK leg of the tour was an event never heard before. Peshay, Doc Scott, Kemistry & Storm, Fabio, Grooverider, Randall and MC extroadinaire Clevelnad Watkiss played sets that testified a new consciousness on dance culture everywhere, due no doubt to Goldie’ efforts to hoist jungle from the underground to the mainstream.
His efforts were rewarded throughout 96 & 97 when he won an array of awards for his debut album, his DJing, the Metalheadz label and his label’ compilation album “Platinum Breakz”. It’ 1997 and Goldie spends his time running not only his Sunday nights at the Blue Note but also the Metalheadz night at London’ Hanover Grand on the first Friday of every month, as well as working on his follow up album to “Timeless” entitled “Saturnz Return”.
His energy is almost limitless. “I sleep three hours a night, I just have this abyss of energy” he explained to a journalist recently, which partly explains the albums title “Saturnz Return” is taken from the notation of the seven year astrological cycle where the starts are now in his favour. “I’m a Virgo, the way my planets are lined up to the time I was born, I’m set man”. And set he is indeed.