goldie’s golden years of jungle and d&b
“There’s no fucking future; what we do today creates tomorrow.” Goldie takes us back in time to the early days of breakbeat, D&B and Jungle…
Photography Lorenzo Agius. The Love Life Issue, No. 154, July 1996
In the 80s, a teenage Clifford "Goldie" Price hit New York City, buying a mouth full of gold teeth and immersing himself in the graffiti scene. When he came back to England, he found a rave culture that spliced breakbeats with chaos, and positioned himself at the heart of it. His label, Metalheadz, released tune after tune of glistening, chrome plated breakbeat science, and his own album Timeless still, 20 years on, sounds like it has come from tomorrow. Currently immersed in his current project of replaying Timeless with the Heritage Orchestra, the Wolverhampton B-boy turned orchestra conductor reflects on the early days of a life spent with breakbeats….
In New York, I was into Kool G Rap and Polo, KRS-One, that whole big 80s boom. We were hanging in Garrison Avenue, the Bronx River. I was 19 or 20 at the time, so taking in that kind of culture was massive for me. I went from Wolverhampton, to New York, to Miami, to London. And when I came back to England I realised things had started happening. The football terraces had got Es and people had stopped fighting.
I'd come back for the funeral of my step dad, and I didn't want to go back to the Midlands, so I was living at Swiss Cottage with Gus Carl -- he was the camera grip who'd filmed in New York with me. So I was going to Camden High Street on a bike every day, and I saw a girl, Kemistry, with blonde dreadlocks working in Red or Dead. On top of Red or Dead was Zoom Records, where we'd go to get all our records. I saw Kemi there every day and I wanted to date her. So she said, "Look I go to Rage every Thursday night."
I'd arranged to meet her, and I went down there thinking, 'Yeah great, this is a guy from New York who'd just come back -- I went down there in a fucking three quarter length goose down, and I'm in this queue, and there's a guy called Churchy on the door, Paul Churchy's his name. And I queue up, and he just says, 'No, not tonight', and he fucking turns me around! I thought, you cunt! I'm from fucking New York, d'yaknow what I mean? Giving it the big un'! So I come back another Thursday, I think it was the third Thursday I tried, and on this one he's gone, 'Go on then', and Kemi's took me to the membership desk to get me on her pass. I've got in thinking, 'Bollocks I'm in here this time'. I've gone in there and there's all these ravers on boxes giving it to all this music I've never heard. And I'm sitting there, sweating like a fucking rapist thinking, 'You idiot'! I'm in this fucking zoo. Everyone's going absolutely bananas, and there's lazers going off. And then I heard this record, it's stuck to me this day: Dragonfly - Rage.
If you wanna talk about Rave breakbeat anthem of all time, probably that is the one. That tune is like five tunes in one, it sums up UK Hardcore, So I went to Rage, did my first pill and lost my mind. I was like, 'This is it'.
So then on a Saturday night Kemi said come to Astoria, so I went and saw Manix do a PA, and that was game over for me. I was like, 'This is what I want to do.' I grabbed Mark from Manix's arm on stage and shook his hand, and he was like 'Who's this lunatic?', and I said, 'I want to do artwork for you guys, that's what I do'. So I went to their studios two weeks later and completely redesigned their label.
So I'd done the artwork for Reinforced, and I said to Mark, 'Look I can do this'! I had so many mixtapes from WBLS and Kiss FM from New York - we were breakdancers so we had loads of 30 bar loops of breakbeat tunes. I was like, 'This is breakbeat culture; it's easy'. I used all my hustling money from selling weed, and I got three days in the studio, and I literally took all my breakbeat stuff, all these tunes that I loved, and I said I wanna smash this all up. Two days later the engineer, Mark Rutherford turned round and said 'This is impossible, you've filled up two S-1000 samplers, no one fills them up, where are you gonna put it all'? And I said, 'I know where I'm gonna put it all, I'm a graffiti artist - arrangement's my key'! That was always the key. This was Killa Muffin, the first EP I did on Reinforced.
I'd already been in Iceland with these guys Ajax Project, doing my first EP three months earlier, with a guy called B, who's no longer with us unfortunately. We'd done that record, it's why Reinforced were paying attention to us, cos I was selling white labels out of Haringey with a guy called Chris. He had a record shop called Music Power in Green Lanes. Grooverider used to go there on a Wednesday before he'd go to Rage to get his white labels off Chris, so we'd go sit in the shop to get a glimpse of who this Grooverider was. We'd go and wait in that shop, me, Kemi and Storm. I got Ajax Project distributed over at Mo's Music, and we'd made the label with a potato printer, I cut the letters out in reverse and printed a thousand records.
In England, Rave took down the barriers. All my pals were football fans, and the E's changed it, people didn't want to cut anybody anymore, they wanted to hold your hand, it was like, 'Give us a hug instead son'. It made a massive difference.
I met Rob Playford through the Moving Shadow lot - Kaotic Kemistry was a very big tune for us when we were out raving so I was really fascinated with 2 Bad Mice who were on the label. At that time Rob had a label with Nookie, 2 Bad Mice, Foul Play - he wasn't really doing anything himself, but he was a great engineer, he was getting these artists together and giving them the production skills they needed. He was probably the only guy who could do what I wanted to achieve, and I wrote Timeless with him.
Timeless was originally three records, Timeless, Inner City Life and Jah - Rob was always a bit of a sceptic. I dunno if you've ever heard the phrase 'E residue' - imagine having a geezer who's been out the night before, still buzzing on this E residue, pushing ideas and boundaries, which is what I do. So Rob was always this sceptical guy who wasn't really into Es, and a lot of the time he'd have to tell me to slow down, because I'd sit there like a little beaver. That tension was very important - he gave me the grounds from which to grow a landscape. Timeless was always gonna be the blueprint as an artist for me. You don't call a kid 'True' in a film unless he's gonna become a hero. It's one of them moments in time I was lucky enough to experience. I already had 10 years of breakbeat subculture before hand - it was built on that.
I've had three decades of this. People ask me what the future holds for D&B - there's no fucking future; what we do today creates tomorrow. It's that simple. People think it was about Reggae - it was a massive part of it, but it wasn't all of it - it was made up of cultures; jazz, blues, punk, reggae, soul and hip hop, all genres that were supressed in the beginning, we took 'em at their base levels, we took our favourite bits of all them things, and we made a terminator. We made something that was gonna out last a lot of things. That's why it was resilient man. It's the ultimate cockroach ever. You can't stamp this fucker out. It's super strong mate. That's why I love this music. "
GoldIe celebrates the 20th anniversary of Timeless with the Heritage Orchestra at Royal Festival Hall on July 22 and 23. Buy tickets here.
As told to Ian McQuaid.