It’s All Subjective: Goldie, James Davidson In Conversation

“I’m making stuff to last!”

“It’s amazing, isn’t it James? Years ago I’d be putting people away, now I’m putting veggie burgers away!” A shimmer of gold gleams as Goldie leans back and laughs. It’s one of those full of life laughs; not half-arsed and anxious to get the conversation over and done with. The graffiti artist and pioneering Metalheadz founder has a heart of youth and the cultural intelligence of a veteran, and alongside Ulterior Motives James Davidson the pair are having the most fun they’ve had in years as Subjective.

“I met Goldie at Sun and Bass Festival, at an after party early in the morning,” says James. “I ended up signing an album with him which came out in 2014 and he asked if I’d like to engineer.”

“He cracked some software that I had for sixteen years!” responds Goldie, appearing via Zoom in a colourful office in this Thailand home. “No one else had been able to do it. We did Journeyman in fourteen days and thought, right, let’s do this as partners, and got started on the Subjective stuff right away. There’s no one I’d rather Obi-Wan Kenobi with.”

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'Journeyman', the third studio album by Goldie released nearly two decades after his Timeless follow up, Saturnz Returnz, is described by the gold-toothed breaksmith as his “magnum opus”, his legacy album, taking only weeks to engineer but half a decade to produce.

“It’s great on a lot of levels”, explains Goldie, “because when James and I did 'Journeyman'… Journeyman’s is a fucking route map. Unless you understand music, it’s like sitting down to an opera. It’s for people that make music. We wanted to make an album that wasn’t tied to anything, we just had fun. When you’re on an island, as I am here in Thailand, you just want to have fun.”

More than just an album, the pair's latest Subjective offering, 'The Start Of No Regret', is something of a cultural statement. We are existing within an era of reducing attention spans and the seemingly impossible task of truly listening to absolutely everything that is put in front of us. The result: disposable music, something that neither of them have any interest in.

“I’m making stuff to last”, says Goldie. “Anytime I’ve had tribulations in my life, I’ve turned to an album. We took it so for granted and now the powers that be are killing culture. We played out a little as Subjective and when we were in the club I was like, is this really happening? The pinnacle was playing ‘Sunlight’ to eighteen year olds in Newcastle that were going absolutely fucking mad. They were losing their shit. There’s something to be said for that. Let’s not be like those in government, sedating everyone. As people that play music we need to play good music to people and experience what it can do in different spaces.”

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Featuring collaborations from Greentea Peng and Tom Misch, the record Alice-In-Wonderland tumbles through rave culture, jungle, drum & bass, pop and indie influences spanning the last two decades. Having also written the soundtrack for Sine Tempore together – a six-part semi-biopic series bringing the symphonic strings and layered breakbeats of Timeless to life, produced by Goldie and New Regency Television – the pair give off a can-my-friend-sleeper-over? energy, creatively joined at the hip with a seemingly endless and untiring passion for stretching their own boundaries within sound and culture, bouncing ideas of each other late into the night like two pals staying up way past their bedtime, but instead of playing Halo they’re tinkering with samples.

“It’s always about following the path of least resistance when it comes to the inspiration for a track”, says James. “The engineering and production can come later. When you listen to something and it triggers something, that’s the one you need to go for. When it clicks, we’re in it. Then Mika (Goldie’s wife) will shout down at us – guys, it’s 7am!”

“There has to be magic moments in the music you make, otherwise what’s the fucking point? says Goldie, shrugging. “We took ‘Time’, this old track that wasn’t going to make the cut. We dropped it into ‘Yoshi’s Highway’ and faded it up.” Goldie puffs out his cheeks, “Fuck me, it works.”

“There’s a chord change at the back end of ‘Yoshi’s Highway’, it just turns. Stuff like that, across all the years I’ve made music, is what you live for. A crescendo of some sort comes in; I’m looking at James, he’s looking at me, and we just know it works.”

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'The Start Of No Regret' will be released by Three Six Zero Recordings/Sony Music on March 25th.

Words: Andrew Moore

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