This artist has been repping drum and bass and putting his hometown Bristol on the map for many years. He smashed his way to critical acclaim with his huge album New Forms. Some might say he has been off the radar for a while, but he has been travelling the world delivering his individual, iconic style of energetic bassline driven, beat rolling drum and bass and has been working very hard on putting something special together for his new album. We caught up with him for his first interview in two years ahead of the gig he is playing at Relaxation Generation Festival this Sunday at Vibe Bar.
Yo what’s happening, You cool man? Roni?
Ah what you saying bruv,yeah safe man
Where you at now?
I’m just in Bristol at home. Just came back from Belgium. Just about to go to work, putting the final touches to this album that I’ve been working on for about three years. Looking forward to putting that out. It’s orchestral, more vocal and sounds very different and futuristic.
Wow Roni Size coming again with sounds to blow peoples’ minds yeah?
The way the music is at the moment in general, for me, there is so much of the same thing out there. And when you’re a musician and someone turns round to you and says ‘oh yeah but it sounds like such and such…’ it’s not the same. So that’s what I’m trying to do with this record is don’t make it sound like anything else
Nice, because you’ve kind of set the benchmark for coming out with things that make people's’ ears open.
Thing is, I believe that my peers, the people that support me, rather than the punter who is looking for something new, it’s more about the producers and the musicians: they hear stuff in my music and they respect that and they grab onto that. A lot of drummers have come to me and said they love what I do.
That must be good when musicians feel your music?
That’s what I’m saying. To the average punter who just wants to listen to something on Radio 1 or Kiss, they can grab onto it straightaway and explore. It’ll take them awhile to get it. But the people who get what I do are the people who understand the process of what has gone on to get to that stage where the sound can be called original. And that’s always been my goal.
Nice. Now the last time I saw you was when you were in the airport lounge on the way to Miami and you’ve just come back from Belgium, how’s the world treating you nowadays?
It’s funny you know, I’ve been in the game for a minute and there’s so many generations of people coming to the music and the drum and bass thing always managed to sustain a certain type of numbers. I think I was playing a gig about three, four weeks ago and it was packed. Massive tent, about four thousand people but I guarantee three quarters didn’t know who I was. That was a massive challenge to know that there was a whole new audience out there, but by the time I finished they knew! You know, it’s the next audience. I’m so proud and privileged to still be in the game. I love it more now than I did when I first started.
Yeah it gets different when you’re crossing generations right?
Oh my god it’s so different. You look out at the crowd and you see so many young bucks out there boy.
What would you say has changed for you over the last ten years?
Well for me, I’ve been doing a lot of stuff outside of the group, before we used to work as a unit and for me I’d like to adapt to who I am as a person, I have found my confidence. And now when I hit the stages I hit the stages by myself. I can still command the stage. When I first started I was quite nervous, but now you can put me on in front of ten thousand people by myself and I’ll be fine, whereas before I might not have relied on myself when there was a big group of us so we all had that more support. The technology has changed as well, people can step their game up and the production has got better.
Wow. So like with this new confidence and you doing things a lot more by yourself it’s like there’s a whole new thing ahead of you?
I’m in a place now where I’ve kind of schooled myself in this game as a DJ and a producer. I’m confident you can put me into any environment, with any producer, with any vocalist, in any country, on any stage and I’ll be able to come up ten out of ten tops. That’s where I feel like I’m at at the moment. I feel like I’m educated and I’m schooled in my profession and my career
Now it sounds like you’re quite balanced now, would you say you’re in tune with your subconscious, you know, you feeling good?
Yeah absolutely. It’s been a rollercoaster the last ten, fifteen years and you have to have some type of bravado, you have to have some sort of higher confidence and that confidence does happen in your subconscious. You have to be able to look at yourself in the mirror and you have to be able to have a good nights sleep and wake up and feel like you’re driven, you know. I’m 43 years old now. And the longer that young kid in me experiments the better. I am now a fully fledged man: I have children all grown and I’ve lived a little, so all of this now will incorporate into my music.
I look forward to seeing where that takes you. And then of course all the crew that you grew up with, Krust and Dynamite are now doing their thing?
I think they’ve all been doing that for a while. So this is something that hasn’t really been talked about, but everyone now is either still in the game or in the music. I’m still doing lots of work with Dynamite, me and Dynamite are still working very hard. So yeah it’s like everyone’s doing their thing, you meet new people along the way, i’ve got new people involved in what i’m doing and I’m looking forward to being able to showcase what they’re about. And you know, I think it’s going to be a great next decade for me. I’m looking forward to next year, that’s why, you know this is the first interview I’ve done for over two years!
Probably even longer, I feel like I’m in a place now where I can talk about it, I’m in a place now where I have stuff to talk about, I mean if you’ve got nothing to talk about then don’t talk but I’ve got lots to talk about! So I’m looking forward to seeing what you write and hopefully this will be the start of the beginning of something fresh and new.
Tell me what you’re most looking forward to
Getting back on stage with a live band and being able to perform with them all over the world on main stages with orchestras. I did this thing with an orchestra in Bristol at Colston Hall, I’m looking forward to the Royal Festival Hall, Vienna Hall. I am doing the main stage at Bestival and am really looking forward to playing at the Relaxation Generation Festival this Sunday at Vibe Bar, there is a wicked line up so yeah I’m looking forward to doing all of that and more.
Have you got any specific goals left in your mind that you have to conquer?
Yeah absolutely, when we won the mercury music prize in 1997 it was a bit of a shock to the system but we enjoyed it and what I’m trying to do now is prove to myself that I can make a record that I can put on and feel 100% proud of that record and feel that I’ve done it myself, educated it myself. I’ve got a lot to prove to myself, I give myself a hard time so to make that record where I know that I’m happy, no matter how long it takes you’ve got to beat that record.
Back in the day you were one of the pioneers, you set the stage bringing this music to the masses and I suppose in the last ten years you’ve seen other people do big things i.e Fresh and Chase & Status.
Yea but I think they’ve all been there from the beginning as well and you know it wasn’t just me there were a lot of others around at that time too, the Goldie’s and the whole of the electronic scene were doing their thing and I was quite fortunate that I became one of the spokespeople for the scene and I was in the position where I could spread the gospel so you know I’ll take a small part of that accolade. It’s good the see the way that people have gone now, but at the same time you see people jump ship as well. They do drum and bass and they see it as a vehicle and then when they get to where they’re going, they jump ship and start making their own styles of music. That’s not to say it’s a bad thing but it’s nice to put something back into the industry that made you.
Yea and keep your roots poppin’, putting things back. It’s funny how people move from Drum N Bass isn’t it?
It is, It’s quite a unique family of producers and it’s not easy music to make so when something good does come up from the drum n bass scene or the jungle scene or whatever scene it stands out and stands the test of time.
Are people trying to take the easy route out when they make other forms of music rather than staying true to Drum n Bass?
No no not at all, there’s no easy route in music, there’s always a graft at some point. Whether it’s pop music or whatever there’s always a sacrifice. We all make different types of music but sometimes it would be nice to put something back.
Now it would be interesting to know whose influencing you out there either in forms of music or work ethic?
Well there’s a kid called Swindle, he’s a young kid from Croydon whose making, erm I wouldn’t even call it Dubstep, it’s kind of funk, some kind of funk shit! Yeah I don’t know there’s so much, I’m inspired by a lot of people behind the scenes; programmers, engineers, producers and you can learn so much from these guys.
Ok so you talk a lot about the people behind the scenes, you’re always doing an awful lot, with your music, DJing, producing, is your team around you big enough now for what you’re taking on?
The team are always going to be a group that I’ve got a great relationship with, the team we have now are great and everyone’s well tuned into what’s going down. It’s just about getting back up there and doing the graft. It’s at that point that we’re not ready to do it this year, we never wanted to get involved and put a record out when the olympics were on, we wanted to make sure that this sporting year was gone and then next year we can really start to pack the punches.
So you’re from Bristol man, are you ever going to make the move to London?
I lived in London for a little bit but I’m so fortunate that I travel every weekend, so I live in Bristol but I’m never really here that much. I mean I DJ three days a week in different countries.
Well Bristol’s crazy, we all know Bristol’s a hub of energy and music, its always got hot artist’s emerging but there’s something about Bristol where people seem to be so spiritual, what is that?
Well obviously we’re a bit further away from the main city of London and it’s a little bit calmer down here. The energy of the countryside is here and close to the sea, getting down to Devon and stuff, so you know it’s a cool place.
Nice, you explained that well! For some of the people around you, you must be like a beam of light, breaking these boundaries. Do you feel that? Do you get feedback from a lot of people saying you inspire them?
Yea in Bristol it’s quite a close-knit family of people here and you’ve got a lot of producers that have just come out of Bristol lately like Joe Kirk, Mensah, so theres a hub of people but I’m still doing what I do and I do get a lot of love but they’re doing their thing too and they get a lot of love.
You’re a very humble guy Roni!
Well yea I’m part of it, you’ve got to remain humble, you have to be, you can’t be going and demanding things and being treated like you’re a king. You’re only as good as your last record, you know what I’m saying. So you’ve got to push yourself with every record.
Ok, so you’ve never used the line “do you know who I am”?
Ohhh I’ve used it once in Australia when I’d probably had one drink too many and I was trying to get into a club and I was probably 22 or 23 and that was the last time I ever used it.
Did it work?
No, not at all, got kicked right out! (laughs)
Oh wicked (laughs)... If you were invisible for a day what would you do?
I’d probably go round to NASA for the day or something, I’d sneak onto a spaceship, go to Mars or something.
So are your kids getting into music?
Yeah they’re all producing, one of them is into sport. They do their little bits, one of them is at college doing music.
Any advice you’ve picked up from your worldly travels you’d like to share with the Guestlist network readers?
If nothing else, Life is one big education, there’s stuff that people won’t teach you, the real way that you can learn is by travelling and experiencing, other countries and that is the biggest learning curve so don’t be thinking that you can learn it all in one go. I mean I’ve only got one qualification to my name but I feel like I’m well educated.
Are there any spiritual journeys that you’re interested in making, anywhere you haven’t travelled to?
Yeah absolutely, when I’ve accomplished everything I want to i’d love to go to base camp i’m quite sporty, I like my marathons, playing football.
you’re serious about this space thing aren’t you?
If i was invisible for a day I would jump on one of those shuttles and I would be gone
Well it’s possible nowadays you just need the cash.
Yeah but you only go into orbit you don’t actually get to go into space.
For real. Cheers for that, it’s been great catching up with you, hope I get a chance to see you doing your stuff soon.
We're looking forward to catching the ever evolving, Roni Size at Relaxation Generation Festival this Sunday @ Vibe Bar. Get tickets here
Also keep up to date with Roni at http://ronisize.net/ and www.facebook.com/ronisize