Catching up with one of Bristol’s finest, Roni Size.
A man who has rightfully gained legendary status in drum & bass, Roni Size has been instrumental in the development of the genre since the early days. Whether working by himself or with others, he has achieved many brilliant milestones including a mercury music prize with supergroup, Reprazent and a live album of his biggest tracks performed by The Emerald Ensemble with the composer William Goodchild.
He has had an incredible comeback, with a new album and a hefty touring schedule but he’s not letting that slow him down. This year, along with Krust and Dynamite MC, they are taking Full Cycle back on the road and relaunching the label that once dominated the scene with groundbreaking material. We had a chat with him to see what’s going down.
Hey what going on?
I am some doing basslines, yeah!
Congrats on your massive comeback over the past couple years.
Last time you spoke to us you were just adding some final touches to Take Kontrol, just wondered what's been happen since then?
Oh man, Take Kontrol feels like a world away. It’s been a great year, getting back on the road and touring. It’s good to know we’ve got a live show that we can put together pretty much whenever we want to and take on the road and just keep adding catalogue to it.
Its great to have all the labels too like, Mansion and Full Cycle just there to give me a vibe, sometime you need a vibe.
Has been good having new material out there?
The live album (Live at Colston Hall) I wouldn't describe as new material. It’s more about making sure we have a presence.
Get a copy of Roni Size Reprazent Live at Colston Hall
When you’re on the road it’s really hard to finish music so when I get home and in the studio it’s all about finishing the new tunes. I put out a couple of remixes last year maybe one or two philly blunt but this year I’m hoping to have a track out every month after February, at least two tracks a month that's my goal!
Yeah it’s all about that consistency, making sure music is coming out on a regularly basis, that's my goal. Just to get all those younger heads, they wanna know what all the fuss is about. And it’s not just drum & bass, I’m trying a couple of styles man. I’m not gonna put a tags on them. For me tempos have always been irrelevant because when you play a record out, nowadays, it could be any tempo because of the technology - you can speed up and slow down shit all day and you would never know.
Yeah because when you go out today, it’s not just a drum & bass rave, or just a garage rave you go and you can get everything now. Does that help you be more creative?
Do you know what, I’ve always been like that anyway. They’ll be gigs at the back of ‘97. Certain gigs I’ve played and I’ll drop a Missy Elliot tune, or a Pharrell tune in the middle of my set. I’ll mix it up a bit, I’ll probably play a bit of reggae or play some stuff that’s pretty much out of sync. People like myself and Shy FX have diluted the substance of drum & bass by adding more of our influences into it. Like I played a gig the other day in Italy and I tried to play some stuff that was a bit different but they just wasn't having it. Like nope, nope, nope we want 180 bpm all day, we don’t even want the beat to change, we just want the beat, the bass and that's all they wanted so I was like okay, you know, I can’t fight a paying crowd!
You hear that a lot, that in the UK people are a lot more open to listening to sets that do experiment a bit.
Exactly, in the UK I think they’ll have it, I think abroad they not having it!
They like what they want and that’s it.
That’s it. They book you because they want you to play Roni Size, all day.
It must be good to know though that people enjoy your sound?
Well I hope they are. I think that the feedback from my audiences is quite minimal because I’m not online. I don’t tweet as much as maybe I should. I just use my social media as a business and it is a way to connect with my fans, but at the same time I’m quite a private person and sometimes when your heads into making music it’s difficult to start having lengthy conversations online.
Back in the day when I just to go out and DJ there be like 5000 people dancing, but if there's one person not dancing - that’s the person remember and it’s the same with social media. I’ll probably get 100 great comments and I’ll get one person like, no it’s noise pollution please go away, and I remember that one person. You know, I’ve got thick sick man, but i’m human as well, I’ve a heart and I don't like it. If anyone says any shit about me on social media I just block them straight away, no second chances!
After these 20 years, what’s kept the buzz, what’s kept you into the scene?
Thing is the scene is so far and widespread now I don’t really have the same connection directly with the scene but I still have an affiliation with the music industry.
What keeps me, when I DJ or perform I’d describe it as drinking from the fountain of youth. It just keeps me young, it’s helps my dress sense, I see what the kids wearing and I’m thinking, you know what I can dress like that. Don’t get it twisted though, I’m a leader in fashion!!!
You’ve played a lot over your career. Is there a favourite place you like the play, Bristol?
Bristol's always the challenge because you’re looking into the whites of those eyes of the people that you know. You’re like okay, that's my next door neighbour, oh there's such and such you know that’s what Bristol is. But my favourite places to play are the biggest stages in the world like Miami Music Conference, Las Vegas EDC, Coachella, you know the big stages where you have to have a stage presence, where people don’t know your music but they know your name.
If there was a gig anywhere in the world that you haven’t played but could, where would that be?
Burning Man? Closer to home, I wouldn’t mind playing V Festival that I haven’t done for years and would love to do, I haven’t done Reading & Leeds in a while, T In The Park?
With your comeback have there been new challenges?
Yer there are always new challenges, but these challenges are what make you into a more experienced person in this industry. I think the real challenge is not quitting. See when you’re someone that’s new and just breaking though, people don’t have any expectations. But when you have a legacy, that’s what I like to call it, because I’ve been here for 20 years and had hits in the drum & bass world and one or two on the commercial side, but to keep doing that over and over again is the biggest challenge for any producer.
Full Cycle is going on a European tour with Krust and Dynamite MC, feel good about bringing that back on the road?
Yeah. Until we actually do it we won't know how it's gonna go down. See we’re gonna go and play our sound and that’s all we’re gonna do. We’ll have to make sure people get what we’re about. We’re about the melodies and the basslines, we’re about rollers, about breaks, where’s the breakbeats? We’re the last of the breakbeat warriors, that's the way I look at it man, lets get back into the breaks!
More on the Full Cycle tour this spring
Breaks just have a great energy about them.
That’s it, let’s get some breaks in the groove, everyone go hunting for that perfect break!
Is there a track that has the perfect break?
It’s probably already been found, you know the amen is a tried and tested formula break, people always draw the amen when they need to. But it’s difficult to say I’ve always liked that era where the breaks were pretty special and they stood out. You knew when a break was good because everyone is trying to search for it and use that.
With Full Cycle back on the road can we expect any new material?
Yeah, yeah absolutely! As soon as we get off the phone that’s what I’ll be doing. I’ll be back on making some tunes for Full Cycle... Keep your ear to the ground!
What are you most in love with right now?
I pick up my daughter most days from school, I do a school run and I really enjoy that!
Erm I really enjoy cooking.
Cricket?! No cooking. Though years ago I used to love cricket, had a cricket club just round the corner.
It’s a long game though.
I know but we didn't really play it like that, it wasn’t like test cricket more like pest cricket!
Any ideas that have changed your life?
Erm, yeah but they might be bad ideas!
If you were a superhero what would your superpower be?
Invisibility, nah actually it would be mind-reader.
Would make reading the crowd a little easier.
Actually it wouldn't even be a mind reader, I’d like to make people have bubbles above their head so I could see what they are thinking.
Like thinking bubbles?
Yeah! You could pick and choose who you want to see, maybe everybody could see it!
Would be well funny to see! Any advice for anyone trying to break into the scene?
I’m not really one for giving advice. I think if you're in it then you’re in it, if you’re not, you’re not. Doesn’t matter what you do, do it honestly and have a good trust threshold.
Do you have a life motto?
Not really a life motto, but you gotta live life like it's your last day on earth. Well try to, but not literally haha.
And I'll leave with a question for you. Do the foxes hibernate at this time of year? Its just because they usually go through my bins and they haven't done that for about 6 weeks?
Well Roni after a quick search, foxes do not hibernate but when the weather is extreme they will take refuge until the weather is nicer.
Get tickets for Roni Size & Krust present Full Cycle at Villiage Underground
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