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“It’s the new EDM. Seriously it is!” This is not intended as a compliment from a man whose
relationship with football is being tested by its current opulence and who’s music has always sat apart from the mass-market genre he analogises. Somewhere along the way – in the 23 years since his classic debut Timeless was released - monsters have been created but Goldie - for all his menacing persona historically and ‘fucking this and thats’ lobbed around the room today - is not one. Indeed, having already survived a journey with him back to the Wolverhampton terraces of the eighties and glimpsed early-nineties Miami “with the boys” our meeting today finishes on a rather tender note: “Can I hold you?” he asks, my previous meetings with Brian Clough enough to earn an embrace. In between he darts from subject to subject, the faintest enquiries triggering a series of passion-fuelled cultural monologues: Football, fashion. Music, Manchester. Then, now. This is Goldie - “fucking 53!” - as he’ll put it, tomorrow.

For timeless, see ageless. It is of course ridiculous that he – DJ, Musician, artist – should be in his sixth decade looking, as he does, identical to his mid-90s self: the original streets-star long before Mike Skinner’s noughties trilogy. On a par with grime’s main players (he shared equal-billing on a recent Skepta collaboration) he’s comfortable with nostalgia (stories are forthcoming and spectacularly told) but nowhere near defined by it. And, if – as the old adage goes – you’re as old as the man you feel – then keeping a metaphorical arm round the shoulder of producer and collaborator James Davidson, 38, these past few years may well have taken years off him. Aside from the studio chemistry that’s led to a new musical project together (titled Subjective) their dynamic in person is a sweet one, Davidson acting as anchor to his ever-animated partner when it seems he might literally take off mid-tale. Or politely reminding him, “Remember you said this? Remember we did that?” seconds before Goldie is up again, joining the dots between Bowie and The Blue Note.

Our initial football chat has found its way round to Brian Eno before suddenly being brought back on track by the damning assessment of his own team: “As for United we’re fucked basically!” It’s the week after Mourinho’s viral comic fall and Goldie’s seen enough in more ways than one, “If he’d got up quickly and realised he’d fell...instead of trying to fucking run six paces! That’s the story of United,” The perfect analogy? “Do you not think so? It makes sense. He’s trying to stand up – it’s his pride fucking with him which has inadvertently fucked the team up.” There follows a comparison from leftfield, “It’s like when a director casts a name in a big role – Brad Pitt got away with it as a pikey in fucking Snatch (the 2000 film Goldie featured in). That could’ve gone a bad way. I think we’ve already gone that way with United. They should’ve brought Zidane in last season – maybe the Adidas connection would’ve helped – I think it should’ve happened.”

Growing up in the West Midlands it was regular trips up to Manchester in his teenage years and “being a bit rowdy up there” that converted him to the red side of the city but only after attempts closer to home had ended badly, “I was in Wolverhampton a lot, going to Subway Army (a hooligan firm associated with the club) running around the terraces trying to kick people’s heads in and take their tacchinies.” The fun wasn’t to last though, “When Stevie Bull left, it all went to pot. We got banned from Molineux because we broke into the fucking brewery – Banks beer. Unfortunately, they’d only just built the ground...”

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Meanwhile he and United went from strength to strength, 1999 a peak for both as an armpit-free Goldie charged around the James Bond set celebrating a bare-chested man’s winner. As a brief glimpse into the madness of the decade, it takes some beating, “I remember having my armpits cut out for some reason. I was in hospital and had just got back on the James Bond set when Giggsy scored that fucking wonder goal. I ran out the caravan screaming and the director’s going mental because I’d just fucked up a really good scene with Robbie Coltrane. Everyone was like, “Stop that fucking man!’ (laughs) I had it on VHS for a long time, just kept watching it and watching it...”

As a Spurs fan, Davidson has the upper hand in their partnership for now, his side upending United in their own backyard on the first Monday Night Football of the year. He’ll admit, though, his Tottenham backstory is slightly tenuous, “The Spurs connection comes from my brother who’s six years older than me. I just kind of got it from him and he got it from a friend at school! My dad’s a Geordie through and through so I don’t know why he didn’t make us support Newcastle at the time.” It looks like a wise decision now, I tell him but around about the time of Goldie’s armpit antics there was doubt, “Growing up in the 90s it didn’t feel like that.” When we joke that Spurs may in fact be the new Arsenal he’s self- knowing enough reply in a flash, “At least we’re not the old Spurs!”

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They didn’t watch the MNF game together. Both were at their homes – Goldie in Thailand, Davidson in Bournemouth. It’s the former – perhaps unsurprisingly - where the two spend most of their time working together, with location and collaboration softening the senior partner’s stance, “I can take my fighting gloves off a bit more. With this it’s like, ok you can have fun. Music’s always been pretty serious.” Davidson is quick to encourage him, “You should have fun with it! When we’re working together it’s laughs pretty much the whole time.” His partner concedes, “It is good fun,” before adding “...he gets a fucking holiday!”

It feels like Goldie’s defences are down – at least musically – for the first time in his career, “He’s made my life a lot easier. I’ve really had to beat engineers up over the years! (it’s not clear if he means physically or not). They reach a glass ceiling they really do. The ability to be’s like a new type of footballer. If you look at the way Ronaldo is on the ball as a player and look at old fucking Pele videos – the tenacity of the player has changed. James’ engineering skill is technically way ahead and he’s also grown-up on music that’s got tenacity man, more advanced than regular pop culture.”

There’s a lightness of touch too, “I don’t have to struggle with concepts. The thing with concepts is they’re fucking way ahead and you suffer on a personal level for years before. Everyone goes: Timeless, man what an album’ but when it came out everyone slated it!” I start to wonder if, like many from his generation, there’s also a sense of liberation in not playing the chart game anymore, before he reminds me he never did, “I’m not that way inclined. As artists, you’ve got to be allowed to make the music you want to make. The difference is from a production point of view he’s streets ahead of anyone, so that allowed the music to be heard in a clean way without losing integrity. For me it’s the big A and the big I! Autonomy and integrity. It’s very important to me. The chart thing peaked in the 90s. The internet’s here for fucks sake! (adopts quaint voice) ‘Are you in the charts this week?’ (laughs). It’s the curse and the blessing of the internet”

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Back then - when the Top 40 still mattered - super-star status was still a relatively new experience for most footballers. As such they required guidance. This is where Goldie came in, “I used to take Dwighty to fucking Ten Room and get him absolutely hammered and fucking Andy Cole to Boateng cos he wasn’t wearing the right suit. Then I’d go out with Sky (Andrew, the football agent) and Sol Campbell for dinner at The Ivy – all of them used to get into me.’”

I wonder if there were footballers stumbling out of Supernova Heights – Noel Gallagher’s infamous North London party hub – by this point? “One of the great stories of that time was when we all went to Wembley for the Gillingham game (Manchester City’s legendary play- off thriller). All off our fucking tits. This is when they (the Gallagher brothers) were friends. Because I’m United I’m laughing my bollocks off. We’re all leaving the fucking stadium and they score so we’re running back through security to the seats. And they went up! It was the last of the great football days” It turns out they could play a bit too – even on a hangover – “We used to play football on a Sunday. We’d get hammered on a Saturday and Liam and Noel would come over and we’d play football on the field next to my house out in Hertfordshire. The locals were like ‘What the fuck?!”

He and Noel still trade texts depending on how results have gone (“I used to rip him all the time but I can’t anymore. There’s nothing I can fucking say is there?!”) but the exuberance of that period has quite clearly calmed. He’s taken up yoga (“Ten and a half years now – who’d have thought it?”) and I wonder how he looks back on the days of a football scene more e’d than EDM’d-up? “We were wearing Taachini and ripping Filas off people’s back. When Strawberry Fields Forever came out (the Candy Flip cover). That was a fucking tune!” I tell him it’s the first version I ever heard, “That’s what I mean! You never heard the original. I went to Miami – the deep south – fucking Miami. I came back and all the football fans had turned into e’ heads. Because it had been so laddish. You could lose your shit in town. I know people who’d walk into McDonalds - because it was new then - and just go ‘Can I try your top on mate?’ And it’d be a fucking 100 metre dash."

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Of course, Davidson is by no means Goldie’s first collaborator. There’s a clip on youtube from a short-lived Jo Wiley Channel 4 show where she asks Goldie if he’s worried about ‘losing his credibility’ by working with David Bowie. Very much of its time, it demonstrates how much the way we view our icons has changed in the post-digital age, “David was always in fashion to me – people just didn’t see it. It’s like hip-hop, it needed to get outside the box to grow, that’s why De La Soul happened because they were sampling funk music. Bowie was influenced, Earthling (his late 90s drum and bass record) was influenced...” Twenty years on he can relate, “I’ve become that older guy who was out of fashion in a sense, but I’ve always fucking been here. I’m like, your mum fucking knows me! I keep an open mind. I am the old guard, The OG, the uncle, a lot of grime artists call me.”

Would he agree the divide between old and new is no longer really there? “It’s reversed! My daughter wears my shit. She works at Drake’s shop – OVO – full-time and she’s like ‘Dad can I wear your fucking Stussy fucking varsity! I couldn’t wear my dad’s shit. I’ve been seasoned for 35 years in street culture.” It’s one of the reasons why tomorrow he’ll fly to Tokyo to open a new Stussy store, his swiss-army knife approach to the arts now a template for today’s young creatives, “Virgil (Abloh – the artist director at Louis Vuitton, DJ & Producer) is killing it,” he enthuses.

Then it’s back home. How does he keep up with Mourinho’s slip-ups from his new outpost? “All the ex-pats go to the pub - loads of Thai people wearing Liverpool shirts which is always a fucking problem – its Liverpool or United in Thailand and now Leicester – foxes in the airport!” He returns to the EDM comparison again, “I’m just old fashioned I think fucking moneys changed it so much man, call me stupid. Even at United fucking Sanchez...half a million? I’m just older and grumpier,” Davidson interjects a final time, “Not with the music though” – and – when I ask Goldie which career path he’d advise someone to take today he’s unequivocal, alive again “Definitely fucking music! People are getting away with fucking murder mate! Absolute hype murder. If you didn’t have the social media - the fucking hype - it’d be dead. Give them a four-hour set to play they wouldn’t know what to do.” And there it is. One last parting salvo, out on a high with the A and the I. From ‘Fuck-it’ to Phuket - with a new partner in tow - Goldie remains blistering and unbowed. Perhaps his time has come.

'Act One - Music for Inanimate Objects' by Goldie and James Davidson is available from January 18th 2019. You can pre-order it here.

Photography by Stew Capper.
Words by Dan Tickner.