- Mon, 2008-04-21 15:50
Roni Size/Reprazent's New Forms was a benchmark for not just the drum 'n' bass genre that it leapt from, but for all types of electronic music. Released a decade ago in 1997, the 10th anniversary brings a re-edit of this groundbreaking album, a new single and a tour.
I Like Music caught up with Roni Size to talk about New Forms, Drum ‘n’ Bass and playing gigs in caves.
"I Like Music because… it’s close to my heart.” Roni Size
ILM: Your New Forms album was a benchmark for drum 'n' bass and all types of electronic music. It’s the 10 anniversary of this album so you’ve brought out a re-edit so that people like me can remember back in the day and appreciate what you did with technology back then, but so a new generation can also see what’s possible now…?
Roni: It was a great time back then. It was this new wave of producer DJs – people who were making the music and playing the music. It was all experimental at the time, I know that’ a bit of a cliché, but it really was. We’d go to the studio, we’d make the music and then the same night, we’d play the music and find out what worked and didn’t work.
Not just us, but people like the Prodigy who were breaking the mould with what they were doing and Chemical Brothers. I remember 1997 was an electronic year. I was talking to a friend the other day and we were talking about the first wave of these producer DJs, and I thought yeah, we were; we brought that to the table. As well as being the producer and the DJ we were running our own record labels so we were becoming business men without even knowing it; learning how to get records on to the shelves and about distribution. Now it’s compulsory, if you’re making music today then you start a label and become a DJ and now it’s all one thing. People do everything, they don’t just do the one thing anymore. Before that you were either a DJ or a producer. There were myself, The Fully Cycle Boys and LTJ Bukem, he was the first producer DJ that I remember. Goldie started DJing a little bit later.
ILM: How different it must seem now with the new technology?
Roni: It’s crazy now…The goal posts have moved. The technology back then… the processsing power was much slower. The way I describe it is… nowadays you can boil a cup of tea really quick, whereas back in the day you’d have to put the pan on the stove and wait 20 minutes to boil the kettle and that’s like today, its so quick to process the sound than maybe 10 years ago, when you’d have to go out and make a cup of coffee, come back and it still wouldn’t be processed. Technology is so advanced now.
I was chatting to someone today who made music back then and they can’t keep up or come to grips with the digital age, they don’t know how to take it to the next level. Whereas, you’ve got all these new kids who’ve come in and just know how to get the music sounding brighter and louder with more energy, because that’s what they do. The technology is so advanced now, with new rules, you’ve either got to move with the times or stick to what you know, because there’s no vinyl no more.
ILM: It’s totally evolved hasn’t it? It’s natural to digital natives…
Roni: Yeah, this is part of the reason why I decided to go back and revisit New Forms, because I knew when I first made the record there was a lot of knowledge that I didn’t have and the equipment was still very young. With the equipment I had I think I did an amicable job, but I knew that I wanted to go back into the studio and give it the coat of armour of this new age and that’s what I did for this record.
ILM: It features total classics such as Brown Paper Bag, Share The Fall & Heroes. Which track on the album was the most fun, most enjoyable to record?
Roni: I know the most frustrating track for me to make was Share The Fall, because, back in the day we didn’t have Auto-tune, so to get the vocal… it took quite a while for me to make sure the vocals were fitting in the mix. Nowadays it’s a lot easier to do that. I think the most fun track to make would’ve been something we were making a video for, I think it was Heroes. I remember making it. The original I really liked, because it represented the time, it was soulful and still jungle with a touch of drum and bass, so it was crossover time.
ILM: That one’s one of my favourite ones, and Brown Paper Bag obviously.
Roni: Well Brown Paper Bag was a funny one because it came out of another record. I was doing a remix for Nu Yorican Soul called It’s Alright and I finished doing that and I had all these sounds. So I called my friend up Si John, and said I really wanted him to play some double bass so we did a session on double bass and I made the bass line out of that.
ILM: Looking back over the past ten years for you and Reprazent, what have been standout mind blowing moments for you?
Roni: There are so many. Being able to stand on stage and look across and be there with your best friends; to have those memories, that’s quite special. Playing in Puerto Rica in a cave was very interesting, it was a great gig and just different. The cave is no longer there, they’ve filled it in because it was a bit of a health hazard. Doing Glastonbury, the second Glastonbury was my favourite. I’m spoilt really; I’ve played so many gigs. I’m looking forward to good times again. We’re playing Glastonbury again and we’re doing a lot of festivals across England and Europe, so I’m looking forward to good times again with loads of new people.
ILM: What makes a good festival for you?
Roni: The weather - essential; when it’s raining it’s shit; when it’s sunny it’s great. Blue sky, sun, dusk, the less mud the better.
ILM: In 1997 you won the Mercury Prize in the same year, beating Radiohead, Primal Scream Chemical Brothers and Prodigy – all of these guys are still around, which is great but how do you think music especially electronic music has evolved over the past decade?
Roni: I was in great company. For me at the time I genuinely believed that maybe it was very premature. I felt that they gave it to us because they bought into our personalities. The people who nominated and gave us the award, they liked who we are and they liked what we were about. They saw our struggle and they understood and that the music had longevity. I know kids who were nine and ten at the time when we won that award who are now in their 30s and the thing about it is, the drum and bass scene has never really crossed over but it’s always been massive. I went out the other night and there are still queues forever.
We’ll see what happens when this Pendulum stuff comes out, because they’ve taken it where I could have never ever seen it going. I could have never imagined what they’re doing. It’s hard to put it side by side with what we’re doing, but it must have some relation because people are calling it drum and bass.
ILM: It’s evolved in a different direction, but your music is still as popular as it ever was.
ILM: You are somewhat of a legend; please can you describe the RONI SIZE process of making such fine music?
Roni: It will always change, but the best part is starting from scratch and then spending the whole day on the record and finishing it at the end of the day. Whether you start with the drums or the chords, depending on how you’re feeling really. But sometimes I’ll go back to a track which I started a year ago and change it.
You can access your music a lot different now; you have lots of ideas for which you have lots of palettes just waiting to be finished. But, sometimes, you just want to start from scratch and finish a track, that’s great, I love doing that.
ILM: I guess it’s like being an artist and you would have started out with a palette with only a few colours and now you’ve got the biggest palette with so many colours.
Roni: Yeah, absolutely. My palette is massive… the hard drive space. I remember back in the day, I used floppy disk. Recently when I went back to the archive I had to go back to floppy disks, but now you’ve got all this hard drive space. But you’ve also got the danger of having too much space. Sometimes less is more.
ILM: New single – Don’t Hold Back is out now too. Can you describe the track and its whole vibe?
Roni: Well, it was a record where I just messed around with some instrumentals and I gave it to Dynamite and out of the blue he sent it back to me, and it was like, ‘oh great… here we go’ and I just produced it and I just felt like, ‘ok, it’s not hip hop and it’s not drum ‘n’ bass, it’s a bit more dancey; it’s got a bit of a rock edge to it. So I felt like ‘this record here represents where Dynamite is right now and it’s a great record for us to perform on stage, so let me put this as part of the package.’ I’m not sure if it fits with New Forms but it does fit with Reprazent. And that’s the thing… trying to work out where the next record is going. So, for me, it’s a great stepping stone. I’d rather put it out than not put it out.
Releasing music nowadays is very different. It’s hard to get a record deal nowadays, so you want to give people an idea about where you want to go, to share the vision. We just did a TV show the other day for T4 and the response was incredible. So we’re not trying to do videos and make a big thing about it, we’re just letting people know that we’re back. It’s a bit more now.
ILM: Yeah, it’s a very modern track… Now, you learned the basics about music production at his local youth club and then set up your own home studio. Now you’re living your dream, career wise, what’s your advice to young people on pursuing their dream career?
Roni: More than anything, you have to focus. I met some talented people and they’d say “we do music on Wednesdays.” And I’m like “nah, nah… music every day.” If you’re going to do it, then do it. If you’ve got the talent then do it from your heart’s content. I do it every day.
You make a lot of sacrifices as well. I used to like listening to music. Now I listen to old music because I can’t dissect it, but modern music is easy to dissect. So my sacrifice is that when I listen to a record nowadays, I listen to it in pieces rather than listening to the whole thing, and that’s my sacrifice.
ILM: So you listen to it from a musician’s point of view rather than as a consumer?
Roni: That’s right yeah. I listen to it as many different pieces rather than as one whole thing.
ILM: Finish this sentence… the best things in life are…
Roni: The best things in life are… the moments you share.
The new Roni Size and Reprazent record is due to be finished by the end of 2008.