TRUST ME, Roni Size needs little introduction.
With a contribution to electronic music spanning well over two decades – his back catalogue can only be described as a myriad of sound. A masterful musician of an elite calibre and one of the real heroes of the underground, Bristol’s finest was awarded 1997’s Mercury Music Prize for the seminal album ‘New Forms’ cementing the British born DJ and Producer firmly in the history books and dance music’s Hall of Fame.
Nearly twenty years on and still going strong, with an insatiable thirst for the flavours of the future he captures moments in time that have yet to arrive, true to the sound of Reprazent and keeping the spirit of Full Cycle alive. Join us for a snapshot of his illustrious career to date and ahead of his greatly anticipated performance at The Social Festival in Maidstone in Kent this September.
Hi Roni, welcome and thank you for joining us – how are you?
Yeah I’m really good thanks, finally we have some good weather to enjoy in the UK and I’ve been making the most of it, although saying that I’m feeling the effects of a nice afternoon out in the sun yesterday and a few cold drinks that went with it, so I am sitting in the shade just chilling out right now but yeah all good thank you.
We are midway through summer and it’s heating up, how has 2016 been for you so far?
Well I think it’s been a brilliant year so far, I’m playing lots of really cool gigs each weekend all over the UK and Europe and I’m just about to tour America over fourteen dates with DJ Krust and MC Dynamite which is really exciting. We’re heading over there representing my record label Full Cycle which has been lying dormant over the last decade but we have now re-established it and have loads of really interesting music to release and play so it’s a really fun time right now – you could say that Full Cycle has come full circle and what better time to get stuck back in!
Performing alongside Krust, you are playing a ‘History of Full Cycle’ set at The Social Festival in Kent this September, how far back in the vaults are you going to go?
Well our catalogue began in 1993 with ‘Music Box’ so all the way back to the very beginning – we will probably start with some classics from the early days and work our way forward, but concentrating on keeping the vibe in the arena alive of course, we’ve been around a long time and we know what we are doing! Haha!
I’m really looking forward to it, I know that it’s the first time The Social have hosted Jungle and Drum and Bass at the festival and what better way to celebrate 20 incredible years of Drum and Bass Arena too, the line-up is immense – capturing so much of the scene’s rich history with some of the most prolific artists, from those who were there in the beginning and also the next generations pushing the boundaries of our music now and in the future.
When I play these days, the crowd covers so many ages, from those who have been there for a minute and those who only go out occasionally as they have families and are settled down. You really notice it at the festivals and The Social will be no different. There is so much music that the younger ravers will never have even heard, it may be 15 to 20 years old but sounds fresh as they weren’t even alive when it was actually released. Drum and Bass continues to evolve and always will, there is just so much to choose from and so many timeless classics too.
I work really, really hard to maintain my status and I’m overwhelmed that I still receive such recognition after so many years, I’m honoured to be invited to play on such a prestigious occasion and I know the enormous amount of effort going into the event means it will be one for the history books and I am truly grateful.
The only thing I know is music, if this all ended for me tomorrow I have no idea what I would do. It’s my life, I have never done anything else – this is it for me, I’m never going to become a Marine Biologist or whatever – to have remained relevant and in demand for so long really means so much to me.
Emerging from a very musical family and community, you weren’t a huge fan of school, but have always been a ‘student’ of music and say that “music chose me”. What was the moment of realisation that you had discovered the path towards your destiny?
Well looking back, there was a girl – we were living together and it wasn’t working and I ended up leaving and had nowhere to go as I was about to be evicted anyway, so I’m walking down the street with all my worldly possessions in my bag, no money, and no job and no idea what to do with my life or what to do next. I was at my lowest point ever and I had to do something, I had to tap into what I knew – and had to move quickly too as time was running out. I remember amidst all the drama, looking at myself in the mirror and knowing that I had to act and I had to do something right there and then, I said to myself “I must act NOW!” That was my epiphany – and from that moment onwards I started and have never stopped since, I followed my passion and kept going every step of the way.
You meet people, you find opportunities, you make it happen no matter what and never look back. I met Krust around this time and other similar minded people who had been through it and you all bond and begin to grow together. You develop self-belief and gain momentum, and before you know it you are riding the wave and it all starts to make sense even though not long beforehand, it seemed a million miles away, and you just keep on going. Music saved my life, it really did.
How did you and Krust meet and form Full Cycle along with Suv and DJ Die?
I was pretty down and out and just managed to get a job with a youth company where I was going to teach young people how to make their own music. Krust had also started working there and we just clicked and have been firm friends ever since, we share the same passion for music and worked hard from those early days onwards to achieve all that we have together – it’s been an amazing journey.
As for Full Cycle, in the beginning we went to so many raves like ‘Universe’ and ‘Fantazia’ and it was a very spiritual time, and it just seemed clear to us that everything we experienced together happened in cycles so it was the perfect choice. There was a very strong connection between us all from the very start and it was as if we knew each other before we had even met for the first time so when we eventually formed our collective, it was the obvious choice.
Full Cycle contributed massively to the ‘Bristol Sound’ as it is fondly renowned – how would you describe that energy?
I think a lot of people were looking for an identity. It was a point at which people were into House, Techno, Hip Hop, Reggae etc. and going to raves but were looking for something different – something in between and that covered all bases. I think that the UK didn’t have that identity of its own until Jungle and Drum and Bass emerged, and it found its character. It didn’t have a voice, it was a sound. It was an energy in its own right, that tempo – it was the amalgamation of the beats and the bass cascading together. Everyone was searching for that perfect beat, I certainly was.
What was it like at the time and did you have any idea how big your influence would become, culminating in The Mercury Prize in 1997 and your career since?
At that time we were oblivious, we were just doing our thing and loving every second too. It wasn’t one of our goals – it was only when the likes of Goldie, LTJ Bukem and Adam F were starting to get major record deals we started to think about the possibilities and when they came knocking, we started rocking! Haha!
We were fortunate enough to be approached by some great people and were welcomed into Talkin’ Loud by Paul Martin and Giles Peterson which became a great home for us. We had a fantastic manager in Simon Goth who really guided us in the right direction and helped us take it to the next level. It was a great time for us, and the music generally – you could sense big changes were happening even if they weren’t so obvious at the time, there was this movement and it was incredible being part of it.
It will never be like that again – the music industry is so different now unfortunately. A&R men don’t go round looking for something like that anymore, the game has changed now and we are in a new era.
Talkin’ Loud was linked in with Def Jam in America and through that connection I’ve many classic memories of meeting my idols such as Run DMC and getting the opportunity to work with Method Man and Redman and Zack from Rage Against The Machine – seriously good times, the kind dreams are made of.
I consider myself to be of the second generation of Jungle artists and the first generation of Drum and Bass, and I’m very proud of my roots in this music. I’ve seen it grow from just a tiny seed and now you look at the success of the likes of Sigma and Rudimental and you realise just how far it has come and how far it is going to go.
In the early days of the music crossing over into the mainstream, you were pleased that the “door was now open, and keen to see who came through it” – well the door has been ripped clean off its hinges now, with that in mind – what pleases you most about Drum and Bass in the digital age?
The simplicity of being able to use just two USB sticks when you DJ out. You can be sat one minute before you begin and in a split second, decide to change the direction you’re going to go in and build your set in whichever way you want, to suit the vibe as it happens, I love that.
And what is less appealing?
I’m not massive on the moshing! When I see the crowds doing it, it confuses me – I see it and fair play – I get it, but I just can’t work out why you would want to dance around and get punched in the face for fun? It’s not the school that I come from, they do some massive moshes as well, it’s like someone is going to get killed here! I never foresaw that, just not for me!
What are your views on new acts breaking through? Is it a producer driven scene now and is the role of a pure ‘DJ’ alone diminishing?
These days you have to do it all, you have to be a DJ, producer, promoter, label owner, and your own accountant, managing your social media accounts, graphic design etc. It’s so different now compared to what it once was, there’s so much to it and you have to wear many, many hats to really break through. That’s the trick these days as I’m finding out, I do as much of it as possible, not that I want to but that’s another matter!
It means the lifespan of tracks these days is so short and the demand for good new music is so high. Lots of people don’t want to buy the music these days either and I believe they should, I do – I bought a new album yesterday. People need to support the music, in this day and age you could have millions of streams online and only 17 copies sold, people need to buy it and support the artists, support, support, SUPPORT! If people don’t, then where’s the incentive to release music? Especially now, we need to support the artist more than ever, and each other too like in the old days where especially locally – everybody supported each other and everybody benefited from it too.
If you were to timeline your career so far, what are your fondest memories?
I would say in the very beginning when you have endless creative energy and there simply isn’t enough time in the day, 24 hours is just not enough! You start making real progress and people recognise you and appreciate what you’re doing, the demand for your music increases and you play all over the world as band and as a group.
You make friends in countries you never even expected to go to, then sharing stages with your idols, your peers and your friends doing your favourite shows like MTV and Top of The Pops, or watching the kids come through whose parents have supported you and they are the next generation – amazing memories I will cherish forever and continue to enjoy for as long as possible.
After your break from the music, what’s different for you this time round and what’s in mind?
This is the hardest time, without doubt. Going to different countries where the younger generation have never heard of you and they see you as new DJ or they don’t acknowledge you – it’s really difficult trying to reinvent yourself when there are so many new faces out making and performing new music. You have to make sure your production is up to scratch and meets the standard which increases all the time.
What keeps the fire burning within you?
Well you’ve got to keep the taxman at bay haven’t you! Haha! Looking after your family, stability, life generally and living it well.
What is the most important lesson you have learned from life in the fast lane of the music industry?
You have got to have a thick skin, because you will definitely get bitten and probably more than once too. But you need to have the resilience to take it on the chin and keep going, it will be worth it in the end. The highs are like no other and I’ve experienced without doubt the most enjoyable days of my life so far through my love of music regardless of any hurdles along the way. Also, never ever take a step back from something you love as there will always be someone ready and waiting to step in your shoes.
What top 3 tips would you give to anyone influenced by your success – what would you say is essential to climbing the ladder and maintaining positive progress?
Be aware of who you meet on the way up as you will definitely bump into them again on your way down!
You have to have a great team around you, and behind every great artist is often an equally impressive team.
Sign every autograph, every one – even if that’s not you, do it, without your fans you will really struggle, show them appreciation and gratitude.
If you could go back in time to your younger self and pass on one piece of advice what would it be?
Think it, don’t say it.
Anything else you would like to say?
Watch out for the new single ‘Rock The Boat’ on Full Cycle and I can’t wait to play at The Social, I’m really looking forward to it, see you soon!