Drum and bass music pioneer Goldie, 48, grew up in Wolverhampton. Born of a Jamaican father and Scottish mother he was raised in a children’s home and with foster parents. His early artist career began as a graffiti artist and he featured in the ‘80s Afrika Bambaataa documentary Bombing.
His music career took off in the early 90s and his first studio album, Timeless in 1995, entered the UK albums chart at number seven. Since then he has appeared in several films including the James Bond movie, The World is Not Enough and the Guy Richie’s Snatch.
He has appeared in numerous TV reality shows including Maestro where he learnt to conduct a classical orchestra. He is also a talented visual artist and his last exhibition Lost Tribes in 2013, featured a host of new works.
This month he makes his theatre-acting debut in Kingston 14 at Theatre Royal Stratford. Written by BAFTA-award winning Roy Williams, the play is set in current Jamaica and tells of a UK police officer investing the murder of a British tourist on the island. Gang leader Joker, played by Goldie, is held for questioning, and the play ends with two officers being kidnapped.
How did your theatre-acting debut come about?
The play’s director Clint Dyer is an old friend of mine. We worked together on an independent film Everybody Loves Sunshine many years ago and we always felt we should do something else. He had been working in theatre for a while and he asked me whether I would be interested in the role. I went for a read-through and saw the script and thought this would be a good opportunity to get back into acting, something I have always enjoyed.
Do you see anything of yourself in the character Joker?
I think we can all see a bit of ourselves as a rebel in this character. I think there is part of me that is a bit of a loner and operating outside the norm, so yes, I can relate in part to Joker. In the main I leaned on some of the characters I met while I was living in Miami. People from Jamaica and some who were pretty ruthless. Some disappeared and some got long prison sentences and I have drawn from some of those people for this role.
Filmmaking is like a sprint with short burst of activity while theatre is like a marathon. Has it been difficult to adapt?
It is tiring, but when you have a great writer and director it puts you in such a strong position. It’s like a DJ playing a good set, there is a lot of positive energy in the room.
Do you think that some of the diverse things you have done in your career help you to bring something different to theatre acting?
I never made a record until I was 28, so in terms of making records I was a late starter. Now I’m 48 and starting on something new. I take the long way around things and I think the journey is what the arts is all about. I take from the journey, experience and bring that to whatever I do. It was like when I did conducting I started to understand exactly what all the music notes meant in regards to the orchestra. The play is like that experience because the more you analyse the script the more you understand the back-story, the depth of the characters and the double meaning of certain words.
All the characters in the play I have met a thousand times over. My family, including my older brother from Jamaica, who now lives in Miami. I’m drawing from all kinds of people and experiences.
Do you think that doing the play has made you connect more with your Jamaican roots?
I kind of knew a lot about Jamaica already to be honest, but it’s little things that I have picked up about the political environment from the script and direction. Living with my father in Miami and being immersed in the Jamaican community there meant I observed and learnt a lot about my cultural heritage.
It’s interesting that in the past Jamaica was somewhere I didn’t really want to visit. I had so much turmoil in my own life trying to find my own place in this country. I didn’t meet my Jamaican father until I was 21 so it was a lot to take on at the time. In the ‘80s everyone in Britain was looking to America in terms of hip-hop culture and that’s where I was focussed rather than Jamaica.
Do you see your career going more into the world of theatre?
I would love to do more stuff. I know I will love acting till the day I die and it’s definitely something I could get into. I have recently started to get back to my art and had an exhibition last year. So yeah, I definitely want to try and explore all my different creative energies. I’m probably painting better than I ever have and my craft is getting more refined. And I do think that one form helps another.
Did you think that growing up as a youngster in Wolverhampton you would achieve so much with your life?
When you do anything, you do it in the present so you don’t know what the future holds. A very small percentage of people do the job that they started out doing in later life. I knew I was going to do something and I was going to be someone. That’s all I knew.
Going to New York when I was a young graffiti artist blew my mind and made me think that there were possibilities beyond Wolverhampton.
Do you sometimes have to play a bit of the bad-boy persona?
I suppose so sometimes. I can be a bit fiery and that adds to my character. Characters are what creates me. Playing a role is what protects that boy inside me and sometimes you can become that character that you create. In my head I’m always going to be 12-years-old.
Yoga has in recent years become a major part of your life. Why?
If I had the chance I would teach yoga in every school. I have been doing Bikram yoga for three years and have done more in those years creatively than I have in the last 15 years. I have done 30 paintings, I have done my first bronze. Mindset and focus that you get from yoga is so important. I have an urgency now that I didn’t have when I was 18. It’s probably the most important thing I have ever done in my life.
What I say to anyone is that heaven in right now. That moment, you’re on the phone or looking out the window. Whatever we create is heaven.
Goldie stars in Kingston 14 at Theatre Royal Stratford East 28 Mar – 26 Apr 2014. Box office 020 8534 0310 http://www.stratfordeast.com/
Link to interview with Goldie, Charles Venn and playwright Roy Williams discussing the play (1.43):
Goldie on Kingston 14 rehearsals (2.15):
*Many thanks to Kim Morgan PR for the Q&A