My Hero: Goldie on Pat Metheny

The don of drum & bass tells us how the American guitarist and composer has influenced his life and music.

18.08.11

Words by: Ruth Saxelby

I found Pat Metheny’s music when I was on a beach in South Beach, Miami between 8th and 9th Street on Ocean Drive at four in the morning some years ago. I’d earlier been listening to a late night radio show in the Florida area and heard a track and just fell in love with this South American, Latin sound illustrated by guitar. Late night jazz radio shows then just played music back-to-back: you’d never hear it again and not know who the fuck it was by. I kept on listening to this radio station over a period of a couple of months and finally, lo-and-behold, I heard the track again – this time with the name: Minuano from an album called ‘Still Life’. I went out and bought the album and never looked back. Pat knows my music because I remixed his record Across The Sky about 15 years ago.

Pat’s one of those manifestations that you know that you’ll never, sadly enough in a beautiful way, be able to play like this guy.

Pat’s one of those manifestations that you know that you’ll never, sadly enough in a beautiful way, be able to play like this guy. Certain people are born to play music and Pat’s one of them. When I listened to First Circle, which is taken from the album ‘First Circle’, I was thinking, Is that a guitar? Is that a guitar? What’s that? Is that three people playing that? You realise it wasn’t just one guitar; it’s one guy playing with five different synthetic aspirations of a guitar. It was switched up so much that I never knew what I was following. It was only when I saw Pat play ‘The Way Up’ live that I realised that, fuck me, he’s working on five or six different guitars at the same time.

I think if you want to get in touch with someone that’s been a part of your life, the least you can do is sit down and write a letter and tell someone how you feel about the music. I wrote Pat a really beautiful handwritten letter and he read it and he was like, Man, people don’t even write shit like this any more. I did a one-on-one interview with him two months ago at the Langham Hotel and the first thing he said when he opened his month was, What an unbelievable letter, and that was that.

I’m working on my new album right now and I’m reworking Are You Going With Me?, which is Pat’s Timeless – it was groundbreaking for him. For me, it’s a very important piece of music. I couldn’t wait to ask him the question, Why is that piece of music so important and do you ever get bored of it? He said he could play that infinitely because it comes from somewhere else.

Music does come from somewhere else – I don’t know where but it comes from something quite powerful, which in western society we would call the soul. It’s something that doesn’t necessarily borderline on this life alone; music is just one of those things. It’s not me that made Timeless, it’s an entity of me – that’s called the influence of what’s around me without the ego. That’s about growing up, coming of age.

Music does come from somewhere else – I don’t know where but it comes from something quite powerful, which in western society we would call the soul.

Pat has influenced me in a lot of ways. He was the first person I heard using a voice that didn’t make any sense – it didn’t have to say anything, it just needed to resonate. I asked him what [the vocal on Minuano] meant and he said it didn’t mean anything, it’s just sound. So I always used vocal like that, as sound.

I also learnt all of my arrangement from Pat Metheny. ‘Timeless’ was an homage to ‘Still Life’. Pat has an unbelievable skill of being able to make one motif rear its head, submerge itself and come back in and out of a piece of music. Electronic music by default is just monotone – bam, bam, bam, bam, bam – it doesn’t really have much character. If you can create character with electronic music – really create character and be soulful as opposed to an old soul record played by a band – that’s the trick. There’s not enough electronic music that has that trick in it. We all have tricks in electronic music, which is only sleight of hand magic. ‘Timeless’ is slight of hand magic, it’s not a reel full of lots of people playing instruments, it’s a kid taking loads of hardcore equipment and giving you some sleight of hand magic. It’s an illusion, and within that illusion is the dream. That’s the dream of the music. I’ve always had that dream because I’ve always aspired to want to be somewhere else, and create a plateau that would give me the thought of a better place. For me as an artist, because I’ve had such a stormy life, I’ve tried to create some sort of stable land. I can put my foot on the Goldie shore and sit down on my beach and I can be quite content with what that is. If I poison myself with lots of other shit, which I have done before, then I implode. But with music I can be in control of myself because I can navigate where I want to go and what I want to say without anyone else saying it to me.

Pat’s always about the music. I think the difference with Pat Metheny’s music, if you wanted to put the nail on the head, is that it’s fucking timeless. It’s way beyond me – I’m nothing compared to this guy. Not even a fucking droplet in an ocean. But the one thing I do have is knowing that I am part of a very big ocean kind of makes me feel more humble. And knowing that he gets motivated by, Where the fuck do you get an idea from? He understands that; he understands about manifestation. I don’t think I’ve ever heard this word used but I like to approach music ‘séance-ically’. I will manifest or draw out of someone that is a musician, the ghost, if you like, of the way that I want it to be played. It doesn’t necessarily make any sense when I’m doing it but it makes a lot of sense later on.

Pat’s always challenged electronica with his music, he’s not scared of technology – that’s the last thing he is.

Pat’s got this really strong belief that the speakers are lying to us. He believes that another speaker system needs to be made. It’s bothered him for the last 10 years. He thinks that the way we hear sound is totally wrong. I was kind of baffled by what he said at first but I can kind of understand what he means. He reckons that there’s a new way of sound coming to us but not out of two speakers. He doesn’t know how it’s going to be done, neither do I know. I said to him, Pat, we’re kind of at the end of this, man – I don’t think we can go anywhere else. He said, You’re wrong Goldie, you can go somewhere else. That’s coming from him! Pat’s always challenged electronica with his music, he’s not scared of technology – that’s the last thing he is. And that’s what he said to me was the biggest mistake that happened to jazz music. Jazz was always about experimentation but all of a sudden that’s what’s sad about it – that scat should be done a certain way, or in a certain framework. That was not what jazz was about.

I think Pat’s an innovator without a doubt. The one thing that Pat gave me, which seems kind of ironic really, is identity. Because he’s one of those guys when you hear a Pat Metheny record, you fucking know that it’s Pat Metheny. You can go from Lonely Woman all the way to Minuano: one’s melancholic old-guard jazz and one’s a future Latin thing. It’s what he does; I can’t put my finger on it. It’s the way that he plays; is it melancholic? It is just a style? What he taught me is that this is my sound and I can make it sound like Adrift or I can make it sound like Temper Temper: two different things altogether but ultimately the same person.

The one thing that Pat gave me, which seems kind of ironic really, is identity.

I’m doing a ‘Timeless’ project next year with the National Youth Orchestra and Chris Wheeler who did the Vangelis show. Chris Wheeler’s now the musical director alongside me, he was the guy who did the Massive Attack show at the Southbank. We’re looking at an 80-piece orchestra and we’re re-notating the whole score. And I said to Pat, y’know, if we take this to New York, would Pat want to guest and he said, Not a problem. So we’ll see what happens.

As told to Ruth Saxelby

Fabric Records released FabricLive 58: Goldie on 18th July 2011. Goldie is working on his new album, due next year