Malcolm Goldie creates music with an up-beat personality and distinctive sound. His work combines a conceptual approach with a lightness of touch and a subtle humour, it has been described as both ‘psychedelic electro-pop’ and ‘R2D2 meets Brian Eno’.
Goldie’s soundtracks have been widely commissioned by clients such as Amnesty International, Canal Plus, Channel 4, Dr Martens, France 4, Google, Hermes and HTC. He has released singles on vinyl and digital download via Sunday Best Records and his own independent label. He frequently collaborates with fellow creatives including graphic artist Anthony Burrill, moving image specialists Paul Plowman and Zac Ella, and artist Daniel Eatock.
After graduating with an MA in graphic design from the Royal College of Art, London, he expanded his love of music making and digital sound manipulation into a career as an independent musician. Goldie now works as a producer and sound designer of electronic music, mainly providing commissioned audio for moving image. He lives and works in Kingston, Southwest London.
Studio photography by James Stephenson
How did you get started in sound?
As a kid I made comedy cassette tapes – farts, jokes, recordings of lemonade bottles opening, fake explosions and any odd sound I could make. In my teenage years I discovered electro and hip hop and started making music with drum machines, scratching, synths, etc. Now I have a good grasp of what my ‘voice’ is – my working process – which I think of as similar to playing with paper, paint and glue but in the intangible world of sound.
What instruments do you play and use?
Guitar, bass, turntables, drum machines, samplers, analog synths, effects units, and of course various music softwares. I can also do quite a range of comedy voices, including a half decent Scottish accent.
Can you describe your working process?
I start with an idea, whether that is from a client’s brief or my own intention, and throw sounds around in the same way a child might build a ‘spaceship’ from a box full of scrap cardboard, egg boxes and string. I quickly push things in and out of the composition seeing what works, what doesn’t. I like to surprise myself and when it starts to make me smile I know I’m on the right track.
Name three records which played an important part in your life?
Malcolm McLaren and the World’s Famous Supreme team – Would Ya Like More Scratchin (1984)
It’s basically the Art of Noise meets World’s Famous Supreme Team and is probably the most underrated genius record in hip hop. It has the greatest scratch sound of all time on side 2. In the tradition of all great records, it’s a one off. Listen
M:I:5 – Maßstab 1:5 (1997)
This was released on Profan – my all time favourite techno record label, from Cologne, Germany. Minimal but warm, weird but funky, it loops on forever but it seems to have a sense of humour. There’s not much like this. Listen
The Shaggs – Philosophy of the World (1969)
After a long and fruitless search for music that was music made by people that can barely play, with more hope than ability… I finally came across this album. It literally changed my musical world. Listen
What is your favourite sound?
I love the sound of cicadas – it means I am on holiday somewhere very warm. Also I pretty much like any song played at either half or double its normal speed.
What is your least favourite sound?
I don’t like the kind of echo you get in minimal rooms with hard floors, no curtains and nothing on the walls – it’s a kind of empty sound that discourages loud laughter. Ironically I love a particular Lexicon Reverb preset called ‘Tiled Room’ which synthetically simulates exactly the kind of room sound I can’t stand in real life.
Are you usually composing after the video is made or before?
Most of the time it’s a side by side process and I can have a dialogue with the designer to suggest enhancement to the sync between sound and visuals. On the work I made for Canal Plus, Daniel Eatock (director) wanted the visuals to move exactly to the sound so we came up with a system where I supplied each ident as four ‘stems’ (layers) of sound and the animations were made to react precisely to the music.
Does collaborating enhance your creativity?
I enjoy working with people who have come to me specifically for what I do best. They trust in the quality of what I do, will tell me when they love it and ask nicely to try again when they don’t think it’s working…
Conversely I do also enjoy working alone, which is probably why I often talk to myself – eg The Adventures of Graham Penwan
Who would you want to collaborate with?
I would love take a series of rhythms from ancient drum machines and ask Herbie Hancock to improvise solo piano over them. It would be my desert island disk. I can listen to old drum patterns for hours, and Herbie is my favourite living jazz pianist.
What is your musical ambition?
I would like to write the next Popcorn. Listen
If your personality could be described as a sound what would it be?
It would be the sound of a cat’s paws gently walking along a kitchen shelf at midnight, slipping on a loose marble, letting out a surprised meoww before crashing onto the table below and sending small china ornaments flying in all directions.
Interviewed by Alexandre Varela
ATC SCM 50ASL PRO monitors
Focusrite ISA 430 mk2 channel strips
Eventide H8000FW effects system
Eventide H7600 effects system
Roland Jupiter 6 analog synth
Moog Sub37 analog synth
Korg MS20 analog synth module
Casio MT70 keyboard
Teenage Engineering OP1
Akai MPC 4000 sampler
Elektron Rytm analog drum machine
Jomox 09 drum machine
Hammond Auto Vari 64 drum machine
Native Instruments Maschine
Technics SL1200 turntable
Rane TTM56 mixer
TC Electronic D2 digital delay
Lexicon Vortex digital multi effects
Fender Stratocaster USA ’89 guitar
Fender JV Stratocaster Japan ’82 guitar
Charvel San Dimas guitar
Fender Princeton valve guitar amp
Traynor YCV80 valve guitar amp
Fender Precision bass JV Japanese series
Fender Precision bass SQ Japanese series
Too many guitar pedals
Various high end and lo-fi software
Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategies cards
A signed photo of Morrissey
A speaking clock
Several dead plants
Coffee cups that are used to grow mould