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Interview With: Roni Size

Posted on Wednesday 21st June 2023 at 16:00

Jimi Arundell

Written by
Jimi Arundell


Readipop Festival returns to the spectacular grounds of Reading’s Christchurch Meadows this summer. Taking place from Friday 14th till Sunday 17th of July; the three-day festival boasts the best in a wide range of genres, including indie heroes Sleeper, hip hop pioneers Jungle Brothers and snarling post punk upstarts Snapped Ankles all playing headline sets.

Plus, look forward to awesome appearances from the likes of Roni Size, Professor Green, MF Tomlinson, Pip Blom, OSP, Rozi Plain and many more essential artists. CLICK HERE to book your tickets right now!

First established in 1998; the music and art festival provides enriching experiences with community projects benefiting disadvantaged people or those with complex needs. Working under the ethos “Music Changing Lives”, Readipop reaches out, ensuring culture is accessible to all by providing workshops, career advice, musical workshops and even equipment.

Gigantic spoke to drum and bass legend Roni Size ahead of his appearance at Readipop Festival. Famed for being instrumental in bringing drum and bass into the mainstream, the innovative DJ and producer won a Mercury Prize together with his group Reprazent for their debut album New Forms which dropped in 1997.

Featuring the crucial track "Brown Paper Bag", plus singles "Share the Fall", "Heroes" and "Watching Windows" the release of New Forms is considered a landmark moment for the genres and all club culture. Roni Size shot to global attention and 25 years later, he remains a world leader in dance music.



We are so excited to see you play Readipop. What can fans expect from your appearance this summer?

This year, I've decided to just do a limited amount of shows because, believe it or not, I'm just trying to spend some time in the studio and just to make music. Readipop was the first organisation that reached out to me this year, which started the ball rolling for me.

I’ve not played in Reading enough. I used to do all the festivals around in Reading. And it's just down the road for me, it's not too far, and I was like “Yeah! I can do this!

And when I saw what it was about, their inclusion with some of the seminars, and working with youths and all that, I was like, “You know what? Yeah! This is a good way to re-enter into something which I'd feel passionate about.



Awesome! Obviously, you’ve been a legend on the scene for a long time. Do you still get nervous in the lead-up to a big gig like this?

Yeah, of course! I'm more confident than nervous but nerves are part of it. It's more to do with my preparation. If I know that I'm not fully prepped because maybe I've been side tracked by just life and just other stuff, then sometimes the music becomes a bit secondary. Or if you’re a bit out of the game and haven’t DJ’d for a while, like anything, you can take a little while just to get back into it. But the nerves are a good thing.

It’s nice to be confident and nervous and apprehensive. I played on the weekend, and it was just me, and there was like 2000 people. I was just about to start and then the heavens opened. You can't predict stuff like that. Yeah. And that kind of made me nervous, everyone's gonna disappear. But they didn’t, they stayed dancing in the rain!



How do you go about planning your sets? Do you know exactly where you’re going to take ravers with the music, or just feel it out?

Sometimes, you have to actually be in the venue. We're fortunate enough now, to be able to get there like an hour early and look at the performers beforehand, and I can have my laptop in front of me and use my USB keys. And then if I need to make adjustments, I can do it literally 20 minutes before I'm about to go on the decks.

It's just a luxury to be able to organise your set in real-time. Before, when you're playing vinyl or paying dubplates you kind of had to just stick to what you knew. Whereas now, I’ve got like 200 different sets from over 20 years’ worth of DJing. I've got so many different sets I can draw for, so if I wants to play a bit of hip hop or bit of different tempos halfway through my set, I can just drag and drop those onto the key. I can go to different events and say “Okay, this one reminds me of playing somewhere like Reunion Island, you know, somewhere in Madagascar” and you can drag and drop your set.

You can prepare your sets in real-time, which I think is a real bonus, I love taking my laptop and then five minutes before I go on, you put your key in, and then you drag and drop and go ZOOOOOOOOOOP and go plug it in straight away, and then you're off!



The reaction to debut album New Forms was enormous and saw you grab a Mercury Prize. How did it feel bursting out of the underground to almost instant mainstream success?

Dream come true. Loved every second of it. DJing with your best friends. I can't remember ever sleeping – and I can't remember ever being tired! You would go from the studio to the gigs, from the gigs to the cutting room, from the cutting room to the record label, from the record label to the studio, from the studio... I can't remember sleeping between 1991 and 2001!

It was just a dream. The journey I'd had – I wouldn't change anything.



That’s so awesome to hear. And the record still sounds so fresh, thanks to that radical fusion of organic sounds, analogue instruments, and killer beats. Where did you get the idea to fuse live instrumentation with drum and bass?

We used the sources that were around us. And when I say us, we all had different ideas, we all brought something to the table. There was a group of us, and we would just have vinyl collections, which are really important to have, we knew musicians that we knew that we could call at the drop of a hat and they would come and lay down some stuff. We were inspired by brand-new equipment, you know? Buying drum machines, samplers, the technology, it was just all inspirational, it was all so new, it was all such a learning process. That's what inspired us!

We didn't even think about what we was doing. It was like natural. We just lived our dreams. Imagine, we could get a drummer, and we can record the drummer. And then we can sample the drummer and put the drummer into our samplers and make our own breaks. And we got a bass player, and we could record the bass player. And then we can resample the bass player and put the bass player into the sampler and make it sound like it was a band. And it wasn't – it was us just taking parts of the bands and making our own versions. It was like remixing the band!



What is it about experimentation with music that excites you?

I read somewhere the other day that sampling isn't really making music. No, it's not! It's creating music. Making music, anyone can do that, you can do that with two spoons and an egg cup! But creating music from scratch, it's all about your selection. What you select. Whether you sample or select a break or a vocal or you select someone that you're gonna call, that's being creative.



What inspires you?

I'm lucky that I've been excited. So many times, by reggae music with sound system culture. I've been excited by old-school music, by films like Wild Style and Breakdance and Beat Street.

I’m inspired by breakdancing ‘coz I think that is always going to a next level and when I see the break-dancers – woo!



What have been your favourite festivals to play in the past? Talk us through some of your best memories.

Favourite festival always gonna be Glastonbury. Number one festival in the world. Love it! Had the best times there. You know, but my best memories have been my first festivals like Universe, Fantasia – all early raves from back in the day. They were incredible but Glastonbury will always be my favourite. Number one.



Wicked! So, only a handful of dates this summer. Where else will we see you?

So, this year I've decided to do just a selection of shows. I did one in Italy last week for Vans, which was really cool. I've got a few coming up. To be honest with you, I don't even look at what I'm doing until the weekend comes so I'm not really clear on where I'm going. Even though I've been taken on the bookings myself. I'm doing a couple close to home, I'm doing the Lloyds Amphitheatre in Bristol with Fabio & Grooverider, the Gardna and myself and Intrigue. So that's going to be quite exciting. You can see what I'm doing by looking on my Instagram (@ronisizebristol).



And you’re back in the studio. What are you working on?

Music! Being creative! Yeah, I've just rebuilt my studio. And just look forward to just getting creative and just seeing what comes out.



📆 July

14 - 16/07           Readipop Festival – Christchurch Meadows, Reading

Get your Readipop Festival tickets with Gigantic today!



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