Positive Vibration festival is going from strength to strength and this year’s event should be the biggest and best yet.
The festival will coincide with the celebrations around 55 years of Jamaican independence and the line-up reflects the political, cultural and social diversity inherent in reggae as an art form as well as its roots in Jamaican culture.
As an example of this diversity as well as the far-reaching legacy of reggae music, this year’s festival will be headlined by drum n’ bass icon, Roni Size. We caught up with Roni ahead of his performance to discuss his new solo projects, the 20th anniversary of his Mercury Prize-winning album, New Forms and how he’s looking forward to putting on a show for his Liverpool fans.
As a way of opening up a window into your ‘day-to-day’ can you tell us what you’ve been up to today?
I’m actually finishing up some music at the moment. I’m mixing a lot of music and getting the sound right and making sure all of my dynamics are right. I’m studio-bound at the moment and working on my ‘studio sun tan’’!
How has your approach to performing live evolved over the course of your career – especially as you’re now involved in more and more solo projects?
I’m definitely less nervous these days it’s just me relying on myself. I think when you’re playing with a full band the problem is that someone might not be quite on the ball and then you end up waiting for something to happen or go wrong. So, it’s very different what I do now – I’m not working with an 8-piece band, it’s more a case of just me up there with the visual show and creating something that works over a long period of time.
I was nervous at the beginning of setting up my solo shows about things like people’s reactions and the inevitable questions of ‘where’s Dynamite, where’s the drummer, where’s the bass player…’ etc. However, the reactions I’ve got have been really positive.
Beforehand, it was a real challenge with having 8-16 people on the road doing live shows – that was a real challenge in terms of the logistics of getting everyone from one place to another and the financial cost of that.
Last year was the 20th anniversary of your Mercury Prize-winning album New Forms which was celebrated with a remastered album and a few live shows. How was that whole experience?
To be brutally honest, that whole anniversary thing around New Forms was … yes, a celebration but also a party for one. I didn’t manage to celebrate it with all the people involved in it because they were all doing their own thing and then there were the financial considerations. Truthfully, there was also a case of the various people involved not talking to each other.
Does such an anniversary prompt you to reflect on how the relationships have evolved with the people you worked with on that album?
Yes, absolutely. I did reach out to people to see if they wanted to be involved in the celebrations, but everyone was busy with their own stuff. I was left with two choices 1. Do it all by myself or 2. Not to do anything at all and realistically, the latter was never going to happen. I ended up doing it and it was incredible. Dynamite was always going to be a part of it, but it would have looked really silly with me standing behind the screen and Dynamite out there at the front – it wouldn’t have made sense.
How important was the Mercury music prize for you at that time in your career – was it a timely acknowledgement of the work you had been creating and was it important for drum n’ bass in general?
At the time the whole industry was lukewarm to drum n’ bass. I think because we were from Bristol it was harder because a lot of attention was placed on London however, Bristol ended up being like the last borough of London – to the extent that if London had added another borough it would have been Bristol.
In the end, the music spoke for itself. The way I look at it after 20 years and the easiest way to sum it up is that there are still people that come up to me and say that the New Forms album was the first time they’d heard that beat – people from all over the world. The album was distributed by Universal all across the world, so the music travelled and it popped a lot of people’s cherries!
You will be headlining Liverpool’s Positive Vibration festival. What can the fans expect to see?
I’m looking forward to it. I’ll be coming down and I know I’ll be in very good company. This is the first time I’ll be coming to Positive Vibration – when I saw my name on the poster I was really excited and I’m thinking of getting some dreads sorted!
I used to come to Liverpool quite a bit. It’s been a while since I’ve been and I’m really looking forward to it. I know for myself I’m focused on delivering great performance for the Positive Vibration audience.
I find my inspiration in the studio and working hard and maintaining my position as an artist and I’m looking forward to showing the people of Liverpool what I’ve been working on and what I’m all about as an artist.