Few names are steeped in as much drum & bass heritage as Roni Size. One of the first artists to take the genre to the global, mainstream stage and show how creative and musical it can be, his 20+ year career has been littered with matchless moments… From winning the Mercury Music Prize to being the only D&B artist to ever remix Bob Marley.
The last few years may have appeared a little quiet in Size City, but trust… Behind the scenes he’s been plotting and devising a whole new chapter. A chapter that sees him taking full control of his own brand, his own beats and his own label Mansion Sounds. In his own words he’s “hungrier now than ever before” and his forthcoming album Take Kontrol is testament to this. We grabbed Power two weeks back…
Featuring a band of musicians he’s handpicked from other realms of music, Take Kontrol still rifles with some of Roni’s distinctive motifs – a firm funk bedrock, pulverising basslines that flex in from nowhere, surging vocals from Onalee, on-point mic command from Dynamite MC– but there’s a clear shift in dynamic and arrangement, too.
“I’m moving away from the Full Cycle sound. For me that era of Reprazents is 1993 to about 2008,” he says. “Sometimes you can go around rehashing the same old thing without realising. This is me stepping away from the roots and making music that’s more appropriate for our times. Drum & bass fills entire stadiums nowadays! It’s amazing to see crowds of 20,000 or 30,000 going off to proper drum & bass!
“It’s miles away from the roots I came through on. It’s not just about underground parties and having the most upfront dubplates possible. Drum & bass has broadened to include anthems. Big tracks that have huge crowds singing along. But it’s also totally credible. I love this new era drum & bass is enjoying and Take Kontrol is me taking part in that as I’ve always believed drum & bass would become as big as this. I’m proud of the role I’ve played in the past, present and future!”
And here are five examples of the role he’s played in our favourite genre’s rich history, handpicked by Roni himself…
This isn’t just ravers raving, this is real music!
1993: Being visited by Bryan Gee
Let’s go right back to the start. The original family… Me, Krust, Die, Suv, Flynn, Flora. Being in St Pauls in a creative area with my brother building a studio. We were broke but hungry. We were all on the same wavelength, all together. We were approached by Bryan Gee who came up to Bristol from London and told us he wanted to sign us for V Recordings. That’s the moment when we thought ‘yes, things are happening’. Bryan Gee sitting in my flat telling us he wanted to set up V Recordings and our sound was going to be the foundations of it. It was fantastic. We’d been following him for years and knew he wasn’t bullshitting. So he signed us and from that we were signed to Gilles Peterson’s Talkin’ Loud. Which brings me on to my second key moment…
1994: Signing off the dole
This was my graduation day! The day I went to the dole office and signed off. I knew I was up and running. Signing off, signing my Talkin Loud deal and knowing I had a proper job. From here I was just bombarded with incredible experiences which taught me so much. The whole relationship with Talkin Loud and Universal Records was fantastic and this is where it all began.
1997: Winning the Mercury Music Prize
I still remember it as clear as day. All of us sitting down in the Grosvenor Hotel, paying no attention to what was going on around us and hearing our name shouted out as the winners. I’d never won anything in my life, I haven’t got any qualifications, but I’ve got a Mercury Music Prize!
It was amazing. And what was special to us is that we had the go ahead from all the key players… Jumping Jack Frost, Goldie, Bryan Gee. They were all fully behind us, and told us to go for it. We put ourselves up there and said ‘this isn’t just ravers raving, this is real music’. Along with key people like Goldie, Photek and Adam F, we were at the very front showing people how big and how credible and how creative this music can be. We loved it.
The first thing we noticed after winning this was that we never knew the MDs or CEOs of Universal were. The moment we won, you bet we knew who they were very quickly! But when I look back that all led to a lot of meetings and, in the scheme of things, pretty boring stuff. Much better memories in terms of relationships come from Talkin Loud; getting to know people like Gilles Peterson was much more special and rewarding.
Was there any pressure after winning? Yeah there was. But it’s how you deal with it. Because there were so many of us, we absorbed it collectively. We embraced the pressure and ran with it. My name was at the forefront of the deal but it never would have worked without all the boys. From this we did tours, we did albums, we seemed to constantly be on tour… That buzz ran right up to 2008 before we realise that we’d disbanded and moved on to our own separate things. Which brings me to the next moment…
My name was at the forefront of the deal but it never would have worked without all the boys.
2008: New Forms 2
This was the first time I put out a record pretty much by myself without support from the Full Cycle camp or the V camp. It was me going back to the roots and work out who I am… Especially the business end of things. This is where the seeds were sown for me deciding that I wanted full control of what I do.
New Forms 2 was followed two years later with a full performance of the album at the re-opening of Bristol’s legendary Colston Hall. I had a full orchestra and choir and I spent a long time scoring and rehearsing and organising. It was so much work but I was always frustrated we didn’t do another show and follow it on. All that work for one show! I had such high expectations and wanted to do it again but it never happened. It was a wasted opportunity, and I knew from this moment what I had to do next…
I love drawing for inspiration. People have been inspired by me, and I’m inspired by other producers. It’s how you reinterpret those influences and references.
2014: Take Kontrol
All of those moments are precious but the most pivotal time in my career is right now! I have a studio in a great building called Metropolis. I have a great team of people and my label Mansion Sounds. It’s the next step from Full Cycle. What I’m doing now is down to me. I am responsible for every aspect of my business from the ground up. I have a team but it’s through my choice. I am my own CEO! It’s so refreshing and exciting and it’s taken me four years to get to this point… Hence the title of the album which I’m so excited about getting out there!
The whole album is my take on today’s drum & bass married with everything what I love from the last 10 years of the music. Of course I’ve been inspired by Pendulum and Sub Focus and all them. I love drawing for inspiration. People have been inspired by me, and I’m inspired by other producers. It’s how you reinterpret those influences and references. I have records by these guys in my record box and I wanted to make records that would fit with them. I’ve been DJing a lot of these tracks for the last year solidly and always get asked about them. In a way Take Kontrol is an album of special requests!
And from there we’re not stopping… We’re about to announce the next load of Reprazents shows and trust me, there is A LOT more new material to follow Take Kontrol. We’ve still the soul. We’ve still got the funk. Tune in and never ever tune out.
Check Reprazents on tour later this year!