Last time we spoke to Roni Size was July 2014. Teetering on the edge of a major comeback; his album Take Kontrol was en route and his band Reprazent were fine-tuning their weapons and chiselling their groundbreaking live D&B sound for the first time in over five years.
15 months later and Roni’s comeback has been legit. Rolling with Reprazent, he’s sold out London’s KOKO twice and smashed the back end off some of Europe’s key festivals this summer including Glastonbury, EXIT (with UKF!), Melt!, Love Saves The Day, Parklife, Bestival and a many more.
Easy to list, a lot harder in reality; Roni has returned to a world that’s changed, developed and grown hugely since his last album in 2008. In his own words, it’s been “the hardest thing he’s done in his life”. But it’s paid off. Now the world awaits a brand new Reprazent album. But before that, he’s about to drop a truly unique live album.
September 2009: Roni and composer William Goodchild recruited a string ensemble and choir to recreate his biggest tracks (and four brand new ones that have still never been released) to perform in his home city’s famous Colston Hall. A complete one off, it was a magic night that genuinely did prove drum & bass’s dynamic versatility, energy and power as a source of music way beyond its dancefloor roots (trust me, I was there)
It also helped to dig deep foundations for more recent orchestral crossovers such as Radio 1’s Ibiza At The Proms show earlier this summer.
Roni Size Reprazent – Live At Colston Hall with William Goodchild & The Emerald Ensemble is out November 13 on Roni’s own label Mansion Sounds. He’s also playing at London’s Roundhouse this Friday, October 23, with Goldie and LTJ Bukem.
The perfect time, then, to catch up with Roni, find out how the last 15 months have gone and catch some nostalgic vibes from the legendary Colston Hall show.
You told us you wanted to hit the mainstages again. You’re a man of your word.
I will always remember the first time around, breaking into this new world with the backing of so many people. It was a really exciting time. But it was nothing compared to this time around. It’s been a whole other world again. It’s actually been the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life.
What’s been the hardest moment? Or any time when you’ve doubted it would happen?
I’ve never had moments of real doubt. But I have had many self-checking moments where I’m making sure I’ve got the right goals in my sights and I’m doing the right things to achieve them. It’s been really important to make sure I’ve not let anyone down – people have booked us to play these incredible main stages and big top arenas alongside some incredible names so I’ve had to stand up and make sure we’re repping on today’s level and doing our very best.
Any real key highlights?
Playing a roman colosseum in Croatia for Outlook Festival. That was probably one of the best venues I’ve ever played in my entire life. And the Arcadia Bristol show on the famous giant spider, which was just unreal. It’s moments like that I know I’ll never forget and will look back on with just as much of a sense of accomplishment as anything I did 20 or so years ago.
You were the first band to play on the spider weren’t you?
Yeah I think we were. But it’s not the ‘first to be there’ thing that I love so much. It’s having a challenge, having an ambition and stepping up to it.
That was the spirit behind the Colston Hall show with the orchestra and choice, right?
Yes. It was such an amazing thing; to have my music that is made for a completely different purpose and have someone like William Goodchild to understand where I’m coming from and interpreting it into the performance it became and then going on stage with all those talented musicians to perform it was just incredible. I would love to do it again sometime.
Was William aware of jungle or did you have to give him a crash course?
He was as aware of jungle as I was classical! We gave each other crash courses in our music. The one thing I will always remember about our first meeting was that he immediately recognised the space in drum & bass and his ideas on how he wanted to fill that space. That impressed me straight away. I remember telling him about the energy and we saw a direct link between the energy that both jungle and classical shows can have when done well.
How long did it all take to come together?
I think the conversation started about eight months prior to show date. It was backs against the wall stuff from that moment on, running around last minute with different score sheets as it all progressed and developed. It was very intense but I wouldn’t have changed it for the world.
And how long has it taken for the album to come together? You’ve been sitting on these recordings for six years now!
Not long ago at all! The Reprazent album isn’t quite ready, and that needs to be perfect before it comes out. We knew it was important to give something back to all the fans who supported us through the summer. Given how well received the tour had been, a live album just made sense. Getting this out to the people is a testament to the efforts of my manager Ross, assistant Mike and all the team at Grade management. They well and truly pulled this out of the (brown paper) bag.
Ha. The timing is perfect… What with the BBC Proms/Ibiza show recently.
This was always going to be released, that’s why we filmed it all and recorded the show. It was just a case of working out when. The timing does feel right, I agree. I’m just really pleased to be releasing it. It’s got all the classics on it and four brand new tracks. There’s one track, Don’t Hold Back which still blows my mind when I watch it back.
Will those tracks be part of the future Reprazent album?
Who knows? The album is still work in progress and there are many strong ideas going around. On the album and also with the return of Full Cycle.
Yes! I saw that. What can you tell us?
It’s all coming together. Krust and I have been doing our own thing for a while but we’re working together again, we’ve got some new releases lined up and we’ve dusted off some old classics and commissioned some incredible new remixes. Watch this space!