One Size Fits All

Roni Size is dedicated to moving forward, boundaries be damned

Not that most of the media noticed. "The press need to write something, and in most cases they normally write what other people have written before," Size says, adding, "I don't feel there's been one journalist who can or will understand what we were trying to do with In the Mode." According to him, the record "was definitely made for the stage, for the live show. We had a lot of problems with New Forms, because when we came to do shows, we didn't even have half the loops we'd used, so we had to go and find them again through records and shit, and then we had to mix it all down, and then EQ it, and then realize that the quality was shit. It wasn't until halfway through the tour that we actually sussed out how to do the thing live and do it well. And we didn't want that to happen again. We wanted to be performing as artists rather than being up there and winging it and hoping that everything wasn't going to break down. So we tried to make In the Mode sound very simple, very sharp and very accessible to the audience that came out to support what we do as Reprazent."

Contemporary dance artists regularly insist that putting on a good show is important to them, but, unlike Size, most of them rarely deliver. As a result, dance acts have had difficulty moving from the underground clubs or outdoor raves where they were nurtured to more traditional performance venues, particularly in this country. Mere weeks ago, for instance, the Mekka Electronic Music Festival, a 10-date tour set to feature dance stars such as Armand Van Helden, Josh Wink, Paul Oakenfold, the Crystal Method and Size was abruptly canceled in the wake of generally weak ticket sales. Could it be because concertgoers aren't interested in spending hour after hour watching faceless guys twiddling knobs behind banks of gear? Size won't go there, but he emphasizes that his appearances don't fit the usual stereotypes. First, he's generally joined by a slew of helpers, including Krust, Suv, Die, Dynamite, Onallee and a handful of living, breathing musicians. Second, these folks don't spend their time in the spotlight gazing at their shoes.

"We perform as rock artists from a dance angle," he maintains. "That's why we use vocals from rappers and emcees. It's like I'm the second man, sometimes, backing them up like a hip-hop artist. But it works. At the beginning, you've got people who aren't really sure what they think, and then halfway through they kind of get into it, and by the end of it, everyone's clapping and saying, 'Damn! What happened there?'

Roni Size
Roni Size

"A lot of bands you hear sound great in the studio, but when you hear them live, they don't sound the same," he goes on. "So what we do is, we bring whatever we've got in the studio onto the stage. That way, they're two sides of the same thing. Our studio is onstage. Our stage is in the studio. It works both ways for us. That way we're not trying to re-create what we did in the studio by using something totally different."

By putting such an emphasis on quality, Size hopes to help spread the dance-music gospel to listeners on this side of the Atlantic, where the scene remains a bit behind the curve compared with its counterpart in Europe. "I went to one of your things in Texas, I think, and it rained -- and all the kids were walking around with muddy shoes, while we were walking around with these plastic bags on our feet," Size points out. "That's very common in Europe; you get free plastic bags from the hotel in case it rains. And when people saw us, they were, like, 'Oh, that's such a good idea!' And we said, 'You learn through experience.'"

Equally out of date, Size believes, are the attempts to blame dance music for drug use associated with rave culture. "I don't believe that my music should be painted with the politics of drugs," he says. "I think drugs have been a very important part of the last 30 or 40 years of music. But I think people should be allowed to think of me as an artist -- as a young, struggling, into-it person who's trying to succeed and is being successful -- instead of being constantly associated with drugs. Come on, brother, that's a bit deep. I mean, kids are going to take drugs no matter where they are. Maybe they'll do it in a field when they're dancing to music, and maybe they'll do it when they're just on the streets, making their own parties."

True enough, but that hasn't stopped local officials from trying to blame music for the occasional tragedy. After being told about how the water-intoxication death of Brittney Chambers, a young woman who'd taken ecstasy, led to a governmental crackdown on all-ages venues in Denver earlier this year, Size says, "These issues have been tried and conquered here in Europe. There are testing kits in Amsterdam, where you can test a drug before you take it to make sure how pure it is" -- an approach that is making inroads domestically. "And in England, the big rave companies now work with the police and the environmental-health people to make sure that all the right qualifications are being met. So now in England we have great events every week that prove that with communication between promoters and the government, everything will work out fine. Like, I did a show last week, and the whole thing was perfectly run. Millions of kids, no trouble, just hop up and muck it up, like a dream in the night, and then it's over, and everyone goes home happy."

After a pause, Size notes, with mock exasperation, "I sound like a bloody politician for rave music."

Just another label for him to wear.

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