Roni Size & Reprazent — New Forms. Story behind the album. Track by track guide

George Palladev 8.08.2018

Roni Size & Reprazent — New Forms. Story behind the album. Track by track guide

“I was born Ryan Owen Granville Williams but, because I was lighter-skinned, everyone called me Roni, after the only white character in the film Babylon. I was quite short and if my mates were talking about a girl, they’d say: Oh, she’s Roni’s size. So that’s how I came up with the name Roni Size. Getting expelled from school in Bristol was one of the best things that ever happened to me. I started going to the city’s Sefton Park youth centre and they had a drum machine. Suddenly I had something that excited me. Then they got a sampler and I was in the basement all the time, making tunes.”

Roni Size

The 27-year-old Jamaican musician grew up in St. Pauls, in the darkest black suburb of Bristol, where he heard dub and reggae throughout his childhood. By his adolescence, the environment switched to hip-hop. In the nineties, everything changed because of the rave scene where he met DJs who later became his associates. “I brought in my sidekick Krust and a young lad by the name of DJ Die, who was already a pretty established DJ in Bristol,” says Size. “Then there was Suv, who was a friend of Krust’s as they were part of a crew called Fresh 4.”

Combining jungle and jazz, Roni and his friends quickly realised that there was no label in the area to release their music. They created Full Cycle. But, apparently, Roni also brought his tapes to Bryan Gee (Who was then leaving the half-jazz half-dance label Rhythm King at that time.) He kept them for his own new V Recordings. Jazzy thing was released there, Music Box was released on Roni and Krust’s label. Both are jewels of jazzstep. The records quickly attracted the attention of Giles Peterson, a passionate lover of jazz and modern electronics. Giles offered them a contract on his own label Talkin’ Loud, a division of Polygram at that time (and a future part of Universal Music).

“When we got signed to Talkin’ Loud,” says Roni. “We maintained our own labels, so knew that if it went wrong, we could go back to our own labels any time; because we went in with that mindset, chest out, balls swinging, we got a great deal.”

Dynamite MC

Size’s acquaintance with Dynamite MC began with the words of the latter “Do you want me to stay on the mic or get off?” It turned out the MC was announcing musicians and rapped to drum‘n’bass. Roni didn’t forget the courtesy and was soon looking for a lyricist to open the album. Dynamite MC also rapped on the main hit of Size. Brown Paper Bag, which was just a working title until I went: “Step to the rhythm made out of brown paper!” It built from there. If it had been called anything else, the rap would have been totally different,” recalled the MC.

Dynamite MC: “I’d grown up with fast music: house, rave and jungle. We took all that energy and put it into a melting pot on New Forms. The collective was just the right amount of chefs: DJ Krust was strings-oriented, DJ Suv brought science-fiction type soundscapes, DJ Die was good at cut-ups, scratches and basslines, while Onallee was a wonderful singer and songwriter. Someone said: “Remember that Roni guy? He’s trying to get hold of you.” I jumped on the train to Bristol and eventually moved up there. No disrespect to Gloucester, my home town, but Bristol was much more exciting. There were lots of clubs and parties—and Massive Attack, Tricky and Portishead were all inspiring each other. The album title was about saying who we were and what we represented, but we had no idea it would have such impact.”

Reprazent crew: Onalle, DJ Die, DJ Suv, DJ Krust, Roni Size, Dynamite MC. November 96

The New Forms combined the three elements from the childhood, adolescence, and youth of Size: dub, jazz and hip-hop, only with a very dark Bristol flavour. Spin magazine included it in the list of the best albums of 1997. The 5×version of the record made it to the UK charts and became platinum, which is the pinnacle of British sales.

Roni: “We wanted to make music that sounded like the future. At first, the album went right over people’s heads. One reviewer described it as: Kids in a bedroom on drugs fiddling around with computers. But when we started touring, with a bass-player and a drummer, people went: Wow.

12″ publishes a history of the creation of tracks from an interview with the leader of Reprazent.


“Me and Dynamite MC put this together real quick. I think it was the first time we’d been in the studio together. We made it late one night, but forgot to save it. Then the power went out in my house, because the electricity was on a meter, and we lost the DAT with all the samples on. When we tried to master it off that DAT it was fucked and got tangled up in the machine. So what we did was to master it off the dubplate version we had. The label had no idea! It was the first track we recorded for the album, but ended up being the last track we put on it.”

Brown Paper Bag

“This was the last track I made for the album. I thought I’d finished everything up and I was quite happy with it as it was. Then I did this remix for Nuyorican Soul It’s alright, I feel it!, and as soon as I finished that I knew that I was onto something new, and wanted more. I recorded a load of sounds with my bass player Si John, and a lot of acoustic guitars with a guy called Steve Graham. Now I had all these elements spread across my keyboard, and before I knew it I had Brown Paper Bag.”

New Forms

“I wanted this to be the first track on the album, originally. Me and Suv came up with the beat and I sent it out to Guru from Gang Starr, RIP, as I was a big fan. He basically said, It’s not for me, but I might have someone who’d be interested. So he gave it to Bahamadia.”

“When I got the vocals back they were pretty much out of time. She couldn't really get the rhythm and was all over the place. So I took every word and pieced it back together in the Roland S-760 sampler and looped bits at the endto make it longer.”

Lets Get It On

“There are two guys that I’ve worked with since I was about 17 called Fat Man and Vinnie. They’re responsible for producing the Spice Girls under the name Absolute. They showed me production techniques when I first started, and were the first people to ever bring me into a studio. They gave me loads of sounds back-in-the-day. I’ve had guitar parts, bass sounds. You name it. Some of the sounds on Lets get it on came from the stuff they gave me. I just added the Amen and kept the breaks rolling. This track really represents me getting to know the S-760 as well. You could get long loops going for a change. It was like, wow!”


“This features vocals from Onallee. It was all new to me as I’d never done a vocal track before. I’d normally write something on my own, or do a remix. She just came in and starts talking all this stuff about video to digital, and, like New Forms, I loaded them all up into the sampler and made it make sense. For me, I was trying to make a vocal track. I wanted to put a change up in there too, so that’s why you get that breakdown. This track was basically me learning how to make vocal tracks.”

Matter of Fact

“This is a drum workout. This is me in the mode now—I can go left, I can go right. I had more freedom with the new Roland S-760 sampler. I can pan breaks. I’mzzrolling out on this track. It ain’t for the dance floor, this one. This is when you put your headphones on—just check out what’s going on with the drums.”

“I was using Alesis ADAT machines. It could be mind numbing. Clive Deemer, our drummer, would come in and do drum sessions. DAT takes ages to rewind and ages to forward. I had two of them, and I had to get them to line up with the Atari. It was a drama!”

Mad Cat

“This came before Brown Paper Bag, but you can hear that style developing where I’m messing with the drums. I’d get Clive in, record him to ADAT and resample all of it into the S-760. “I had banks of Clive drums at my fingertips now. Then I used basses from Si John, and that’s Mad Cat. I was excited that I had these sounds to play with now, so would go on mad workouts to see what I could make. It came out really funky and really jazzy. But that’s what we do—we do funk, we do jazz, but it still sounds like drum ‘n’ bass record, right?”


“I’d just made a record called It’s jazzy, and that was going off. So I just took the same drums and thought it would be good to do something with them and a vocal, so Onallee came back in and she nailed it, man. I used a lot of guitar parts that I had from a guy called Tyrell on this track. Paul Martin from Talkin’ Loud introduced us. It sounded like something from U2, which I thought was great. The guy wasn’t happy with what he had done, but I loved it. I’d never heard guitars like that before! I’d always had to sample them from a record for 1.2 seconds.”

Share the Fall (Full vocal version)

“This is the record that I’m most proud of. It came from me, Krust and Die just sitting down and talking about sounds. We knew what we were doing. We were comfortable working together. I’d talk about a break, then someone would suggest adding a dirty bass line as someone else imagined what it would be like chopping this or that up, adding vocals, and then having a dirty drop. You know what I mean?”

“We talked about how the tune was going to come together, then I went away and did all the engineering on it. We sat there and described how the record was going to sound, then turned round and did it exactly like that.”

Watching Windows

“Talking of breaks, this track was heavily influenced by watching the hip-hop movie Wild Style. I love that film. That, along with Babylon would be my two films to take to a desert island. Another Onallee vocal here. I think she brings a great vibe again. The whole track is different. It’s not a drum‘n’bass. I think we ended up making a drum‘n’bass version. I had to take her vocal and time stretch it to slow it down to fit. You can hear it on that version of the record—it sounds all fucked up. It would be a lot easier to get that effect now.”


“Me and Suv must have been… on a creative one when we did this! We’d just make each other laugh. There was never a dull moment when Suv was around. We was in the studio and he was just like, Fuck it! Let’s just make our own breaks. We just cracked up and really got into it. I did a snare, he might do a kick and we stuck it in the sampler. We spent the whole night smoking weed and making weird sounds—You do a siren! We’d be sat there trying to do a 40Hz kick drum.”

Morse Code

"We used to open the live shows with this one. It’s got some actual Morse code at the start. I should decode it really. It goes forward and backwards though—that was the one thing about the S-760 that no other sampler did. That was our technique at the time to make sounds lasts longer. When the sample was coming to the end of its loop, you’d play it backwards and put a release on it and it would get longer. We didn’t have to really buy a digital delay. That was one of the tricks we had at the time that no one could get their heads around. It was beautiful for sweeping reversed delayed sounds in.”


“This was a track that me and Die wrote as we were inspired by being around the Talkin’ Loud label and them just giving me loads of records to listen to and absorb. It was like, Wow! Check out this record… What’s this? Everything but the Girl? Listen to these horns at the beginning! Don’t leave them clean on the record—I’m having that! On this version of the album it ends with Destination, which just made perfect sense—you’d reached your destination.”

Winning the Mercury Prize Awards ‘97

We found out we’d been nominated for the 1997 Mercury prize just after we’d played the Montreux jazz festival. We were up against Radiohead, the Prodigy, the Spice Girls and the Chemical Brothers. Because we were so tired, we moaned all the way to the ceremony, and just scoffed all the free food and alcohol. Then Eddie Izzard said: I think you’ve won it! And all the cameras started moving towards our table. We were broke, so winning was the stuff of dreams. When I announced that I was donating the £20.000 cheque to the Sefton Park youth centre, my crew looked at me as if to say: “You’re doing what?”