The name is a reference to the “metal heads” used to cut grooves onto a dubplate, the metal in the dubplates themselves, and also what Goldie has called “freaks like me obsessed with the latest metal acetates”. Goldie credits Grooverider with the term.
The Metalheadz logo was based on a design created by Darren Bartlett in 1991. In his autobiography Goldie states that he added the headphones to the skull design “so that the skull symbolised the head, while the ‘phones were music, because music will be here long after we’re all dead and gone.”The first use of the logo was on a dubplate Goldie produced for 4hero’s Reinforced Records. During a webchat with British Newspaper The Guardian, Goldie admitted that the design was also inspired by Wolverhampton FC’s logo.
Goldie released the “Terminator” 12″ with Rob Playford and Mark Rutherford under the name of Metal Heads on the Synthetic Hardcore Phonography label in 1992. The group’s name became the name of the label, the cover of Terminator also featured a version of the Metalheadz skull logo.
DJ Storm recalls Kemistry bringing Goldie to London nightclub Rage: “The night Goldie really ‘got it’, we came back to our flat and he said ‘right, I want to make this music, you’ll be the DJs, we’ll have a label and a club, we’ll make some t-shirts’. That was our dream and that dream became the Metalheadz label.”
Early years: 1990s
The label’s first release was a split 12″ single with Doc Scott’s “V.I.P. Drumz” backed with Goldie’s “V.I.P. Riders Ghost”. The accompanying press release stated that Metalheadz aimed to “explore both the roots of Breakbeat and Jungle, and rework it into a new dimension, Drum ‘n’ Bass.”
The Metalheadz back catalogue from this era features many major figures from drum and bass, with artists such as Photek, Dillinja, Adam F, Grooverider (as Codename John), Doc Scott, Peshay, Alex Reece, Wax Doctor, Source Direct, J Majik, Lemon D, Hidden Agenda, Ed Rush and Optical contributing productions to the imprint.
In July 1995, the label launched the weekly Metalheadz Sunday Sessions club night, which achieved legendary status at London’s Blue Note club.
In September 1995, Metalheadz in conjunction with FFRR Records released Goldie’s critically acclaimed debut album Timeless.
In 1996 Metalheadz released the first installment in the groundbreaking Platinum Breakz series of compilations, (again in collaboration with FFRR Records). The first volume was billed as “21st Century Urban Breakbeat Music” and included tracks by 11 artists which had previously appeared on 12″ as well as new efforts. The series was hailed by critics as the uniquely futuristic sound of young, multiracial Britain. They showcased a maturing genre of music that displayed the influences of reggae, hip-hop, house and techno and were highly sophisticated and intricately produced, contrary to the image of the music that had been presented by the mass media up to that point. Before their release, drum and bass compilations had been more closely associated with live DJ mix albums of varying quality, and the interest in the Platinum Breakz series proved instrumental in bringing the scene from its underground origins to the brink of mainstream success (at least in the UK).
1998 saw the release of “Talkin’ Headz – The Metalheadz Documentary”, a film by Manga Entertainment.
Goldie, the club night, the label and its artists were some of the key elements in drum and bass/jungle’s mid-to-late 90s mainstream resurgence.
In February 2010, Metalheadz beat Soul II Soul, the Trojan Soundsystem, and Digital Mystikz in the first Red Bull Music Academy Culture Clash at the Camden Roundhouse.
In 2012 the label celebrated its 100th release.