|I WANT TO BE THE BEST AT EVERYTHING. IF YOU'RE THE KING OF JUNGLE, THAT'S ONLY BECAUSE I'M GOING TO LET YOU BE THE KING OF JUNGLE, BECAUSE I DON'T MAKE JUNGLE MUSIC. BUT IF YOU PISS ME OFF, I'LL MAKE JUNGLE MUSIC AND YOU WON'T BE THE KING OF IT ANY MORE.|
|THE MADNESS OF KING TRICKY I|
|IT'S NOT GODDAMN TRIP-HOP - IT'S WAR! JASON COHEN AND MICHAEL KRUGMAN STEP WITH SOMETREPIDATION TO THE THRONE OF TRICKY, KING OF ALL MUSICS AND FIND HIM CLAD FOR BATTLE, HURLING HIS SMOKY MISSILES AT WHOMEVER FALLS IN HIS PATH, AND LIVING LARGE FOR THE GLORY OF BATTLE. MARTIAL PHOTOGRAPHY BY SPIKE JONZE.|
|WE'RE SCARED, SEE, WE HAVE GOOD REASON TO
BELIEVE THAT TRICKY MIGHT BE, ERM ... A DIFFICULT INTERVIEW. AFTER ALL,
HE'S A POST-MODERN GENRE-HOPPING GENIUS - HE'S ENTITLED. AND WE WEREN'T
JUST DREADING SIMPLE INTERVIEWEE RETICENCE, EITHER. WHEN TRICKY DECIDED
A RECENT ARTICLE IN THE BRITISH MONTHLY THE FACE WAS NOT
TO HIS LIKING, HE APPARENTLY WENT AND WROTE A SONG IN WHICH HE IMAGINED
PUTTING THE WRITER (FREQUENT RAY GUN CONTRIBUTOR ANDREW
SMITH) INTO THE BOOT OF HIS CAR, THEN SHOOTING HIM IN THE FACE. SO PARDON
US FOR FRETTING.
BORN ADRIAN THAWS, THE YOUNG TRICKY KID FIRST CAME TO SOME NOTORIETY AS PART OF BRISTOL'S WILD BUNCH DANCE MUSIC COLLECTIVE, WHICH LATER MORPHED INTO MASSIVE ATTACK. IN 1995, HE BURST OUT ON HIS OWN WITH MAXINQUAYE, A DISTURBING, FREE-THINKING MELANGE OF MALEVOLENT GROOVES, SEXUAL CLAUSTROPHOBIA, AND THE CHILL-BLOODED STYLINGS OF A FEMALE VOCALIST NAMED MARTINA. CRITICAL WORSHIP AND ARSE KISSING OF THE HIGHEST ORDER ENSUE AN ULTRA-PROLIFIC ARTIST, TRICKY IS FOLLOWING UP MAXINQUAYE WITH NOT ONE BUT TWO RECORDS. FIRST, ON HIS PERSONAL IMPRINT DURBAN POISON IS THE NEARLY GOD PROJECT, UNITING TRICKY AND MARTINA WITH MOD DANCE DIVAS LIKE BJÖRK, NENEH CHERRY, AND STEREO MC'S CATH COFFEY, AS WELL AS ALMOST FORGOTTEN NEW WAVERS LIKE THE SPECIALS' TERRY HALL (A MAJOR TRICKY INFLUENCE) AND YAZOO THRUSH ALISON MOYET. SOON TO FOLLOW IS THE SECOND TRUE TRICKY DISC, PRE-MILENNIUM TENSION, WHICH IS EVEN DARKER AND MORE MONOCHROMATIC THAN ITS PREDECESSOR. STARK, REPETITIVE, AND UNSETTLING CREEPY; PRE-MILLENNIUM TENSION SEEMS FAR TOO SCARY TO REPLICATE MAXINOUAYE'S HIPSTER CACHET. UNLIKE SO MUCH OF WHAT IS DUBBED TRIP-HOP (A TERM TRICKY LOATHES) THESE DAYS, THIS IS NOT MUSIC FOR SUNDAY BRUNCH IN YOUR LOCAL FERNBAR:
AS WE WALK HE HALLS OF ISLAND RECORDS' UK OFFICES, WE ARE GREETED WITH THE SWEET SCENT OF SPLIFF, AS SURE A SIGN AS ANY THAT THE MAN THEY CALL "TRICKS" IS IN THE HOUSE. WE FIND HIM IN THE PUBLICITY OFFICE BLASTING TRACKS FROM PRE-MILLENIUM TENSION AS HIS UNNAMED BODYGUARD / MATE DANDLES TRICKY AND MARTINA'S 16-MONTH OLD DAUGHTER MAYSEY ON HIS KNEE: WITH MAYSEY AND MATE IN TOW, THE THREE OF US SETTLE INTO AN EXEC'S OFFICE TO CHAT. TURNS OUT WE HAD NOTHING TO FRET ABOUT: WHILE THE BABY USES HER DAD AS A JUNGLE JIM (AND THE RAYGUN MICROCASSETTE RECORDER AS A BUSY BOX), WE FIND THAT TRICKY IS IN FINE FETTLE, AND QUITLE PLAINLY GIVES GOOD INTERVIEW.
|RAYGUN: How do you
differentiate between a "Tricky" record on Island or something like Nearly
TRICKY: Well, Nearly God is so manly different singers. This album (Pre-Millennium Tension) is a Tricky album. Because I've got to do a Tricky album, basically.
RG: You've said that now that you've been embraced by the mainstream, you feel the need to try new things, take things further.
TRICKY: Well, Maxinquaye was extreme when it come ut. Now it's turned into a pop album. And the thing is, see, like England, I can't even get radio play, doyouknowwotImean? The industry soaks up all the press here but I don't get no radio play, so it's all a bit obscure. Radio started playing Maxinquaye late evening, no daytime, after it was Number Three in the charts, right? So I don't owe them nothing. I don't feel like I have to give them anyhing. I'll just keep getting more extreme if I want to, because they never did a thing for me.
RG: Nevertheless, even though radio isn't playing you, you're pretty famous here.
TRICKY: Oh yeah. But to get A-listed, it's crazy. You won't spot many black artists on the A-list; it's not designed - this country's designed for guitar-based bands who sound like the Beatles.
RG: Or the Spice Girls.
TRICKY: Yeah it's one or the other. The industry caters for people like that, and not for people like me. That's the lucky thing about Island Records. They will persevere with me. Chris Blackwell, he got the rebel in him, so I kind of get left alone. And at the end of day's business, people like U2 pay for me to record.
RG: But in America we see you on the same magazin covers as Pulp and Oasis.
TRICKY: I suppose. See, Oasis want to be bigger than the Beatles, I think that's their ambition in life, so they go and sound like the Beatles. Young kids fall for it, though.
RG: What gets forgotten is that he Beatles were really adventurous.
TRICKY: Oh yeah, they were making groundbreaking music. But if you sell a lot of records you can get the same credibility, the same respect. People do take Oasis seriously, which is kind of mad.
RG: Dance artists and DJs and people like you have been saying the guitar is dead for years, but trad rock never completely dies.
TRICKY: I've never said rock is dead. I think there's room for any kind of music as long as it keeps moving. If it stands till, there's just no point. You can push boundaries. The Presidents of the United Staaate, that was wicked. PJ Harvey's wicked. PJ Harvey still uses a guitar with effect. There's a lot og good stuff out there, but unfortunately there's so much shit. There's so much bad, bad stuff, so much bad guitar, the guitar is abused. But so is the sampler now, so is the bass. Everything is so abused. Music is about money more than ever now . It helps fund making arms, y'know. When you first get into it, I wanted to change the world with my lyrics and my music. And then I find out that, yeah, Island's a part of Polygram, Polygram's a part Phillips, Phillips makes arms. I'm part of the problem. Basically, we're aIl arms dealers.
RG: You have to try and destroy the machine from the inside
TRICKY: Yeah, you have to. I'm getting a bit of power now, and I want to carry on getting more power. I've set up my label, people backing me. Don't want to be involved, but they'll back me; they're going to let me do what I want. You can't fight the war, but you have to breed 'em out, slowly; there's going to be kids like me who start doing the same thing. Now I'm starting to see, for the first time, dance acts going on rock stages. I was the first dance act in England ever to go on a rock stage, I know that for a fact. 'Til Maxinquaye come out, the two sides didn't cross, rock music and dance were totally separate. Maxinquaye's changed that. And I see other kids doin' it. So already we've started destroying a few things.
RG: Alternative culture is alway getting homogenized, so how do you keep it truly extreme?
TRICKY: You just got to keep moving on. It's like Maxinquaye, there's a lot of music here in England which sounds like that now. And I see that as my music, but I can't carry on making my music because everybody else is already making my music. Somet imes I get angry, this is what I come from. But I can't do anything about Maxinquaye now .I go to the cinema, I watch TV, everything sounds - I have to run away from my music. It's like hip-hop: I used to be into hip-hop. Then when everybody gets into it, I had to leave that. What's mad is I've just done a hip-hop EP, but I started making music when I'd already left hip-hop, so I'd never made a hip-hop record . It's almost like I've been chased from my music. I've been chased from hip-hop, that was my music; people chased me away from that, because everybody started making it, people chased me away from Maxinquaye. I just have to keep leaving the stuff and try to find something else.
RG: It must be frustrating being stuck with the trip-hop tag.
TRICKY: Oh yeah. They say I originated it
RG: And you don't even like the term.
TRICKY: That's the mad crazy thing, doyouknowwotImean? That's why I did Nearly God, and that's why I did Pre-Millenium Tension. You can't see them as trip-hop albums. So I just keep running away from it. But the farther you run, it's still there. They'll find you.
RG: What happens when you ge too extreme for yourself?
TRICKY: That's when you lose your mind, probably. That's when you go insane. That's when I'll be in the hospital with a straighjacket on. But I'm willing to go that far, as long as I know I can come back. Because I think you can come back from it.
RG: The new record is pretty nutty.
TRICKY: Oh, it's punk. It's just a punk attitude, a total punk attitude.
RG: When you said in other interviews that this was going to be a punk record, we thought maybe you meant, y'know, like the Clash.
TRICKY: I thought it was going be heavier. I thought it was just going to be an out-an-out punk record. But you end up straying. What I wanted to do was a total fast album. Some of the tracks are fast and hard, but they did 't come out like that.
RG: Are you a fan of dance music with the heavy bpms?
TRICKY: I think it can get silly. Drum 'n' bass - you ain't got enough time to think, your brain ain't got no time. It's like panic music, the music of panic, and I think panic music is all right, but it all depends on how much you want panic.
RG: So the album is called Pre-Millennium Tension. Do you buy into the notion that, as we approach the year 2000, everybody's going a bit mad?
TRICKY: No, I just know that everybody's thinking about it and you think, "Is it real?" I'm just fucking with people, I don't give a fuck about the pre-millenium, youknowwotImean? You live and you die, don't you, and you can't do nothing about it.
clearly you're aiming for some sort of feeling of dread, or, well... panic.
TRICKY: I want to make people think (whispers), "God, wot is that? Wot is that? That's what I'm kind of aiming for. Like with "Sex Drive,"I want people to think, "Wot the fuck is this." I think that's a jungle rock 'n' roll tune. Y'know, it sounds stupid, it sounds like ego, but with all these people who are supposed to be really advanced junglists, I think that's the most advanced jungle tune I've eard since I've heard jungle. I want to be the best at everything. If you're going to be the king of jungle, that's only because I'm going to let you be the king of jungle, because I don't make jungle music. But if you piss me off, I'll make jungle music and you won't be the king of it anymore. I kind of think like that, you know?
RG: Are we talking about anyone specifically?
TRICKY: Anybody, anyone who wants to put a crown on them - what a lot of musicians do, they crown themselves king, but they ain't done anything yet. So anyone around me who wants to crown themselves the best - I don't consider myself doing any one kind of music. I just do energy. But if you want to call yourself the king of anything, I'm going to destroy that myth. See, I see music as war. I got to blow people away. It's like, if I hear anything which is better than mine, I wanna give up. It's egotistical, but I think you need to be a bit egotistical, you've got to want to be the best, and that's what I want to be. I want to write songs as good as Kurt Cobain or Bob Marley. I want to be the Grace Jones', the Kate Bushes, the Public Enemies of the world, and not all the run-of-the-mill shit what's going on. You've got to be the Nina Simones, the Billie Hollidays. Special. I want to be one of the special ones, youknowwotImean? I want to control hip-hop, I want to control jungle, I want to control rock music, I just want to keep destroying everybody's illusions. There ain't no point in being in it, unless you're in it that deep. It's purpose, really, knowwotImean? You hear so much wallpaper, and kids buy it, so you think, "All these wallpaper records, they don't mean anything, they ain't going anywhere, they ain't saying anything, they ain't doing anything."
RG: You're doing a great job not naming names.
TRICKY: Yeah, 'cause I get myself into trouble, see?
RG: But that's what we were hoping for.
TRICKY: All right, I'll give you someone on Island [though only in the UK]. Nine Inch Nails, for instance; he tries to be really scary, and that giy is not scary. It doesn't matter how much black leather he puts on, there's nothing scary about him. I just think it's lies, it's all lies, and people say, "Oh, he's really outrageous, he's really scary." What's scary about him? My daughter scares me more than he does, knowwotlmean?
RG: How do you prevent people from using your music as wallpaper.
TRICKY: I don't know what they're going to do. It's weird. You can go overground with an underground album. Some people, it's just wallpaper, but then some people say, "Thank you for touching my soul." So I don't think you can ever have just the one; you'll always get people who are into it because they're supposed to be into it. But then again, if you can change them, I'd rather hit them with honesty, with the real stuff, instead of commercial crap.
RG: Your music is so complex, and has so much mood, do you think people hear that and miss out on the lyrics?
TRICKY: Some people. What I like is my friend said to me the other day, in the car, "It's really mad sometimes when your vocals are too low," and he finds himself in the car, listening, and that means he's paying attention. And he says. "I listened to a word and I thought it means that, and all of a sudden I find it means this.'" He loves it. It's like when I used to listen to Rakim, it was like, fucking hell, that's what he means! It's like a little game you can get involved with. You can get inside my head. Like the Eazy E album, I pictured him, like I was walking with him, everything he did was so vivid.
A lot of it is the words, the way they're put down - ain't got nothing to do with the music, some of my melodies are so opposite to the music. I'll be in one melody and the music will be doing another.
RG: So you obscure the vocals intentionally?
TRICKY: Yeah, oh yeah. I've never been an in-your-face sort of chorus man. They always complain, Island, I've been begged to put up the vocals louder, and I've been begged to make a record that people can dance to, a funky record. But then I'll go in and try to make something you can dance to and it don't happen.
RG: How do you feel about this cachet you have now. Y'know, David Bowie wants to put his arm around you, everyone wants to be your friend, you're doing all these collaborations with other artists?
TRICKY: David Bowie, I don't mind too much. Because he's someone who did, he broke barriers, he broke boundaries. If I want to be anybody's friend, it'd be him. People said, "Yeah, he's doing it for his own gain" - he was giving speeches, he wrote stories about me, but when he came out, he changed the music industry, so he has the right to go out and take my name and say, "Yeah, and it's good for me." You just don't take any notice really, everybody wants something different. You never know if someone's working with you because they want your name or because they like what you do. As long as you get what you want. Like some artists will get into the charts where my music won't go, so I'm getting focus by being in the charts, but I don't have to represent it, I don't have to do a video, I don't have to go on "Top of the Pops." As long as you get something out of it, it's good.
RG: So you have no responsibility to, say, Elvis Costello?
TRICKY: No, no responsibility to him at all. I did a remix for him and he did one for me. That's how it went, we don't talk about money - you do me a mix and I'll do you a mix, and that was it; we've never met, we've never even talked.
RG: What about Damon Albarn of Blur (who was supposed to be on early God)?
TRICKY: The Damon one is never going to come out. He lost his balls. He wants to work on something for like two months and then do the vocals again and again and again, and I don't work like that.
RG: Was it good?
|TRICKY: Yeah, it
was, it was. But then Suggs (former Madness vocalist) ended up coming in
to do it, so you find out who the real boy is. The originator. I like Damons's
version, but when I hear Suggs' version I think "There's the real boy."
And I should have went to the real boy in the beginning, instead of the
RG: You also did something with Garbage that hasn't come out yet.
TRICKY: I'm having trouble with that at the moment. I did a remix for them, which they want to put out as a single, but I heard they want to do a radio-friendly mix of it, they want to use my mix but do certain things so the radio can take it. If that happens, they can't use it. I wouldn't let them do it. I'd follow them on tour, just follow them everywhere and drive them mad. Wait outside their hotel rooms.
RG: What was the music that made you want to do this?
TRICKY: Well, the Specials, I was a fan. Then when I heard Slick Rick I thought, "That's what I want to do," y'know. I think I've always wanted to sing, but I couldn't, and then when I heard Slick Rick, I realized that it's not quality, it's personality. I realized I could do this.
RG: Did you rap?
TRICKY: Yeah, I did rap like a rapper, and it was all lyrics about shooting and shagging girls, stuff like that. It was mad. By the time I made a record I got out of that, so no one's heard any of it.
RG: Is it going to stay that way?
TRICKY: No. 'Cause I've just done some stuff like that, which is like, talk about girls but it's a joke, very tongue in cheek, a very laddy, get-pissed-up-and-chase-girls-'round-clubs sort of attitude.
RG: What do you make of g-funk stuff?
TRICKY: (disgusted) Awh, God, it drives me mad. If I hear another rap on a Parliament record, it drives me crazy.
RG: You like the older rap, that most people don't remember -
TRICKY: Slick Rick, Rakim, Chill Rob G. Apart from the Wu Tang, I don't think there's anyone around now who are refreshing. There are others, but there's a lot of rubbish as well. I mean, all this g-funk stuff, God, Tupac, I hate that stuff with a passion, oh God. Seriously, I cringe - if I'm in the car and I hear it, it's really unhealthy for me, I'm telling you, it'll give me cancer or something. I'm sure it could do that to you, when you dislike something so much and you hear it and it makes you unhappy. Tupac does that to me. I'm not interested in how much money you've got. I'm just not interested in going to a casino and talking about girls. He's just a totally uninteresting person. It's just rubbish, it's stupid.
RG: How does your stuff go over in the hip-hop community, and in the black community?
TRICKY: Good. It's a good vibe. You've got half the community who know about it and half the community who don't know about it. I suppose it's like anywhere. But they all think it's weird. They think it's good weird - weird, "ah, that's freaky man," but I can get down with that sort of vibe.
RG: Do you want to do more in the US?
TRICKY: I think you have to sell records, that's the mad thing. America don't want to know me, because I think, to a big corporate company industry like that, I'm quite dangerous, because they can't package me as a black artist and sell me as R&B. I think that's kind of dangerous, because they like theirthings nice and tidy and they make a lot of money out of everything. But I know I'll get through, because there'll be somebody at MTV who's going to like it. I feel like I'm doing something new, and I feel like it deserves to be heard, so yeah, I think people need to hear it. And if people did hear it, it would change the whole community of music.
RG: In 10 years we'll know what your impact was.
TRICKY: Yeah, I'll have all the power then. l'll be crossing over when I'm 60. Become a superstar, start getting young girls, get a drug addiction.
RG: Is the song "Tricky Kid" directed at anyone?
TRICKY: Anyone who wants it, really. Any contender to the throne, anybody in the music industry who wants it, who think they're fuckin' all that.
RG: Some would say the same thing right back to you.
TRICKY: Yeah. I'm ready though, I'm ready for it. It's war, you've got to look at it as war. I know I've always got my best, and I'll never release anything unless I think it's my best.
RG: Are there any outside samples on the new record we should listen for?
TRICKY: No, none I can think of. Sometimes I sample people to disrespect them. People think it's a compliment. Smashing Pumpkins, that was a bit of a piss take, really, what it was. I saw him in concert, I think he's the most pretentious guy. I don't understand how someone that pretentious can be big, so that was just a piss take. I take a piss at Rage Against the Machine sometimes. He's trying to be angry and I'm thinking, "Who's he angry for? Who's he representing?" "Once we were animals, caged like animals" - get on with your life. I don't even carry on about slavery. He isn't representing me.
RG: But you see yourself as doing political stuff to a certain extent, right?
TRICKY: Yeah, in a way. But street level. I know I can't go in - me saying, "Blah blah" ain't going to make the government do anything. You have to change the people first before you can change anything - get followers, get people behind you, get people to believe.
RG: But you don't really think you're Jesus, do you?
TRICKY: No. I'm completely normal. I'm like fish and chips. Really normal.
photo: Michael Krugman
|analyze me (Tricky)|