MIND THE GAP
Launching Stonepony, Tricky and DJ Muggs
bridge the cultural and geographical divide between Bristol, England and
Los Angeles, California. Mark Woodlief moderates an afternoon's flow at
Muggs' suburban home.
Tricky and DJ Muggs are both regarded
as pioneers within hip-hop. When Cypress Hill
launched its self-titled debut in 1989,Larry"Muggs" Muggerud's distinctive production aesthetic defined the trio's style as much as its revenge fantasies ("How I Could Just Kill A Man," "Trigga Happy Nigga") and B-Real's nasal vocal whine. As a member of Bristol's the Wild Bunch and Massive Attack, Tricky (born Adrian Thawes) contributed to the influential Blue Lines before going solo with 1995's acclaimed Maxinquaye. Both musicians bring a hazy, blunted character to their brand of hip-hop, have been friends for the last couple of years, and-as Ray Gun recently discovered-were born just one day apart in 1968.
So maybe it's no surprise the two are finally collaborating, laying down tracks in New York, Los Angeles and Miami for a recording to be released later this year under the banner Stonepony. It's been hard work, for sure, but it's also been a lot of fun-the process has re-energized the duo, they both claim. The pair took a break from recording in Muggs' suburban LA garage studio to take hits and talk turkey on comfortable, oversized sofas in the DJ's living room.
|Ray Gun: Muggs, when did
you first hear Tricky's music?
DJ Muggs: First album.
RG: Massive Attack, or the first Tricky album?
Muggs: Nah, I knew who Tricky was before I knew who Massive Attack was, and I got kinda put onto that whole genre of music, you know what I mean? Somebody from the office put me onto it: "You into this stuff?" Sent me the tapes.. .been bumpin' that shit ever since.
RG: What, for you, was the most revealing part of Maxinquaye?
Muggs: All my girls loved it.
RG: So it's all about the ladies. Then you went back and listened to some Massive Attack stuff?
Muggs: Yeah, I started traveling more, and just getting in touch with other musics from the other side of the world. 'Cause at that point, I had only been to Europe probably one time and, you know, you get to a country, you're just in and out of the hotels, in and out of the shows
RG: What about you, Tricky? Did you hear Cypress Hill from the beginning?
Tricky: Yeah. Bristol is a small community. And, like, when we were starting into school, we all got into Djing and hip-hop. So we were big with the Beastie Boys, Cypress Hill. It seems like I was listening from when I was a kid almost. So in a way, I grew up-and it sounds stupid to say that because [Muggs and I] are the same age-but, yeah, I kind of grew up with it. It was the first kind of thing we all found together in a group of all our friends.
|RG: So you're both the same
age. How old are you guys?
Tricky: Yeah, we're born one day apart from each other. I'm January 27th, he's January 28th.
RG: What else have you guys been learning about each other as you've been working together?
Tricky: Oh, we've known each other for a couple of years. Talkin' on the phone, hanging out. Going to restaurants, going to clubs. We were [always] going to work togethei; but it took so long to get together,
and instead we kind of developed this friendship over the last couple of years. Which is lucky. By the time we kind of even started this album, we were friends... and it's a good, natural thing, you know what I mean? It's a good way it happened.
Muggs: We did it all ourselves. Just like, "Let's do this record." We went in the studio and just did songs.
Tricky: We're doing this for
ourselves. Before business, really. We've done a lot of stuff between us. And it's time to do something else. He's a ground- breaker. I'm a groundbreaker. Alright. Now we've done that. It's time to go somewhere
new. No pressure. All this repetitive music and technology's supposed to be taking over the world and all this stuff, and the end of rock, and all this bollocks that people talk about. It's like, in a way, saying "fuck it." I mean, I'm having some fun again.
RG: You get to hang out in LA.
|Tricky: Yeah, and New York.
We've been to New York before this. Went to New York for two weeks and
come here for two weeks and we're gonna go to Miami for two weeks.
RG: People who hear you two are working together are going to take notice.
Tricky: Which is good. It's like, they try and work out what we're doin' already, it's just like...
Muggs: We've just totally brung all new elements to this group.
Tricky: It doesn't sound like Tricky; it doesn't sound like Cypress Hill. It's just kind of real. It's like, we're talkin' about second albums, third albums already. 'Cause the music's got its own identity. And we're doin' the vocals, and the vocals got its own identity. It sounds like a group.
RG: Are there any guest appea- rances or friends involved?
Tricky: No, it's just me and him, but it's got a personality. As in, it sounds like a group. It's hard to explain. The way it's just evolved, the way it sounds now, you'd think we worked together for years, and it's the first stuff we've worked together on. It's new music, which is another reason to work with someone again. It's just totally fresh. It's not like my music, which is refreshing for me.
RG: So how do you characterize the sound?
Tricky: See, I don't see Cypress or Tricky as radio-friendly musicians, and that's just how we do things. But there's some radio-friendly songs on this album. The most radio-friendly I think I've ever done, or Cypress has ever done. 'Cause people
|say we're both dark and
moody, and all of a sudden we come together and we got some pop music.
RG: Is that the way you see it, Muggs?
Muggs: It's different. It's good, you know? It just flows, too. I do my thing, Tricky just gives me space to do what I gotta do. I'll be done, he'll do his thing. We'll set the next thing off. We just flip it.
Tricky: It's kind of like chaos in the studio.
Muggs: We did, like, nine songs in ten days in New York. Doing two beats a day. He was writing two songs a day, doing two beats a day. Knocking 'em out like that.
Tricky: And another brilliant thing about it is the culture thing. So it's not that we just work together. There's a culture thing going on there, which is real healthy, I think, for the music industry. I think it's quite an honest album.. .there's a mood. It's all very down-to-earth, kind of real. Some of it is quite fun.
RG: Tell me about some of the songs you guys have.
TriCky: See, we ain't really got names. We just started making music. We ain't goin' out purposely trying to find a sound. Things kind of just evolved.
RG: Is it guitar-based?
Muggs: There's all instruments, man.
Tricky: Yeah. It's a new music. A new attitude towards music. Lyrically, ain't nothing like Tricky's stuff, [which is] two- or three-meaning sort of stuff. [You can] read into it. [But] this is direct. When you hear a word, you know exactly
what it means and what I talk about.
RG: You both have experience with production, so who's taking the lead there?
|Tricky: We're both doing
Muggs: It's just - "you got a vibe, go do your thing and I'll build on top of stuff with it."
Tricky: Then I build mine onto all of his. It might even start with him playing me a tape.... Here, what do you think of this?" Oh, that's wicked! Let's work on that. I've brought some old stuff to the table. He's brought a few old things to the table. But mostly it's like everybody's just kind of doing stuff at the same time, and then all of a sudden, boom, you chuck it together. It's quite chaotic, but it's chill.
Muggs: There's no pattern to it. Every song just probably came about different.
RG: Muggs, Thicky was talking about culture, and the importance of the meeting of America and England, Bristol and LA. What are your thoughts on that?
Muggs: I think it's like two totally different worlds, but they're exactly the same. When you get over the customs and the way people talk and everything....
Tricky: It's exactly the same.
Muggs: The people come from the same place. Just on different sides of the world. So, it's like, we grew up in the same neighborhood, basically. Just different customs and a
different slang on the streets.
RG: Hip-hop is more an American art form, Muggs. Do you feel like you represent the originators and that Tricky represents the re-interpreters?
Muggs: Nah. He started a whole new style of music, too.
He looked at what they was doing out here at the same time I was doing-he was rhymin', you know?
Tricky: I think our backgrounds are quite similar as well. And we're similar as people. It's like, English and Americans don't
|seem to connect, and they're
both constantly influencing each other. And that's all they talk about.
That's all Americans talk about. That's all English people talk about.
They're influences for each other. But none of them ever get together and
do anything with each other. So that's what's most exciting for me as well.
Muggs: It ain't nothin' contrived, you know? Like somebody thought it up for us.
Tricky: Rap in England needs help from rap in America, and vice versa. They need to support each other. And I know the trickery of, say, trip-hop. I hate the word trip-hop, 'cause it's just like, it's a nice way of putting hip-hop. It doesn't scare people. People don't want hip-hop in
their eyes. They don't want their kids to hear hip-hop. It's scary. But trip-hop - you give it a nice little name [and] you get loads of students makin' the music and it becomes nice, friendly, sellable music.
RG: I don't know if you want to call trip-hop safe, because you're one of the guys associated with bringing it.
Tricky: [sarcastically] Oh, they say I invented it, right?
RG: I don't think you think of it as safe, do you?
Tricky: No, my music's not safe, but I'm not in any genre. If you listen to trip-hop.. .if you actually listen to what trip-hop is, my music don't sound nothing like it. You can hear where kids have been influenced, and I can hear influences and shit, but it's totally different music. My music's my music, though. I don't think my music is safe, but trip-hop does well. People sell records off the name trip-hop. So in a way, it's safe. It's been accepted into the home, you know.
RG: The other thing I think you
|both bring to the hip-hop
table, is that you both subverted it. You both took your influences..
Tricky: Raped it and ran.
RG: Say what?
Tricky: Raped and pillaged.
RG: Exactly. You took what you knew as hip-hop and what the rest of the listening public knew as hip-hop and definitely put your own stamp on it
and said "This is my hip-hop." Do you agree with that?
Muggs: Took the influences and just did our own thing. It's new again. [It's] like the feelin' you get when you're makin' your first record. It's exciting again. You look forward to doing something. And it just don't become a job and something repetitive where you already know what's going to happen.
Tricky: This is like a second career. We could do this a long time, man. The big word in hip-hop is handle your business. And [pointing to Muggs] he's the only kid I've met who handles his business.
|Meet his people and work
with them. This is refreshing. When you've been doing something for so
long, it's like putting on your socks every day. I mean, that's you. But
this gives you another avenue to take. When you're just working by yourself
and you're doing your own thing, you can become narrow-minded. Don't matter
how innovating you're supposed to be.
RG: So up until you guys started to work on this project, what were each of you doing?
Muggs: Touring, Cypress.... Studio, tour, studio, tour. Soul Assassins. You know, just the same shit. Been doing the same thing for eight years,
you know what I mean? A remix is refreshing every now and then. [But] I like building something from the bottom. I can go work with anybody and
go produce a group that's double-platinum, you know? That's still... I just came in on something. I got my money. He got his shit on his album and
|did his album. [But] when
you're just building out of a mystery, and just creating it as you go,
you don't know what's gonna happen at the ending. Tricky: That's what's
wicked. Like, I lay in bed thinking of videos and covers and where's it
gonna lead to....
Muggs: Every song's getting better....
Tricky: Yeah, we got different kinds of people likin' it. Like, we ain't intentionally played it to anybody, but we were on tour at the same time.
Muggs: In December, I had to do a tour. He had to do a tour.
RG: So you were able to play it for people?
Muggs: I just had a tape with a couple of songs on the tour bus. I wouldn't even say what it is, just put it in, [and people said] That's bangin'! What's that? You did that?" They know I be with Tricky. You did that with Trick? Yo, play that again." And that's when you know the reaction from somebody. When people get excited about things.
photos: Brian Cross