Slack Magic

Remember Massive Attack's languid, smoky, shuffling, bluesy 'Unfinished Symthy'? Former MA maverick TRICKY has done it again, with the languid, smoky, etc, etc 'Ponderosa'. DAVID STUBBS celebrates Tricky the man and Tricky the band. Trickshot: LILI WILDE

and if you smoked enough spliff you could I isten to it and it'd sound great. But when I see all these ambient f***ing videos it bores me, it doesn't create a f***ing reaction. It's too easy...

TRICKY, like the now quite conventional Shara Nelson, rose to prominence with Massive Aftack, who have yet to deliver anything as great as "Unfinished Sympathy". Tricky seems to be the only one still infected by the germ of strangeness that set MA apart. The noises on his records reflect his streetwise upbringing. 
  "I used to have to surround myself with people all the time" he says. "The posse thing. Go out in groups of 20, you feel safe. And yeah, it's a confrontational thing. If you're brought up in that environment, you go out with the attitude that everybody's got a problem with you anyway. You hang around with your posse, get into an argument with another posse. Leaving that was the scariest thing I ever did. What I'm really scared of is departing myself from where we're coming from. If we were to making loads of money, our life would change and there'd be no more music. It's like, the other night, I came up with what could be seen as a pop tune. So we went into the studio and f***ing destroyed it."

THE success Tricky is due must be the combination of him and Martina. So often, hip hop merely "features" female vocalists. Martina blends into the music caresses and envelops it. They met when she was 15, sitting on a wall with her friend. 
  "She reckons I was trying to chat her up but I wasn't," says Tricky. 
  "He was," says Martina.
  "It's really corny talking about fate and that shit, it's all bollocks, but for two people just to meet, sitting on a wall, then twoyears later they're making an album, it just doesn't happen. I've known people who've spent years looking for a vocalist. We met for a reason and this is it."
  Maybe it was more to do with openness to chance than pre-ordainment. Tricky is proof  that when you open your mind, beautiful accidents do happen. 

'Ponderosa' is out now on Island

TRICKY'S laugh, which during the photo shoot, erupts once every 30 seconds, is a joy to hearken. Acrackshot, then on upwardly curving nicotine wheeze that in turn explodes into a good- natured, lascivious cackle a Ia Sid James. I've just asked him where the smoky, languid, shuffling, bluesy quality of his two great singles, "Aftermath" and "Ponderosa", comes from. "I had a very old-fashioned upbringing," he says. "we used to go to Weston-Super-Mare and buy cockles, weird shit like that. We used to have a coal fire. Not because we were poor, it was just cos we were old fashioned!"
Oh well, that explains the smokiness. The languid, shuffling, bluesy quality might also be down to the endless Billie Holiday records which his mother and aunt used to play long into the night at his Bristol home as they stared into the dying embers. Like Aftermath", "Ponderosa" is a hip hop record and a great deal more - it's stricken by a palpable mood, a drowsy, sinister air, shifting shapes in the darkness. Over a solemn backbeat and an alluring, aromatic confusion of overdubs, Martina sings, like Poly Styrene about to succumb to general anaesthetic: "Underneath the weeping willow lies a weeping wino..." "I've no idea why I did it like that," says Martina, dragging heavily on a cigarette. "I tried it a couple of ways, then the more drunk I got, the more it just turned out that way." "That's the shit thing about recording," reckons Tricky. "you're sitting around, eating and drinking, smoking spliff all day, you get to abuse yourself more hours of the day."
  But maybe that's what makes Martina's vocals. When 

you've drunk yourself senseless, smoked yourself  stupid, when transmitters have closed down for the night and the room is unlit except for interference from the TV screen, with your ears ringing and your head spinning and the demons are coming out for the night shift, that's when "Ponderosa" comes into play. Long after the dancing has stopped.
  "It's good," says Tricky. "I've seen all the club reviews, the club DJs, most of them hate it. And that's f***ing really good news."
  "Well, it's not dance music, is it? From the marketing point of view, we're quite young, we're ethnic, the obvious place they're gonna try and shove us is the hip hop or dance market. Whereas I grew up in a white environment. The first people I listened to were The Specials. I had mates who were into The 4 Skins, a very racist band. They were just skinheads, idiots, they didn't know what they were doing. I've got input from all kinds of places. We haven't found a marketing niche."
  If anything, "Ponderosa" is a bedroom record, as much as any white, avant-garde outing by, say, Cabaret Voltaire or The Aphex Twin. "Aftermath" was dubbed "hip hop ambient" but Tricky and Martina don't have much truck with ambient. They deride it as a "farce". 
  Martina: "It's people who are frightened, isn't it? People who can't take the heat, need to escape."
  Tricky: "It's a cop-out. You could take all the surrounding  noise we're hearing now, put it on a DAT,

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   photo: Lili Wilde

analyze me (Tricky)
Tricky solo discography