|"Nah, that's bollocks!" That's done for ambient rap. Tricky smiles, a stoned-looking smile that narrows his beautiful almond-shaped, hard-man eyes. Perhaps he's remembering the actual sound of Rammelzee & K-Rob, which is enough to make anyone smile.|
that's ambient rap," he asserts. "They was doing ambient rap before I was
born" Not literally, but it's Tricky's way of offering due respect.
It is the middle of the alternoon and Tricky sits supping on strong coffee with plenty of sugar in the hope of bringing himself round a bit. He was up all last night - he doesn't say why - and a draw or two has rendered him with a mind that's "All the wrong way, if you know what I mean." Another smile, sweet rather than stoned.
Tricky thinks a lot about his mind, and other people's minds. Mad, as in "it's mad", punctuates his speech, but so does "bollocks", puncturing pretension. "I think my head's a bit f--ed really," he says in a matter-of- fact tone. "Since I've been in the music business I've seen all these people who are really together in their heads, and it must be a front but it makes you feel a bit insane when you're not like that."
Tricky is complicated, double tricky, because Tricky is also the name of his 'band', if you can call it that. The other half of it, an elegant, coolly thoughtful and evidently educated 19-year-old
woman called Martina, sits opposite him across a record company boardroom table. She's just as phased by her unexspected arrival in the music business: "Just the fact that people have heard this tune means they are talking about you. There's not the preliminary barriers you have to cross when you meet people: they seem to be watching what you're doing,
|seeing how you respond."
Martina doesn't say much, perhaps because Tricky does - except during the moments when you can hear the
wind gusting outside and Tricky's wrong-way mind blows silently away on a tangent of its own. the wind gives the afternoon an ambience that it wouldn't have otherwise. And ambience - as in atmosphere, rather than any imagined musical genre - is
what Tricky are all about
YOU COULD say it was all some strange kind of accident that Tricky and Martina are here at all. They met in Bristol; Martina was a schoolgirl sitting on a wall having a nervous revision week fag when Tricky ambled by. They got talking and Martina let slip that she sang: jazz mostly. A few weeks later they were in Mark Stewart's squat, surrounded by studio gear owned by the ex-Pop Group, Maffia and what-have-you singer. Martina had been drinking in the local woods to celebrate finishing her GCSEs. They don't say if that had any bearing on events.
That day they cut a song of Tricky's, 'Aftermath'. It wasn't a logical, songwriter's song as such, although it made sense in its own universe. Mark Stewart was chanting some old crap in the back of the mix somewhere. What was it? It was the Young Rascals' 'How Can I Be Sure'. What did it mean? No-one knew or cared; it sounded fine'. Spliffs were doubtless burnt to the board. Mark hated it. saying it sounded "Too sweet". Tricky left it in anyway: he grins.
"I dunno what you'd call us,"
|he says in his staccato
Bristolian voice that sounds older than his 26 years. "I think we're probably
blues, but there's lots of other stuff in there." He's not kidding. The
main sample, if anyone's interested, comes from Marvin Gaye's 'That's The
Way Love Is', the precursor of the dear dead soulman's 'I Hear It Through
The Grapevine' and arguably a more spirited record. Then there are two
basslines welded together, a bit of ... well, in the end, it's a magical
sound. Tricky and Martina liked it. Not enough, perhaps, to want to continue
this odd coupling: the cerebral, doubting singer and the streetwise, vibes-alive
producer. Not yet at least.
Tricky took the tape to Massive Attack, Bristol heroes of which Tricky was a part. Or was he? No-one seemed to know for sure, and Tricky wasn't the sort to push anything. So Tricky rapped on and co-authored a trio of tracks on Massive's alluring 'Blue Lines' LP. And it was said that 'Aftermath' might have formed part of that LP, and also the upcoming solo LP of former Massive man and Soul II Soul legend Nellee Hooper. "But when I first played the tape I never got the response, so I thought I'd do it myself.'
'Aftermath' was made three years ago now, years that Tricky puts down to "Laziness, confusion, not having the bottle to do it. It's much easier to be in a band - Massive Attack - because then, you've got three other people to hide behind. I was just scared. I'm 'a talker. I love talking, but when it comes
|to doing it, I'm not
Tricky had been picking up the tape, playing it, putting it down, and forgetting about it, all that time. And then, f-- it, he cut a white label right off the cassette copy he had, and hang the hiss. "That's why the white label's got a load of atmosphere. It's to do with the hiss. It's mad really, just bassline and hiss."
And 500 copies later 4th & Broadway were banging on the door and Tricky, the group, if you can call it were official.
SAMPLING: A theory. You've
got to sample to get the atmosphere, because noise is atmosphere, the sound
of the moment the music was recorded. Recording equipment has become so
efficient that the hiss and noise has virtually been eliminated and the
sound of a studio room is no longer a consideration. Hence, if noise
is atmosphere, you must sample. I know someone who spent hours on end in
a studio ADDING crackles and hiss from old records to spice up a sterile
track he'd cut with his band. Tricky makes sure the noise is there in the
first place, because you don't want to try to add atmosphere later.
|SO YOU could say
'Aftermath' was an accident, but Tricky had a track record. He knew what
he was doing, what with being in Massive and Fresh 4, another bunch of
Bristol roots rap maestros who somehow never got the break they deserved.
But Tricky was philosophical since Rammelzee, whose 'Beat Bop' inspired
Tricky to rap in the first place, never got a break either.
"I went round to this Rasta's house, heard rap, and suddenly that was what I was: I told everyone I was a rapper before I could rap! To get the turntables, everybody just robbed to get the money. And I can still respect
that." Martina offers a wry, perhaps faintly indulgent smile.
When Tricky had Aftermath burning wole in his pocket,maybe in the back of his mind was this idea that nothing can nappen before its time. Rammelzee's time was never right. Ultramagnetic, the legendary Bronx rappers who also fuelled Tricky's early years, never got a break either. So what's the hurry? If the time is right the time is right. And Aftermath, an incredible record where Nicolette meets The Stone Roses meets Susan Cadogan meets Original Concept and none of those things, is in the shops. At this time.
Tricky and Martina have recently recorded another single, 'Ponderosa', which proves that an accident is not
|necessarily a fluke:
"I was shit scared after all this time. I was thinking, 'Can we do this
again?'." Martina confirms a shared anxiety. 'Ponderosa' is just as mysterious
as 'Aftermath', with words that are just as odd: "The place where I
stand turns to liquid lino / Underneath a weeping
willow lies a weeping wino."
"I love words," gushes Tricky "Don't matter how good the tune is if the lyrics are no good I can't listen to it. That's why I don't like being called a rapper. When people say 'rapper' they think of someone talking about killing someone, but some of the best lyrics in the world are rap lyrics. But rappers don't get thought of as songwriters when you see people like Sting winning awards..."
Tricky laughs, because he likes Sting and it wasn't a good example and perhaps because if you didn't laugh you'd upset yourself. Wordsmith Tricky says he doesn't know what 'Aftermath' is about, exactly. "It's about the bomb, that's the obvious bit. The 'four walls' stuff means it's for eyerybody. And 'Your eyes resemble mine...' I don't know. It's weird. Mad."
Mad, because few eyes do resemble the hard peepers of Tricky. Or his ears judging by the sound on 'Aftermath'. Even he is confused. "We ain't found out what we're into yet."
Nah, that's bollocks. They're into a flawed, human atmosphere. And outside the wind blows.
photo: Roger Sargent
|analyze me (Tricky)|
|Tricky solo discography|