|HAVE YOU SEEN THIS MAN?|
|story by CASPAR SMITH
photos by SIMON FOWLER
Known associate of Massive Attack. Soon to rou with PJ Harvey. Notorious for demented hip hop blues tunes, crimes against rap orthodoxy and surreal behaviour. His name is Tricky. Do not approach him. He could be dangerous...
|BRISTOL, 1984. Saturday
afternoon and the shopping centre is busy: a gang of kids from Knowle West,
not the smartest part of town, run into Woolworth's, weaving in and out
of gaglles of blue-rinsed ladies. They're graduated from nicking the pick'n'mix:
the posse, as they'll be calling themselves, is on the rampage. Knocking
crockery off the shelves in the homewares department, shouting, pushing
people down the escalators. Suddenly, 15-year-old Tricky Kid, known for
shooting his mouth off and getting people into trouble, is grabbed by a
would-be guardian of the peace, who tells Tricky that he's a little black
bastard. Bad move. Spinning out of his tormentor's grip, Tricky sprints
off, yelling after the others. They swarm together. Exit one, do-gooder,
pursued by two dozen young hooligangs.Wicked.
"Wicked, heh, heh," chortles Tricky, in a west London rehearsal studio, in 1995. "Yeah," he says in his arresting Bristolian burr, "it was the best time. All us kids with a load of energy, not knowing what to do with it." He's come a long way, beyond just dropping the Kid tag. With Martina (19), Tricky has made 'Maxinquaye', the first trily brilliant LP of the year.
Takind the rule book and translating it into a garbled, fractured language spoken only by Tricky and close associates, the album scrambles hip hop into soul and dub, squalling guitar noise into freakishly deformed samples; Tricky's deft rapping rubs up alongside Martina's
A hazy, spliff-drift vibe is broken into by howling bulletins of anger
and passion. On 'Suffocated Love', there's Tricky as Barry White. Elsewhere,
Martina gets to play Chuck D on 'Black Steel', a cover of Public Enemy's
'Black Steel In The Hour Of Chaos'. Often the collision of styles and sounds
is so audicious it seems about to collapse in on itself in an ambarrassing
avant-garde fiasco. That it doesn't is down to the magic wrought by Tricky
Already, Tricky's the chic-est name to drop; he's on TV; he's a music-biz personality. But those around him are worried. More than just a bit of a space cadet, the personality indicated by his surreal and larming images on single sleeves like 'Overcome' only hints at what he's really like. Look at him - he's a fully-decorated, all-the-medals butter. He has a big nose ring, harshly-cropped dyed-silver hair, set off by white socks and smart.but-casual Clark's shoes. He doesn't wwear trainers any more. At 26, he says, he's too old to.
Then there are his unsettling lyrics: "The place where I stand turns to liquid line / underneath a weeping willow lies a weeling wino" ('Ponderosa') or "I'll fuck you up the ass / Just for a laugh" ('Abbaon Fat Track'). And to add to the sense of unease, line on 'Ponderosa' are echoed on 'Brand New, You're Retro': "To the cage, thorugh the bars / You'll see sacrs, result of my rage".
It's a long way from the cheery, knockabout Tricky on
|show today. But he always
thought he was something special, since he was a kid.
"Yeah, I'm always going on about how I'm Jesus, aren't I? Heh, heh!" he says to Martina. "I used to smoke too much spliff, which can give you delusions. And schizophrenia. And I've definitely got a bit of that. My personality changes. I go to extremes. If I want to cause an argument I'll do anything (making the face of a troubled pit bull), and if something pisses me off I have to gave a row..."
TRICKY'S Mum died when he was four.
'Maxinquaye', if you juggle the 'e', is named fter her (though he says
he julist liked the way it sounds). Though treasured by his Nan, young
Adrian Thaws became Tricky Kid on the mean streets of Knowle West. It was,
still is, a deprived area. "The first thing you learn to do is use your
hands to protect yourself. The kids know how to get by doing various things."
| Some things have
changed today, ut Tricky's mouth is as dangerous as when he was 15. Take
his recent less-than-complimentary remarks about old partners Massive Attack
and the third act in Bristol's Holy Trinity, Portishead....
Though long surrounded by the machinations of the music biz, Tricky still seems perplexed by the games played out around him. When the men in charge heard the similarity between Portishead's recent Top 20 single 'Glory Box' and Tricky's 'Hell Is Round The Corner', Tricky thought it would be cool. It was a coincidence, both acts share the same management, and, anyway, the sample's been used before. But after tapes of 'Maxinquaye', including 'Hell', started circulating, 'Glory Box' was rush-released, and Tricky suspected foul play. When he asked for tickets to a secret Portishead gig, they said yes, but nothing happened. They were scared, reckons Tricky that he'd cause trouble on the night.
"I'm paranoid, but... when they heard my track in the studio they brought out Portishead's so fast: boom, boom, boom. It's crazy, why should it matter? And what am I going to do at their concert, when there's 500 other people there?"
If relations with Massive Attack seem strained that's surely not his fault, either. Through his mate Milo Johnson, Tricky Kid joined the Wild Bunch, the late-80's launch pad for umpteen multi-million-pound dance career trajectories. In 1988, Nellee Hooper left and became a producer for Soul II
|Soul and Björk.
The otehrs became Massive Attack. Then Milo quit, leaving Tricky with "a
group of people I didn't really know." Even when 'Blue Lines' came out,
with Tricky responsible for three tracks, including the glorious 'Daydreaming',
he still didn't feel a part of the band. "When 'Daydreaming' came out I
was pushed to the front 'cos 3D, Mushroom and Daddy G always stayed in
the background. Then when the Shara Nelson songs came out I was left behind.
I didn't really know where I stood."
Tricky contributed covals to two tracks on Massive's 'Protection'. But by the time it finally came out last year, he was up and running solo.
"Everything is done in order in Massive Attack. But with me and Martina it's all thrown together, 'cos trying to make sense of things gets too difficult.
"We still talk, me and Massive Attack, and get pissed up together, but we're each doing our own thing now. And people change. To tell you God's honest truth, I haven't heard all their new album. Only my own tracks! Heh, heh, heh!"
TRICKY describes 'Maxinquaye' as a blues record. Musically, it has similarities with a lot of trip hop, from Massive to MoWax, though Tricky hates the term. "It's rubbish, because hip hop from day one has been werid. Rammelzee or Rakim from Eric B & Rakim. Listen to them. You don't get no weirder.
Hearing Slick Rick - the incarcerated, one-eyes English-born naturalised American old-school star - made Tricky want to be a rapper, wile the earliest records he'd heard were his Nan's Nina Simone discs. So mood-wise, 'Maxinquaye' has the intensity of Robert Johnson's blues classcis, or Sly And The Familiy Stone's masterpiece of drugged-up psychosis, 'There's A Riot Goin' On'.
And Martina has brought something far more important to
|Tricky than just a knowledge
of Faith No More and Fishbone records, to complement his own previously
rock-free taste. She has That Voice.
Martina had a far different upbringing to Tricky. Well-spoken and quiet, she's somewhat in the shadows alongside his manic outspokeness. She met him in 1991. Ouside her private school on a fag break from revising for GCSEs, he started chatting her up. (Tricky won't say what he was doing hanging around school-gates talking to schoolgirls...) Weeks later Martina called round. He wasn't in so she got stoned with his flatmate and Pop Group, Maffia and On-U Sound stalwart Mark Stewart, who found that she could sing. When Tricky got back, days later, they all went into the studio and recorded the first version of 'Aftermath'.
Shortly after, she left Bristol to study in Cambridge. "I liked being independent," she says. "I used to drive up to Nottingham and Leicester with my mates, and go out and come back at four in the morning, before having to go into double physics."
"Hard life , innit!" interrupts Tricky, but it's clear how close they eare when he immediately apologises for his quip. The unlikely couple now share a flat in London. So how sociable is he, Martina?"
"He's quite gregarious."
"Tricky: What does that mean?"
"You talk a lot."
And here we go again...
"Yeah. I can be really nice, as well as really horrible," admits Tricky. "I get rude with people. I have other friends, but not many. I just don't trust anyone. I don't let anyone near me. Normally I can see through people... I've never kept the same friends. You hang out with certain people and then move on to another group. It's not standing still..."
photos: Simon Fowler