Leave it to the enigmatic Bristol
electronic renaissance rap-rocker Tricky to decide to tour Canada in January.
The day of his arrival in Toronto for a sold-out show at the Phoenix club
(Thurs., Jan. 16) just happened to the coldest one yet this winter, the kind of
day that almost lends some credence to the old jokes about Canadians living in
igloos. It was so cold, in fact, that Tricky stood up his own news conference,
and who could blame him? As a group of the Torontonian music media milled
aimlessly about in a barely heated upstairs room of downtown pub in
anticipation of the Tricky Kid's arrival, quaffing record company subsidised
suds to create some internal heat, the word came down--Tricky wasn't budging
from the relatively cosy confines of the club, where he'd just completed a
Leaving behind two just-arrived pitchers of fresh draft in
order to bring the mountain to Mohammed was indeed heartbreaking, but Tricky
soon proved to worth the trouble at the hastily assembled News Conference II in
a side room of the Phoenix. I first spied him in a corridor leading to the
stage, comically holding a fuming spliff behind his back--inadvertently
creating a smoke ring halo around his head-- as he posed for yet another
picture. "I don't really want to be involved in any fashion or any
trend--trip-hop, hip-hop, pop, jungle--I don't want to get involved in
categories, supermarket stuff, the trip-hop section, the jungle section. . . ,"
he told the assembled throng in his Bristol patois as he finally began to hold
court, after first mumbling apologies and laying the blame on the
It soon became clear that despite his playful
demeanour--one without any hint of the pretension that so many "pop stars"
exude--Tricky was troubled by the controlling machinations of the music
business, which had caused his opening act, rising anti-gangsta rapper Jeru The
Damaja, to leave the tour two days earlier...
"He's not on the tour tonight," Tricky lamented, deflating
ATN's query regarding possible trouble between the two acts by mentioning that
he and Jeru have recorded a number of songs together. "It's easier for
us--we're the headlining gig. When you're supporting,--when we supported PJ
Harvey--it's hard. Jeru's an artist, he sells a lot of records in his
own right. It's hard--unless you support, like U2, youknowotImean? To
me, Jeru is like the first alternative rapper--he's different, like a
Bob Marley of rap. His lyrics are like dreams--I've got total admiration for
him, totally. But--this is politics, which unfortunately I've got no control
over at all. The reason the stuff we've recorded together hasn't come out yet
is because of politics: me and Jeru have no control over that. That's what's
shit, man, doyouknowotImean?"
As Tricky ranged over a variety of topics, he
began to weave a spell as much with the sound of his voice and the intonation
of his words as by their content. Relatively small of stature, he seemed
simultaneously child-like (but never child-ish) and ancient, like a
philosophical sage, belying the manic intensity he would bring to the evening's
performance only a few hours later. Although it's easy to get jaded quite
quickly when you're dealing with the music business and its various stars,
Tricky stripped all of that away in the space of a half-hour. He's a truly
singular human being who you can believe when he says: "I just wanna touch some
Other highlights of the press conference: *Tricky on making art
for large corporations: "I'm on Island, Island's on Polygram... It's corporate
companies: my money gets made to make money to make more money to make some
guns to make some bombs. Big corporate companies arm countries,
doyouknowwotImean? It means I'm part of the problem."
*On plans for his
own Durban Poison record label, to which Grace Jones, among others, is signed:
"To become a mass corporate company and start making guns and bombs! If someone
gives me a tape or I know someone who makes wicked music, I just want them to
make wicked music. I don't want nothing to do with it. If I trust their ability
to make music, I shouldn't involved, youknowwotImean? There's even gonna be a
time when they make something I don't like--I doubt I'll like all the
music we make, I doubt it very much, but then again it's got nothing to do with
that. We've got Jungle Songs coming out now, with English and American
hip-hop artists together, producing each other, rapping on each other's songs,
it sounds all kind of weird and strange because I produced three songs, someone
else produced three songs, someone else produced two songs, and we're all
rappin' everywhere. I think it's the first kind of English and American rap
album. It's a funny album--it's like The Great Rock and Roll Swindle of
*On his "Tricky" persona: "It's a media thing--media's not
really real is it?. I don't know who's created it though--what's created what.
I'm a bit confused."
*On former bandmates Massive Attack: "We see each
other in clubs and things. One day [we might work together again]. They're
probably doing this now-- we're both mad busy. We see each other on tour a lot,
but . . . I've gone somewhere else, they've gone somewhere else."
projected follow-up to the Nearly God side project: "I want to do that,
but it's like, I've got loads of bits and bobs, still got stuff with Neneh
Cherry, with Bjork, with Terry Hall, with [Tricky co-vocalist] Martina. But
it's just compiling it, getting the time to compile it. [There's one with ]
Suggs from Madness, a mad, mad reggae song. Nearly God is like a
half-finished album, none of the tracks have been worked on, they're just like
. . .pieces of mess put together with vocals on top of it. Now, the
artists involved didn't say to me, 'Look, we need to take this into the
studio.' One artist did--Damon Albarn [from Blur], and that's the track I
didn't use. [The rest] knew that it was just going to be naked and bare, with
all the mistakes left in, all the flaws. But all those people are open-minded
Except Damon Albarn?
"I'm not saying he's not open-minded.
He's striving for perfection, and I'm not really worried about that."
the (over)intellectualization of music : "I don't understand a lot of my
own music, doyouknowotImean? I listen to things like [Pre- Millennium
Tension's] "Sex Drive" and I think: 'What is that?' But I know there's an
energy there. That will do for me--it makes me feel something, and I don't have
to understand the feeling, or look for any meaning beyond this feeling."
*On the importance of drugs for his work: "I don't know. See, I've always
smoked, and I've never done a song without smoking, so if I did a song without
smoking, it might be the end of my career! But then again, it might mean
nothing at all. I'm not really into any hard drugs--weed is like, quite
*On a return bout with Goldie [the jungle innovator who
Tricky scrapped with last year over a Bjork-related matter in a New York club]:
"Nahhh. I'm a lover, not a fighter."
*On PJ Harvey: "We're gonna do some
songs together. We've kind of promised that for ages. I just love what she
does--I'm a big, big BIG fan. I love the fact that she won't compromise at all.
I just think she's Wonder Woman, basically."
*On America: "It's mad. I
watch the TV and think, 'Fuck!, what's goin' on, man?' I find it quite scary, I
find it fascinating. I find it gives me loads of energy. It's easy for me in
that I've given up trying to understand what this is all about, and New York's
perfect place to just get on with it. I don't wanna know what's going on--all I
know is, it's going on. Yeah. It's just happening, and I don't know why,
and I don't care why. Just get on with it."
*Finally, current listening?:
"The Tool album--that's just fuckin' . . . to me, that's what I'm into. That
kid, I can feel his pain. It's real. If you're trying to sound
like Billie Holiday or Kurt Cobain, and you don't mean it, I can hear it! That
guy touches my soul--that's all I wanna do, doyouknowotImean? That's
all I wanna be--I don't wanna be King of trip-hop, hip-hop, anything--I
just wanna touch some souls. If I can do that like that guy from Tool, Bob
Marley, Kurt Cobain, Billie Holiday . . . that boy touches my soul! That's what
I'm into--that's what listen to. Anything--it could be any music at all. I need
my soul to be touched by it."