ive been a TRICKY fan since i first discovered MASSIVE ATTACK my senior year of high school. as ive written before, that was a CRAZY year since it started out with me living and attending school in KUWAIT where my family was stationed at the time. 9/11 happened and i was quickly shipped off to live with a relative in a WHITE BREAD suburb of SACRAMENTO. my solace at the time was books and the now DEFUNCT chain of EXCELLENT local record stores called DIMPLE RECORDS. over that year i discovered everything from SKINNY PUPPY and BAUHAUS to APHEX TWIN and PORTISHEAD. it was a pretty MISERABLE year all told as i felt understandably quite ISOLATED from friends and family, but in terms of discovering music, authors and films, it was arguably the most PRODUCTIVE period of my life.
i was lucky enough to see TOOL play at ARCO ARENA that year with ADRIAN "TRICKY" THAWS opening (with MARTINA TOPLEY-BIRD in tow!) in support of his recent BLOWBACK (ANTI-, 2001) album. during this period TRICKY even cameo'd in the ELABORATE and deeply ALLEGORICAL TOOL music video for for the title-track "LATERALUS" off the recent LATERALUS (VOLCANO, 2001) album. i remember the crowd was DISINTERESTED and multiple people in my section openly feeling comfortable in public yelling out the N-WORD at him. my low opinion of SACRAMENTO and its inhabitants really hasnt shifted since. my hope is to never return there for anything, ever.
my first TRICKY album was the ICONIC MAXINQUAYE (4TH & B'WAY, 1995), which i bought at the LEGENDARY TOWER RECORDS in SAN FRANCISCO on my last day in CALIFORNIA after high school graduation before flying home to NEW JERSEY to meet up with my family. by that point i was familiar with TRIP HOP acts like MASSIVE ATTACK, PORTISHEAD, THIEVERY CORPORATION, DJ SHADOW and SNEAKER PIMPS, but with TRICKY there was a real PALPABLE sense of synesthesia between the HAZY atmospherics and his deeply personal songwriting. whats more, he had this ANGELIC female singer named MARTINA TOPLEY-BIRD (whose solo material over the years is well worth checking out on its own merit) sing what presumably are his parts written in his voice. to have a woman speak from the first-person perspective was initially deeply JARRING but really gets at the UNIVERSALITY of TRICKY's perspective as a narrator in his own sonic universe. it also gets at the work of famed psychologist CARL JUNG and his description of the ANIMUS / ANIMA phenomena at the heart of the human psyche. in essence we all have parts of our psyche rooted in the other sex: ANIMUS is the unconscious MASCULINE SIDE of a woman and ANIMA is the unconscious FEMININE SIDE of a man. such is so deeply ingrained that it transcends our conscious psyche. on some level TRICKY is playing with this idea and it works BRILLIANTLY as TOPLEY-BIRD feels like an alternate aspect of his personality commenting on a fleeting EMOTION from an ETHEREAL distant plane a la a GREEK CHORUS. i found the whole thing completely INTOXICATING and very much shifted my expectations of what GREAT music could sound like and the need to push limitations.
TRICKY is one of my favorite artists and i am always looking forward to his latest work, irregardless of whether it hits me as hard as MAXINQUAYE did that first time. the dude is on his own trip and he's exploring realms of sonic artistry that i feel only a few others have ever truly thought to explore: people like KARLHEINZ STOCKHAUSEN, KATE BUSH, JIMI HENDRIX, LOU REED, BJORK, SCOTT WALKER, CHELSEA WOLFE, PHILIP GLASS or even FRANK ZAPPA. people that bend music to their will and not the other way around.
embedded below is a DEER GOD RADIO episode on nonprofit internet radio station MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC that originally aired in early 2021. the playlist includes music from throughout TRICKY's SINGULAR catalogue. enjoy!
photo manipulation & text by nacrowe
half a decade ago NOISEY had an INCREDIBLE series of interview videos moderated by THE QUIETUS founding editor JOHN DORAN (who also writes for THE GUARDIAN, THEWIRE , VICE and METAL HAMMER and creates programming for the BBC) called THE BRITISH MASTERS that got at the heart of what made a certain cadre of LEGENDARY ENGLISH musicians and songwriters of varying genres so IMPACTFUL and EFFECTIVE. included in the mix were participants like TRICKY (MASSIVE ATTACK), JOHNNY MARR (THE SMITHS), COSEY FANNI TUTTI (THROBBING GRISTLE), JOHN LYDON (SEX PISTOLS, PUBLIC IMAGE LIMITED), MARK E SMITH (THE FALL), ROOTS MANUVA, PAUL SIMONON (THE CLASH), BRYAN FERRY (ROXY MUSIC), DAMON ALBARN (BLUR, GORILLAZ), NEIL TENNANT (PET SHOP BOYS), VIV ALBERTINE (THE SLITS), GARY NUMAN (TUBEWAY ARMY), LIAM GALLAGHER (OASIS), GOLDIE and BRETT ANDERSON (SUEDE) among others.
my sense is that there is a certain mix of PAROCHIALISM at play in BRITAIN whereby it is SMALL and DISCONNECTED enough from nearby EUROPE to cultivate an INDEPENDENT arts scene without much outside influence. conversely and completely counterintuitively ENGLAND's recent past as a colonial power allows it to have a DIVERSE cultural population that manifests in organically UNIQUE cultural products that reflect such. just a look at the guests chosen for this series one is confronted with a myriad of sub-genres including PUNK ROCK, HIP HOP, INDUSTRIAL MUSIC, SYNTH POP, POST PUNK, BRITPOP, DRUM & BASS and TRIP HOP. each represents a specific community, lifestyle with an attendant set of values that renders all of them uniquely BRITISH.
the cultural references utilized are now a bit dated, but THE BRITISH MASTERS still very much holds up and is well worth investigation. definitely worth checking out.
MASSIVE ATTACK was an absolute game changer for me.
maybe it was because of the household i grew up in or the decades-old myopic vestiges of the "DISCO SUCKS" mentality from a generation before, but for whatever reason ELECTRONIC MUSIC was not really a part of my upbringing and nobody i was around listened to it or took it seriously. in fact, for something to be electronic-based was effectively code for inauthenticity and lack of musicianship (unlike say string, percussion or woodwind instruments) and therefore utterly discardable. which of course is all complete utter bullshit.
when i moved to KUWAIT for high school in 2000 i discovered MASSIVE ATTACK and APHEX TWIN, both of which shifted everything. MASSIVE ATTACK was the spearhead collective of BRITISH TRIP HOP scene that was concurrent with BRITPOP movement of the 1990s, though the COOL BRITANNIA that they exemplified was one of an musically ECLECTIC (HIP HOP, REGGAE, HOUSE MUSIC) and racially INTEGRATED community made up mostly of recent immigrants rather than posh, thin-skinned art school wankers (SUEDE, BLUR, ELASTICA) and unintelligible and uncultured northern oiks (OASIS). APHEX TWIN innovated EXPERIMENTAL electronic music and were exemplars of GLITCH (along with SQUAREPUSHER and AUTECHRE) and their sound was sound TRANSGRESSIVE and REVOLUTIONARY that people are still catching up almost three decades later.
what caught my ear about MASSIVE ATTACK was the sheer EMOTIVE potential of their sound. it all felt DRAMATIC and entirely CINEMATIC, like this was widescreen color cinemascope in a theater and before i was only used to a household black-and-white television. their was a DEPTH and GROOVE and sense of WONDER and ADVENTURE. its difficult to describe but discovering their music was a REVELATION and taught me to really expand my musical palette in search of new EXPANSIVE sonic landscapes, which is essentially what i did the next year when i moved to SACRAMENTO for my final year of high school and effectively got into SHOEGAZE (SLOWDIVE, MY BLOODY VALENTINE, THE JESUS AND MARY CHAIN, LUSH, SWIRLIES), NO WAVE (SWANS, SUICIDE, GLENN BRANCA), INDUSTRIAL MUSIC (SKINNY PUPPY, MY LIFE WITH THE THRILL KILL KULT, GODFLESH, THROBBING GRISTLE, MINISTRY, FRONT 242, KMFDM),POST PUNK (BAUHAUS, THE CURE, PUBLIC IMAGE LIMITED, JOY DIVISION, COCTEAU TWINS), 90s HIP HOP (WU-TANG CLAN, A TRIBE CALLED QUEST, THE PHARCYDE, DE LA SOUL, SOULS OF MISCHIEF) and KRAUTROCK (KRAFTWERK, NEU!, CAN, BRIAN ENO, TANGERINE DREAM). more so than that, through MASSIVE ATTACK and APHEX TWIN i really jumped into the deep end of electronic music with AMBIENT acts like ONEOHTRIX POINT NEVER, TELEFON TEL AVIV and BOARDS OF CANADA, as well as other more ACCESSIBLE groups like AIR, THE CHEMICAL BROTHERS, DAFT PUNK and THE FLYING LOTUS.
MASSIVE ATTACK and APHEX TWIN were the gateway band to a whole separate wing of my listening experience life. and for that change in trajectory i am eternally grateful.
embedded below is a DEER GOD RADIO episode from late 2021 on nonprofit internet radio station MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC dedicated to BRITISH TRIP HOP icons MASSIVE ATTACK. enjoy!
join us TONIGHT at 8PM EST for an all new episode of DEER GOD RADIO on MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC with a playlist celebrating the infectious and entrancing experimental sounds of BRITISH TRIP HOP icons MASSIVE ATTACK!
past episodes of DEER GOD RADIO are available here at the DEER GOD website as well as in the MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC archives.
and if you haven't done so already, make sure and download the FREE PHONE APP for IOS/ANDROID and enjoy listening to MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC 24/7 at your convenience!
photo & text by nacrowe
i first heard BLUE LINES (WILD BUNCH/VIRGIN, 1991) by MASSIVE ATTACK my senior year of high school during my stay in SACRAMENTO post 9/11. i moved from KUWAIT to live with a relative shortly after the attacks. it was abrupt and highly disruptive but i got through it. luckily my relative lived near a local family-owned record store chain called DIMPLE RECORDS (who sadly went out of business in 2019). KUWAIT as a teenager was not much fun. it was a cultural oppressive and intellectually stunting experience. being a student in that environment was awful.
SACRAMENTO in comparison was just an uninformed suburban backwater. unlike KUWAIT, i never felt physically threatened. at school i was more a curiosity than anything else, so i just did my own thing exploring music, film and literature. i got really into POST-PUNK around that time (WIRE, THE CURE, JOY DIVISION, THE FALL, BAUHAUS) and then i discovered TRIP HOP. specifically MASSIVE ATTACK, PORTISHEAD and TRICKY.
it was serendipitous because within a few months i saw TOOL play SACRAMENTO's ARCO ARENA and TRICKY was the opener.
what drew me to MASSIVE ATTACK was their ability to create soundscapes through collage and really play with meter. the music would flow and bend time like REGGAE and then fluidly introduce breakbeats and angelic vocals. it was all unexpected ear candy. i was smitten immediately. subsequent albums have further incorporated an ever-widening breadth of styles and interesting collaborators as well as moods, from the anthemic and jubilant to somber and outright claustrophobic. they somehow sound eclectic without losing any sense of a cohesive identity. they remain one of my favorite groups of any genre.
every subsequent MASSIVE ATTACK record has been a revelation and an innovation from its predecessors. discovering their music really got me through that final year of high school intact. it really encouraged me to keep digging and staying awake and receptive to new sounds and ideas.
in the most unlikely of places: SACRAMENTO. who knew?
join us TONIGHT at 8PM EST for an all new episode of DEER GOD RADIO on MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC with a playlist that explores the sonic experimentalist of the singular TRIP HOP icon TRICKY.
past episodes of DEER GOD RADIO as well as other MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC shows like MAKE HER SPACE, NOWHERE FAST, THE SYNTHESIZER SHOW and CLASSICAL-ISH WITH NUTMEG are available here at the DEER GOD website.
and if you haven't done so already get the FREE PHONE APP for IOS/ANDROID and enjoy listening to MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC 24/7 at your convenience!
photo manipulation by nacrowe
NULLE PART AILLEURS, translated in english as NOWHERE ELSE, was a talk show on FRENCH channel CANAL+ from roughly 1987 to 2001. as part of the program at times there would be musical guests and the footage that has leaked onto the internet from english-speaking bands over the years is quite remarkable.
impassioned, well-mixed performances by the likes of PORTISHEAD, NIRVANA, OASIS, AT THE DRIVE-IN, MASSIVE ATTACK, DEFTONES, A PERFECT CIRCLE, GARBAGE, SYSTEM OF A DOWN, THE SMASHING PUMPKINS and countless others can be view below. enjoy.
roughly a year ago we did a show focused on TRIP HOP, which personally is one of my favorite things ever. its rooted in several groups that came out of BRISTOL in the UK who took american HIP HOP BOOM-BAP rhythms and infused it with the sounds, textures and production of the local immigrant community, which included artists everywhere from the CARIBBEAN and WEST AFRICA to the INDIAN subcontinent and beyond.
i discovered groups like MASSIVE ATTACK and PORTISHEAD (as well as DEVO) at the same time when i was in my junior year of high school and they decidedly expanded my perspective on music. at that point my sonic palette was limited to primarily guitar-based stuff, but afterwards really all bets were off. the fact that TRIP HOP had groove yet had this melancholic, forlorn vibe was the perfect soundtrack to being a disaffected teenager running around the morally bankrupt wasteland that was and still is KUWAIT.
listening to these bands, no matter my age, brings me straight back there. i'm happy i found it though at that time, its funny how music has that power to get us through challenging times while we are still in them.
i don't know how much explaining we did during this show since we had a guest that we spoke to off-mic but honestly this is one of the stronger playlists in the history of the show. so by all means enjoy it. let it transport you.
artwork by nicholas crowe
tune into DEER GOD RADIO tonight at 8PM on MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC where we will be playing TRIP HOP from the early 90s til the present. definitely one of our favorite genres taht has been criminally underappreciated and underrepresented in recent years.
past episodes of DEER GOD RADIO as well as other MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC shows like MAKE HER SPACE, NOWHERE FAST, and THE SYNTHESIZER SHOW are available here at the DEER GOD website.