Massive Attack co-founder Tricky on why he doesn’t enjoy modern DJs

today18/05/2023 235

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Bristol-based record producer and rapper Adrian Nicholas Matthews Thaws, better known by his moniker of Tricky, began his musical path in the late 1980s as part of the hip-hop sound system The Wild Bunch. With Robert Del Naja, Grant Marshall and Andrew Vowles, fellow members of the loose collective, Tricky formed Massive Attack and heavily contributed to the band’s first two albums, 1991’s Blue Lines and 1994’s Protection.

These early releases garnered Massive Attack a strong international following and, thanks to the unprecedented genre blend, are often cited as the true source of trip-hop. In 1995, Tricky left Massive Attack to pursue his solo career full-time following the success of his solo debut, Maxinquaye.

During his rise to popular acclaim, Tricky was noted for his versatility as he seamlessly alloyed the disparate genres of hip-hop, soul, punk and reggae. Tricky cites early club DJs as a pivotal influence as they opened his mind to a plethora of genres and obscure artists. However, he’s become disillusioned with the club scene in recent years.

“I rarely go to clubs now,” Tricky told the NME while discussing his album ununiform in 2017. “I’m not really into commercial music and this ‘superstar DJ’ thing. But some of these tracks on there [new album] is like when I used to go to clubs. Now, DJs play for the crowd, right, but DJs used to do what they want. I remember when I was younger, going into clubs and going up to a DJ and saying, ‘What’s this track?’ I learned stuff. I heard music. I found new music through DJs, which don’t happen anymore. I think a lot of clubs – especially these big DJ things – is based around alcohol and drugs.”

Tricky continued, noting that ununiform is a nostalgic tribute to the golden age of clubbing. “So, this is the sort of thing I want to hear in clubs, or what I used to hear in clubs,” he said. “It’s not a club album as such, but some of the tracks on there – it’s the sort of thing that, if I go to a club, I’ll wanna hear. I don’t wanna hear David Guetta or Kanye West. That’s the last thing I wanna go out and hear”.

He added: “There’s so much of it, you know, there’s so much Kanye West and David Guetta everywhere! When I go to a club, I want to hear something new, something fresh, something I’ve never heard before.”

In the 1980s and ’90s, DJs understood that they were presenting the work of other musicians. Tricky lamented that in the modern day, there is a tendency for DJs to arrogantly posture to the sound as if it were a beast entirely of their own creation.

“The DJs nowadays, they’re superstars, which I don’t understand because – one, they’re not creating music, they’re playing other people’s music, and they’ve got this – have you seen the DJ thing where they’ve got the Christ pose? Where they do this [puts arms out like a messiah]. They do the Christ pose, and they start doing this [waves arms upwards],” Tricky opined.

“Like… I just don’t understand it. DJs used to be low-key and just played good music. It’s almost like they’re playing up to the crowd instead of playing for the crowd. It’s like John Peel or Rodigan, for instance, and you listen to that radio show, they’re DJs, and you’d hear new music, and they’d introduce you to new music. Not what’s in the charts or to make you dance. Just good music. Obscure music as well, you know, John Peel used to play some obscure music [and] Rodigan. Now, it’s just really commercialised and just means nothing.”

Written by: Richard - DMT FM