1995. Where to start?! I could write a book about my experiences with Tricky!
Tricky was an amazing character and working with him was equal parts fun and utter frustration! But it was hard to ever get mad at him for anything because he had the most infectious laugh and he would always laugh anyone's annoyance with him off.
Island Records called me and told me that Tricky from Massive Attack was interested in working with me and asked if I'd meet him. They sent me the titles 'Ponderosa' and 'Aftermath' which Tricky had already recorded with Howie B. I listened to them and wondered why Tricky would want to work with me - these tracks were nothing like I'd ever worked on. However, I agreed to meet, as I was curious.
Twice Tricky failed to show up for meetings at Island, so the label guy suggested that I meet Tricky at his fla,t as he might be more likely to be there for a meeting.
As soon as Tricky opened his flat door, he blew away the preconceived ideas of what I'd thought he'd be like. He was hyper and fast talking - not like I imagined after listening to Aftermath. He told me he was a huge Cure fan which surprised me too.
I was hired as an engineer to work with Tricky in his makeshift studio (that Island had set up for him) in his Kilburn, London flat. The gear was very simple, a Mackie 16 channel board, an Atari ST computer running Cubase, an Akai S1000 (or S900) sampler and a little keyboard. This was setup in Tricky's tiny second bedroom. Vocals were done by running a mic cable into the kitchen. The mic was a £300 AKG C1000.
On the first day Tricky picked a couple of vinyl records (which were literally covering most of the floors in his flat) off the floor and told me he wanted to sample them. 'Sure' I said, expecting him to leap into action at the computer and sampler. He saw me waiting and waved his hand towards the gear and said 'oh...I don't know how to use any of that stuff!'. So, I took over the technology reins and got to work. We sampled to bits of records and Tricky said that he wanted to hear them together. I told him that it wouldn't work because they were different tempos and in different etc (bear in mind that pitch shifting technology was pretty primitive in 1994). He told me that he still wanted to hear it. So I played it and it was a total train wreck - but Tricky sat between the speakers, spliff in hand, nodding his head to a beat that didn't exist in the cacophony I was hearing. He declared it 'wicked'. I thought 'you cannot be serious?!!!'. But he was. I told him that I didn't think it was working. I thought it was a complete waste of time trying to get these two bits of totally unrelated in anyway music to fit together. But to appease Tricky, I fiddled around with samples and lo and behold, after a few minutes, the two pieces suddenly gelled into an unexpectedly great loop. Tricky said 'I told you it would work didn't I!'
After I left, I called my manager and told her that my involvement in this record was going to be a lot more than just engineer. She called Island and negotiated a co-production deal with percentage of sales which was great - except in true record label fashion, after I'd finished the record a couple of months later - and Island were telling me what a fantastic job I'd done - the business department told me that the label guy guy that my manager negotiated my deal with was 'too junior to do that deal', therefore they were reneging on the the deal. Charming! Fortunately for me, my manager also managed the brilliant top mixer guy, Mark 'Spike' Stent and he was disgusted with Island when he heard about this and he said to my manager 'Tell Island, I'll never work for them again if they don't do the right thing by Mark'. That did the trick and my co-production deal was reinstated. That gives you an idea what the business side of the music industry was like!
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