He be the prophet


WHEN Tricky describes himself as an "arms dealer" he ain't joking. The way he figures it out is this he is signed to Island Records who are owned by Polygram who in turn are owned by Phillips who in their own inimitable way are manufacturers of munitions. Hence the trip hop messiah, and quite probably the coolest man on the planet, throws his head back and says in his Wurzel Gummidge accent (he's from the West Country), that he's an "arms dealer" as if it's the funniest thing in the world. Maybe it is.

Boring background time Tricky started his musical life in Bristol. Known up until recently as Tricky Kid he first appeared on Massive Attack's Blue Lines before forming Tricky it's all a bit confusing but basically the name Tricky refers to two people, Tricky and Martian, but you still use the singular when referring to the band.

Last year's debut album Maxinquaye went ballistic for the duo, temporarily put fellow Bristolians Portishead and Massive Attack in the shade and brought that which is known as Trip Hop to places far outside the traditional musical spectrum. Max in quaye was (and here come the adjectives) a dark, sinister, moody, foreboding and downright sexy piece of work. Tricky soon became the name to drop at bohemian dinner parties and people whose previous musical tastes only stretched to Dire Straits and Simply Red were hip hopping aboard the Bristol beat. But to trip hop or not to trip hop, that's the question for Tricky?

"When I played at Shepherds Bush recently," he says, "I introduced one of the songs by saying are there any fans of trip hop in the house? ... if there are you can all f**k off home then (laughs). What it is, is that I look at a crowd like that and I think that these people can't honestly be into it. So it's just a way of testing them really. And if they knew anything about me, they'd know I f**king hate the word trip hop. But they don't. They're just brain washed sheep".

Tricky puts his narky attitude down to the twin factors of too many people telling him that he's "God" and a form of psychosis induced by being a heavy cannabis smoker. "Too much spliff and you get Devil complexes and Jesus complexes," he says sagely.

His new album, Nearly God is not really an "official" album for the simple reason that his record company don't want him to release more than one album a year, something to do with saturation of the market" or some such nonsense. The next official Tricky album (meaning Tricky and Martian) comes out in October, so this present work is credited to "Nearly God" and features contributions from Terry Hall (ex Specials), Bjork, Alison Moyet, Neneh Cherry (a good mate of Tricky's from the Bristol days), Cath Coffey (singer with Stereo MC's) and Martian herself. One other collaborator the boy Damon from Blur pulled out at the last moment (probably because such a collaboration wouldn't go down too well with his Smash Hits fan base). "The Damon collaboration was going to be called I'll Pass Through You," says Tricky, "but I don't think he pulled out because of the song itself but because of my behaviour at an awards ceremony where I handed him an award and said Here you are, Damon, stick this up your ass. It's a shame, really, because the track is wicked. He's talking about trying to get this girl but doing it through voodoo. It sounds really weird, though, because he's doing it in that little voice he's got, but singing all these horrible words."

The album is what one would term a bit more "experimental" and a bit less "commercial" than Maxinquaye. The opening track sees Tricky do an ace version of The Siouxsie and The Banshees song, Tattoo before an astonishing vocal triumvirate of Tricky, Terry Hall and Martina do all sorts of wonderful things on the album's stand out track, Poems which is a sort of indie version of You Don't Bring Me Flowers. Sadly Alison Moyet's track is wide of the mark and Bjork is just a little too self consciously "I'm mad, I am" on her contributions. The highlights, as always, are whenever Tricky backs Martina and to this end, I Be The Prophet and Black Coffee are, in a word, stunning pieces of work and more importantly a glorious glimpse of what's in store on the "real" Tricky album later this year. He be the prophet.