Everyone knows Tricksta’s name right? But does everyone know quite the extent of his work for our music scene? I interviewed him to get the complete low down from start to finish. Just to prove how internationally hard working he is, we had to break off the interview half way through whilst he spoke to K-Rino on the phone! Here’s what he had to say:
Certified Banger: Let’s start right back at the beginning…
Tricksta: Well first and foremost I am a DJ. I started playing back in 1989 and got my first residency in 1991. I played a right mixed bag of styles; I have always been open-minded when it comes to music. I worked at a record shop from 1991 to 1995 (good era!), and in 1995 I left to work for a record label. While I was there I was made label manager of a label called Urban Flavour.
CB: You told me the other day your first release was a jungle 12”… when was that and what was that like?
Tricksta: It was that label that my first ever 12" came out on. The act was called In Deep and the 12" was called 'From The Depths' / 'Electro Solution'. It got rinsed by peeps like Fabio, Bukem, Doc Scott and DJ Lee. I worked at that label up until 1999, and I left to start Wolftown Recordings. Something I had always wanted to do. I started making music around 1993 so I am 15 years deep now – old git!
CB: Haha. So how did you get into Hip Hop from jungle?
Tricksta: Don't get it twisted, I have been into Hip-Hop since 1986, I just had the opportunity to do that release and a few others so I grabbed it by the bollocks. I think looking back it was good to get studio experience and work with instrumental music before I started doing Hip-Hop and working with vocalists. So yeah, I have always been into hip-hop, I actually used to put hip-hop nights on with LATE. We did a night called Revival Pressure back in 1994; we booked First Rate before he was in the Scratch Perverts. The night was packed and I even write a piece about it for HHC! I also used to write for a magazine called Rap Trade back in 1994 too.
CB: Yeah you def do a lot of work for the good of our scene. How did you get into the Hip Hop industry as an artist? Was it all your own hard work or through contacts? Was it a lucky break?
Tricksta: Myself and LATE had the initial idea to do Wolftown around 1996 and started recording tracks under the name Villains. We tried to perfect the sound and by 1998 most of the album was complete. We released 'UK Sound' back in December 1999 and it got licensed to a compilation. This gave us the confidence to start the label, so I used the connections I had built up and landed the label distribution with Pinnacle. From there we just grinded and networked hard with other like-minded people. There was no lucky break, even some of our friends said ‘Hip-Hop? Two geezers from Wolverhampton running a Hip-Hop label? That will never work’. I guess that just made us more determined. I mean people talk about being focussed, me and LATE are like super-dooper focussed! We love this music, since EPMD, BDP, Just Ice, Awesome Dre, Demon Boyz, Hijack, MC Duke – right through to now. We love this music. We respect the game. Whether you love or hate Wolftown, you cannot hate on the grind. How many independent record labels in the UK have released over 60 CD's? That’s been hard work and we work hard. To be honest I have always worked hard, I just believe if you have a dream you after to follow it.
CB: Where do you take your inspiration from? Do you ever sample or are all your productions original? What equipment do you use?
Tricksta: Where do I take my inspiration from? I listen to as much music as I can, that inspires me…new fresh innovative ideas… across all genres. [My productions are] original. All played… nothing lent or borrowed. [I use] a PC with Cubase on and various plug-ins. As I move forward I want to work more with live musicians, trumpet players, bass players etc.
CB: You’ve produced for so many people yet you’ve never had your own album out. Is that going to happen? What can you tell us about that?
Tricksta: Well, I can’t believe you have said that, I actually decided this year that in 2009 its time. 10 years of Wolftown – time for a Tricksta production album. So yeah, it’s gonna be called 'Urban Mathematics', all UK acts. [To mark the 10 year anniversary] I think we might do a label compilation too, nothing is set in stone though – me and LATE are kicking ides about at the moment.
CB: You’re not just a producer. You’re a DJ and a mix tape compiler (as well as about ten other things). What got you into doing the mixtapes like UK Runnings?
Tricksta: I started UK Runnings in 2001 – there was nothing like it at the time apart from Disorda's UK Hustlers series. Mans up north and in the Mids wasn’t hearing much UK rap so I did it and gave them away to try and get more man on UK rap. It worked too.
CB: Tell us about your latest mix CD ‘100% Exclusive’…
Tricksta: It’s the third project that UK Runnings have done in conjunction with www.theurbanshop.co.uk. I got mans from all endz repping exclusive tracks. From Wolverhampton I got LATE, 10Shott, Jai Boo, Size8, A1, Conman and myself. I got some sick skits cut up by Jabba Tha Kut who also got me an exclusive from Magishan, and they are both from Bournemouth. I got Bristol being repped by Kelz and Trz aka The Souljah Clique, Bungle from Sheffield, Double E from Gloucestershire, Kid Rad from Lichfield, Unfriendly Neighbours from Tamworth, Deadline from Birmingham, Hard Livin from Essex, and London artists Swift It Major, Reain, Big Cakes, Logic, Manny Moscow, Cons from The Colony, Jimmy Raygun, Debonair, P.A.C and Yaeo. And the DVD features some of the people on the mixtape as well as Blak Twang, Million Dan, Supar Novar, an interview with HHBRadio.Com and a street artist from the Midlands called Matt ‘The Artist’. It’s the first DVD I have done and probably the biggest release on UK Runnings so far.
CB: Yeah it's big definitely. Did you enjoy doing the DVD? I enjoyed watching it. Are you going do more?
Tricksta: The whole project was a complete joy to do… I loved it man. I produced 15 of the 30 tracks, which is like an album in itself! The DVD was made possible because of my good friends Lunatrix and Vokal from OYM Media (OYM Records / HHBRadio.com). They really helped me, and the artist contributions were superb. I am really proud. Okay it doesn't feature the UK's most well-known names but with this I wanted to focus on some of the mans making good music that I felt aren’t getting the props they deserve. I try to push UK rap at all levels. Some of these people on this CD will be doing big things in the next few years, mark my words! It’s a very humble release and I’ve got to big up Glyn from the Urban Shop man. He has been an inspiration to me, as has my LATE, and people like Juttla, Jai Boo, Dom at The Hip-Hop Village, OYM Media and everyone on Wolftown… they all show me a great deal of love for the work I do… as has my boy LATE.
CB: What do you think you’d do without Hip Hop ‘cause it really is your life isn’t it? You’re no part timer!
Tricksta: Yeah man 8.15am to 2 / 3 am everyday apart from Sunday. If you are independent that’s what you gotta do. So if you are reading this coming into the game and thinking of starting a label but not prepared to put in them hours then forget it and get a job in a bank or behind a bar or something! This UK Rap ting is for the string willed, the determined, the people who can take a knock but can get back up, take criticism, learn from mistakes and can network and pick up a phone and call anyone in the world. Without Hip-Hop I don’t know what I would do. Check the bars on my track 'Blood Sweat Tears' – it really sums everything up: “tell the truth it’s not about the wealth / it’s just that I can’t do anything else”.
CB: What would you say to someone who just wanted to make music and get it heard?
Tricksta: I think you are in a much better position than me when I was putting out vinyl in 1999 and man on road didn’t have laptops or Blackberrys! You got Myspace, websites, torrents etc – do what ever you can. Get your music out there… give it away at first if you have too and be strong, strap your seatbelt on and get ready for the ride. Be humble too, people hate people who think they know everything. I am learning every day. People might think just because I been running a hip-hop label for 9 years that I know everything – NOT AT ALL – I am fully open all the time – absorbing what people are saying and the watching the scene and industry change and develop.
CB: What are you currently listening to at the moment?
Tricksta: Album wise… wow… erm the new album by Assholes By Nature (A.B.N), K-Rino 'Triple Darkness 3', Blak Twang, Sway, Guilty Simpson, erm.. Killah Priest, Nas, Rocko, Yo Gotti, MC Eiht, erm bwoy so much, new Kano album, Giggs, Devin The Dude, Prodigy, damn so much. But on a level, I jam the LATE 'Below Street Level' too… that’s because I wanna produce his next album even better!
CB: That's enough I think! How do you listen to all that and do everything else you do!?
Tricksta: Listening from 8.30 to around 11am then 5-8pm. I am not into telly or films really. [I’m] quite a sad boring man really who likes working dead hard and going down the pub occasionally or out for a meal, and I love getting stoned. That’s pretty much it.
CB: Do you listen to everything that comes out on the UK scene?
Tricksta: I try to man. With doing UK Runnings I need to be on it, it is hard though. Especially with so many people rapping! Like when I was doing this in 1999 there was a few of us… Moorish Delta 7, 57th Dynasty, Taskforce, Braintax, Skinny & Mud Family, Blak Twang, Roots Manuva, Skitz & Rodney P, Mark B & Blade etc. Now there is the whole of the grime scene and the hundreds of acts doing UK Hip-Hop. I think a lot of the fans back then started rapping or producing.
CB: Yeah, a lot of fans do try their hand at it; it’s quite a participative culture. No other music has that really. I mean, some people start bands etc but not all rock fans do…
Tricksta: That’s not a bad thing, but there are so many other things to do in music than just run a label, rap, DJ or produce. I think we need more good journalists, more magazines, more TV stations, more radio stations, more on-line websites, more record shops, more club nights, more promoters, more tour agents, nah mean! So much that fans can look at doing. At the end of the day the scene is all of all pulling together. That’s why I do Rago Magazine and UK Runnings, it’s like Wolftown's way of giving back to the scene. There are not many writers in the UK who can continue to do it everyday and sustain it. As I said you need stamina, consistency and dedication – you seem to have that, which is why you’re killing it bruv!
CB: I was just listening to ‘Wolftown Committee’ and heard that lyric about 'if I was a Muslim, I’d have no hands’! Couldn’t say that now I bet! Haha.
Tricksta: Yeah man, LATE – what a legend. It’s funny I was listening to some of the old Wolftown stuff the other day, it’s mad to think we used get slagged off for our artwork and now everyone is doing artwork similar to ours. LATE is on that artwork thing man, you don’t understand that man gets the rarest releases sent to him! He really is like a marketing genius man! That man can give you the outline of the project that man should doing in like 10 minutes, from the artwork, the guests, the type of beats, who will like it, the target audience – the lot.
CB: Yeah I hit up Skrilla the other day just to give him props. I never realised that everything that looks like that was done by him, there are so many!
Tricksta: Yeah I hooked up with Skrilla in 2005 through Reload. I belled him and said to him ‘Do me a good price because as soon I start using you it’s gonna go off’. I think he did like 100 covers within six months of us releasing something! Not just from the UK but I opened him up in the USA. Well not me single-handedly, obviously because his artwork is so sick too. Skrilla is a dan. He is tight, quick, reliable, reasonably priced and above all he is a hip-hop man, so he knows the flex. Such a top bloke and a man who has been very instrumental in helping Wolftown remain with the same look but progress. LATE's ideas and Skrilla's skills is just one serious combo! Ouch!
CB: You also run a company called Park Street PR. Tell us a little about that.
Tricksta: Basically it’s a promotions company that I founded around 2005. I work very close with a selection of the UK’s leading music media (print magazines, on-line magazines, radio stations, radio DJ’s and producers of shows, club DJ’s, mixtape DJ’s, etc). I mail out the client’s CD and try and get the release and the artist as much exposure as I can. Anyone interested should check out www.parkstreetpr.co.uk and contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions. I also have a MySpace page www.myspace.com/parkstreetpromotions.
CB: So what’s 2009 hold for Tricksta?
Tricksta: I am doing a UK Runnings mixtape with HHBRadio.Com called ‘Flying The Flag’ which is a release for RGS Entertainment. It will be strictly UK and is a double CD. I am also doing a mix of East Coast US Hip-Hop as part of the DJ Sessions for HHBRadio.com Records. I am currently working with Thugstar from SPC on a new mixtape for next year, and I have just done six beats for a K-Rino album ‘Speed Of Thought’ which will be the first release on a new label called SPC UK. I’m busy in the studio working on new beats too and just really taking time out to make my next move!
CB: We'll finish there. Can you wrap this up for us with anything else you'd like to add?
Tricksta: Yeh I just wanna say a massive thank you Aidan for taking time out to let me have a chance to tell people about what we are doing. Major thanks and respects, means a lot to me, so big up for that. I’d like to shout out Glyn from www.TheUrbanShop.co.uk and a say a massive thanks to all the sponsors on ‘100% Exclusive’: Mada, Ambiguous, Nomis and Abuze London. Shouts to LATE, Jai Boo, Juttla and everyone on Wolftown, all the acts in the UK reppin’ – keep doing ya thing and please take out the time to add me to MySpace and check out my websites! Get in touch, let’s build and make this UK thing work!