“Heavy, fucked up, honest, raw…” That’s how Tricky Youth describes his music.
No argument there. Press play on Tricky Youth’s phenomenal new album, The Further Down We Go, The Less I Recognize, and the listener is transported to a liminal state between Nü Metal and Noise, Hip Hop and Techno, self-destruction and redemption, heaven and hell.
Tricky Youth’s power derives from the crossroads at which he—all of us—stand, every single day of our 21st Century lives. The dazed recognition that we are living in a hybrid, transitional zone is the juice that fuels everything Tricky Youth does.
But wait—Tricky Youth, a Brooklynite by birth and an Angeleno by choice, notes one more characteristic integral to the his ethos:
It seems the harshness—counterbalanced by acoustic interludes—and the metallisms—cleverly applied over percolating, laid back beats—have a higher goal.
I feel very fortunate to have gotten this interview with Tricky Youth, who is among the brightest lights on the scene right now. Read on… and don’t miss the show this Friday:
Who is Tricky Youth and where are you from originally?
Tricky Youth is the fucked-up remains of a kid who grew up in New York City.
Where do you live now?
In a demented and beautiful place called Los Angeles.
When and where did you start making music–and why?
I started writing songs in my head when I was a kid, just little melodies that I’d then write words to. Maybe the words would come first. Hearing music on TV or on the radio activated something in me where I knew that was the way I wanted to express what I was feeling.
When songs come to me like that now, it’s how I know they’re going to be pure—it’s how I know I should follow them.
What originally inspired you to make music and art when you were a child?
It might sound cliché, but I didn’t know how to express the things I felt in any other way; music and art came a lot more naturally to me, and helped me understand and be able to convey whatever it was I was going through in an honest way. It was the first thing that truly made me feel free for a moment, gave me relief and release, and I couldn’t get enough of it. It’s still that way.
What are your top five artists who most inspire you right now?
X Harlow, who I toured with earlier this year, has been an inspiration and source of guidance to me for years. They helped me record some of my first demos in 2018, booked me on my first set of shows as a solo artist, and got me to start playing shows again post-Pandemic. But their music is really the biggest inspiration, seeing them perform every night and hearing their philosophy on things and trying to learn as much as I can. Their new song, “Star,” is the best song they’ve ever put out. They describe their music as “Manic Gregorian Emo Rap.” I don’t think I need to say any more than that.
They’re also in a band, Blü Anxxiety, a punk/darkwave staple in New York City. Every time I hear something new they’re working on, I’m just like, “Fuck, this is the freest and wildest art in the world.” Part of that is their singer, Chi, is one of the freest and wildest artists I’ve ever known. He’s been putting New York on his back for twenty years and raised a lot of the punk scene there, myself included.
Someone I met through that punk/DIY scene in Brooklyn is another one of my biggest inspirations, Symphony Spell from the band Ghösh. Always pushing forward, pushing boundaries. I’ve known Symphony for twelve years and she’s a light in this world—one of my best friends and one of my heroes. You can hear it in the music her and her bandmate Zach make. It’s a celebration of life and everything that entails, that’s the only way I can put it.
So Drove, obviously. When I come in for a session and he’s like “Wanna hear what I’ve been working on?” with whoever—and then plays it for me—I wanna throw out everything I came in with and start from scratch. He’s a brilliant mind. I’ve loved his music for a decade, it’s an honor to work with him as much as I get to.
My friend Kifah Foutah has a project called Struggle, just absolutely masterful dark ambient/industrial, inspired by the ongoing fight for Palestinian liberation. It’s like a more sprawling, more political Prodigy/Ministry mashup with some U2 influence. Totally visionary stuff, I can’t wait for him to put out more.
Can you tell us more about The Further Down We Go, The Less I Recognize, your excellent recent album release?
Further is the first full-length album I’ve ever made. I wanted to make a classic “album” in the format of the ones I grew up with, and also write a love letter to all of that music, and kind of do something that covered all the bases of the Nü Metal, rap-rock and Alt-rock of the late 90’s and early 2000’s. I worked with Adam Schwarz, aka So Drove, on it, who’s an incredible pop songwriter and producer, with the idea of taking all my freaky, wild musical ideas and influences and sharpening them into these perfect pop songs. We were really inspired by See You On The Other Side, the album Korn made in 2005 with The Matrix, who wrote all the Avril songs; that’s the one with “Coming Undone” on it.
Korn is obviously a huge influence on me, and The Matrix are one of his biggest influences, so we looked to that marriage of fucked-up deranged music and perfect pop songcraft as a blueprint for what we could do—kind of the 2022 version of it. Schwarz brought out the best in me, and I ended up writing some of the best music I’ve ever made.
You seem to have a fascination with genres that people would probably think could never go together—like Noise, Metal, Hip Hop, Industrial. How and why are you bringing all these elements together?
I mean, my favorite music is always a mix of everything that isn’t bound by “Oh, this is too that” or “I can’t do that, I can’t mix these two things” or just being worried about what people will think in general, or if it’ll make sense to other people. Who really cares?
My favorite music is the music that’s truest to the artist. I can’t not put all of the styles and influences I love, that live in my soul, into my music. Why would I do that? I listen to Limp Bizkit and Tim Hecker and Three 6 Mafia and Godflesh, and I wanna make music that sounds like all of that.
But “Oh, some people are gonna think this or that?”—who gives a fuck?
There’s also someone out there who wants to hear that. But even if there isn’t, I do. And I have to be true to that. Everyone should.
Is it true that an artist tries to remake the world according to their imagination? Is that how you feel when you make art?
I don’t even know that I “try” to do that, or that I have a choice. I’m just letting it all out. My imagination, my fears, my hopes, it’s all gonna come out. Can’t really hide it. What you hear on record is inevitably what’s in my head and what I want to see in the world. Maybe those things are kind of terrifying or undesirable to some people. I don’t care.
What kind of future world do you imagine or hope for?
You know, I don’t know how I would’ve answered that question six months ago, but I played the Gathering of the Juggalos this year, and now that’s my answer. Unironically, a world like that. I’ve gone once and played once, and it’s really as utopian, accepting and free as you always hear. Maybe that sounds corny, but it’s real. Everything I’m talking about, just go to the Gathering of the Juggalos. That’s the world I hope for.
Please tell us about your video art? Do you make all the Tricky Youth video visuals?
No, I’ve had the privilege of working with some really talented artists on my visuals. The PSNEAKY team of Ash Vestal, DJ Rozwell (aka the band KFC Murder Chicks) and Hogwing made all of the video visuals for The Further Down We Go… They did such an amazing job of helping to convey and build this world I’ve been creating in video form.
Sam Lubicz, who did the album art, edited the video for my song “Scott Strapped” years ago. I’m lucky to work with people who get my vision and can make something even more amazing out of it than I ever could’ve pictured.
Speaking of art and The Further Down We Go The Less I Recognize, what are your feelings about the Uncanny Valley—when reality gets so digital and squishy that there’s no longer any there there?
I don’t think too hard about what’s beyond my control. I try to focus more on what I’m going to do within it and how I can work with the world we live in and the realities of it. I think those are the actions that alter the world around us little by little.
Acceptance of what is and then taking the steps forward. I don’t have control over anything besides what I do. That brings me peace.
Word. How do you present Tricky Youth music in a live environment like Oracle Tavern? Is it just you and electronics?
Live, I try to present something more ritualistic; I think of my performances as an offering, done in the form of a narrative arc. It’s more like a play than a set. I pull a lot from Brecht plays, spirituality and the occult. It’s like mythology.
I’m using this whole theatrical performance as metaphor to explain something internal, with observations on the external as well, and using this ritual to create a space for healing, once all of that is out in the open. And I think that’s what all performance is, in a way: creating a persona and weaving a narrative to get something out in a communal setting where we can understand each other a little better.
As far as sound, I want it to reflect that honesty—whether it’s a quiet, delicate melody or a dense roar like you just stuck your head in a jet engine.
I can do a show with all the gear or with no gear. I don’t even need a mic, really. I can use whatever’s around to create that space and express those feelings.
What do you want an audience to walk away feeling after a Tricky Youth show?
I want to give to them what was given to me, when I would go to DIY shows and see some freaky-ass artist doing whatever they wanted to do. Just a pure, unafraid, unashamed expression of self in sound and performance, no matter how weird, fucked up, conceptual, or incomprehensible it may have been to the outside world—and no matter what anyone thought.
I came away from those times thinking about who my inner freak was and how I wanted to let that out so badly. That’s what I would want to inspire and activate in another.
I don’t care if there’s ten people at my show and nine of them hate it and laugh at me, if one of them leaves and thinks to themselves “What’s my version of that? What’s inside of me that I wanna let out like that? What can I create that maybe I’m keeping myself from doing?” then that was my purpose for being there at that moment.
Are you working on anything new right now that you can tell us about?
We’re putting together a remix album for The Further Down We Go… with some incredible artists on it. I’ve been writing some songs on acoustic guitar for a project inspired by Grouper, Alice in Chains and City and Colour.
Me and Schwarz are working on another EP. And I’ve got some other, heavier, sludgier stuff on the way too. Lots going on.
If Tricky Youth made a movie, what genre would it be—and what story would you tell?
It would probably be some extremely off-putting, way too conceptual, way too emotional art film that’s like four hours long, involves no dialogue, no human characters, and is just a super close-up of, like, sap running down the middle of a rotted-out tree while fire ants crawl around it.
And nothing happens and there’s no sounds except the birds and the wind and then the word “DECAY” flashes on the screen if you make it to the end. And it’s only shown in temporary tiny wooden rooms that fit like 10 people at a time built specifically in spaces for the movie to be shown in where it’s projected on a wall, no screen. And the doors are locked, so it’s an endurance challenge. Some way-too-pretentious bullshit like that.
…And make your way to this show:
Sean Carnage presents…
Friday, December 9th at Oracle Tavern:
Tricky Youth – Raw & loud, like Three 6 Mafia on a Nü Metal jag
Wryngwyrm – Sumptuous metallic vibes, atmospheric death noise
SAZA (formerly Sauber Zauber) – Black Metal / Prog experimentalism at it’s cutting-edge best
Vitamin Wig C – Monday Night superstar Robbie Hansen back with enthralling keyboard madness
Solar Wimp – Ascendant power trio rock—from a duo! Their final show!
DJ Kyle Mabson – Just added! Pro wrestling superstar & ’90s fanatic internet sensation
The doors open 8pm. Music starts at 8:30. It’s $10 at the door / 21+.