Never Trust A Hippy

Adrian Sherwood, 2003

Never Trust A Hippy, is Adrian Sherwood's eclectic, compelling and lovingly crafted solo debut. The timing, it seemed, was right. Still, it took Real World, no mean trailblazers themselves, to provide the framework. "Even then it was by chance," notes Sherwood, "when Real World asked me to do a remix album, an Adrian Sherwood version of their catalogue."

But for a variety of reasons - some tracks he chose were religious songs and couldn't be touched, others he was unable to get clearance for - the concept proved a non-starter. Sherwood, predictably enough, had other ideas. "I proposed that I do an album under the umbrella of world music, but in my own warped way; something that reflected my influences, which is Jamaican music and a lot of African stuff as well. There's a bit in Brian Eno's 1988 album My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts where he says, 'I have a vision of a psychedelic Africa', which I thought was really pretentious at the time" - Sherwood even released the lauded but piss-taking My Life In The Hole In The Ground soon after - "but to this day there's never been a mainstream African crossover record which uses the drums, the chants, the guitars and all the beautiful vocals. We tried it with African Headcharge (whose Faraway Chant was used by David Lynch in Wild At Heart), but didn't quite get it right. The idea still really appealed to me."

As did many others. After idiosyncratically reworking two Real World tracks - S E Rogie's Dead Man Smoking and Temple of Sound's Paradise of Nada, replete with the soaring, otherworldly vocals of Pakistan's Rizwan-Muazzam Qawwali - Sherwood set about assembling a stellar cast of contributors. Production maestros Sly and Robbie, hot young Jamaican dancehall wizards and programmers Bubblers, Jazzwad and Lenky (he of the dance floor-mashing diwali rhythm), Indian singer Hari Haran, On-U vocalist Ghetto Priest, aforementioned guitarist Skip McDonald, Sherwood's singing daughters Denise and (aww) six-year-old Emily are included on a record which collages and cuts up sounds and samples and is, basically, an incitement to dance. (Think African chants and Native American vocals, say, pasted with ambience, attitude and feedback, held together with a Jamaican dancehall beat.)

Never Trust A Hippy reflects the way its maker sees the multifarious Real World. "It's a logical marriage," Sherwood says. "I was thinking about myself in conjunction with the bulk of what Real World has done. It's not a remix album, it's one piece of work. It's my own version of a kind of world music-sci-fi-dub-dancehall record, made contemporary by using such great people as Sly and Robbie, Lenky, Jazzwad and Bubblers." This being his first venture as a solo artist, he admited to feeling slightly trepidatious about stepping into unknown territory. But after testing it out on the dance floor - his fail-safe litmus test - he is exceptionally proud of the result. "I can play this out in clubs and happily have it represent me. And I know these tracks go down really well loud."

The most well-known of Sherwood's collaborators on Never Trust A Hippy are probably Sly & Robbie, Jamaica's most celebrated rhythm section. "The tracks featuring them, 'Haunted By Your Love" and 'Strange Turn', are basically dub grooves, using a lot of modern techniques and some old-school stuff," says Sherwood, who as a teenager back in the '70s was the junior partner in a record label that put out some of Sly Dunbar's early productions for artists like Michael Rose and Bobby Thomas.

"Sly & Robbie are incredible," he enthuses. "They're not poor, by any means, but in the course of a day they'll be cutting records for next to nothing for sufferers in Jamaica, and they watch the situation - when they cut for me they were very reasonable, very helpful. Sly's fantastic at drum programs - he's very quick, but actually very thorough, very meticulous, fine-tuning every bit, and swinging it so it's got that sexy feel to it. He is the business! The thing about Sly is he's always listening to music - he's always got headphones on, he's always checking new stuff from the States; he's a very shrewd cookie, Sly Dunbar, a very good man, and he loves music. I can't speak highly enough of him."
The same, apparently, applies to Steven 'Lenky' Marsden, Sly's former protege, who has become the hottest producer in Jamaica thanks to his ubiquitous 'Diwali' rhythm. "We worked together on 'Hurry Up Hari' and 'Processed World'," explains Sherwood. "I'm not a programmer, but I knew what I wanted, and Lenky actually did the beats - though as he pointed out to me, he normally does the basslines and keyboards, and has only started doing rhythms for himself in recent years. I had a Clavinet in there, which he'd never seen, and a Mu-Tron wah-wah, and he was absolutely creaming himself playing them! That Clavinet/Mu-Tron combination was the sound of both '70s funk and a lot of '70s reggae, heard on lots of productions by people like Tommy Cowans - I know the references and how to do it all, and when you get somebody like Lenky who can really play it, who's got the chops, and likes the ideas you're feeding him, and can bounce off them, it's a great combination. You help each other if you're buzzing and have good ideas and are being positive and creative; if you're down and not really into what you're doing, you shouldn't fucking do it!"

'Hurry Up Hari' also features Sherwood's friend Hari Haran, an Indian singer whose vocals he recorded a few years ago, but never found the right vehicle for until Lenky and he rebuilt the track. "It's a good fun track," reckons Sherwood, adding that the backing vocals on it are by his two daughters, "my six-year-old, who's got wonderful pitch, and my 17-year-old, who's a good little musician herself. Might as well exploit the family!" The Sherwood sisters also appear on 'Processed World' and 'The Ignorant Version', tracks based respectively on an African motif and a poppy theme reminiscent of 'Loop-De-Loop' or, more recently, Whigfield's 'Saturday Night'. "It's a bit tacky," chuckles Sherwood, "but I like it, especially with Bubblers (the multi-talented Carlton Ogilvie) doing that reggae beatbox thing on it. He's another very talented man, he's all over everything I do, if I can get him!"

Another key collaborator is Mark Stewart - whose work with Pop Group, the Maffia and Tackhead has arguably influenced everyone from Nine Inch Nails to Nick Cave, and whose prose adorns the sleevenotes of Never Trust A Hippy. 'Bankrupt ideologies litter the dealing room floors', runs a line; Sherwood, a man who can never be accused of selling out, laughs as he reads over his friend's contribution. "Things today are very, very safe," he shrugs. "So many people in the music industry have turned into greedy little versions of what they didn't like. Hopes and dreams have been shattered by a few people in there. We're putting these words by Mark in the sleevenotes to make a point, but people can make of this album what they like. For me, it's fun. But it's also trying to irritate."

Sherwood, who regularly tours a live dub show, kept the tempos slow so that he could perform the album live. "A lot of the stuff I personally like is really downbeat and slow, so with this album I deliberately tried to get the rhythms so I could play it at a festival, in a little club, or wherever," he explains. "I also tried to make sure that the colouring or flavouring of the tracks, musically, wasn't overdone either - because you find that a lot of this kind of stuff is too musical for younger punters, or for club people. So I tried to balance the 'world' colouring with the rhythms, which are mostly Jamaican."
One crucial respect in which Never Trust A Hippy differs from Sherwood's previous projects was his desire to make it an album for all ages and all settings, not just international but trans-generational, too. "The idea was to make a record that would sound really good in your house, a record which the youngsters would like, and which if you played it loud in a club would tear the place up," he explains. "And if you play the first four tracks straight off in a club, you'll have the place rocking, you'll hold a thousand people dancing. I also wanted to get it so that people in their forties could put it on in the background while they're cooking, or when they have friends round, or whenever.
"So I consciously made a record that I wanted to hear, at my age, but I also checked it against my daughter and her mates, and they loved it, particularly the Lenky and Jazzwad rhythms. It's a record that bears up to repeated listens, and one which I think will still sound really fresh in 20 or 30 years." He's not wrong: with one eye fixed firmly on the future, and one peeking playfully at the cultural heterogeneity for which Real World is renowned, Never Trust A Hippy is an album for all seasons and all situations, one which defies categorisation but delivers on so many levels.

"Christ," he says ruefully, "I sound like a hippy!"

Reviews

  • There are so many dubs on this album that it becomes a joy to behold. Never Trust a Hippy is an album very difficult to describe with just words - it's a musical extravaganza, a trip into outer space from the comfort of your living room. An eyebrow raising journey that you don't want to return from. If you're not familiar with dub, then Never Trust a Hippy is a perfect place to start. Not only is Sherwood a visionary, but, he is truly a modern day dub genius. louderthanwar.com (Never Trust A Hippy - Real World Gold)
  • Sherwood is a legend among the reggae and dub set... "Never Trust A Hippy" is his first solo album, and it kicks butt...The beats are complex, unpredictable, but they never fail to hit straight between the eyes. Check the brave blend of Indian classical and Lee Perry-esque glue-foot shuffle of "Hari Up Hari" for proof. Amazing stuff.' Buffalo News (USA)
  • Fusing uptempo Jamaican dub, dancehall, and world rhythms with his trademark flair... ...for heavy bass and hallucinogenic effects, Sherwood has recalibrated his far-out sounds for the dance music audience...Sherwood's mastery of dub's expansive style gives him the room to play with a dizzying array of elements. Anchored by the rolling rhythms of Jamaican session wizards Sly and Robbie...every track follows a distinctive, spaced-out flow that never lets up. In some respects, Sherwood is contending with a music world that has finally caught up with him...But one listen to this record's highly nuanced mosaic of ghostly wails, deep echoes, spacey guitar riffs, and stuttering jump-up-style beats will make it clear that Sherwood can still play the game better than anyone. Hippies beware. East Bay Express (USA)
  • NTAH's mind expandingly eclectic distillation of African, Caribbean, Sub Continental, Middle Eastern, dub, trance, ambient and jazz... ...flavours comes with every hint of the richness and resonnance the occasion demands. And nowhere more so than amid the shimmering fusion of cross cultural echoes encountered on the colossal "Paradise of Nada Remix.'' Playlouder (UK Internet)
  • ...One of the true wizards of dub... ...Sherwood brings his formidable skills to bear on 11 tracks, any of which will collapse any lingering distinctions among electronica, world beat, dub, and dance. The sonic density of this material is amazing, and Sherwood crunches styles into baffling yet convincing sorties. It's difficult to overemphasize the challenging unpredictability of these tunes. Sherwood's compositions are a meeting of an avant jazz sensibility and the endless rhythmic/aural possibilities of dub.' Billboard (USA)
  • ...It's a success because Sherwood has deliberately placed no limits on the sound. With only himself to please, he's taken it all the way, with some sci-fi dancehall dub that seems to be from another world entirely.' All Music Guide (UK)
  • ...Sherwood crafts everything into haunting and catchy melodies. The dubmaster has always operated apart from the pop mainstream, but has never provided such a convincing alternative to its dearth of creativity.' The Guardian (UK)
  • CD Round-Up '...Sherwood is one of the few bona fide visionaries in showbusiness. It’s not too extreme to say that without Sherwood music today would sound very different.’ Daily Express (UK)
  • ...dub-radio-noise-jazz has never sounded as good…Massive Attack eat your hearts out.’ The Independant On Sunday (UK)
  • ‘…the most truly 21st-century record heard yet. …Never Trust A Hippy is as edgy, dark, paranoid and uplifting as anything that’s been graced by Sherwoods fingertips over the past two decades…this is the soundtrack of a shifting world order.’ Bristol & Bath's Mag (UK)
  • ‘…A voyage for the mind as well as another blissful. Dub-heavy assault on the sternum.’ The Daily Telegraph (UK)
  • '...dub pioneer Sherwood unleashes his impressive first album as a solo artist.' Time Out (UK)
  • ‘…Adrian Sherwood’s been the best example of the producer-as-artist ethos ... ...since reggae legend Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry…Sherwood’s main artistry lies in sound sculpture. And he does what he does very well indeed.’ NME (UK)
  • ‘…Babylon step back-Adrian’s on the attack... ... …Never Trust A Hippy’ is a work of untrammelled wickedness…’Never Trust A Hippy’ is that modern-day rarity – an album you can listen to from beginning to end… a smoker’s delight, a Walkman treat and a must for both dreads and baldheads alike.’ Muzik (UK)
  • ‘…He'’s the master... ...so ignore at your peril.’ X-ray (UK)
  • 'pioneering...exhilarating...' Mojo (UK)
  • 'seminal' Dj Magazine (UK)
  • Raw as human brains, hard as granite... ...and sharp as a sniper's bullet...the rawest, most righteous sound of the month' Muzik (UK)
  • A must for all On-U fans! Amazingly, seeing as he's been producing music since the late 70s, this is Adrian Sherwood's debut solo LP! As the man behind On-U Sound he created some of the most interesting global-dub-funk fusions 80s, and this LP continues that tradition - Sherwood calls it his 'world music-sci-fi-dub-dancehall' record. Guest musicians include Sly & Robbie, Keith Le Blanc, SE Rogie, Ghetto Priest etc. A must for all On-U fans! Piccadilly Records (UK)