“Mad as a hatter? I’m as normal as fish and chips!
Born Adrian Thaws in “Brizzol”. Hung out with Massive Attack and contributed to both groundbreaking “trip hop” Blue Lines and Protection albums. Fell out with them but retaliated by releasing disturbingly beautiful debut Maxinquaye to much critical hoopla. Releases after Maxinquaye were weird though gorgeous in places. Musically and mentally, he went off and on the rails more times to count. But now he’s healthy, happy, and has made it out alive with a new album Vulnerable in hand. Veryminky talks history with Tricky.
1. Morning Tricky. For it is indeed morning in LA now. But weren't you recently living in New York?
Moving around makes me happy. If I’m in one place for a few weeks I go mad!
2. Are you going to turn into an LA luvvy?
Tricky: What’s a luvvy?
Minky: You know, like, “Oh hello, darling.” Air kissing. Famous people. That kind of clichéd thing.
Tricky: Spend a weekend in Nor’-west Bristol and you see anything that comes out of the nor’west can’t be turned into anything. When I was 19 my mate was shot in the head twice. Then they chopped his head, his arms and his legs off. He was buried in my cousin’s concrete floor. So I don’t think LA is going to make me very luvvy.
3. That’s heavy. Ummm. Moving on. You’ve done a bunch of albums, a million remixes and a googleplex of collaborations. Are you a crazy workaholic?
Guess so. I could never take a holiday and go on the beach, no way. If I go on holiday there has to be a studio there and I have to be doing something else. I don’t like thinking.
4. Vulnerable sounds much lighter than your other deep and dark stuff. Do you feel like in some way you’re a survivor?
Yeah, YEAH! I go back to Bristol and London and I’ve got some heavy friends. Over here I’ve got some heavy friends, too. I know this Mexican rap band, just kids. Instead, I’m trying to get them into the studio because all their brothers’ boys are doing 25 years in San Quentin, and it’s hardcore.
5. You’ve been through pretty bleak times, too, especially in England. The critics branded you a bit of a monster.
I used to think I could never get away from it. After Maxinquaye, I thought I’d change my life by hanging out at Brown’s with all these famous people. It turned me into a panic, and I got myself into trouble there. And I was going out with Bjork and that wasn’t good for me either.
6. Since then, you’ve been diagnosed with a chronic digestive disorder that can cause severe mood swings and other health issues. Now that you’ve got it in check, does that have an impact on your moods and music now?
Knowing you’ve got it makes a difference. I thought I was going insane. There’s this kid I don’t like and I was going to shoot him, blatantly, and go to prison. Obviously, I needed help. I thought 'perhaps it’s my lifestyle, maybe it’s the music thing, too much pressure,' then I thought that I could hurt myself, go to hospital and then they would find out what’s wrong with me. I was about to choose one of those options. The gun or I could hurt myself.
7. You once said “it’s amazing how dark your life can get without you noticing it”.
Yeah, you don’t notice it. I was carrying on. And I was drinking…more and more.
8. Because of some of the heavier stuff on albums like Pre-Millennium Tension or Angels with Dirty Faces, there’s a perception out there that you are mad as a hatter.
Nahh, I’m as normal as fish and chips! (giggles)
9. But listening to some of those discs, you think ‘what the hell is he going through?’
All it is, is that I don’t mind showing it. When I was with Island Records, the press once asked their managing director about my Angels With Dirty Faces album and he said, ‘it’s not really my kind of album’ and they said ‘then why did you release it’? He said, ‘how can you tell Tricky NOT to release an album?’ I got to do whatever I wanted there, and the fact that I could do something so dark and still have success in getting Island to release it…it was too much power. Way too much power.
10. But Vulnerable is interesting because you can almost trace, through the songs, how they kind of move from dark to light in tone.
You’ve noticed what not a lot of people have noticed. The end, “Search and Survive” is saying I’ve come through it. And it’s a song for the guy from the Face magazine. (Ed’s note: In 1996 writer Andrew Smith wrote a feature about Tricky and his relationship with former muse and partner Martina Topley-Bird, also the mother of his daughter Maisey. It was a harsh look at their relationship and Tricky has never forgiven him.) He’s the guy who put me through all this.
11. Is that why you no longer work with Martina?
It’s not because of her, it’s because (Smith) was trying to turn me into Ike Turner and portray her as weak. So I knew I had to stop working with her then. I was the press baby in England, then all of a sudden, even if I put a piece of gold down on a CD, they would still say it’s sh*t.
So “Search and Survive” is saying (starts rapping) “the editor of Face, I edit this place, edit your face and then exit without trace. You know I come in peace till the tension’s released.” It’s me basically saying ‘f*ck him’.
12. I get the feeling that Vulnerable is about purging all of this.
It’s already started. For example, this conversation with you. Two years ago all my conversations with the press were really dark. But when people are positive with me, then I’m positive with them . Talking to you has inspired me now! I wanna go in the studio now and do more press. That’s how it started but it all went. Like you said, this album has got rid of the demons.
13. Question 13: you’re starting your tour on Friday the 13th of June. Are you superstitious?
I had a dream about the number 13 just before the album was coming out. I woke up, called up my manager and told him to take two tracks off the album (cos there were 15 songs) and put a 13 on the cover. Then I was flying to England and I was put in row 13A.Then I get a call in London saying there’s a kid who all the labels wanna sign but he doesn’t want to be with anyone but me, so I set up a meeting. He walks into my hotel, takes off his hat and he’s got the number 13 tattooed on the back of his head. And 13 is the letter M in the alphabet…
14. Which is your daughter Maisey, your mum Maxine…
Yeah, and my manager’s got 13 letters in his name and…
15. …my name starts with an M…
See? It’s all about 13.
16. Let’s talk about your cover of The Cure’s “Love Cats”. Massive Attack sampled the Cure on a track on Mezzanine, too. Forget hiphop, you were all Goths, really, weren’t you?
Yeah! (laughs) We are Goths at heart. I grew up in a white ghetto and there were only five black families. I was listening to the maddest music. And I used to listen to Gary Numan and Mark Bolan (T.Rex) was my hero when I was a kid. I didn’t find hip hop and reggae until I was about 15.
17. One of our members, Ade Denton asked me to ask you about the “Wild Bunch Parties” which took place pre-Massive Attack. What were they like?
That was when things were fun. You’d decide to do a party, set up some turntables and some speakers and you’d do a handout a month before. No one had no money. That’s when (Massive Attack’s) 3D was the best lyricist in the world. I think he got into that pop star sh*t now but there was no rapper who could f*ck with 3D then. We could talk about Rakim’s lyrics for THREE hours. Then all of a sudden he’d get a record deal and everyone would be like “I wrote that,” “No I wrote that,” “No you didn’t write that, I wrote that…” And now he’s surrounded by models. But back then, you had to keep it basic.
I wanted to touch souls at the beginning but I lost sight of that. Now I don’t care how many records I sell, but if I can make someone happy or sad, or if they can listen to my album and it helps them, then that’s all I need.
18. You’ve worked with tons of people, RZA from Wu-Tang, PJ Harvey, Neneh Cherry, Massive Attack, Muggs from Cypress Hill, Terry Hall from the Specials and dozens more. All I need is that if you talk to Terry Hall, can you tell him that I fancied him?
D’you know what a funny thing is? I’ve been thinking of Terry over the last couple of days. Because he’s been doing some stuff with Damon Albarn and I’m like ‘awww man’. He needs to be doing stuff with me…not that little shi…
19. Last question: what’s the meaning of life?
It’s got to be about enjoying yourself and not getting bogged down by the day to day rubbish. I’ve learned to let things go. I wanna be with my kid, write music and tour. It’s simple. The more simple your life is, the easier it is.
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