Once singled out for helping to create the “trip-hop” genre, Tricky’s gone back to his UK roots for his eighth, debatably greatest album. Scott M. talked to the gravel voiced singer about returning home, tai chi and why he loves Asia…
A few years ago, Tricky and I nearly came to blows, This was a day after he spent many hours getting an extensive Japanese tattoo on his back in Tokyo. A day after we had a lengthy, open, wide ranging chat. In fact, we got on so well that he invited me to his studio where he was recording.
But what a difference a day makes. The following day he spoke of ‘bad vibes’ and got extremely testy over my response to the music he was making while in the recording booth. This, after he requested my opinion numerous times.
Then, he demanded in no uncertain terms that I leave. During the ensuing years, Tricky, aka Adrian Thawls, would move to New Jersey, then Los Angeles, leave his record label Universal, sign to a new one (Domino), exhibit photos in Tokyo, direct a film (‘I think my visual aspect is sharper than my music aspect’) and rediscover his childhood roots in Bristol, England where he grew up on the council estate Knowle West.
And what a difference a few years makes. It’s a warm, friendly, forthright Tricky who greets me, eager to talk about his new album.
“This is the first album I have done for the people who have listened to me for all these years,” he says in a voice that sounds like he’s still gargling with rusty barb wire. “Some people come back to me and say they like this album or that one and I wanted to do this album for everybody.”
It’s an album of wide ranging sounds and subjects, blending Specials-era ska with rock, as well as electronic elements and moods that run the gamut. ‘Coalition’, for instance, has a multi-tracked Tricky angrily spewing poetry about today’s hypocrisies.
“It’s the news basically,” he says of that song. “It’s the confusion of corporate America. It’s all about making money and we could be way ahead technology wise, but were cavemen the way we live. We don’t seem to be evolving.”
Other songs address more personal issues. Several of the album tracks include vocals by his Los Angeles based friend Veronica and ex-French-Moroccan girlfriend Lubna, the latter of whom shares mic time with Tricky on a bare, chilling duet “Post Mistake”.
“We were in bed listening to that very track and I realized it was about us, ” he says. “It’s kind of weird. I kind of knew were never going to stay together.” There’s also the lighter side of the singer on a cover version of Kylie Minogue’s “Slow”.
“Kylie’s done great pop songs, ” he says. “What’s there not to like? I love good pop music. It’s sexy and the melody is sexy, I’ve met a lot of credible celebs who are the worst people I’ve ever met. Kylie’s one of the coolest.”
But the album is really behind Tricky already. With several potential releases locked away in a vault, he’s already thinking about the next one, For that matter, at the age of 40, Tricky’s finally come to grips with what he calls his ‘gypsy’ life. To that end, his upcoming tour is all that matters at the moment.
First the U.S., and then, possibly Asia. “We just did Japan and Korea, ” he says. “Asia culture is so different. I love being in Japan or Korea or Hong Kong. I love being in some place where it feels alien or strange. My manager is trying to sort out some gigs right now. I’d certainly sacrifice a lot to tour Asia. “
The interest is bolstered by his continued interest in tai chi, which he learned from a now good friend named Mr. Chan in a New York studio. Seven years on, Tricky claims it’s helped everything in his life.
“My whole attitude is different now, ” he says. “It’s one of the healthiest things you can do for yourself. When I do it, everything is okay. Otherwise, I travel and make music and that’s all I’ve got. I’ve just become fine with it. Before, it was confusing. “
If only he knew how tricky he was for everybody else. But he’s not called you know what for nothing.