photographer / Andrew Kuykendall @ LVA Reps
story / Meghan O’Connor
Tricky has worn a lot of hats in the past twenty years, and explaining how they all pertain to one man is, to say the least, tricky (we had to). As a producer, actor, and most importantly musician, the artist born to the name Adrian Thaws has seen it all; his debut album MAXINQUAYE was nominated for the Mercury Prize and voted “Album of the Year” by NME Magazine. Even before MAXINQUAYE, he spent approximately ten years with British experimental group Massive Attack and gained a reputation as one of the fathers of the trip-hop genre. He has performed with Beyonce, dated Bjork, and is now a father to two daughters and somehow still has a remarkable amount of his sanity. We sat down with Tricky to talk about his new album FALSE IDOLS and maybe learn a few tips on how to become a fucking legend (even though he thinks he still has a way to go).
How did you get the name Tricky?
It was a nickname from school; it has nothing to do with music. It’s funny, I was talking the other day to a guy on the phone, and he purposefully called me Adrian, like he was trying to make a point of calling me Adrian and not Tricky. People don’t realize that I was called Tricky way before music. My nans has always called me Adrian, Adge, or Tricky.
Basically, the story is I was supposed to meet a friend in a shopping center, or it wasn’t really a shopping center but a horrible place to be honest, but the day I was supposed to meet him, I went to Manchester to see my family for a six week holiday. Then I came back from Manchester and was dropped off by someone in my family at the shopping center, and my friend who I was supposed to meet just happened to be there in the same place I was supposed to meet him. So he shouted out “you tricky bastard!” And that was it. I was stuck with it from then on.
I guess you eventually dropped the word “kid” and just became Tricky, because Tricky Kid used to be your moniker right?
Yeah, and it was actually somebody in Massive Attack who put the name Tricky Kid on a flyer so that wasn’t even me. I also think that I was younger and kind of all over the place, you know? I was not consistent and not really serious about the music. I think they kind of liked that in a way, that I didn’t care about it. I was doing it for fun. And it just stayed with me all this time.
Do you think you’ll ever stop feeling like Tricky and want to go back to Adrian or create a new name?
To be honest with you, if I hadn’t done music, it would’ve been more simple to kind of analyze this. Like, “well my name is Adrian Thaws, but my nickname is Tricky,” you know? But now, because of the music, it makes it a little more complicated…but I think I’m more Tricky than Adrian Thaws.
It’s funny when people call me Adrian, it’s like they thing it’s really personal. They think they know me. They’re trying to prove a point or something. But if someone comes up to me and says, “hey Adrian, I’m a fan,” I’m like “listen, you don’t know me as Adrian. My grandmother calls me Tricky. If it’s good enough for her, it’s good enough for you.” But I’m a little suspicious of people anyway.
Well an important part of your music has always been about where you came from, right? So I guess that makes sense.
How was your experience making FALSE IDOLS? Was it fun? Was it chaotic? Was it more personal this time?
Yeah. I remember one of my managers telling me when I was on Domino, “you know, you’re a big boy now. Why are you bothering with labels anymore? You’ve been doing it long enough now.” And I haven’t really been in a great space since Islands. I mean Domino is a good label, but not for me.
For instance, when I was doing my last record on Domino, I would have to get permission to mix a record. And that entails someone from the head of Domino getting on the train, coming to Paris, and listening to my rhythms to see if I could mix. How would he know if I’m ready to mix or not? He doesn’t know about music. He owns a record company, but that doesn’t make him an expert on music. So I thought that was a bit annoying. Every step was like being babysat, you know? I needed more fun…no, not more fun. More meditation. I had to think way too much with Domino.
This album was a lot more fun. I’m working on Francesca Belmonte’s album now, just finishing it actually. And her album is better than my album. I produced most of it, but a lot of it is just like things gets clearer. I’ve got more space, you know? I’ve got great management, and all I’ve got to think about is my mix and touring. So with her album, it’s so fucking easy. I think that the more time I have and the more space I have, it just becomes a lot easier for me.
I’m sure you’ve heard people say that this album is a bit of a return to your debut album’s sound, but there’s definitely something more grown inside there. Do you think it’s a different man telling the story this time? Do you feel like a different person or artist than the one who released an album in 1995?
Yeah, I feel like I’m less confused. I’m a lot more focused than I was.
I read somewhere that you said that when you were on record labels like Domino, you were lost.
Yeah, and all the touring too. When I’m touring for Domino, it’s just money. You’re getting paid, but you’re not building anything. From now on, when I’m touring, I’m building. I’m building a label. It’s for a reason. It’s about knowing why I’m doing this. I’m doing this to build something. For other artists as well. When it’s your career and based around yourself, where can you really go with that?
Like with Francesca’s album, in between I’ve been doing songs. During her album, I’ve been inspired, and I’ve got some wicked new music. If you’re just worried about yourself and just focused on your own career, especially when you’ve been doing it this long, it’s going to get boring. It’s going to get really boring. How much money can you make? And how much can you focus on yourself? How much can it totally be about you? It’s totally boring.
Do you think that sensation of being lost contributed to the sound in your albums or tone of your songs or what they were about? Because there is a beautifully haunting quality in a lot of your music. Do you think that that’s not really related, or do you think it contributed to the sound of your music?
I think I’m just lucky enough to have my own sound. But I suppose I’m a quite melancholy guy. I love watching a sad film. I love dancing, for instance, and being in a club and hearing great music, but I think I’d prefer to be melancholy than to hear that song.
I don’t know, I think it’s probably my upbringing. I was brought up by my grandmother and my great-grandmother. Old people are more melancholy, I think. I think I must have inherited that off of them. My great-grandmother was 90 when I was 12 years of age. I think even my more aggressive music has something surreal or sad to it.
You have this tradition of harmonizing and blending vocals with female voices. Was that your idea?
I couldn’t imagine working without a female vocalist, to be honest. I think my lyrics are more feminine as well.
Did someone ever suggest that to you as a contrast to your sound?
I think it just kind of happened accidentally, and after Martine, I’ve just never looked back. But I’m working on an album now that has a lot more of me, of my own vocals. So that’s going to be a project coming out I think at the end of next year.
That seems to be a lot of production in a short period of time.
I don’t go out much. I go to the studio. And I really love doing it. I’d rather be in the studio than anywhere else, to be honest with you. It’s kind of like meditation.
I read somewhere that you said Obama has been an inspiration to you because he’s such a devil. That seemed like a little bit of devilish humor, do you feel like you play devil’s advocate often?
Oh yeah, I think that people think I don’t have a sense of humor sometimes. Like if you watch clips of George Bush, he was not a good man, but he was fucking hilarious. I think he was naturally hilarious. He really could’ve been a comedian. It’s sad he went the wrong way, because he could have made a lot of people happy if he didn’t go into politics, and a lot more people happy if he went into comedy.
This next issue of Ladygunn will be the “Legends” issue. How do you feel about the concept of being a legend?
You know what? I’m very normal. I will talk to a crackhead on the street. If he’s got something interesting to say to me. Unless he’s annoying, I’m not going to fuck him off. I was outside McDonald’s the other day, and I saw this guy who used to be a rapper and now a crackhead. And I start talking to him, and I notice people start to look at me like I’m a crackhead. It’s weird, what people’s perceptions of people are. That legend can go straight out the window anyway. I don’t feel like I’ve done my best stuff yet. I really do believe I’ve got much better music to come.
So your legend is yet to come?