Tricky: Music First, Business Second
Tricky was cursed with success from the start.
His dark, sprechgesang voice first came to fame in 1991 when he was featured on Massive Attack’s debut album, Blue Lines. With his first solo LP Maxinquaye (1995) - named after his mother Maxine Quaye – Tricky was nominated for a Mercury Prize and voted Album of the Year by NME. After that, he has been forever haunted by high expectations and the label, “founder of trip-hop.”
But Tricky decided not to comply with expectations. In his nearly 20-year solo career, he has made some very different albums, ranging from rock to reggae. With his last effort, False Idols, Tricky moved back in the direction of the Maxinquaye sound, to the excitement of fans and critics alike. His new album comes out only 16 months after False Idols, titled Adrian Thaws, after his birth name. We sat down with Adrian and talked about it.
As an artist you are always changing and trying out new things. Does this reflect you as a person?
I just think I can’t repeat myself. Take my first album Maxinquaye for example. It would have been in my best interest – regarding money and fame – to release another album with that “Maxinquaye-sound”. But I feel lucky that I got that creative motivation to try out new things. I’m like a sponge – I just soak up everything around me. But I didn’t realize that until someone told me that my albums could all be from different people.
Your music always has a this dark atmosphere to it.
It has definitely something to do with my upbringing. I have seen a lot of violence in my childhood. And my grandmother was quite morbid. Since I was a little kid I can remember her reading out loud from the newspaper who has died. She was always saying things to me like: “You got to start to look after yourself, because I’m not going to be here forever.” So I think I got a lot of that darkness from her. She really affected me.
Adrian Thaws comes only 16 month after False Idols. Are you a fast writer or did you already have songs in the works?
That has something to do with my signing with the German company !K7 Records recently. It’s like being with my old manager Chris Blackwell again. I have freedom to create whatever I want to. If I would say, “Horst, I’ve got an album, it’s finished”, he would say, “Okay, so let’s find a day to release it.” They just trust me. And that’s the advantage when you’re not with a major label. They don’t think about profit all the time. It’s music first, business second.
Talking about your new album, please tell me a little bit about your impressive list of feature artists on Adrian Thaws.
Oh yes! First there is Mykki Blanco – a crazy guy! He’s not scared being himself, which I really admire. Because especially nowadays, so many artists are just being totally fake.
Another artist you will hear is Blue Daisy. I met this kid just before a show of mine, he was booked as my supporting act. We were getting along pretty well so I told him to stop by the studio when we would be back in London. My daughter Mazy is on the album, too (as Silver Tongue). I was listening to her music and really fell in love with one song she did, so I asked her if I could put it on my album. It’s actually her own song, I didn’t do anything to it!
Francesca Belmonte is on the album as well, she just has an incredible voice! And then there is Tirzah, who I discovered thanks to my daughter. She called me one day and said: “Dad, you need to check out this girl! You’d better work with her before she get’s too big.”
Is it difficult to be unique as an artist nowadays?
Yes, but it’s possible. I think it’s a mindset. People just think about success, being in the charts and selling records. It has become a corporate game. The music industry has turned into a pharmaceutical company. It’s like ten different sorts of painkillers. They all do the same, but are labeled different.
There is not a lot of courage out there. It seems like most young artists are scared to fail. They think of success as selling albums, when success for me means the opportunity: being able to make an album! And if you think in numbers and sales you’ll never do anything new – you’ll just repeat already famous artists and produce music that you think people want to hear.
Given recent events in Gaza, your song “My Palestine Girl” has unfortunately become even more dramatic.
It’s really weird. When I wrote this song, a year and a half ago, I came up with this thought: I imagined a couple arguing because the guy is jealous about his girlfriend flirting with other men. All these little things which are so incidental. And I was just thinking how it would be if my girlfriend was from Gaza. There’ll be bigger things to worry. If she wouldn’t answer the phone, she could be dead. This is what I call real problems!
Once again it’s another example why I like to be an independent artist. I can say what I want to say without having a management prohibiting me to tell my thoughts because they’re worried of decreasing sales figures!
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