Tricky is worried. He's working on a new album
and it's great - all peace and love. But what will
happen now he's started taking male hormones? 
Tina Jackson meets trip-hop's tortured soul
He's got a pot leg. A month or so ago, in a club in New York where he now lives, his big mouth got him into trouble and somebody pushed him over. Four of the bones in his foot were broken. Now his leg's in plaster. He's not too bothered, accepts he got what was coming to him. "Can't get away with being as rude as I am"' he growls, his smoked-out Bristol burr disarmingly lacking in rancour. It's not without its advantages, either. "I quite like it now. I've always been an attention seeker. It's a way of geffing attention." Limping frenetically round the Salford hotel where he's staying with an entourage, attention is trailing him like the wedding-dress train he's been known to wear for photographs.
   Attention is a big deal for Adrian Thaws, 29, whose mother died when he was four, whose father slunk out of his infancy like a fugitive tomcat and who was brought up by his grandmother and a motley collection of uncles, aunts, cousins and friends: villains, gangsters, boxers, drug dealers. He's obsessed by the kind of person he could have been. "There are two things that could have happened to me," he says. "I could have been a thief, or I could have got into music." But the Bristol music scene, which spawned the legendary Wild Bunch and
the Massive Attack soundsystem, gave him a launch pad to more attention than even he could dream of. Adrian metamorphosed into Tricky, whose own possessed music became the mirror for a disintegrating culture which is watching itself fall apart.
     Tricky is now in the limelight wherever he goes, marching to the different drum he's heard in his head since he was a 15-year-old hoolie who told all his friends he was going to be famous. "What for?" they'd snigger. "For thieving?" But Tricky had the last laugh. His acclaimed 1995 debut Maxinquaye was only the beginning. With each subsequent release his disturbingly beautiful depictions of wheezing paranoia set to fragmented, looped samples of noise became more haunted, more intense. It was less than ever like anything previously considered pop music. Steroid treatment for his asthma has left him, he claims "without no male hormones in my body" and he worries that the hormone treatment he's currently receiving will change his writing, will make his lyrics macho, aggressive. "Now, they sound like they're written by a woman," he describes.
     The former ghetto boy turned weirdo hero has been defiantly, outspokenly difficult. He denounced the 'trip-hop' label stuck on
what he'd called hip-hop blues and mutant music and verbally assaulted reporters - notably Andrew Smith of The Face, who he felt had ventured into the private territory of his life. Formerly romantically involved with professional kookstress Björk, he now refers to her as "a vampire".
     In the flesh he's small, frail but wiry, funny, intensely friendly. "I joke all the time," he confesses, "to stop feeling the sadness." He is a whirlwind of windmilling arms, with baby dreads like demented antennae sticking out from his narrow face as he breakfasts with a crew of relatives and friends from Bristol. They're making records with him on his own Durban Poison
 extended like the barrel of a gun. "I said, you're not selling coke now," he tuts.
      Going into the studio with the Baby Namboos happened because of the cover-story success of his 22-year-old uncle, Finlay Quaye, whose debut single received wide coverage this year. "I only met him a year ago," says Tricky. "I've seen him on front covers so I know what benefits him is being in my family. I know people who are my real family who I can benefit I'm trying to make my family money as well. I want them to have a chance.
     "I want to believe in something," he continues passionately, but his next 
listeners. "It's a bit like a voodoo ceremony," he says of his work.
     His intensive drug use isn't hedonism, he claims, but escape or a creative tool. "It gives you schizophrenia - God complexes and devil complexes". He smokes weed, he explains, to get variously out of it (in life) or into it (in work.) "In real life I have a problem taking mushrooms and draw. But in real life I have a problem anyway," he admits with a childlike candour.
     If there are keys to understanding the enigma of Tricky, they're his relationship with the ghost of his mother and his intense need to nurture the family he has now. He wants to do his best for his daughter Maisey, her mother, his co-singer Martina and his friends and family.
     "My Chinese doctor said I got into singing because of my asthma, but I think it was because of my Mum. She was too early dead and I think she's got things to say, she's saying them through me." His first album, Maxinquaye, was named after her.
     Maisey, who's two, is the key to his future. "My Dad left when I was four, and I was scared I would be like him," Tricky recounts. "But it. made me be different She's with me all the
"People ask me why I'm so angry. It's because I've
been through things they've never imagined"
label under the name of the Baby Namboos, but no one's letting on what the music sounds like. "I'm not telling you," he says. Then he relents. "It sounds like council houses. It sounds like being on the dole. It sounds like my music." When they have their photograph taken, he tells one of them off for posing with fingers offering is "I go through periods of depression. People ask why I'm so angry. It's because I've been through things they've never imagined."
Fascinated by the horrors of violence, bitterly nihilistic, he's a workaholic "because there's nothing else in life". He uses his immense energy to create states of mind - in himself and in his
time. She's the love of my life - everything I do is for her." He worries about her having to grow up and learn to lose people. "She breaks my heart. When you love someone, you don't want them to feel any kind of pain.
     "What's changed me is not caring, not giving a fuck," he insists. But it's patently obvious he cares deeply. Giving as he is towards his own or anyone who touches him - including the homeless for whom he used to leave hefty anonymous donations when he lived in London, and for whom he'd love to do a benefit gig if his management agreed - he's ruthless  about those who aren't "real" or who
treat others with cruelty. "The first time I was hit was by a policeman. I've been in prison and they let me have an asthma attack and nearly die. Some people are dogs and need to be put down," he spits. He insists that having violence done to a person will make them, in turn, violent. There's a saying he keeps repeating: "There's many a good heart does bad things." Sometimes it's a mantra, sometimes a confession. 
     The new album he's made, will, he expects, surprise people when it  comes out next year. "Sometimes it surprises me. It's chilled-out, positive, all about peace and love. It's got 
lyrics like, 'these men will break your bones, don't know how to build stable homes'. Homes are important to me," he adds, "because I never had one."
     His take on the world will remain unique; his displaced inner-city blues will still carry the conviction of his honesty and his tender, bleak, brutal vision. "I do documentaries of life," he insists. "I'm not a musician. I'm from a council estate. All I can do is give you what I feel. I don't know what I'm doing and I don't
want to learn." 

Tricky's single Makes Me Wanna Die is out on Island.

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   photo: Gautier Deblonde

analyze me (Tricky)
Tricky solo discography