Tricky was watching MTV the other night when his single Broken Homes came on. He watched it with ambivalence. Following it came the new Spiritualized promo which he says "was pure energy". If Tricky was an ordinary punter, which he isn't, he'd have gone straight out and bought it.
     "I'm not ashamed of Broken Homes," he adds in his raspy Bristol growl. Island brought it out first because it's more commercial. I don't really care about that now because I've got bigger battles to fight, I'm sorting out happiness, I've just realised this and it's blown my mind."
     He says he hasn't listened to his new album, Angels With Dirty Faces, for a while now, but from what he can remember it's "pretty dark". It was recorded nearly two years ago in New Orleans and the Bahamas. Tricky had a broken leg at the time and was in a toxic mood. "I was in a bad state, out every night drinking, pissed out my head. I had a brawl in a club and was so mad drunk, I must have snapped a bone without realising. I walked home, had sex with my girlfriend, got up the next day and bang, my leg went like jelly."
     This doesn't sound like the same Tricky who brought us the introspective Maxinquaye and the obscure melancholia of Pre Millennium Tension. Nor does it sound like the same spliff-toking asthmatic who wore dresses as he grew up among a family of hardnut Bristol gangsters.
     But, for the past couple of years, Tricky's been tired, paranoid and depressed. At times he thought he was having a nervous breakdown. His moods swung constantly and some of the people working with him nearly bailed out. "I was like Mr. Angry. I'd get up in the morning and couldn't wait to phone someone because I'd been angry about something the night before. I was being eaten away from the inside." He puts it down to the pressure of recording and constant touring. "I'd been ill for such a long time I forgot what it felt like to be well, so I just carried on."
     Recently, he went to see a doctor who diagnosed him with candidiasis - an imbalance of minerals in his system - caused by years of taking steroids and antibiotics for his asthma. "It explained," he says, "why the press always called me a psycho." Now he's ditched the antibiotics for detox tablets and visits a nutritionist regularly. "This last month has been the first time in two years  I haven't
been depressed. As soon as I woke up in the morning, I used to get paranoid about mad things, but I don't get that any more which is fucking beautiful."
     He talks animatedly about his diagnosis as he sits in a Chelsea Harbour hotel sipping a glass of water. His hair is freshly shaved and he looks lithe and energetic. The deranged, stoned voodoochild, so often portrayed by the press, is nowhere to be seen.
     Now that his head is less scrambled, Tricky is geared up to fight his 'bigger battles'. Fore most on his mind is his daughter Maisie who he had with musical partner Martina. Two years ago, in an interview with The Face, journalist Andrew Smith sug gested Tricky left Martina to bring up their daughter more or less on her own. Tricky was furious and wrote a song about putting Smith in the boot of a car and shooting off his face. Although he doesn't say why, an interview with Craig McLean in last month's Face, which actually describes him as a genius, has upset him too. "They've stitched me up twice now," he says. "Everyone knows it's a crap little fashion magazine. It's not like it's my music they've got a problem with, it's my personality."
     Two years ago, Tricky moved to NewYork in an attempt to "feel like a stranger somewhere". He spends as much time as he can with Maisie but, even so, the comments really get to him. "Everything I do, I'm the bad guy," he says. "This showed me that as long as I'm doing music with Martina I'm going to be a bad father, a prick. She's in the perfect position. She gets all the credibility but, if the album's bad, they won't say anything about her, it's all going to be about me."
     As a result, Tricky's decided not to work with Martina any more, even if it does mean losing the beautiful, whispery voice which defined the sound of many of his tracks. "When I read that Face thing, I started thinking we should split up. Our relationship's good, it's been seven years, and the fact we were seeing each other, had a kid, stopped seeing each other and carried on making albums is unbelievable." He's not bothered that he's allowed the comments of journalists to change the way he makes his music. Tricky believes in karma. "They'll get what they deserve," he says. "When we do split up and there's more press I'm going to blame Andrew and Craig, those two people are directly to blame."
For his part, Andrew Smith refuses to accept this. "Blaming other people for splitting up with Martina isn't very convincing. I have a theory Tricky's not very comfortable with himself and he'll blame the writer for the reflection he reads. At no point did either me or Craig make any kind of moral judgement on him, or his style of fatherhood."
     Tricky's concerns are part of a broader disaffection. His track 6 Minutes, refers to 'this industry full of vomit'. "We're all monkeys," he says. "We dance and get paid for it, people are so quick to sit back and go along with it, but I'm going to fight back."
     His answer is to set up his own label, Durban Poison - financed incidentally, by Steven Spielberg's entertainment conglomerate Dreamworks. "I've changed things for my artists," he says 'They don't have anyone walking into their studios. If they say 'What single shall I put out?' I say 'What single do you love? I can't represent you, it's your music'. The first release is by the Baby Namboos, three of whom are Tricky's cousins and one his sister. "It's a family affair," he says. "If I never sold another record, it wouldn't bother me, I could join them, it would be cool."
     If Angels With Dirty Faces is anything to go by, Tricky without Martina would be a raw, painful experience. Even with her vocals, it's his most spartan album to date; melodies are only suggested and, in parts, it descends into chaotic, percussive mayhem. Themes cover revenge, suicide and death. Tricky never intended Maxinquaye to be the radiofriendly hit that it was and Angels moves far away from that possibility and from trip-hop, hip-hop or anything remotely close. It's his bleakest, moodiest offering: defiant and brilliant
     But for Tricky, the Angels era is history. He chuckles as he tells how he's just remixed one of the songs on the album called Mellow, adding some "pretty little chords". It's funky, danceable - like the stuff he was doing before Maxinquaye.
     "Tricky's got his first club record," he smirks. "Our musics changed, I don't really care if I lose my career, fuck selling records. I've realised what's important for the first time, I'm 30 years of age now and I've just woken up. You don't make your self rich, you don't make yourself successful, you make yourself happy."

'Angels With Dirty Faces' is released this week on Island.

analyze me (Tricky)
analyze me (Martina)
Tricky biography
Martina biography
Tricky solo discography
Martina discography
Tricky collaborations discography