|The world needs rules. Without them,
we'd all just be a bunch of anarshists clad in A-in-a-circle T-shirts looted
from the local punk boutique, running around like so many decapitated chickens.
Like all big businesses, the music industry sustains itself by following
certain guidelines. If Artist X is terrifically successful, expect countless
A&R meetings to begin booming with the chorus "bring me the next Artist
But rules requite exceptions.
That's what distinguishes Artist X in the first place.
When he first bowed on Massive
Atack's Blue Lines in 1991, Tricky may have seemed like an inconsequential
grain of sand lodged in a mildly noticeable place: By the release of his
debut solo album Maxinqaye
in 1994, he'd matured into a highly prized
black pearl. Four years 1ater, with his third album Angels With Dirty
Faces (lsland) and a flurry of activity at his Durban Poison label,
Tricky continues to confound the rules.
Tricky - the artist formerly known
as x-pays no min to what the folks in A&R and marketing cry every time
they have this month's genius on their hands. He never has. Their fanfare
just honks like a gaggle of squawking geese in his seasoned ears. "Everybody
is The Next Bob Marley, The Next Jimi Hendrix" he sputters. "Before they've
had time to write songs and and prove it. Please! Bob Marley touched millions
of souls with just an acoustic guitar and his voice." Condenders don't
need comparisons to the classics, he insists.
From a purely aesthetic
perspective, such kudos are distractind at best, and often a short cut
to a creative dead end. What new talents really need is a lifetime of experience
to draw on, and clear channels for the music to speak through them. "l
had a warm welcome on Maxinquaye, but now anybody can get a warm
welcome. Anybody can be the Next This or That. And if that's true, it makes
you think 'Why do I even bother?"'
"Nothing means anything"
he sighs. "It blows my mind."
In the past seven years,
Tricky hasn't stopped revealing musical facets to anyone who will listen
The narcoleptic grooves and eerie patchwork samples of Maxinquaye
set standards countless imitators have tried to match ever since. But our
hero was already shifting gears by the time the
album had achieved critical mass,
following up with the raw collabrations found on 1996's star-studded Nearly
God project and the Tricky Presents Grassroots hip-hop EP. Pre-Millennium
Tension, the second 'proper' Tricky album, fused old school rap
ideals with the immediacy of punk rock, as the artist consciously attempted
to discard the unwanted title King of the Slow Beats.
But chart positions
and press clippings shouldn't affect a musician's creativity. Tricky understands
that the greatest artists have historically followed a singular vision
and let the marketplace find them, rather than fashioning their wares to
suit consumer trends. Tricky tries to pay the philistines no mind, though
he readily admits he is often discouraged that so much mediocre crap clogs
eardrums 'round the world. "You know how you leave school, ate certain
jobs that are easy work? It seerns like the music industry has become like
that," he says, "Making records is going to be like working at McDonald's
in 20 years."
The man once christened
Adrian Thaws is enthusiastic and opinionated. He even comes across as fairly
confident. But as he shovels forkfuls of steak and fries into his mouth
at downtown New York eatery, he certainly doesn't come across as unduly
cocky or affected (although he does turn a few heads among the moneyed
lunchtime set). His actions are motivated almost exclusively by his love
of music. "Someone who's pretentious is not going to make an album that's
going to touch your soul," Tricky has remarked on more than one occasion.
Angels With Dirty Faces won't radically alter the course of your
life. But it will make you think, primarily about music: the space it occupies
in our lives, how it is packaged and sold, and what drives people to create
"I've got a chance
to express myself," he observes. "Now for me to worry and run around trying
to make a certain record, what I think people want, that's ridiculous."
He doesn't fear the consequences, either. "I don't mind losing some fans.
People shouldn't worry about that." Unfortunately not all popular musicians
understand that concept early enough to benefit from it. "Look at Depeche
Mode," he points out. Tricky's been a fan of the band's sound and its songwriting
for years. "They sold millions and millions of records. But I read somewhere
that they said they were influenced by me on their new album... and they
didn't sell any records!"
He laughs. "That's
backwards. And it's unfair. People love them so much that they want the
same thing off them all the time. They've only been giving audiences one
side of their personalities, so people love that one side. When they try
and show another side, prople don't buy it."
Angels with dirty faces was recorded
primarily during a spell in New Orleans last year. "I use music now as
an excuse to travel," Tricky admits. "I'm the sort of person who won't
have a holiday." Now when it comes time to record an album, he deliberately
chooses locations to record he might otherwise never svisit for long. After
the initial .....
..... there. You can actually see
the equipment you bought for the boys club."
Of course, there was
some concern about the source of the funds, too. "Some of these charities
were pompous and didn't want the money, because it came from gangsters
telling stories," he scoffs. "That's ridiculous. Starving kids aren't worried
where the money's coming from."
Another project that's
ready to go is the first record from the Baby Namboos. "It's like the '90s
Happy Mondays. It's two of my cousins from Manchester and two of 'em from
Bristol. And my sister's singing on some of it."
As you might surmise
from that bit of evidence, family is extremely important to Tricky. His
great uncle, the gangster Martin Godfrey, inspired the Environment
concept. Both the suicide of his spirited mother (for whom Maxinquaye
was named) and the murder of his cousin Michael crop up on the lyrics of
the new "Analyze Me". Recently Tricky even invited the cameras of England's
Channel Four into his family home in Bristol's Knowle West neighborhood,
where young Adrian Thaws grew up with four generations of mixed race relations.
As he proclaims in the documentary Naked And Famous, "the
mongrel is the most intelligent one in the litter." His family's mixed
heritage and skin tones are sources of great pride to him, no matter what
slings and arrows he na dhis kin have endured.
But these days, the
most important family member in his life is Maisey, his three-year-old
daighter with Topley-Bird. "She's into her manipulative stage now", he
admits, grinning again. "She really plays on it. She's very theatrical
- crying, anything to get her way. She's a bit spoiled, but that's what
you do." When the band hits the road again in a few weeks, she's come along
with her parents.
But her father
isn't sure if all this turning out like he'd hoped. "Unfortunately, she's
decided she's going to be a singer now. She's always talking about being
on stage, and she'll muck around on guitars."
He shakes his
head at the prospect. "I don't want this to be a business for her."