Tricky is working with Grace Jones and he's working with Suggs. He's hanging with Method Man and Bono, living in New York. David Bowie sends him short stories, film directors phone him up, but he never lets up. Bad interviews, bad sleep, spliff addiction and a bad-boy past that won't leave him alone - for Tricky, it seems, hell is always round the corner. If the music doesn't get there first.
Writer: Alexis Petridis
Photographer: Alexis Maryon
TRICKY wheels round on his heels, eyes blazing, voice hoarse with anger. "What did you call me?"
  The photographer who's been dosing us with New York attitude takes a step back. Seconds ago he was mouthing off at Tricky for arriving late (five hours late, admittedly) at the shoot, bitching about his clothes, calling him a jerk, ordering him out of the studio. Now a horrendous, unbearable silence descends on the room. Five, maybe ten seconds that seem to stretch into hours, broken by the cracked, husking snart of Tncky's voice.
   "You wanna call me names?" he rasps, each word jabbed out with his finger. He's small, five five, five six max, tiny next to this photographer, but suddenly Tricky seems like the largest person in the room.
  "You wanna make this personal?" says Tricky. "'Cos we can make this personal. Don't fuck around, boy."
  Another silence where seconds last forever. And he's gone.
  I find him scowling down the Chinatown street, almost shaking with rage. "Fuckin' idiot... calling me a jerk... putting up with his bullshit... should fuckin' go back up there and fuckin' hit him... fuckin' attitude problem..." For a minute, it looks like he might carry out his threat. Instead, he makes his excuses and splits.
  What was it he said yesterday? "If you listen to my
music, you should know I'm not easy. I'm not an idiot. Don't push me in a corner 'cos I'm going to react a certain way. I'm gonna want to survive. People say I'm negative or aggressive. No I'm not. I'm surviving. And I'm gonna survive."
"I'M not scared of telling people about my life, because it's my fuckin' life. If I hide it away from other people, it's like running away from it myself. Talking is talking, y'knowwhatlmean?"
  A sweat-sodden Saturday afternoon in Washington Square Park. Tricky lopes past the rollerbiaders and street poets and hip hop heads of downtown Manhattan, a spliff permanently wedged in his fingers, talking talking talking. About why, five months ago, he left Britain for
New York. About the stress and the craziness brought on by his solo celebrity. And about the bewildenng mass of projects he's thrown himself into since he arrived here. Last we heard of Tricky, he'd dragged Alison Moyet, Terry Hall, Bjork and Neneh Cherry into a studio and in a few days coughed up 'Nearly God', that diseased - sounding slab of rancour that could just be the most depressed, depressing, unsettling album yet issued in the name of dance music. A friend told Tricky 'Nearly God' was "the Devil's music". He says he finds it "relaxing", that it "chills him out". Which makes Teicky's idea of relaxation a pretty mind-boggling concept, as anyone who's subjected themselves to the skin-crawl menace of a tracks like 'Yoga' and 'I Sing For You' will agree.
  "By the time I made 'Nearly God', I was a mess," he admits. "There were certain people I wanted to kill. Certain interviewers... as far as I concerned I wanted to give them some serious voodoo. Martina was pregnant. Then there was the pressure from 'Maxinquaye'. A lot of pressure. I'm just getting out of that pressure now and that record's four years old."
For someone who's pretty much got the world at their feet, someone who admits his record company treats him like a spoilt little brat", Tricky talks a lot about pressure. Pressure and pain and "mad fuckin' problems", being "so fuckin' stressed I think I'm gonna explode". What the hell's going on?
   After all, everyone knows the story. Ten years ago Tricky was a petty criminal, dealing draw and getting into what he calls "mischiefs" with his gang on a sprawling Bristol council estate called Knowle West. Now, Luc Besson, the guy who directed Nikita and Leon, rings him up, asking him to star in his new film (alongside Bruce Willis, amongst others). He hangs out with Bono. David Bowie sends him books in the post and writes short stories about him (they've never met). "You used to call me Tricky Kid," he growls on a track from his forthcoming 'Grassroots' EP. "Now you call me... superstar."
   And the superstar makes things happen. There's the 'Grassroots' EP for US rap label Payday. Tricky produces all five tracks, and performs on three, with underground New York hip hop and swing artists making up the remainder. The press release tells you it's Tricky's attempt at creating a "street type vibe", a straightforward record with "a hip hop feel. But with Tricky, nothing's that straightforward. Everything is still mangled, distorted, twisted to his own worldview. There's hip hop beats and soul vocals and bragging, swaggering East Coast raps there, but the backdrops Tricky paints are low, menacing hums, dirge-slow loops, skeletal guitar patterns, sinister whispers. The 

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  photos: Joseph Cultice
analyze me (Tricky)
Tricky biography
Martina discography