The trade of Tricky 
Tricky doesn't care much for fiction. If he knows the premise of a book isn't based on fact, he'd rather not waste his time on it. He does, however, enjoy a good gangster narrative now and again. “Do you know [notorious cocaine dealer] Pablo Escobar?” he asks. “The Columbian government tried to f**k with him and he blew up a commercial plane with about 250 people on it. He was a bit psycho, an egomaniac, but a very interesting person.”

The same line could perhaps be used to describe Tricky. “An egomaniac?” Maybe. “A bit psycho?” Depends on who you talk to. But Tricky isn't one to detonate a small aircraft if he's not happy with something you've said or done. He'll just tell you to your face. Or better yet, he'll write a song about you, a la British pop journalist Andrew Smith, who after authoring a particular bit of non-fiction about Tricky in UK mag The Face, was featured in a song getting his face blown off while sequestered in a car trunk. Tricky's also quick to recount his formative years growing up in Knowle West, where a typical day consisted of waking up, not going to school, smoking some spliff, hitting the social club with friends, then robbing a house to procure money for more spliff.

“Kinda a vicious cycle,” he says.

But Tricky is very much a man of two separate minds, his thug life not withstanding, and his latest album, Blowback, is a testament to his dueling natures. Not since 1995's Maxinquaye and 1996's Pre-Millennium Tension has Tricky gotten stellar reviews across the board, and unlike many trip-hoppers he's begrudgingly compared to, he's refused to make the same album twice. Though as admittedly self-destructive and inconsistent as he is, Tricky thrives off the same characteristics people have criticized him for - unpredictability and indiscretion.

“A lot of people run around searchin' for credibility,” he growls, “and they ain't got none. I don't need to search for credibility. I'm an artist who does what he wants, when he wants.” 

A while back, he opted for another career move most would consider terminal: discontinuing his musical collaborations with singer (and mother of his six-year-old daughter) Martina Topley-Bird. “In England they were tryin' to make me into Ike Turner,” says Tricky of his relationship with Bird. “That's the reason I don't work with her anymore. Like I'm holdin' her back. ‘Why don't she do interviews?' ‘Why don't she do her own lyrics?' All these questions I've never really asked, you know what I mean?” He sounds almost hurt by the accusations, and suspends his train of thought for a second before continuing, “I'm not going to be turned into no Ike Turner.”

Nevertheless, as Tricky reports,“out of negative come positive,” and he's found an equally unassailable vocalist in Hawkman, who appears (along with Live's Ed Kowalczyk) on the album's first single, “Evolution Revolution Love.” Hawk also tracks vocals for the infectious “Diss Never (Dig Up We History),” and a cover of Nirvana's “Something In The Way.” There's also a version of the “Wonder Woman” theme song, featuring vocals by John Frusciante and Flea, as well as a collaboration with '80s diva Cindy Lauper. Musically, the album is as diverse as its guests, panning between pop-rock, downbeat reggae and crunchy, processional dirges like “Bury The Evidence.” For someone who's been so candid with his thoughts on everyone and everything from Billy Corgan (“pretentious”) to Trent Reznor (“not scary”) to modern hip-hop (“crap”), is Tricky worried about a possible media backlash with Blowback's rather mainstream guest roster? 

“I've never been like that,” he states matter-of-factly, “'cause one, my music douses it out. It douses out the mainstream vibe. I would work with Britney Spears. She ain't gonna sound like Britney Spears. No, I don't really worry about that.”

Truth be told, he doesn't worry about much. At least not the kind of things most people in his position would fret about.

“I shouldn't be here,” he admits. “I shouldn't be on the radio. I shouldn't be as successful as I am, 'cause it's all a lie. It's all me takin' opportunity. I can't really write songs. I can only write songs my way. I can't play any instruments, I can only play ‘em a little bit. I can't sing and I can't dance, but I got an incredible amount of passion, so I get by on that. I'm just in the wrong place at the wrong time, but I'm at the right place at the right time as well.”

Like a wolf in sheep's clothing?

“Yeah. Come with a smile and then turn everything upside down.” 

Richard Thomas
July 12, 2001


analyze me (Tricky)