Tricky returns to the live arena

After five years in the wilderness, Tricky is staging a comeback. Matilda Egere-Cooper caught up with the voice of trip-hop about where he’s been – and why he thinks that Jo Whiley has got it in for him

Tricky isn’t convinced he’ll ever be Number 1. “I’m too ugly for people like Jo Whiley,” he concedes, before offloading a heap of grievances he holds against commercial radio and the discspinning powers-that-be. Perhaps it’s the nippy cold that’s blown into Paris this afternoon that’s played a spell on his once-prickly-but-so-farserene mood, or the fact that given a soapbox, the man born Adrian Thaws is famously known to let rip on whatever subject takes his fancy for the day. He explains he had hoped his single “Council Estate” would have a shot of receiving a bit of airplay on Radio 1 because Whiley’s producer’s liked it, but she on the other hand, wasn’t too keen. “I’m not a guitar band talking about college stuff,” he frowns. “I’ve done records, like big singles on this new album, but there’s no way Radio 1 are ever going to play me. Jo Whiley is not a supporter of mine.”



He suspects it stems back to the time he appeared on her Channel 4 show back in 1999 for an interview that, as he puts its, “didn’t go well” – no thanks to an apparently hardcore marijuana habit and a battle with candidiasis, a fungal infection which gave him schizophrenialike symptoms, one of which he described back then as “spaced-outness”. “From then she didn’t like me,” he gripes. “But what does Jo Whiley really know about music? My daughter doesn’t even listen to anything on Radio 1.”

If Tricky had considered crafting pop records after emerging as one of the forerunners of trip-hop back in the early Nineties, his career would tell a very different story, perhaps one which would have started with plenty of accolades, critical-acclaim and the thumbs-up from Ms Whiley, and ended with a nasty slip into obscurity. Reflecting over the course of his career – which has seen the 41-year-old release eight albums, earn a Mercury Prize nomination and achieve some minor success in the US – he’s proud he’s been able to achieve longevity in his organic approach to fame. “I can take five years off and still have a career,” he says, proudly. “I go on tour and I see a lot of bands, who think because they have a record deal, they really think they’re there. And next year, you never hear from them again.”

Tricky’s now enjoying a return to the UK music scene. Last summer, he released Knowle West Boy, a nostalgic, semi-biographical album based on the area he grew up in Bristol. Much tidier than his former efforts and rooted in punk, hip-hop, ragga and rock, it received positive reviews and reminded the public that at his best, the star’s capable of side-stepping the scowling menace of his youth to present himself as stable artist who is still quite relevant. It also shrugged off any remaining associations with his trip-hop roots. “To be honest with you, a lot of these so-called trip-hop artists don’t even exist anymore,” he points out. “People that listen to my music know that I have nothing in common with these people. My name’s always going to be thrown about because I’m supposed to have invented it, but that’s something I really take no notice of.”

This year, he’s gearing up to go back on the live circuit, and is currently in Paris for a number of gigs, before returning to the UK to headline the NMEAwards tour, ahead of the awards show on 25 February. He’ll also be returning to the States for a tour in March. He admits that his time off has made going back on the road challenging. “Like, I haven’t really toured like this… ever,” he says. “Especially after taking five years off.” So touring was a bit hard? “I’m getting used to it.” How’s he prepared for it? “You can’t prepare,” he says, slightly annoyed. “You just go on tour.” He explains that those who’ve never seen his show before are in for an “experience”. “It’s nothing they’ve never seen before,” he offers more politely, “in terms of energy.”

It’s likely he’ll still put on a brooding display which, nowadays, contradicts a more pleasant personality you can only imagine is on account of him growing up. He’s aware he’s still misunderstood, considering his less than glittering relationship with the press – he was once involved in attacking a journalist at Glastonbury over a decade ago. But he now describes himself as a “bit of a joker, very lighthearted, very kind of chilled out”. “I’m a bit childish – I kind of muck around all the time,” he smiles. “I’m kind of relaxed, quite mellow. “

Tricky first made his name back in 1991 working with Massive Attack under the moniker Tricky Kid – a nickname given to him because he always looked young, which I point out, still applies. “I’ve always kind of looked like a kid really,” he smiles. He appeared on their albums Blue Lines and Protection before going solo with the much-lauded, platinum-selling Maxinquaye in 1995, named after his mother who committed suicide when he was four years old. His troubled childhood, which included a brief stint in a young offenders’ institution for distributing fake £50 notes, served as a gothic inspiration for his following albums, including 1996’s Pre-Millennium Tension and Angels With Dirty Faces, release two years later.

By this time, a move to the US had an impact on his life, especially as he’d become a more reclusive artist who’d shunned the infamy that’d come with his tempestuous personality, dating and having a child with fellow trip-hopper Martina Topley-Bird and fighting with Goldie over Björk. It was in New York that a doctor diagnosed his candidiasis and put him on a strict diet to control his mood swings. He dabbled in acting when he stayed in LA, first appearing in Luc Besson’s The Fifth Element(where he supposedly angered Gary Oldman for eating a Twix on set) and a few episodes of Emmywinning urban comedy Girlfriends, which he says he landed after having a fling with one of the show’s leading stars. He also did some score work for Jerry Bruckheimer.

But he says his biggest highlight of his 12-year exile was being given a day in San Francisco. “The mayor declared it Tricky Day on 2 September,” he shrugs. “That was kind of… bizarre. They gave me a plaque and it’s in the records. But I usually forget about it, to be honest.” He decided to move back to the UK after LA turned into “one big party” and signed with Domino Records to release Knowle West Boy and the follow-up which he says should be coming out in the summer.

Hollywood has also rubbed off on him – he directed the video for “Council Estate” and is currently shopping his first feature-length directorial debut, Brown Punk The Movie, a nod to the name of his the record label he’s currently setting up. I took 12 songs and I stuck them all together to make one story,” he explains. “You really don’t know what you’re watching.” At a test screening of the film last year, he said the audience were a bit baffled. “People that don’t really know me are going to think it’s real,” he smiles. “You’ve got to see the movie really. It’s a bit complicated. You won’t know what the fuck is going on.”

He didn’t set any New Year’s resolutions this year because as he reasons, “If you want to do something, you do it today”, but he wants to keep making good music, whether or not it’s being heralded as his second coming. “It’s been all real positives, but that doesn’t make any difference to me though, d’ya know what I mean?” he says, resolutely. “I don’t think about how people see me… If I do an album, and people don’t like ’em, it doesn’t worry me. I do albums for me first and if people like ’em, then cool. I don’t really care.”

Tricky headlines the NME Awards shows on 18 February, Manchester Academy, 19 February Glasgow Arches, 20 February, London Shepherds Bush Empire. The single “Puppy Toy’’ is released on 23 February through Domino Records

Arts and Entertainment

eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade

radio
Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
music
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

music
Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

books
Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

tv
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jessica Hynes in W1A
tvReview: Perhaps the creators of W1A should lay off the copy and paste function spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Power play: Mitsuko Uchida in concert

classical
Arts and Entertainment
Dangerous liaisons: Dominic West, Jake Richard Siciliano, Maura Tierney and Leya Catlett in ‘The Affair’ – a contradictory drama but one which is sure to reel the viewers in
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Herring, pictured performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival two years ago
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Music freak: Max Runham in the funfair band
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
film 'I felt under-used by Hollywood'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
    Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

    Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

    Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
    Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

    Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

    Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
    Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

    Join the tequila gold rush

    The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
    12 best statement wallpapers

    12 best statement wallpapers

    Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
    Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

    Paul Scholes column

    Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?