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
Ellie Levenson’s The Election book demystifies politics for children
bookNew children's book primes the next generation for politics
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams' “Happy” was the most searched-for song lyric of 2014
musicThe power of song never greater, according to our internet searches
Arts and Entertainment
Roffey says: 'All of us carry shame and taboo around about our sexuality. But I was determined not to let shame stop me writing my memoir.'
books
Arts and Entertainment
Call The Midwife: Miranda Hart as Chummy

tv Review: Miranda Hart and co deliver the festive goods

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey in the 2014 Christmas special

tvReview: Older generation get hot under the collar this Christmas

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Transformers: Age of Extinction was the most searched for movie in the UK in 2014

film
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Ronson has had two UK number two singles but never a number one...yet

music
Arts and Entertainment
Clara Amfo will take over from Jameela Jamil on 25 January

radio
Arts and Entertainment
This is New England: Ken Cheeseman, Ann Dowd, Frances McDormand and Richard Jenkins in Olive Kitteridge

The most magnificently miserable show on television in a long timeTV
Arts and Entertainment
Andrea Faustini looks triumphant after hearing he has not made it through to Sunday's live final

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
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.

    War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

    The West needs more than a White Knight

    Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
    Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

    'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

    Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
    The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

    The stories that defined 2014

    From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
    Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

    Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

    Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
    Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

    Finally, a diet that works

    Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
    Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

    Say it with... lyrics

    The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
    Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

    The joys of 'thinkering'

    Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
    Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

    Monique Roffey interview

    The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
    Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

    Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

    Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
    DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

    Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

    It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
    Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

    How we met

    Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

    Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

    Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
    Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

    Who does your club need in the transfer window?

    Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
    The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015