Turning Points: Tricky
Born in Knowle West, a working class area of Bristol, at the break of the 70s, Adrian Nicholas Matthews Thaws would go on to disregard any perimeters put in front of him.
After being initiated by the Bristol-based sound system collective the Wild Bunch (which also included future members of Massive Attack), as Tricky he became a pioneer of trip-hop, releasing his seminal debut album Maxinquaye in the mid 90s. His passionate rejection of the media attention that accompanied this would fuel a brooding fire that earned Tricky another name: the Dark Prince. Having lived in the US – New York, and then LA – for many years, he has recently relocated to Berlin. Now stepping back into the spotlight once again with his 14th album ununiform, Tricky recalls a life at the vanguard.
1980s: Bristol sound system culture
Music was the only thing in my life really. Being half Jamaican, sound systems played a big part. My granddad Hector Thaws founded ‘Tarzan the High Priest’, one of the first major Bristol sound systems that ignited the scene. I watched him mixing records on the street as a kid all the time. Then, being in Wild Bunch, it wasn’t by choice really. One day me and my mate Whitley were walking down the street and there was a Wild Bunch poster with my name on it. I was like ‘Oh fuck, I guess I’m with the Wild Bunch then!’
I never thought it was going to blow up like it did. I was a pop star for a minute! I always thought I was going to be an underground artist. Coming from hip-hop culture back then, it wasn’t about being ‘seen’ or ‘known’, it was about this sort of punk feeling, like you had to search to find the good shit. It wasn’t cool to be on every radio channel and every TV screen. I didn’t want all that. All of a sudden I was nominated for six Brit Awards. Once I was in a club in New York and Jay-Z was there. This girl came up and asked to take my picture with Jay-Z. He looked at me like he didn’t know who I was, and she goes “That’s Tricky, the kid from MTV!” I was on MTV a lot back then and at that time rappers weren’t on TV like that. Especially being a black English rapper. That was a big deal.
Late 90s – Mid 00s: Living in LA
I didn’t do an album for five years while I was in LA. I love LA but as a musician it’s fucking dangerous. I’d go meet for a mate for sushi at 2pm… the next thing you know you’d order a bottle of sake, suddenly it’s 7am two days later! Coming from England you feel like when it’s sunny you have to be outside. It took me years to realise it was going to be sunny in LA every day. Like fuck, it’s going to be like this tomorrow Tricky, you can’t be out partying every day!
I’m totally in love with music again. The tracks are on another level, people will be surprised. A few years ago I had two massive tax bills. Not that I was desolate or living in the fucking street or anything, but every time I did an album or toured or made a film the money was going to this fucking tax bill. Looking back it’s funny because I didn’t even realise I was under any pressure until now that it’s all paid off and the stress has been lifted. So with this album I had the ability to take my time and finish when it really felt finished. I’m going on tour and then just keep hitting the studio and making music because I love doing it. Sometimes you get so busy that it all feels like work, but you have to go back and realise that it’s what you love doing, and that’s the only thing that’s important. Not many people can say they even know what they love to do, let alone get the chance to fucking do it.
ununiform is out 22 September via False Idols / !K7