Tricky (real name Adrian Nicholas Matthews Thaws) is an English record producer, musician and actor. Born and raised in Bristol, he began his career as an early collaborator of Massive Attack before embarking on a solo career with his debut album, ‘Maxinquaye‘, in 1995. He is well-known for his dark, rich and layered sound and his whispering sprechgesang lyrical style. More of a producer than a musician, Tricky recorded albums in collaboration with several other artists and was greatly hailed by the critics and a wide audience.
Now, Tricky is returning with his 13th album called ‘ununiform‘. Born in Berlin, where he has been living for the past two years, it’s a delicate, storming, intricate album that sees the English musician takes perhaps his most radical step yet – a journey into happiness and contentment. It’s a record that shows the legendary British producer confront his legacy, history, family – even death itself. And in all of this, he finds the strangest, least familiar thing – peace.
“I’ve got nothing to prove now, and I’m comfortable with referencing myself.” and he adds “I’ve got a really wide audience. So I’ve got nothing to prove. I feel like sometimes it’s OK to do it again.”
The first album that Tricky has released as a truly independent artist free from the pressure of debt and destruction, ‘ununiform‘ is a glorious, beautiful and intensely personal attempt to answer the simple question “What does Tricky sound like?”
Hello and welcome to House Of Frankie, Underground Radio in Milan, Italy. I have been joined by the extraordinaire musician and producer Tricky! Hi, how are you? Thank you for joining us!
Let’s start talking about your new album, ‘ununiform‘, a journey into your legacy, history, family but what’s the meaning behind the title of the album?
It seems like artists used to be more separate, like you know Bob Marley, John Lennon, Billie Holiday and Jimi Hendrix, all these artists they were great artists but they won’t like each other. When you hear Frank Sinatra, you know it’s Frank Sinatra, when you hear Bob Marley you know it’s Bob Marley… Now Music is so business now, it’s all about money, you know… everything sounds a bit the same, these all similarities and back in the days, you can have two blues artists, even though they were doing blues, they didn’t sound like each other, now you got rock artists that sound like each other, you got pop artists sounding like each other, there’s no really individuals anymore… People like Frank Sinatra and Billie Holiday, they had something … it wasn’t just the music, they had the personality! Like Bob Marley, they were bigger than the music almost, and I think ‘cause we have got into the factory where make music makes a lot of money, it a quick turnover, it’s like everybody wants a record to go to the top of the charts, people want millions of dollars… even when I started twenty years ago, it wasn’t all about money, I come from a poor family, so when I earned a little bit of money, it was good, I was just like “Wow!”, you know it’s like “I can make music and I don’t have to go and do a job I don’t like”, so I was happy! Now artist is all about who’s got the most money, who makes the most money, who sells the most record and I think music has lost a little bit of personality because of the business, because the record company is being taken over by business men. So now it’s all about success of record sells, not how good the music is.
I was living in Paris and then before L.A. and the New York. I’ve never liked Berlin years ago, I’ve never liked it and then I was there in the summer doing some press and at the time I was living in London and you know, London is very busy, very fast place and Berlin is a major city but it feels more Milan, it’s very relaxed beat, you know and it’s like here, the trees everywhere, it’s like living in the city but the country side, because it’s so cheap to live there, people are very relaxed, because everything is cheap, while people in London are stressed, because you have to make money in London. Berlin is a good place for young musicians to live, because if you are a young musician and you are starting off, you can work two/three days in Berlin and that’s enough to pay your rent and then you got three / four days to do your music. In London, it’s hard to do music if you are young and you have a job. I’ve met young musicians in London and they wanna do music, but they can’t because they have to work all the time… too expensive! So, Berlin is still a good music city and everybody moves there to survive, which I like, you know, Polish, Russian, Italian… you know like, when it’s too expensive for someone in Rome, you see people go to Berlin, so it gives you a good vibe! Because people now are just surviving easy there, easier.
You have collaborated with a wide range of artists over the course of your career… including Terry Hall, Björk, Grace Jones, Massive Attack and many other… and your new album too has some important collaboration… there are female artists like Francesca Belmonte, Asia Argento, Martina Topley-Bird, so I have to ask you what’s your favourite collaboration you have ever made?
Wow, oh, I’d say Martina, Bjork and Francesca!
The album consists of 13 tracks. if you have to pick up one, which one would you choose and why?
For me “Same As It Ever Was”, because is silly, is funny, you know, when we did that track, it was almost like a party, the atmosphere, so it’s really silly and I like dancing. Everybody perceives my music dark, moody but that’s not really me. Me and my best friend, we go out, we dance to reggae, dancing was a big part of our upbringing, we liked to go out and dance all night, was just like the best and I think that’s something that people don’t know about me, because they see me more as dark, moody, but I said “Same As It Ever Was” because it makes me wanna dance. Also “When We Die”, because it has a strange atmosphere, something very strange, it’s a bit magical that song.
Do you have any favourite or most inspirational artist?
I still listen to The Specials, I still listen to Public Enemy, I won’t say one but a lot different music, you know, and the new music I hear now is from my daughter, she sends me music, in stuff, so I still listen to new music as well but I won’t say one particular.
And what do you think of the European underground music scene, and in particular of the electronic one?
Just some great music, really, but is underground, you know, you ain’t airing mainstream, but there’s some really great music all over Europe. Unfortunately, a lot of people ain’t got to hear it, because the major companies, they are not going to sign underground hip hop, they want to sign pop, so even though the social media want to help new artists, it is still very difficult for them. When I started, major companies would sign someone who was seen as an underground artist, nowadays they’re not interested, but there’s still a lot of good music all over Europe, I hear good music… from Poland, Italy, Russia, Spain, everywhere, but unfortunately it’s hard for people to hear it.
What equipment do you use during your live performances?
Guitar, drum and bass player sometimes, very old-fashion, yeah, very old-fashion! I don’t like to use turntables, I don’t think it works with the live band, you know.
Thank you Tricky for the great interview! Hope to see you soon again in Italy, maybe with a live performance!
Watch the video for “When We Die” below!
Check the tracklist for ‘ununiform‘ below!
1. Obia Intro
2. Same As It Ever Was (feat. Scriptonite)
3. New Stole (feat. Francesca Belmonte)
4. Wait For Signal (feat. Asia Argento)
5. It’s Your Day (feat. Scriptonite)
6. Blood Of My Blood (feat. Scriptonite)
7. Dark Days (feat. Mina Rose)
8. The Only Way
9. Armor (feat. Terra Lopez (Rituals of Mine))
10. Doll (feat. Avalon Lurks)
11. Bang Boogie (feat. Smoky Mo)
12. Running Wild (feat. Mina Rose)
13. When We Die (feat. Martina Topley-Bird)
‘ununiform‘ will be available September 22nd on limited red and standard black vinyl via False Idols/!K7 Music.
Head to Tricky’s Facebook Page for more!