Tricky’s new album, Adrian Thaws, weaves together a combination of hip hop, soul, dub, rock and electronica. JO CAMPBELL catches up with the artist that almost single-handedly spearheaded the trip-hop movement in the ‘90s.
Using his birth name for his latest LP’s title, controversial artist Tricky has decided to give listeners an intimate look at his life through photographer Amy Albataew’s lens. Shot earlier this year outside a storage locker containing personal items from his residence in New York in the late ‘90s, the collection is beautiful and somewhat haunting. Among this series are snapshots of old recording tech, a Polaroid of Tricky showing the gap where his teeth should be, and dusty reel-to-reel tapes used in a bygone session in New Orleans.
“These are recordings I did with a marching band led by a trumpet player named Shorty,” recalls Tricky. “I was there for about six weeks, broke my leg, and moved into an old church. These recordings were done over about three days. As far I know they haven’t been heard at all.”
The Tumblr-hosted gallery shows Tricky at a pivotal stage in his career after the success of the ground-breaking record he made after leaving Bristolian outfit Massive Attack, Maxinquaye, and its follow up, Pre-Millennium Tension. A desire to be closer to the home of hip hop inspired a residency in the big apple. “I wouldn’t consider myself a hip hop artist, but hip hop was a big influence for me, so when you’re an artist you know you have to live in New York at one time because that was the Mecca for urban music in the ‘90s.”
His nostalgia is understandable with the 20 year anniversary of Maxinquaye approaching in 2015. Adrian Thaws clocks in as his tenth studio album and, as the title and photo gallery suggest, offers stripped-back production with an upfront message, as Tricky explains. “It’s me coming back to claim what’s mine. I’ve done a lot for this music industry, a lot of people sound like me and I’m still fairly underground. A lot of people have made money off me and my style of music. Some artists are doing stuff I did 15 years ago, calling it trip-hop (stupid name) and I keep moving.”
The album was written and produced in is home studio. “I don’t go into the studio to make a song – I go there to relax. I just sit down and play with different sounds and stuff. It’s very natural and organic.” But something Tricky is far less comfortable with is the concept of fame. “I’m trying to break down that hierarchy,” he says. “People like superstar DJs – that doesn’t even make sense. They’re playing other people’s music. It’s gone way too far. Being famous means nothing. It’s not an ambition.”
Adrian Thaws is Tricky’s response to this desire to breakdown celebrity status; a call to arms. “It’s saying: ‘Fuck you, you’re the same as me. You’re not my idol. I respect your music but don’t expect me to kiss your arse.’ People shouldn’t be so impressed with success. We live in celeb culture where people become well-known because of their talent but now, being known is more important. TV reality shows and the dumbing-down of people is part of the plan of the powers that be – we’re easy to control if we’re numb and dumb.”