“Where am I going tonight? I don’t know. Maybe Stockholm? All I know is I’m playing a show somewhere in Europe tomorrow, somewhere that starts with an ‘S’, I think.” The days and the destinations are starting to blur for Adrian Nicholas Matthews Thaws. The artist known as Tricky is in his home country of England, but is a long way from home.
Tricky moved to Paris a few years back, and says he enjoys it there. Does he enjoy the French capital more than Bristol, the southern English city where he grew up and began his career as a producer and performer? “Let’s just say I like visiting London,” he says, avoiding talk of his home town. “There’s always fucked up shit going on here in London. There could be people down in the street giving flowers to each other, and it’s such a big city that around the corner someone’s getting mugged. Life just goes on here.
“London is the place I go to get food or buy books. I can’t read French, so I come here to stock up on books, and eat food I can’t get in France.”
It’s also the place he’s been recording with Francesca Belmonte, one of the many guests who appears on the trip-hip pioneer’s tenth album, False Idols. “We’re working on some pretty incredible stuff for her album,” Tricky says. “It’s pretty scary how good the album is sounding already. I reckon I might be supporting her next year.”
Other collaborators on False Idols include Igbo singer Nnenka, Fifi Rong and Peter Silberman from The Antlers. Silberman contributes vocals on the hypnotic lead single ‘Parenthesis’, and his involvement came about purely by chance. “I met Antlers at a festival,” Tricky explains, “and the thing that impressed me was they weren’t playing the rock stars. They’re a band that is doing well, but they’re grounded. That’s enough to make me want to work with someone, much more than any talent they might have.”
Tricky is renowned for his exacting standards in the studio. Does he think he is too demanding? “Nine times out of ten if someone is going on my album, it’s because I know that they can bring something, but it has to be done my way. I want to hear things my way, because I know what I want, and I know what I need. I work very fast, and I don’t like waiting around,” he says.
The Brit might be exacting, but he admits it’s because he’s in a state of bliss when in the studio. “I love the recording process,” Tricky says. “If it becomes painful I walk away. When you start analysing too much it becomes a job. An older musician told me once that when you record something, remember the first feeling it gave you and play it like that. Otherwise you start questioning yourself, and that’s never going to help.”
His latest album is the first to be released on his own label, also called False Idols. It follows a painful separation with Domino Records, who had produced his previous two albums. “When I was with them I couldn’t work quickly enough. I’d record my demos, and then the CEO of the label would have to come to Paris to tell me I was ready to mix. He’s never made a record in his life, how can he tell me if I’m ready to mix? I like the guy personally, but that was really painful business. Some artists might say being dropped is the worst, but I couldn’t be happier with where I’m at.”
BY BENJAMIN COOPER
False Idols out now through False Idols/!K7 Records.