Tricky: Blowing life back into the songs that changed his world
On the back of the release of Tricky’s ‘Back to Mine’ I was lucky enough to get a chance to warm the difficult artist, and get to know the man who’s had a hand in changing the face of music of the past decade. He speaks about his influences and why he chose the tracks he did for Back To Mine. Speaking to him down the line from the hotel room he is based in for the next few weeks, whilst working on a new film ‘Red Light Runners’ along with names like Harvey Keitel, Peter O’Toole and Michael Madsen.
I find him a little jaded on the other end of the line as he’s already endured a few hours of answering the same questions from media in the last few hours, or maybe he is just that way and likes to remain on guard at first because of all of the flack he gets from being in the industry he’s chosen for all these years, and being one of the Bristol’s most unliked personalities because he chooses to speak out about the problems they have with gangsters and poverty, rather than just sweeping it all under the carpet like the rest of them. However, tonight he doesn’t take too long to warm into conversation as he lets down his guard and speaks candidly about pretty much any subject I bring up.
Back To Mine is a cd that’s put out every few months, as artists like ‘Everything But The Girl’, ‘Underworld’ et al are asked to put together 16 tracks of music that has influenced them in their lives, this year has just seen Tricky asked to do the same. “It was just nice to be able to be involved in putting out an album where I could choose all of my favourite music and put it all on one record, it was a nice project to do and I just hope people listen to it now, cause there are a lot of good artists on there. They chose the order, I just did this off the top of my head, cause all of these songs I play a lot when I’m on tour, so when they called me up to choose the songs I just said ‘Cure- Lullaby, Erik B & Rakim…’ and then they put it together for me. I’d love to do another one, it’s great to just choose your favourite people and give something back to them.”
However it wasn’t as basic as just choosing tracks that he plays on tour, these are tracks that have had a hand in influencing Tricky from childhood until today in different ways. I find it inspiring to listen to him talk about these tracks that inspired him to create music in the first place. “Erik B and Rakim -when I first heard that song ‘My Melody’ it totally changed my life -the beat was amazing; Dr John, Morphine, The Buzzcocks, Kate Bush, but I could only cover a little bit of it all cause Back to Mine is only 16 songs. So there’s so much I had to leave out like Prince, not really any Michael Jackson, I never really listened to Michael Jackson it was more Prince, ‘Sign of The Times’ was a big influence, I love that song, but it was mostly the 1999 album and the earlier stuff I didn’t really get and then his later stuff I didn’t really get. Bob Marley, Janis Joplin, The Specials, Gary Numan, that song ‘Tainted Love’ not really the album, just that song I used to play it all the time. T-Rex Marc Bolan, Public Enemy cause PE changed the face of music really.” He pauses for a moment to think and reflect on what it is that made these artists stand out so much to him. “Most of the artists I’m into a real individual and defining artists that changed the face of music as we knew it. They didn’t stick to the ordinary, they chose to break the rules and do something new and were rewarded for doing so.”
I take this opportunity to prod him about bringing his Back to Mine out to Australia in a series of DJ sets, which could have went one of two ways and he could have shot the idea right down or the miraculous could happen and he may actually like the idea, luckily for me it’s the latter. “Do you know what? I never thought of that, but do you know what that would be a good thing to do because the reason I don’t DJ is because people think that I’m going to turn up and play all hip hop. But now that this is out, people know what they’re going to get, so that would be a fun thing to do actually, that’s a very good idea, you should be my manager. There’s nothing like that coming up, nobody’s thought of that yet to be honest with you, so now that you’ve said that, I’m going to talk to my manager today and see if he can hook that up.” Thaws replies happily.
I go on to explain why it would be such a great idea, as it would show his fans out here what it is that makes Tricky tick, hearing the music that he’s spent years listening to, whilst they’ve spent years listening to him and all of the genius he’s been behind over the past few years. “Yeah exactly an it will be a lot less hassle with baggage and all of that, cause I’ll just need to bring along my cds and records. That is a brilliant idea, I would love to do that, actually when I get off the phone to you, I’m actually going to call my manager and see about that. I wish I would have had that chance to see my favourite artists do something like that. “
Working crazy hours over the past few weeks on a new movie, I decide to ask about how it’s been working in an industry he isn’t quite so familiar with, and whether being beside the likes of Harvey Keitel is at all intimidating for someone with little acting experience. “It’s like a heist film, with us robbing The Millennium Dome, it’s a bit strange, it’s a very weird movie with a lot of different characters in it together, like Peter O’Toole, Harvey Keitel, Michael Madsen and Killien Murphy, so quite an odd bunch.” Thaws laughs, a laugh that’s not often heard out loud.
I find it intriguing to find out how he managed to get himself involved in a project like this, as it’s so out of the ordinary. “Well you see, I was in the office of this tv ad company talking to somebody and this lady come out (she knew who I was) and said ‘Oh, my husband is doing a movie and I think you should be in it’ so I asked what the movie was about and talked to her husband, then he and I met up and he was a very very nice guy, which shocked me, cause I had a bad experience with a movie in the past. He was so cool, so I said to him ‘to be honest with you, I’ve done a movie and I don’t want to do anything else like it, unless it’s really organic and natural because my last experience was painful,’ so he started coming around my house every night and we’d hang out and talk and then I met up with him in London and took him out to a few places around there and all the while he was telling me about how he wanted the movie to be and mentioned a couple of people I didn’t think I wanted to be in the movie with and he said ‘look, they’re not definitely in it yet, it can be sorted’ so I ended up doing it cause he’s such a good guy.” He explains, before continuing to praise the work and laid-back attitude of the first time director.
“Even when he’s working, he’s like so nice, it’s unbelievable and I find myself watching him sometimes and wondering ‘how can he be so nice and be under all this pressure (cause it’s his first movie), and he’s got people like Peter O’Toole, Harvey Keitel and Michael Madsen, so it must be a lot of pressure, but he’s still super nice and I don’t get how he manages to do it. He has time for everybody, like I’m a nobody when there’s Harvey Keitel and Peter O’Toole around, I’m just like insignificant, but he’ll still take the time to come over to me and say ‘Look, you’re doing good,’ ‘Don’t worry, it’s alright’ and then at the end of the day he’ll call me and see how I’m getting on and see if I’m still happy with the project, which is unbelievable really. So I’m really having a good time with it.”
Harvey Keitel’s great to work with as well, I’ve only done one scene with him so far and it’s amazing to watch him work, cause he creates a vibe. Which is pretty amazing, cause I knew that you could create a vibe in the recording studio but I didn’t know it was possible on a film. It’s mad, he captures you so well, when he goes into a scene, he can just take you with him. He’s so in control, it’s amazing to watch, when a person is so good at what they do in that field, the power they can command when they go in and then as soon as it stops, he switches off and he’s this really cool guy. He’s given me so much encouragement, which is what I needed cause I still wasn’t sure about the whole film thing and he say things like ‘you’ve got good reactions’ or ‘you look great on screen’ which was the encouragement I needed at the time.” enthuses Thaws
The character you’ll see Tricky playing once the film hits the big screen, is not at all unlike himself “They’ve got me playing this getaway driver- the guy actually wrote the character for me after hanging out with me, so it’s like me playing me really, I get to smoke weed and drive around in a car being me.”
Tricky’s Back To Mine is out now through DMC World and make sure to keep your eye out for some Tricky Australian DJ dates in future -remember you heard it here first!