By Lee Fay
The setting is a lovely, multi-leveled British pub on Wellesley Street. The event is a press conference for British musician Tricky, set to play the Phoenix Concert Theatre later that night. Apparently winter is different in Bristol. “Tricky’s not used to the cold,” said the PR person for Island Records after a 45-minute wait. The 25 journalists still waiting were gerded over to the venue.
So, more than an hour after the schedules time of the conference, we were all huddled around an empty couch in the parlour room of the Phoenix while the floor pounded with beats coming from the sound check in the adjacent theatre.
Eventually the man of the moment arrives — slowly swaggering in with pink rings around his eyes and wearing the coolest corduroy pants I’ve ever seen. (The cords went horizontally around his legs. I can’t stop thinking about them).
His demeanour fits his music almost perfectly — slightly witty, just laid back enough and surprisingly level-headed and charming for someone who refused to travel several meters to the Wellesley Street pub.
It’s difficult to describe exactly what Tricky (nee Adrian Thaws) does. He half raps, half talks over synthetic beats often with his accomplice (and mother of his young daughter) Martina Topley-Bird singing in a pouty, little girl-esque voice.
Since 1995 he had put out two albums — Maxinquaye (named after his mother Maxine Quay who died when Tricky was four) and Pre-Millennium Tension (“It’s kind of like premenstrual tension,” he explains to stilted laughter). His music is often dubbed as “trip-hop” but Tricky doesn’t care about that.
“I don’t understand a lot of my music. It don’t make any difference to me. I just know it makes me feel somefink,” he says in a strong Bristol accent and touching his chest. “I don’t have to understand the feeling. I just have to feel it.”
And this was the theme that kept returning during the 20-minute conference — what Tricky perceives as good music and why. His favourite album now: Tool’s Aenima.
“That kid, I can feel his pain. That guy touches my soul. That’s all I want to do. I don’t want to be king of trip-hop, hip hop or anything. I just want to touch some souls.”
From Tool to Polly Jean Harvey: “I love what she does. I’m a big big big fan. And I just love the fact that she won’t compromise at all. I just think she’s wonderful.”
He’ll be doing some songs with her in the future, as he has done with many other artists including Neneh Cherry, Alison Moyet and Bjork (an ex-girlfriend) on his side project albums, Nearly God and Tricky Presents: Grassroots.
The question of drug use comes up and the glassy-eyed Tricky replies without hesitation: “I’ve always smoked, I’ve never done a song when I’m not smoking so if I did a song without smoking it might be the end of my career. I’m not really into any hard drugs.
“Weed is kind of … like … quite normal.”
Regardless of the means, one listen to Pre-Millennium Tension proves that Tricky’s end product is far from “normal.” It’s that kind of music you either love or hate, but either way you have to respect it for its originality.
After a comment on Canada (“it’s like any other city”) and a quick “frank you very much,” Tricky is gone. I leave the pass line already forming — hours before Tricky would go on stage — and think about how ironic is that his dans will weather the cold.