Published Oct 25, 2010Tricky's newest album, Mixed Race, like his previous Knowle West Boy, features an eclectic bag of trendy minimal, electro, funk, and soulful sounds with some high-end collaborators. Making guest appearances are the ghetto-tech dancehall queen, Terry Lynn, the soulful North African lute player Hakim Hamadouche, Primal Scream's Bobby Gillespie, and Tricky's youngest brother, up-and-coming rapper Marlon Thaws. The current single, "Murder Weapon" is a cover of the quirky '90s dancehall hit by Echo Minott, which could find its place in a Guy Ritchie soundtrack given the right musical planner. As a self-identified experimental artist you can't expect him to return to his pre-millenial days, but the production level is still engaging enough.
What does "Mixed Race" mean to you?
I was doing a show in Ireland while I was still demoing the new album, and my uncle came from Manchester to see me. He brought up loads of pictures of all my family, many of whom were white. For the first time, I saw a picture of me and my mum together, who passed when I was four. I've seen pictures her, and myself, but never us together. My knees buckled, and I got really hot, like I felt I had been punched. That's when I knew that the album was going to be called Mixed Race.
How does that reflect on the music?
I think it reflects on the music I grew up on when I was younger, as well. I was a rude boy, but I was also a skinhead. I wore doc martins and jeans. You didn't see many black skinheads back then. I was also a boy from rap. I think it must show in my music.
The album has a pretty mixed sound. How do you figure out what you want on it?
Albums let you know when they're finished. I don't make music, music makes me. I had people tell me, "Oh, your album's really short." But I didn't realize it. I had no idea. Music makes me. I'm still very naïve in the studio. I don't know what I'm doing. I don't make chords, or play music, I'm still like a kid, like. I press keys and buttons, and fuck around with the bass, guitar, or piano, but I can't really play.
What prompted you to cover Britney Spears' "Piece of Me"?
In that world, Justin Timberlake is more credible than Britney Spears, but I think he's a fake, he's a culture vulture. People take the piss out of her sometimes, and frankly, I don't understand why. I can understand someone laughing at JT, because I think he's a joker, a comedian. "A Piece Of Me" is like, we did it sad, so I think, it must be hard being Britney Spears. And you listen to the lyrics more, and it's not Britney. I was just trying to go into her life. My version makes me think of her, and makes me feel sad. She's a young girl in a very high position; it must be a lot of pressure. I think she's way better than him, musically. If were listening to "pop," I'd rather have her. If we have to have over commercialized music, I'd rather hear Britney. Some of her stuff is really banging. There are a couple wicked club tracks on "Blackout."
Do you identify with her then, given your own past?
I identify with her because she is critiqued so much. I get critiqued a lot because of Maxinquaye. They say that album changed things. I can't just release an album without being really heavily critiqued. So we're similar in that way, and we get crucified for little things. We show ourselves. JT is squeaky clean. You never hear any gossip about him; he's got this perfect little PR bubble. The minute I, or she, does anything, it's on the internet.
How is it working with your brother Marlon Thaws?
It's so cool. He's 25 now and I got him writing when he was 17, but he wasn't good enough, he was sounding like other rappers, and I didn't want to put him on an album just because he's my brother. But now, I really respect what he does, and his talent.
You don't seem to do too many remixes. Do you have an opinion on them?
I was doing remixes way back in the day for guys like Elvis Costello, and they said that I created the remix of taking everything and changing it, when I first came out. People usually remixed and kept a piece of the song but changed the bass, or the drums. But when I did it, I didn't know about remixing, so I changed everything, and made it totally different. I just don't do it so much now.
You are often the name behind the album, but you work with artists on your tracks where sometimes they are featured much more than yourself.
Yeah. I think that sometimes it's because I'm lazy. Once I've written the lyrics and melody, it's easier to pass it on to someone else. My managers and label are always saying, "put more of your voice" but I don't think about it sometimes.
Another thing, the big sound right is dubstep. Do you recognize them or shy away with the new work?
No, because a lot of dubstep artists say they are influenced by me, so I don't want to go there. They created something from what I did, so I think that's great, I love some of the dubstep, but it's not worth me going back and doing something that I helped create. I can't be involved with that; it's got to live its own life. I've got to grow and learn and find new music. Every time I do a new album, I've got to do something different. It would be going back and influenced by myself, in a way, which I don't think makes much sense.