Trip-hop pioneer Tricky would love it if you're down with his new record False Idols ― but won't lose any sleep if you're not. With a career spanning ten albums and "20-odd years," Tricky notes that he's at a point where he can totally control his own creative destiny. Ditching old label Domino ("It got boring," he says) and forging ahead to form a new imprint in the process of developing the False Idols LP, the native Bristolian (currently residing in Paris) says that if the new project sounds like it's Massive Attack in nature, or that it's borrowing elements from his earlier, more groove-oriented efforts (think Maxinquaye and Pre-Millennium Tension) perhaps it's because this is arguably the truest representation of his musical legacy to date. Railing against the current mainstream musical climate that acclaims artifice over art, the 45-year-old returns after taking a few years off to craft a sultry, sonically orchestral project that stands on its own musicianship and merit ― demanding you pay attention.
In addition to the new album, you've also formed a new label. How did that come about?
It was started by me and a couple of people. I was on Domino Records before. Domino is a great label, you know, but [only] if you're a certain kind of artist. People still can't figure out what my music is ― it's not white, it's not black ― and Domino sort of dealt with me in terms of, do an album, make a single, make a video, and it got really boring. Really boring. I don't really care about money and I'm not really into fame and I didn't agree with certain things. Like I'd have to ask the owner to mix things, so I would have to get the owner to come out to Paris, pull out the demos and figure out if I was ready to mix or not. But my thing was, how would he know? Basically, he didn't know what he was getting with me. He got the brand Tricky and thought he was going to take this brand and then put it into the English charts. But it's not like that. I didn't totally respect him ― I came from dealing with people like Chris Blackwell and dealing with him was a lot different. And my manager was like, "You're a big boy now, why don't you do it yourself?"
Conceptually, what was the goal for the new album False Idols?
No one looking over my shoulders and stuff like that. The people who've been listening to me for years, it's more their kind of album. It's got bits of Pre-Millennium Tension, bits of Angel, a vibe of Maxinequaye. And it was just easy to be honest with you. I wasn't expecting anything. It just fun and recorded really quickly. Basically it was not having anyone looking over my shoulder you know?
Would it be fair to say that this album is the truest representation of you an artist to date?
This is more me than my last two albums. I'm smart enough to know that with Domino, they only do good with guitar bands. So I had put guitar all over my last two records. So it's like I was thinking too much. I don't hate the last two albums, but it's just not my vibe. This is what I'd listen to. The others were just okay.
You've been quoted as anything that you don't particularly care if people aren't into this album? That said what keeps you motivated to make music and put it out for consumption?
A few years ago I was in the States, I think it was Texas, and I met this young guy about 24 or 25. I was doing a concert there and I stood at the back of the hall. Some people don't expect to see the artists they go to see in the place so sometimes you don't get noticed. And this kid came over to me and told me he was in a coma for ten days and his parents played my music to him. In Philadelphia I met a nurse who works in a burn unit and played my music for the kids in the ward. And then I met this pregnant woman who told me she plays my music to her unborn baby. So you realize that it isn't about me. If it was I would have given up ages ago.
You mentioned earlier that some still don't know how to define your sound. How do you personally define it?
It's hard to say. It's hard to put me in a category. I'd say modern groove. The music is about feeling.
What was the collaborative process for this album?
Met the guys from the Antlers on tour in Portugal. That was it. But someone being on the top of the charts don't necessarily mean I want to work with them. You know what I mean. But if I meet someone and they are really down to earth and cool, it's enough to make me want to work with someone. I don't do the pop star thing so much.
With a title such as False Idols, was there a political or sociological statement or angle that you wanted to make with this record?
It's about the fact that you can be a fan of someone but don't live your life through that person. I don't like the word "fan" to be honest, as it means "fanatical" and I call people that like my music like-minded people. It's about being careful about who you are following. Plus I don't think many people have bloody much to say. Now why would I respect someone just because they've got money or on the TV all the time? Certain people get heavy rotation on mainstream radio because they're not saying anything. And if they were saying anything they wouldn't be on the radio. I'm just saying you can like my music and my record but do something. Change the world. We need some change. All this Pop Idol and all this other stuff is just…celebrity is really nothing. But we've built celebrity up to be an ambition. But to be famous is not an ambition. To be a nurse, to be a carpenter, to be a doctor, to be a good musician, that's ambition. But to be famous is not reality. It's not really true. So I'm trying to bring my music down to earth. At my shows you can come up to me and it's not a big deal. I just think the celebrity culture has gone too far.
At this point in your career, what's left?
I've been doing this for 20-odd years. Success is being able to record another album after this.