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Portrait: Tricky

Musical diary

Published 9:38 am on Sunday 20th September 2020 by Beat Magazine

Beat / The most important question first: How are you?

Tricky / I’m good, I’m good.

Beat / Good to hear. The new album "Fall To Pieces" sounds very dark, but also surprises with two unusually positive pieces. Is it a musical diary of your last years that reflects the ups and downs?

Tricky / No. To be honest, the two pop pieces "Fall Please" and "I'm In The Doorway" are about ten years old. They were made during the album "False Idols" when I was still living in Paris. I didn't want to release them all these years because they were too commercial for me. But now they kind of worked.

Beat / Is “Fall To Pieces” more autobiographic than other albums?

Tricky / I think all my albums are. My music has always served a niche. I'm not breakbeat, hip-hop, punk or electronic. My tracks have their very own sound and are all kind of diaries in a way. Of course I can make a track that feels like a hip hop or rock song to me, but it never sounds like a typical hip hop or rock track in the end. It's all just my feelings and memories.

Beat / Did you have a sound vision before you started working on new material?

Tricky / No, I never have a vision beforehand. Maybe I have a rough idea, but I actually always try to start without a plan, because if the plans don't work out, you’re left with nothing. When I record, I just record. If the song’s not good, I get rid of it. If I like the song, I'll carry on working on it. I just love making music. The studio is the safest place for me.

Beat / Was there music that influenced you?

Tricky / No. When I was younger I was a big fan of reggae, hip-hop and rock. That was my thing. But today I hardly listen to any new music. I have the feeling that music is getting weaker and weaker. There are a couple of good artists out there, but there is nothing where I think wow ... so I’m not really influenced by anything now.

Beat / Do you listen to a lot of music?

Tricky / Yes, very much so. A bit of everything. But most of it is older music. The funny thing is that I listen to music because it sounds like me. There is this young girl in America. I can't remember her name. She just won a Grammy actually. I found out about her on Instagram. Billy anything?

Beat / Billie Eilish?

Tricky / Yes, exactly. It must have been a year or a year and a half ago, because I kept getting tagged when she released a song that sounds like Tricky. That was very strange.

Beat / Do you like the music of Billie Eilish?

Tricky (thinking) / I only heard one or two tracks. One of those was the song that everyone said sounded like me. So I can’t say if I like her or dislike her…

Beat / Maybe you should do a track together.

Tricky / No, I don't think so.

Beat / Your music often sounds very spontaneous. How much perfectionism do you allow in the studio?

Tricky / It's all spontaneous. The only time I work on a song more than a couple of times is if I can’t get it right. But otherwise I don't spend too much time, because it is easy for me to make music. I have my own sound, thus I don't have to be a perfectionist. You love or hate my music. There is not much in between and I think you can decide that very quickly.

Beat / Where was the album recorded?

Tricky / In my apartment. I always record at home. I like to go to the studio for mixing or occasional live stuff, but otherwise I avoid commercial studios.

Beat / Most of the songs on “Fall To Pieces” are sung by the Polish singer Marta Złakowska. Your first encounter seemed to be downright fateful.

Tricky / Oh yes. We just started on a European tour and the first shows were in Poland. We played the first concert with an English singer, whose name I have already forgotten. The rehearsals were really good, but once it came to the show it didn’t work out. So we suddenly were left without a singer. At the soundcheck I asked the promoter if he knew a singer who could stand in. I thought maybe we could just play a few tracks with Polish lyrics because we had left seven tracks. She learned the chorus of the then current single and I was very impressed. She learnt the whole song, did her first show that night and learnt two more songs every day. And then we were on tour together for two years. I said to her basically if she gave me a year or two of her time to tour together, she could be on my next album. She was touring with me ever since - and of course she’s also on the new album.

Beat / This is a crazy story, especially since she had to decide within minutes whether her whole life should change.

Tricky / Yes, it was not only a one-month tour in Europe, but also a USA tour and festivals. She left her boyfriend with whom she lived in Krakow and gave up her job in a bar, although she did not know all of us. And I have to say she is extremely solid.

Beat / How do you work together on the recordings?

Tricky / She records with me, but so far this has been the case with all the singers I've worked with. It’s just really easy because she’s a down to earth girl. She’s very natural and is not trying to be someone she is not. When someone is trying hard it’s more difficult. She’s not interested in being famous, she just wants to sing. All the other stuff she doesn’t really care about. In two years on tour, she never complained about anything.

Beat / And what about the lyrics and vocal lines?

Tricky / She‘s Polish and English is not her first language. So I do all the lyrics, yeah.

Beat / Especially the song "Running Off" with its Eastern European folk elements is very different from what you did so far. How did it come about?

Tricky / Oh yeah, it’s Eastern European folk music. I can’t remember where it’s from. I think from Ukraine. A bit of it is sampled and then I created bits around it.

Beat / Did you generally use a lot of samples?

Tricky / No. I think only in this one track. I love using samples, but it's like with anything, sometimes I use them, and sometimes I don't. Like sometimes I get my drummer over and sometimes I prefer to program drums. When he's here, he's playing on pads. I practically sample my musicians. In the end, they often don’t recognize what they played. I move it around a lot and manipulate the sounds, whatever the instrument is.

Beat / You moved to Berlin three years ago and previously lived in various cities. What makes Berlin special for you?

Tricky / There is a certain freedom here. For instance, if I am driving in a car with my friends in England, we are stopped by the police. I guarantee. It’s just little things. In Berlin I can get a beer and sit on the wall with friends. I don't have to go to a certain place. In England if I go out you have to arrange everything first. Here you just make things up as you go along. That suits me.

Beat / Does the city inspire your music?

Tricky / I think so, because the pace does me good. And when I feel good, I want to record. When a city stresses me out, I don't want to do much. I'm very relaxed in Berlin.

Beat / Berlin has a large electronic music scene. Did you spend a lot of time in the city's clubs before Corona?

Tricky / I've been to this huge, famous club several times ...

Beat / Berghain?

Tricky / Yes, exactly. That was really crazy. I really had a great time there and have never been anywhere like that place. But I don’t go out much since I’m a bit of a loner.

Beat / Are you often recognized in Berlin?

Tricky / Yes, but actually everywhere I go, but of course not permanently. But that's how I guided my career, because I don't want to be a pop star where I can’t go to the supermarket. I respect people like Beyoncé. Her life is extraordinary. But I don’t want to take the normality out of my life. I just want to walk around unrecognized. So I think my current status is good as it is.

Beat / How do you react when people ask you for a photo?

Tricky / I usually say no.

Beat / You do?

Tricky / Yes. But of course it depends on the situation. When I'm on tour or at a festival, I take photos with the kids. But when I’m on the street having a coffee I usually say no. Of course it depends on how you address me. I don't understand why someone wants a photo with someone. To post it on Instagram? This is really corny! A few days ago I was eating and talking on the phone to my family and a woman came up to me and asked for a photograph disturbing my privacy. They walk straight into your life and I think that’s ridiculous.

Beat / You said you don't want to be a superstar. How do you define success for yourself?

Tricky / Oh, that's what young artists need to realize. Success and happiness have nothing to do with each other. Losing your anonymity is not a great thing because you also lose your peace of mind. And I would rather be happy than successful. These are two completely different things. You can have success musically, be on top of the world and in every radio but it doesn’t necessary make you happy.

Beat / Are there any cities you'd like to live in?

Tricky / I would like to see Leipzig. I have no idea why. But somehow I always have Leipzig in my head for ages. I would also like to record something in the Black Forest. Set up a small studio there and then stay and record for a month. The Black Forest really fascinates me.

Beat / What are you currently doing besides the music?

Tricky / All I do is training. I work with a martial arts trainer. We see each other twice a week for training. Otherwise I record and walk a lot. I love to walk. For example, I walk home from training from the corner of Danziger / Prenzlauer Allee all the way to Neukölln. I need two hours and forty minutes.

Beat / And from a musical point of view is there anything else that you would like to achieve?

Tricky / Oh yes, very much so. The recordings in the Black Forest, for example, and I still got to do my best album yet. I'm still learning and growing. There is still so much to achieve. My new album is coming out in September and I've already finished two more. I would like to make a rock, reggae and punk album and work with an orchestra.

Beat / Can you put into words what an album needs to make it your best?

Tricky / No because I will never do it. That's the great thing about it. It’s the journey. Furthermore, nobody is really objective and opinions can change. But it's ok like that.

Beat / And what are your plans for the next few months?

Tricky / Press work and of course recordings, recordings, recordings ....

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