Tricks of the Trade

Sick of fighting the music industry, Tricky's decided to use it instead

NT: It also has a much cleaner production.

Tricky: Oh, yeah -- I wanted an American album. I wanted it to sound big, and that was the plan, before I even started.

NT: Is part of the appeal to this approach a subversive one -- that the album is more subversive than your other ones because more people will get a chance to hear it?

Tricky: Determined to be more than a cult artist with his new radio-friendly release, Blowback.
Tricky: Determined to be more than a cult artist with his new radio-friendly release, Blowback.

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Tricky: Exactly. That's what these people don't understand. They've read my press kit and thought, "Oh, no, Tricky's gone commercial." But this is still an extreme album. I've listened to the radio, listened to KROQ in L.A., and when you hear "Evolution Revolution Love" on there, it doesn't sound like anything else they play. And the record's actually saying something -- it's political. It's going back to the days when people actually used to talk about things on records -- not just [he mimes Crazytown's "Butterfly"] "Come my lady, come-come my lady." People ask, "What are your goals for this record?" Well, my goals are done. Hearing "Evolution Revolution Love" in the daytime on KROQ, that's it.

NT: It sounds as if another one of your goals is to work with the system, which is a big change, since your previous albums have had songs on them attacking record companies. Is this a new philosophy, too?

Tricky: Yeah, it is, because I found out you can't just bang your head against the wall. And the best way to change things is from the inside, really -- by using the system. I used the system to make five or six albums, most of them very non-friendly. But I'm sick of hearing rubbish on the radio. I'm thinking, "Why can't something be good and be on the radio?"

NT: There's nothing popular that you like?

Tricky: To be honest with you, no. The people who are claiming to make "new" music, well, I'm not hearing it. And that goes for trip-hop, too. Anything I've heard that's called trip-hop is rubbish music. It's just weak, watered-down music from 10 years ago. It's no better than doing Beatles covers or something. I don't want nothing to do with that, because I don't want to stop growing -- and I don't want to be labeled, because once you are, you stop growing. I don't know where I'm going to be in five years, and I don't want to know. I just know I'll be here.

NT: If Blowback is a commercial success, does that set a trap for you? Will you have to follow it up with something that's more commercial yet?

Tricky: Oh, no, I've never worried about that. There's no pressure on me at all. That's the business. Alanis Morissette sells 22 million records, and then her next album sells three million and people say it's a disappointment. But three million records is a lot of records. Disappoint me every day. What the business wants and what I want are two different things.

NT: When you left Island, you said you didn't want to become a boutique artist like Tom Waits, who gets great reviews but whose albums don't sell in big numbers. Did you feel you were being shoved into that corner?

Tricky: It was kind of like, you don't have to do anything more for Tricky than you did for the last album, because the press is going to review it. Whether it's bad reviews or good reviews, the press always reacts to his stuff. So it just got boring. All their work was done for them. But Hollywood is paying more attention. Like they know never to remix one of my songs without me knowing about it. Don't even release a photo without me looking at it. They know what I want and what I don't want.

NT: Are you enjoying the irony of being on a label owned by Disney?

Tricky: I love it. It's so perverse. It's brilliant, it's mad. We haven't had any problems -- and what's really good is I get to do what I want to do musically, and then they'll send me 50 Walt Disney films for my kid. Or I could just go into Disney's offices and pick up cartoons, DVDs, videos, records. My kid's got all the Disney stuff. So it works both ways. It's perfect.

NT: A lot of people will have a hard time picturing you sitting down with your kid watching Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Does it bother you that you have a reputation for being humorless and a little bit frightening?

Tricky: No, I kind of like it, to be honest. Like I can be in a club, and I can guarantee that not many people are going to come and talk to me -- and I like that just fine. I don't want to go into a club to talk about my music, I don't want you to tell me you love my music. I'm not interested. All I want you to do is buy my records. That's enough for me.

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