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Tricky (musician)

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Tricky (musician)

Tricky in 2009
Background information
Birth name Adrian Nicholas Matthews Thaws
Also known as Tricky Kid
Born (1968-01-27) 27 January 1968
Origin Knowle West, Bristol, England
Genres Trip hop, alternative hip hop
Occupation(s) Producer, mixer, musician, rapper, actor
Instruments Vocals, keyboards, harmonica
Years active 1985–present
Labels Island, Domino
Associated acts The Wild Bunch, Massive Attack, Martina Topley-Bird, Mark Stewart
Website .com.trickysitewww

Tricky (born Adrian Nicholas Matthews Thaws;[1] 27 January 1968) is an English musician and actor.[2] He is noted for a dark, rich, layered sound and a whispering sprechgesang lyrical style. Culturally, he blends different styles, particularly in his musical fusion of rock and hip hop, as well as high art and pop culture. His debut album Maxinquaye was nominated for the Mercury Prize and voted Album of the Year by NME magazine.

Early life

Tricky was born in Knowle West, Bristol, to a Jamaican father and a mixed-race Anglo-Ghanaian mother. His mother, Maxine Quaye, committed suicide when he was four due to epilepsy complications.[3] His father, Roy Thaws, who left the family before Tricky was born, operated the Studio 17 sound system (formerly known as "Tarzan the High Priest") with his brother Rupert and father Hector.[4] Bristol musician Bunny Marrett claimed in 2012, "It became the most popular sound system in Bristol at the time".[5][6]

Tricky experienced a difficult childhood in Knowle West,[7] a mostly white ghetto.[8] He became involved in crime at an early age,[7] and joined a gang that was involved in car theft, burglary, fights and promiscuity.[9] Tricky spent his youth in the care of his grandmother, who often let him watch old horror films instead of going to school.

At the age of 15, Tricky began to write £50 notes from a friend, who later informed the police. Tricky stated in an interview afterward: "Prison was really good. I'm never going back".[10]

Early career

Eventually he met DJ Milo and hung out with a sound system called the Wild Bunch, which by 1987 evolved into Massive Attack. He received the nickname "Tricky Kid" and at 18 he became a member of the Fresh 4, a rap group built from the Wild Bunch. He also rapped on Massive Attack's acclaimed debut album Blue Lines (1991).

In 1991, before the release of Massive Attack's album Blue Lines, he met Martina Topley-Bird. Some time later she came to his house, and mentioned to Tricky and Mark Stewart that she could sing. Martina was only fifteen years old, but her "honey-coated vox" impressed them and they recorded a song called "Aftermath" (though The Face '95 mentions that the first song they recorded together was called "Shoebox"). Tricky showed "Aftermath" to Massive Attack, but they were not interested. So in 1993 he decided to press a few hundred vinyl copies of the song. He cut it directly off the tape, so that the song is basically "just bassline and hiss". (NME 1994). Finally, a white label got him a contract with Island Records and he started to record his first solo album.


Tricky left Massive Attack to release his debut album Maxinquaye. The album was successful and Tricky consequently attained international fame, something he was notably uncomfortable with.[11] The Maxinquaye album review by Rolling Stone magazine read: "Tricky devoured everything from American hip-hop and soul to reggae and the more melancholic strains of '80s British rock".[12]

Authors David Hesmondhalgh and Caspar Melville wrote in the book Global Noise: Rap and Hip-Hop Outside the USA: "Tricky showed his debt to hip-hop aesthetics by reconstructualising samples and slices of both the most respected black music (Public Enemy) and the tackiest pop (quoting David Cassidy's "How Can I Be Sure?")."[13] As the Rolling Stone article further explained, Tricky created "a mercurial style of dance music that immediately finds it [sic] own fast feet."[12]

Tricky failed to complete a number of lyrics for the Massive Attack album Protection and gave the band some of the lyrics he had written for Maxinquaye instead. Different versions of the same songs appear on both albums—entitled "Overcome" and "Hell is 'Round the Corner" on Maxinquaye and "Karmacoma", and "Eurochild" on Protection. Tricky found it difficult to cope with the huge success of Maxinquaye and subsequently eschewed the laid-back soul sound of the first album to create an increasingly edgy and aggressive punk style of music.

In 1996, [15]

In 2001 Tricky appeared on the Thirteen Ghosts soundtrack with the song "Excess" which (briefly) features Alanis Morissette during two of the choruses. In 2002 that song also appeared on the Queen of the Damned soundtrack.

Idiosyncrasies and media controversies

By the time Pre-Millennium Tension was released, Tricky was increasingly irritated with the press, particularly articles written in The Face magazine. The Face had been an early champion of Maxinquaye, but saw Tricky as more a duo than a solo project. The Face published an article claiming that vocalist Martina Topley-Bird had to single-handedly bring up the child that Tricky had fathered.[16]

Tricky at the Pully For Noise festival 2008

He has also been concerned with racial stereotyping of the media. In the documentary Naked & Famous, he explained how photographers want him to frown angrily in photos. He points to a cover of The Big Issue, where he has a milder look on his face, as being more representative of how he feels. In the song "Tricky Kid" from Pre-Millennium Tension, he wrote "As long as you're humble/Let you be the king of jungle". (As well as referring to racist attitudes, the lyric is also a reference to Goldie and their spat over Björk.)

Throughout his work, Tricky blurs the normally clear sexual definitions found within hip hop. Despite the heavy influence he drew from American hip hop in his debut album, Maxinquaye, he fights against typical sexual representations by, for example, dressing as a woman on the side sleeve of his album cover.[17] As many of his tracks blend elements of varying types of music creating a difficulty to define sound, so go his lyrics, creating a more ambiguous and blurry take on sexuality.[18]

In an interview with Qtv, Tricky states that he does not like calling his listeners fans because he feels that they are capable of performing the same job that he does.

Side projects and film career

Tricky has guest starred on a number of albums, including a notable appearance on Live's fifth studio album, V. This appearance came as Tricky and Live's lead singer Ed Kowalczyk had developed a close friendship, with Kowalczyk contributing vocals to 'Evolution Revolution Love', a track on Tricky's album Blowback.

Tricky has also acted in various films. He appeared in a significant supporting role in the 1997 John Woo directed Face/Off (his single "Christiansands" is also played during his brief cameo) as well as the 2004 Olivier Assayas film Clean, playing himself, and had a large role in the music video for "Parabol/Parabola" by Tool.

In 2001 Tricky appeared in online advertising for the web series We Deliver, about a marijuana delivery service in New York City. Though he did not actually appear in any episodes, in the advertising it appears as if he is a customer of the service. In the fall of 2011 L.A indie artistreleases his self-titled album "IAMOMNI" produced by Tricky.

The launch of a record label entitled "Brown Punk" was announced in mid-2007 that was a collaboration between Tricky and former Island Records executive Chris Blackwell. At the time Tricky explained: "Brown Punk represents a positive movement where you find intellectuals mixing with the working class, rock mixing with reggae and indie mixing with emo." The Dirty, The Gospel, Laid Blak Mexican band My Black Heart Machine were acts that were signed to the label, but as of October 2013, the label appears to be inactive.[19][20]

Later work

Tricky at the 2009 INmusic festival

Tricky's studio album Knowle West Boy was released in the UK and Ireland in July 2008, and September 2008 in the US. The first single from the album was "Council Estate" and features the artist as the sole vocalist: "It’s the first single I’ve ever done with just me on vocals. I couldn’t whisper that song. I had to come out of myself and do a loud, screaming vocal. I wanted to be a proper frontman on that one."[21] In an interview with The Skinny in July 2008, Tricky mentioned that Knowle West Boy was the first album for which he decided to enlist a co-producer. Ex-Suede guitarist Bernard Butler was Tricky's initial selection, but, less than enamoured with Butler's technical prowess, Tricky finished the album by totally re-recording all of the material.[22]

On 8 December 2009, Tricky's 1995 debut album Maxinquaye was reissued with a bonus 13-track CD featuring B-sides, outtakes and seven previously unreleased mixes of songs such as "Overcome", "Hell is Round the Corner" and "Black Steel".[23]

In December 2009, the media reported that Massive Attack met Tricky in Paris and asked him to work on a future project—Daddy G explained: "Things seem like they've healed between us and Tricky. It's been quite well documented how us and Tricky get on, hasn't it? It's not that well, but things have changed. Things have softened up. We saw Tricky a couple of weeks ago in Paris and it was quite an amicable meeting after five or six years."[24] Tricky agreed to record with the band and he revealed in a June 2013 interview that "there's a couple of songs which are OK, which are really good actually to be honest with you". However, Tricky also stated in June 2013 that he could not spend more than two or three days with Massive Attack and described band member Daddy G as "very arrogant".[25]

Tricky's ninth album Mixed Race was released on 27 September 2010 and the first single from the album became available on 23 August. The album includes contributions from Franky Riley, Terry Lynn, Bobby Gillespie, Hamadouche, Blackman and Tricky's youngest brother Marlon Thaws.[4]

In June 2011 Tricky's then label Brownpunk signed on Mexican band My Black Heart Machine for one single, "It Beats Like This", which Tricky co-produced.[26] My Black Heart Machine was then commissioned by the label to cover a song from Maxinquaye for an album of covers by Brownpunk's roster; the band chose "Hell Is Round the Corner". "It Beats Like This" was released independently by the band on their first EP in April 2013.

Tricky produced rapper Omni's album IamOmni (produced by Tricky) (released under the moniker IamOmni) that was available from 30 August 2011 as a free download on Omni's official site.

In April 2012, Tricky performed Maxinquaye with Martina Topley-Bird at several concerts around the UK including, for the first time in several years in his home town of Bristol. The concerts featured regular interruptions orchestrated by Tricky, where he brought his youngest brother, Marlon Thaws to rap on stage alongside other local rappers as well as encouraging the audience to come up on stage.

On 26 June 2012, Tricky appeared on stage during Beyoncé's headline slot on the pyramid stage at Glastonbury for the track "Baby Boy". Partly the result of technical difficulties with his microphone, he later stated he was "mortified" by his own performance, saying, "I've never been so embarrassed. My body just froze".[27]

In February 2013, Tricky announced the release of a new album, False Idols. The album is the follow up from his 2010 Mixed Race and featured Peter Silberman, Fifi Rong and Nneka. Tricky released this statement about the album:

"This new album I’ll stand behind every track. I don’t care whether people like it. I’m doing what I want to do, which is what I did with my first record. That’s what made me who I was in the beginning. If people don’t like it, it don’t matter to me because I’m back where I was."[28]

In spring 2014 it was announced that Tricky is to perform at a number of festivals throughout Europe over the summer of 2014, including Control Day Out in Romania, festival Couleur Café in Belgium, Positivus Festival in Latvia and Galtres Parklands Festival in England, the latter of which he co-headlines with contemporaries Morcheeba.

Tricky announced a new album titled, Adrian Thaws in June 2014. It will be released on 8 September 2014.[29]

Personal life

Tricky has stated that he has ″been through a lot... I've been moved around from family to family, never stayed in one house from when I was born to the age of 16. ...I'm not normal. It's got a lot to do with my upbringing....Staying somewhere for three years then going off for three years. My uncles being villains. All that stuff. I've got quite a dysfunctional family....for some reason, in my family, the mothers always give the kids to the grandmothers″.[30]

Tricky has fourteen paternal siblings.[31]

Tricky's mother died when he was four from epilepsy complications.[32]

Tricky was in a brief relationship with Björk in the 1990s. When asked in mid-2013 about the time the pair spent together, Tricky stated: "I wasn’t good for Bjork. I wasn’t healthy for her. I feel she was really good to me, she gave me a lot of love and she really was a good person to me. I think she cared about me, right?"[33]

Tricky was briefly married to Carmen Ejogo in the spring of 1998 in Las Vegas .[34]

Tricky is a father to two daughters. The musician Martina Topley-Bird, who was discovered by Tricky while she was sitting on a wall near his Bristol home, is the mother of one of the daughters Mazy. Topley-Bird revealed their parenting arrangements in a 2010 interview: "she stays with her dad as well. He's a bit peripatetic so she's been moving around a bit. She hasn't had one fixed place for a while". The other daughter is by a half-Jamaican and half-Spanish woman called Malika [35][36]


Studio albums

Year Album Peak positions Cert.
Canada FR
SWI Other charts
1995 Maxinquaye 3  –  –  –  – 53  –  –  –  –  – UK: Gold BPI[40]
1996 Nearly God 10  –  –  –  – 37  –  –  –  –  –
Pre-Millennium Tension 30 140  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  – UK: Silver BPI[40]
1998 Angels with Dirty Faces 23 84 35  – 32 69 14  – 38 54  – NZ: #20
1998 Juxtapose
(with DJ Muggs and Dame Grease)
22 182 49 35  –  – 38  – 8  – 35
2001 Blowback 34 138 28 5 27  – 16 43 29  – 33 BEL(Wa): No. 29
FIN: #29
2003 Vulnerable 88  –  – 67 21  – 22 43 29  – 27 BEL(Wa): No. 28
2008 Knowle West Boy 63 147  – 35 35  – 31 86 29  – 25 BEL(Wa): No. 89
IT: 53
POR: 48
2010 Mixed Race 118[41]  –  –  – 61  – 33  –  –  – 99 BEL(Wa): No. 69
2013 False Idols 66 149  – 34 17  – 93  –  –  – 30 BEL(Wa): No. 43
2014 Adrian Thaws  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –

Singles and EPs


Year Song UK
1994 "Aftermath" 69 Maxinquaye
"Ponderosa" 78[44]
1995 "Overcome" 34
"Black Steel" 28
"The Hell E.P." (vs. The Gravediggaz) 12 27
"Pumpkin" 26
"I Be The Prophet EP" (as Starving Souls) 66[45] Nearly God
1996 "Poems" (as Nearly God) 28[46] 60
"Grassroots EP" (US only) EP only
"Christiansands" 36 Pre-Millennium Tension
1997 "Tricky Kid" 28
"Makes Me Wanna Die" 29
1998 "Money Greedy / Broken Homes" 25 56 Angels with Dirty Faces
"6 Minutes" (US only)
1999 "For Real" 45 Juxtapose
"Bom Bom Diggy / Hot Like A Sauna" (UK promo only)
2000 "Mission Accomplished EP" 83 EP only
"—" denotes releases that did not chart or were not released.


Year Song UK FRA

US Alter.
2001 "Evolution Revolution Love" 79 35 Blowback
2002 "You Don't Wanna"
"Mixed Up Faces" (as Rico vs. Tricky) single only
2003 "Antimatter" 97[44] Vulnerable
"How High"
2008 "Council Estate" Knowle West Boy
2009 "Puppy Toy"
"C'mon Baby"
2010 "Murder Weapon" 76 Mixed Race
"Ghetto Stars"
2011 "Time to Dance"
"Mediate" (INXS featuring Tricky) Mediate: The Ralphi Rosario Remixes
2013 "Nothing's Changed" False Idols
"Nothing Matters" 39
"—" denotes releases that did not chart or were not released.

Collaborating artists


  1. ^ "Birth Registration Details" (Retrieved 20 July 2009)
  2. ^ "Tricky Interview | The End". Retrieved 3 April 2012. 
  3. ^
  4. ^ a b Tim Adams (19 September 2010). "'"Tricky: 'I can still be really dark in my mind. The Guardian. Retrieved 24 June 2013. 
  5. ^ Alex Cater (January 2012). "BUNNY MARRETT". Bristol Archive Records. Bristol Archive Records. Retrieved 27 August 2013. 
  6. ^ "Tricky [biography]". Retrieved 2014-08-24. 
  7. ^ a b  
  8. ^ Frisckis-Warren, Bill (2006). I'll Take You There: Pop Music and the Urge for Transcendence.  
  9. ^ Shields, Andy (2003). "Tricky". In Buckley, Peter. The Rough Guide to Rock.  
  10. ^ "Tricky [biography]". Retrieved 18 December 2010. 
  11. ^ Lynskey, Dorian (18 April 2012). "'"Culture Music Tricky Tricky: 'I thought I'd be an underground artist. I was not ready. The Guardian. Retrieved 19 April 2012. 
  12. ^ a b "Album Reviews: Tricky – Maxinquaye", Rolling Stone, 2 February 1998.
  13. ^ David Hesmondhalgh and Caspar Melville, "Urban Breakbeat Culture: Repercussions of Hip-Hop in the United Kingdom," in Global Noise: Rap and Hip-Hop Outside the USA (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2001), 104–105.
  14. ^ [1]
  15. ^ AMG Tricky page Tricky "Influenced By" Siouxsie and the Banshees.
  16. ^ O'Hagan, Sean (25 May 2003). "Girl interrupted". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 26 May 2010. 
  17. ^ David Hesmondhalgh and Caspar Melville, "Urban Breakbeat Culture: Repercussions of Hip-Hop in the United Kingdom", in Mitchell, Global Noise, 104.
  18. ^ [2]
  19. ^ Mike Diver (26 July 2007). "Tricky and Chris Blackwell launch Brown Punk". Drowned in Sound. Drowned in Sound. Retrieved 13 October 2013. 
  20. ^ My Black Heart Machine (March 2013). "My Black Heart Machine – Making Little Tragedies" (Video upload). My Black Heart Machine on Vimeo. Vimeo, LLC. Retrieved 13 October 2013. 
  21. ^ Amrit Singh (27 May 2008). """New Tricky Video – "Council Estate. Stereogum. SpinMedia. Retrieved 24 June 2013. 
  22. ^ Dave Kerr (30 July 2008). "Tricky: Real Gone Kid". The Skinny. Retrieved 14 August 2011. 
  23. ^ "Tricky – Maxinquaye". Discogs. Discogs. 2013. Retrieved 24 June 2013. 
  24. ^ Georgie Rogers (8 December 2009). "Massive Attack and Tricky make up". BBC News. Retrieved 24 June 2013. 
  25. ^ Tom Mann (12 June 2013). "Tricky on Massive Attack, Bjork, Obama and false idols". FasterLouder. FasterLouder Pty Ltd. Retrieved 24 June 2013. 
  26. ^ Caballero, Jorge (13 August 2012). "My Black Heart Machine lanzará en septiembre su primer EP: Little Tragedies". La Jornada. Retrieved 21 October 2013. 
  27. ^ "Tricky | Tricky Was Mortified By Ill-fated Beyonce Duet". Retrieved 1 June 2013. 
  28. ^ Minsker, Evan (27 February 2013). """Tricky Announces New Album False Idols, Shares Track "Nothing's Changed. PitchforkMedia. Retrieved 27 February 2013. 
  29. ^ Gordon, Jeremy (30 June 2014). """Tricky Announces New Album Adrian Thaws, Shares "Nicotine Love.  
  30. ^ "Tricky (c)1995, 1997 David Bennun". Retrieved 2014-08-24. 
  31. ^ "Tricky announces new album, video & 2010 tour dates". 2010-09-23. Retrieved 2014-04-24. 
  32. ^ "Interview with Tricky - The Guardian -". Retrieved 18 October 2014. 
  33. ^ Tom Mann (12 June 2013). "Tricky on Massive Attack, Bjork, Obama and false idols". FasterLouder. FasterLouder Pty Ltd. Retrieved 4 August 2013. 
  34. ^ "Tricky [biography]". 1999-10-10. Retrieved 2014-08-24. 
  35. ^ Killian Fox (11 July 2010). "'"Martina Topley Bird: 'I played Boggle till 4am the other night. Is that rock'n'roll enough for you?. The Guardian. Retrieved 24 June 2013. 
  36. ^ "Interview: Tricky". The Stool Pigeon. 2008-06-20. Retrieved 2014-08-24. 
  37. ^ a b c "Tricky discography". Hung Medien. Retrieved 10 June 2013. 
  38. ^ "Tricky discography". Hung Medien. Retrieved 10 June 2013. 
  39. ^ "Ola discography". Hung Medien. Retrieved 24 May 2013. 
  40. ^ a b [3]
  41. ^ "CHART LOG UK: New Entries Update 9 October 2010". Retrieved 18 October 2014. 
  42. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 567.  
  43. ^ "Tricky - Swedish Chart". Retrieved 2014-06-15. 
  44. ^ a b "Chart Log UK 1994–2008 – DJ T – Tzant (scroll down to Tricky – artists in alphabetical order)". Retrieved 18 October 2014. 
  45. ^ "(Link redirected to OCC website)". Retrieved 18 October 2014. 
  46. ^ "NEARLY GOD | Artist". Official Charts. 20 April 1996. Retrieved 1 June 2013. 
  47. ^ "Tricky - Dutch Chart". Retrieved 2014-06-15. 
  48. ^ "Tricky - Belgian Chart". Retrieved 2014-06-15. 
  49. ^ "Tricky - US Alternative Songs". Retrieved 2014-06-15. 
  50. ^ Unreleased song intended for Nearly God

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