English producer/vocalist/musician Tricky (aka Adrian Thaws) has always lived his musical life on the fringe.
Despite auspicious beginnings with Massive Attack (Tricky and the UK duo have been performing together lately) and his pioneering and critically acclaimed 1995 debut, “Maxinquaye," the Bristol-bred innovator has never sought the spotlight. The producer and composer always found a way to be present on his songs, but he also remained content with other vocalists taking the lead.
His compositions have featured vocalists ranging from Björk, PJ Harvey and Cyndi Lauper to Yoko Ono, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Martina Topley-Bird, among countless others.
But with his new collaborative project and album, Skilled Mechanics, he’s putting himself front and center for the first time.
DiscoverSD recently spoke with the groundbreaking performer about his new album, his newfound role in the spotlight, and what his future holds.
DiscoverSD: How did Skilled Mechanics come about?
Tricky: Skilled Mechanics really came about for the live show. My manager and I started talking about things, and he said he thought that people liked it more when I was taking a lead role. I was always on stage, but there was also always a female singer as well. And really, that made me a little lazy.
Tricky: We always start out the set with a few songs to warm up, and then it can go anywhere from there. There’s no set list. I find that boring. But before now, there could be three of the girl songs in a row and then I’m not doing anything - I’m just chillin’, you know? And my manager kept saying there’s a tension and presence around you and you really need to do more. And I thought about that for a while and I thought, “Well, let’s try it." So Skilled Mechanics was a project where I limited the amount of female vocals, and an album where I can sing most of the songs live. It’s more of a risk and it’s harder work, but I like it this way. I have no one else to rely on. I have to give 100 percent. And my shows have always had a tension. But now, without the female singer, it really is quite intense.
DSD: It’s been an evolution. At 4th and B, on the first tour, the only visible light on stage was the cherry from your spliff. And the audience didn’t know what to think. But it definitely kept the focus on the music. Every show since, it seems like there’s been just a little more light on stage and you’ve been a little more involved than the last one. It’s taken years and years, but slowly and surely, there’s been more to see on stage and you’ve been more in front. So it makes sense that this tour is fully embracing that and the focus is where it should be.
Tricky: It’s funny, but you’ve really just summed it up. That’s the best explanation I’ve heard of my show. Like, I wish I could’ve told you that! (laughs) That’s absolutely perfect. Like, I can’t say it any better. I really hope that you write what you’re saying because it’s absolutely perfect. You’ve just explained my career in those few words. And what you’re going to see is a complete evolution. I am a different person on that stage now. I don’t know what to say. F---.
DSD: Why do you think it took so long?
Tricky: I don’t know why it took so long. But now, I am really out there and in your face. I’ve just come out as a performer. And I’m having more fun. I think you can see that - I think you can tell I’m having fun up on stage now.
It’s a three-piece: a little punk, a little soul, some rock, and some hip-hop even. Before, I’d just do my thing and the band would do theirs. Now, with just three of us, we’re always communicating.
DSD: Is that a Porno For Pyros cover on Skilled Mechanics?
Tricky: I owed them some love. They helped me baby-sit my daughter when I had her on tour in Australia. She was 3 years of age, in her prime. Perry (Farrell) and the band took us to SeaWorld. And they didn’t want to go to SeaWorld! They did it for me. That’s unbelievable. And we didn’t go in a limo. They got on the train with us. A train. We all took a train there. This is Perry Farrell on a train helping me with my daughter. It’s mind-blowing. And I’ve been waiting to show him some love and now was just the perfect time. That’s me saying, "Thank you so much for baby-sitting with me and my daughter.”
DSD: What’s next?
Tricky: I’m working another album. I made it in Moscow and it’s being mixed there right now. I was there for two months and did it with one guy from Kazakhstan, a girl from St. Petersburg, and a couple of guys from Moscow. It’s our take on hip-hop in both English and Russian. And it’s called Human Skills Of Slow Sega. We’re just sending tracks back and forth right now and making sure things are right.
When: 9 p.m. Oct. 21
Where: Belly Up Tavern, 143 S. Cedros Ave., Solana Beach
Scott McDonald is a writer, on-air personality and consultant with 15 years of experience in the San Diego music scene. He has interviewed hundreds of artists, from the legendary to the underground, for print and television. Follow McDonald and his melodic musings on Twitter @eight24_ or Instagram @scotteight24. Send your music musts to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Source: Discover SD