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Tricky goes clean and gets darker

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PARIS — After a string of releases over the past decade, Tricky found himself in an unfamiliar state. The influential trip-hop producer didn’t need money to settle past debts.

Freed from the burden, Tricky turned back to the hard-hitting beats and vocal refrains that made him a key player in the Bristol scene of the 1990s, while still delving into his demons.

On his latest album, ununiform, Tricky works again with his signature vocal collaborator and former girlfriend Martina Topley-Bird — and also, reflecting a more recent passion, with Russian rappers.

“I’m still learning stuff, and I’ve still got ideas that I want to chase,” Tricky told AFP on a visit to Paris ahead of the release.

The 49-year-old DJ became a cultural force with his 1995 debut album Maxinquaye, a work of dark layers and diverse musical roots that he put together after leaving his limited role in Massive Attack.

But Tricky said that his more recent albums have come with a weight — he knew he had to do them to make money.

Tricky, whose real name is Adrian Thaws, said he had faced legal action and was forced to pay “a tax bill for hundreds of thousands of pounds” in both Britain and the United States.

“So every album I’ve been doing for the last few years has been going straight to the taxman,” he said.

“This album, ununiform, I didn’t even have to record it if I didn’t want to. I could have just taken two, three years off now. So this was done because I wanted to do it — rather than I had to do it.”

ununiform is also Tricky’s first album since moving to Berlin where he lives a self-described boring lifestyle. Despite the German capital’s vibrant club scene, Tricky said he rises early, goes to bed before midnight and makes sure to exercise and eat healthy food.

EARLIEST MEMORY OF DEAD MOTHER
Even if Tricky’s life is looking up, his subject matter on ununiform is hardly cheery.

“When We Die,” a steadily churning, rap-rooted track with Topley-Bird, asks questions about the afterlife. “Dark Days” similarly heads into bleak territory but through charging synths.

Tricky said that he remained haunted by his life’s first memory — seeking the body of his mother, who died when he was four.

“When my mother died, we had the coffin at home. Like, old-school — you have the coffin at home so all the people can come and see the person,” Tricky said.

“And her coffin was next to my room, so I used to go in and stand on a chair and look at her. You know, it’s open coffin and stuff,” he said.

Tricky on the album also enlists the actress Asia Argento and one of the most prominent Russian-language rappers, Scriptonite.

With his severe voice, Scriptonite brings an element of horrorcore to his tracks on ununiform.

Tricky, born in Bristol of Caribbean ancestry, does not understand Russian but said that it made no difference to him aesthetically.

He calls Moscow his favorite city and spent several weeks in the Russian capital recording and relaxing in the bitter winter.

His inclusion of Russian-language lyrics doesn’t mean Tricky has run out of things to say.

“I’ve had a bit of a crazy life,” he said. “So writing lyrics in songs is easy for me.” — AFP

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